Autonomy Hires Fast's Convera Guys. Huh?

Things are sure crazy in enterprise search.

  • First, Verity forgets to invest in product innovation for several years, leaving themselves open to a general market-share assault and subsequent acquisition by Autonomy — a company less than one-half Verity’s size at the time they acquired them. That’s rare. (See here for more.)
  • Then Convera decides that the only thing that it knows how to do (sell search inside government) isn’t worth doing and, in response, amazingly sells off the part of their business that accounts for 93% of their revenues. That’s rarer. (See this post: Honey, I Shrunk the Company).
  • Then Fast announces its intention to acquire Convera’s $2.6M/quarter Retrievalware business for $23M. Paying 2.3x revenues for a business shrinking at nearly 30% is pretty rare, too. Normally, using my rules of thumb, a flat $2.6M/quarter business might be worth $10M (i.e., 1x revenues). A shrinking one might be worth half that.

If things work out as it appears:

  • Fast will end up with Convera’s technology
  • Autonomy will end up with Convera’s people

Since it’s hard to support the technology without the people (see my post on the Oracle/SAP lawsuit here), and since neither company is US-owned, that should make Convera’s largely defense and intelligence customers pretty sketchy on the whole affaire.

Combine this chaos with:

  • The Government’s desire to use XML as an open and standard format.
  • The Intelligence Community’s desire to use XML enrichment technologies to create richer and richer markup
  • XQuery’s ability to express powerful queries in a high-level fashion against that markup
  • MarkLogic’s ability to process complex XQueries against large contentbases with high-performance

And all roads seem to point in MarkLogic’s direction.

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