The capital markets aren't being kind to technology companies of late, but there are still some private equity funds out there. For proof, look no further than two little-known firms that last week closed impressive financing rounds: Storm Telecommunications and Blue Pumpkin Software Inc., which raised $35 million and $19.2 million, respectively.
Silicon Valley-based Blue Pumpkin, which makes workforce optimization software that helps companies improve customer interaction by ensuring that the right employees are in the right jobs, has now raised nearly $60 million. CEO Doron Aspitz says the most recent investors--CE Unterberg Towbin, J&W Seligman & Co., Liberty View Equity Partners, and Needham Capital Partners--were attracted to the return on investment that Blue Pumpkin's customers are realizing by using its software. Aspitz says SGI, for instance, reported a 3,000% return in six months and has achieved a 49% increase in productivity. "The investors believe this will be the next wave of productivity improvement on the enterprise level," he says.
While Blue Pumpkin's focus on efficiency is a good fit in a tight economy, Storm's fundraising is notable in a depressed telecom sector. Since its founding in 1998, the British supplier of optical networking services has raised $400 million, much of which came during a venture-backed management buyout last year. CFO Josh Joshi says most of the recent round of financing will be used to help fund the company's pending rollout of pan-European gigabit Ethernet services. Storm is also aggressively pushing its Lighting service, which provides U.S. customers with network access across a dozen major European cities.
Independent telecom analyst Jeff Kagan says raising so much money in the current telecom environment is a significant accomplishment that implies a strong combination of technology and connections. "There must be some fire where there's all that smoke," says Kagan. He says he wouldn't be surprised if Storm--about which he knows little--starts developing a higher profile, especially given the current dearth of "fun and interesting companies" in the telecom industry. But Kagan also cautions that with big players like AT&T and WorldCom charging into Europe to peddle networks, Storm has its work cut out for it.