TIBCO goes private

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TIBCO is to go private. Which is good news for shareholders but what will it mean now that the company will be owned by Vista Equity Partners?

There are several possibilities. The first is that nothing much will change. The second is that the company will be able to focus more on a long-term strategic vision now that it will no longer be subject to the pressures of having to make quarterly financial reports. The third option would be that Vista breaks the company up into its component parts. The first option has nothing to commend it but both of the other possibilities have merit so let’s consider these.

The problem with TIBCO has been that, for a long time, it has consisted of a variety of disparate bits and pieces that were not really joined up. A bit like Progress was a few years ago. While the company has some great technologies (Spotfire and StreamBase in particular) I never really got the impression that the company had a cohesive story to tell and that, in turn, meant that there was never a clear go to market message. Spotfire, for example, should be up there being mentioned in the same breath as Tableau and Qlik but in my experience it tends to be “Tableau and Qlik and, oh, yes, there’s also Spotfire”—always as if it was in bronze medal position.

So, potentially the privatisation of TIBCO is good news in that there is the theoretical possibility that Vista can turn this around. But in practice I don’t think so: the various elements of TIBCO are so diverse that I don’t think this is practical. They could try and invent some sort of new market category, which is what Progress attempted, but unless there is a real market requirement I don’t think it would work, and I don’t think there is such a need.

What I would like to see Vista do is either to completely separate TIBCO into different brand groupings, rather like EMC has done with Pivotal, or to simply divest some of the portfolio. With sufficient funds for development and marketing I think that groupings of complementary products would be much more successful on their own rather than as part of the sort of amorphous entity that TIBCO has become.