By now, anyone who cares knows that EMC sold Syncplicity to Skyview Capital. But there's much that hasn't been said.
First off, it’s a bit of a farce to suggest that Syncplicity failed to thrive as an Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) provider — it was the leader among Leaders in Gartner’s most recent MQ for EFSS. Box cited it as a major competitor in its S-1 and there’s not an analyst we can find who doesn’t suspect that it is among the top six providers in terms of market share. Analyst Alan Pelz-Sharpe of 451 Research said, “Syncplicity in terms of revenue remains one of the bigger EFSS players and won’t be going away.”
EMC’s reason for selling Syncplicity was based on the fact that it wasn't willing to spend the money needed to continue to grow it, and the recognition that if it failed to invest, in time, Syncplicity would lose its market share and competitive edge. As a result EMC chose to let someone else (Skyview Capital) spend the cash.
“EMC remains committed to Syncplicity’s growth. EMC will remain a financial stakeholder in Syncplicity,” Dave Farmer, a senior director at EMC, told us, noting that “this move should not be interpreted to be anything more than EMC divesting Syncplicity to ensure that it is adequately staged for success in the rapidly evolving EFSS market, while also allowing EMC II to focus its core investments.”
Syncplicity will dwell within one of Skyview’s portfolio companies, NewNet Communications Technologies. The companies will share the same CEO, Jon Huberman. “But my attention will be 95 percent on growing Syncplicity,” he told me in an interview earlier this week.
And Huberman knows how to help companies grow (and how to sell them a few years later). He did this with Iomega (remember zip drives?) and Public Safety as a Service firm Tiburon. Huberman isn’t ready to speculate about what kind of exit Syncplicity will eventually make.
“At the moment, I’m looking to buy, not to sell,” he told us. While Dropbox might be a bit pricey for Huberman (maybe Microsoft should buy it, CEO Satya Nadella would gain its 400 million customers who aren’t flocking to One Drive), there are 90 plus other EFSS providers to consider.
It’s also worth noting that NewNet offers some interesting mobile broadband technologies. Whether they’ll be integrated at some point is anyone’s guess. But trying to grab those large, high resolution files via a mobile connection makes you want to go back to the office or duck into a place that has WiFi.
An Amicable Breakup
Syncplicity competitor Accellion seemed enthused by what looked like a Syncplicity/EMC breakup.
“The sale will create opportunities for Accellion,” said Glen Segal, the company’s CFO. He believes that Syncplicity might not have been in many deals had it not been bundled into some of EMC’s offers. He added that Syncplicity was initially aimed toward the small business market and will probably go back to its roots.
“I suspect that Syncplicity will drop off of the radar of the large enterprises looking for File Sync and Sharing Solutions,” he added.
His prediction is totally out of line with Huberman’s strategy.
“Syncplicity’s target market is still large enterprises in a variety of industries including, technology, health care, financial services, education, law and engineering services,” he said, adding that, “we’ll also focus on markets outside the US and getting in front of C-suite executives — the buyers for EFSS — in addition to the storage folks that EMC’s salesforce generally targets.”
Huberman, without being aware of Segal’s comments, also assured us that Syncplicity will be the only EFSS product pitched by EMC Account Executives — it was part of the deal.
That being said the EMC Federation also counts VMWare’s Airwatch, and its Secure Content Locker, as an important asset. As a critical component of VMWare’s Mobility Management play there’s little question that VMWare’s huge salesforce and its partners will be busy hawking that, but that’s nothing new.
It is worth mentioning that analysts like ESG Group analyst Terri McClure and Pelz-Sharpe pointed out that the EMC Federation might not need to own two EFSS plays in its portfolio. VMWare purchased Airwatch well after EMC owned Syncplicity, but the logic for each acquisition was different. Airwatch brought a much needed mobility play to VMWare.
Or a Marriage Doomed From the Start?
Liran Eshel, CEO of CTERA, which provides EFSS on the private cloud, said that Syncplicity and EMC didn’t play well together because “Syncplicity's private deployment option isn't fully behind the firewall (of course, CTERA’s is), and therefore didn't satisfy the data security and governance needs of many among EMC's Blue Chip customers.”
However, he is an agreement with Huberman that Syncplicity might have been selling to the wrong managers: namely they were pitching what is “essentially a collaboration tool,” to datacenter managers.
Alastair Mitchell, president and cofounder of enterprise collaboration provider Huddle claims that the EMC-Syncplicity marriage was doomed from the start.
“EMC is a legacy hardware storage business that has been seeking to modernize its product portfolio with products that sit on top of its storage offerings. EMC’s decision three years ago to add a modern content management offering was anything but modern,” he said. He reasoned that “Syncplicity's product is built around the old adage of file, sync and share, which ignores that today's workforce, is looking for mobile, social and intelligent collaboration tools instead to add real value to the way we work.”
Needless to say, Mitchell doesn’t think EFSS solutions provide much differentiated value, regardless of who their owner happens to be.
"Collaboration is the first step towards the digital workplace and that’s why it’s at the heart of the intelligent enterprise,” he said. Though Huddle offers some EFSS capabilities, it doesn’t brand itself as an EFSS solution but focuses instead on “collaboration and solving the real issue faced by enterprises: working together effectively."
Big Ambitions and an Envelope of Cash
Syncplicity Customer Success Officer Gaurav Verma, who for all intents and purposes will be leading product development from this point forward, doesn’t seem the least bit worried about what to do next to build on Syncplicity’s current level of success. His hands were tied and his line of sight was limited by EMC’s constraints. That is no longer the case.
Huberman, for his part, not only has huge ambitions but an envelope stuffed with cash which he kept talking about. Perhaps its par for the course, Skyview is in the business of investing and for Syncplicity that means spending.
That’s something that Huberman’s new rival, Box CEO, Aaron Levie knows a great deal about. This will be fun to watch.