It’s been in the air for a while, but it looks like now its set in stone. Open source document management vendor Alfresco is going for an IPO in the US and has appointed a new CEO — former SuccessFactors boss Doug Dennerline to replace Alfresco founder and current CEO, John Powell, who will help the new CEO transition the company and then take a seat on the board in some kind of operational capacity.
John Powell, IPO
Just before making the announcement, John Powell sat down with CMSWire to explain what exactly is happening.
The first thing to note is that there is no definite date for the IPO, but according to Powell it could happen any time after a six month period once the company officially announces its intention to go that route.
The announcement that Powell is moving over — rather than stepping down — may be a little surprising. But taking the overall state of the information management market into account and the fact that all roads still lead to Silicon Valley, it did make sense when he explained it, even if it must be difficult to hand over the reins of a company that you have helped found.
It seems that even from the early days, he and co-founder John Newton, who remains as CTO, always considered the possibility of floating the company, so this part of it is not unexpected:
We had always thought that we would float the company at the right time on the US market… the company is still at an early stage of development and for a different type of investor is just the start of the journey…
We have been able to build a global company even though a lot of the executives haven’t been in the US… in the last five years the valley has become increasingly more clustered and not being there, I think, has been a significant disadvantage,” he said.
There you have it. It seems that to float as an IT company now, a company still has to be seen to be working out of the Valley.
And while he says it may be possible for a European to move to the US to oversee such a deal, it doesn’t really make sense to do that either. It doesn't make sense to take a European out of his network and transplant him to the US where he will have to start building networks again.
Dennerline As CEO
The solution, he said, was to find a new US-based CEO, which he did in the shape of Doug Dennerline. Dennerline is now tasked with leading the company through its next phase of expansion, driving business strategy and operations to capitalize on the rapidly growing enterprise content management market.
A 25-year veteran of Silicon Valley, Dennerline was most recently president of SuccessFactors until its acquisition in 2012 by SAP for US$ 3.4 billion. Before joining SuccessFactors, he was executive vice president of enterprise sales for Americas at Salesforce.com. Prior to that he was the chief executive of the Webex division of Cisco.
So if Powelll was looking for some with a Valley pedigree then he couldn’t have found better. But it's more than just a presence, it’s also about future presence and how Alfresco will evolve over the coming years.
Alfresco in the Cloud
And the future for Alfresco, as it is for many companies in the content management space, in the cloud.
While Alfresco is open source and the majority of our customers are working on on-premises deployment, some of them have started working in the cloud… the cloud is the future and we really need to market to that… the big part of the recruitment decision was to find someone that would come to us as a master of the cloud… someone who had real dept and confidence in understanding and delivering that service and Doug has that with his experience with SuccessFactors, and Salesforce.
And that’s where the IPO will take Alfresco, Powell says. The new capital will help it realize the vision it has of Alfresco in the cloud and finance expansion plans over the coming years.
The final thing here is that, according to Powell, the majority of Fortune companies don’t do business with IT companies unless they are quoted in the US. It gives them more transparency and better visibility and ultimately more coverage if things go wrong.
There are interesting times ahead for Alfresco and where Powell fits into this is anyone’s guess.
Ultimately, he leaves the position of CEO after the 24th straight quarter of year-over-year revenue growth, 109 new customers in 27 countries, multiple $1 million plus deals in the U.S. Federal, insurance and media industries, the largest quarter in revenues for the US just finished, as well as integration with AWS, Salesforce.com, Office and more. It’s hard to see how his successor will do better.