Apptio Bets Love for CIOs Will Attract Investor Enthusiasm for Shares
(Bloomberg) -- While some tech industry watchers have been predicting the death of the CIO for years, Apptio Inc. believes so strongly in the role that it’s built an entire business around it.
Apptio makes cloud software that helps corporate chief information officers track, plan and analyze information technology investments. The business caught the eye of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz back in 2009 -- it was the shop's very first investment.
Now, it's asking public market investors to buy into the idea as it aims to raise as much as $90 million when it prices its initial public offering Thursday, after the market closes.
Apptio is one of the few shots investors have had this year to buy into new technology company shares, with only five venture capital-backed companies in that industry going public so far in 2016. Bellevue, Washington-based Apptio is hoping the enthusiasm shown by customers like Cisco Systems Inc. and Etihad Airlines Group for its product will be mirrored in the deal.
While both the number of venture-backed tech deals and the amount raised through September have fallen by more than half compared to 2014, the stocks of those that have gone public have climbed an average of 193 percent.
Apptio calls its software Technology Business Management, or TBM -- a term it’s tried to create a category around. The company has started a TBM Council comprised of CIOs and runs a set of conferences to drum up business.
Etihad uses the software to track what it pays and the level of usage and service it gets from outside technology providers, letting the company alter spendy behaviors among employees or negotiate better rates with suppliers, said the airline group's CIO, Robert Webb.
“For mobile telephony for example, we saw people that were on the wrong rate plans and people with $25,000 phone bills because they are roaming all the time," he said in an interview. Webb was also an Apptio customer as CIO at Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. and served as chief executive officer of the TBM council.
Apptio, whose rivals include VMware Inc. and ServiceNow Inc., as well as custom products and spreadsheets, saw total revenue climb 21 percent to $129.3 million in 2015. About three quarters of sales come from subscription products.
Still, the company expects its revenue growth rate to decline, according to its IPO prospectus. The company is also not profitable, with its $41 million loss last year widening 25 percent from a year earlier.
After its initial investment in Apptio, Andreessen Horowitz has put money in every funding round since, said Ben Horowitz, the VC firm's co-founder. Horowitz and Apptio CEO Sunny Gupta met when the former -- then CEO of Opware Inc. -- acquired Gupta's startup.
Apptio filled a need as CIOs switch jobs frequently, are often only noticed when something goes wrong and can find it difficult to explain the value of their work when things go well, Horowitz said.
"The CIO was like the cobbler whose children had no shoes -- the CIOs basically had no tools and no way to understand their own business," he said. "For the first time the CIO can say here's all the services we're supporting, here's how we're doing it, here's what it's costing and here's the return on it."
Apptio marketed 6 million shares at a range of $13 to $15 apiece. Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Corp. are leading the IPO.
The company has attracted devoted fans like Ralph Loura, now CIO at skincare company Rodan & Fields, who first used the software during his tenure at consumer goods maker Clorox Co. After moving to Hewlett-Packard in 2014, Loura again called on Apptio when the computing giant decided to split in two, using it strip out the IT operations and contracts that should be housed in each part of the business.
At Clorox "we had a small army of financial analysts that were building Excel pivot tables to help me understand what was happening in IT and to complicate that I had third party billing coming in," Loura said. "Apptio was a godsend in a way."
Still, to keep growing Apptio needs to seek new markets. Apptio will target mid-size customers and look to expand in Europe, Horowitz said. Three-quarters of revenue is from North America, CEO Gupta said in the company’s IPO roadshow presentation.
"We had such a rough period of IPOs for a while so the financial standard for going out has become much higher and so when companies go out they're of very high quality," Horowitz said.
Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, is an investor in Andreessen Horowitz.
The company plans to use anonymized data that it’s collected via its services to enable companies to benchmark themselves and gain insights. And Apptio will add products for other parts of the company besides the CIO’s office, such as human resources, legal and facilities, CEO Gupta said.
Expanding to more areas of a company will be critical for growth a few years down the line, said Etihad’s Webb.
“CIO is big enough. For now,” he said.
To contact the authors of this story: Dina Bass in Seattle at firstname.lastname@example.org, Alex Barinka in New York at email@example.com.