Quick Take: Business Objects Acquires Inxight

I could write a long post on this topic, and perhaps will one day, but since time is of the essence in the blogosphere, I thought I’d do my “quick take” on my former employer’s acquisition of Inxight, press release here.

  • I’d first heard rumors of Business Objects as an Inxight suitor many months ago. So long in fact, that I assumed they’d looked at the deal and walked away. Perhaps that happened. Perhaps they came back. I don’t know. But from either the selling or buying perspective, the deal is not a surprise.
  • Business Objects (BOBJ) is a value shopper so I’m sure that the deal makes sense financially. (That the terms were undisclosed is, in my opinion, another clue to that effect.)
  • They say in the press release that Inxight’s revenues were $25M. I’m guessing that Business Objects paid between $50M and $75M.
  • There is an interesting arbitrage in enterprise software multiples right now. According to this Software Equity Group report (see figure 6), the average enterprise value (EV) to trailing twelve month (TTM) revenue ratio is 3.5x for companies greater than $1B in revenue and 1.8x for companies less than $100M in revenue. That means that $1B+ players can buy sub-$100M players “for free” on the theory that they can pay 1.8x for a company’s revenue and have it instantly worth 3.5x in their own market cap.
  • I think the deal is good for BOBJ because it allows them to score vision points in an important area — unstructured data. It’s also good for Business Objects to be doing offensive acquisitions as well as defensive ones (e.g., Cartesis).
  • I think the deal is good for Mark Logic because it continues to put unstructured data (i.e., content) on the mainstream IT roadmap. Simply put, anything that gets people to pay more attention to content and have more desire to do interesting things with it is good for Mark Logic.

One thing you’ll hear more from Mark Logic about is the distinction between metadata extraction and content enrichment. Right now, Inxight and other text mining vendors focus primarily on extracting metadata from content — discovering that document 17 talks about the cities “New York” and “Paris” and the person “Pope Benedict XVI”. But the reason these vendors extract that metadata is because they want to play nicely in the existing ecosystem of relational databases and BI tools. Simply put, if the ecosystem does data, then you should use your tool to turn content into data, so you can load it into Oracle and make reports on it in BusinessObjects.

That approach makes sense if you look at things from the data end of the telescope. However, if you flip the scope around and say what’s better — extracting the metadata from the documents and loading it into Oracle or enriching the documents themselves by in-lining the newly discovered facts as markup? In a pre-MarkLogic world, that question didn’t make sense because no tools existed that could let you do anything with that enriched markup. But clearly there is a lot of information loss (specifically structure and location) that happens when you extract metadata from documents instead of enriching documents themselves.

For example, if extracted, you can run queries like “tell me which documents talk about ‘New York’ and ‘The Pope'” whereas, if in-lined, you can run queries like “return the abstract and bibliography of all articles that talk about ‘The Pope’ in a heading and mention ‘New York City’ within 15 words in the following paragraph.” That’s a huge difference in power.

That difference is why I like this deal. Because when you think you can’t do anything with content you don’t thirst for anything, but once you get a drink, you thirst for more. So when Bobxight starts to give people a taste of what you can do with analytics on content, I think it will, for many, beg questions that will make them want to move to a database infrastructure designed for content, not data — i.e., an XML content server.

I should note that Mark Logic is both an Inxight customer (we OEM their language processing technology) and partner (our technologies are quite complementary and we work together in several accounts) and we look forward to continuing those relationships.

Otherwise, all I’d say is that if Business Objects wanted to join the Mark Logic partner program, all they had to do was ask.

See this post on Timo Elliott’s BI Questions blog for a nice overview the Inxight products. See here for Curt Monash’s take on the deal.

17 responses to “Quick Take: Business Objects Acquires Inxight

  1. Dave, since you think (comment on my blog) that my $150 million +/- estimate is way high, how do you explain a $50-$75 million estimate when Informatica paid $55 million for Itemfield, which was arguably 1/3 to 1/2 the company Inxight is?Seth Grimes

  2. Hi Seth,It’s all speculation anyway but I based my analysis on standard software revenue multiples, (see report cited in the post), a knowledge that BOBJ is a value shopper, a hunch that one reason the deal ostensibly took so long is that perhaps diligence didn’t go well (leading perhaps to price concessions), and also an estimated growth rate. Ultimately the Nx multiple times sales needs to be normalized by a growth rate. I never studied the INFA/Itemfield deal, but the quickest for us both to be right would be if Itemfield were growing at 100% at Inxight at 15%.

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