Noteworthy technology acquisitions 2021 | Computerworld


Amid the coronavirus, 2020 was unpredictable in more ways than anyone would have expected. But one thing that stayed fairly constant was the steady flow of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) across the tech sector.

Global tech M&A deals last year totalled $634 billion, a 91.8% year-over-year increase, according to GlobalData. Among a late flurry of big deals was the $35 billion acquisition of Xilinx by Advanced Micro Devices and Salesforce’s $27.7 billion acquisition of Slack.

As for whether 2021 will maintain last year’s pace, if the first part of the year is anything to go by, there will be no slowing of big deals across the industry, with silicon innovations and collaboration software already proving to be hot areas.

Here are the biggest enterprise technology acquisitions of 2021 so far, in reverse chronological order:

April 12: Microsoft to acquire Nuance for $19.7B

Microsoft unveiled the biggest acquisition of the year so far when it announced the purchase of Nuance for $19.7 billion in an all-cash deal.

Based in Burlington, MA., Nuance specializes in conversational artificial intelligence (AI) and speech recognition technology, primarily aimed at helping healthcare workers streamline the capture and interrogation of clinical information to free up their time. Microsoft will be eying its capabilities to complement its existing Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare product, one of a growing selection of industry-focused cloud suites.

“Nuance provides the AI layer at the healthcare point of delivery and is a pioneer in the real-world application of enterprise AI,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement. “AI is technology’s most important priority, and healthcare is its most urgent application. Together, with our partner ecosystem, we will put advanced AI solutions into the hands of professionals everywhere to drive better decision-making and create more meaningful connections, as we accelerate growth of Microsoft Cloud in Healthcare and Nuance.”

March 31: Hitachi acquires GlobalLogic for $9.6B

Japanese conglomerate Hitachi announced it is acquiring tech services outsourcing company GlobalLogic in a $9.6 billion deal that includes repayment of debt at the end of March.

Based in Silicon Valley, GlobalLogic works with customers such as McDonald’s and Reuters to build digital services and products and has more than $1 billion in annual revenues. Hitachi will look to combine GlobalLink with its own technology units, specifically Lumada.

“The acquisition of GlobalLogic creates an exciting new opportunity for Hitachi to expand our offerings of Lumada solutions and services, provide value to customers in their digital transformation journey, and grow our Lumada business globally,” Hitachi CEO Toshiaki Higashihara said in a statement. “The synergy of GlobalLogic’s leading experience design and innovation with Hitachi’s expertise in IT, operational technology, and products, will help us realize our goal to be the leading digital transformation innovator in social infrastructure worldwide.”

March 23: UiPath acquires Cloud Elements

On the same day ServiceNow made a robotic process automation (RPA) acquisition, RPA vendor UiPath made an addition of its own, picking up the Denver, CO-based firm Cloud Elements for an undisclosed amount.

Cloud Elements specializes in API integration, similar to Mulesoft and Apigee, which are now part of Salesforce and Google, respectively. For UiPath, this capability could allow customers to better link processes that span various enterprise systems to build more effective automations.

“By making automation both easier and faster to deploy, the UiPath Platform has the capability of significantly improving some of the most costly and time-consuming activities of the modern enterprise. The acquisition of Cloud Elements is just one example of how we are building a flexible and scalable enterprise-ready platform that helps customers become fully automated enterprises,” UiPath CEO Daniel Dines said in a statement.

March 23: ServiceNow acquires Indian RPA company Intellibot

ServiceNow moved to add more robotic process automation (RPA) capability to its platform by picking up the Indian startup Intellibot for an undisclosed price. ServiceNow intends to build Intellibot’s capabilities into its Now Platform to allow customers to automate more business processes.

“ServiceNow is the platform of platforms for the workflow revolution, offering powerful end‑to‑end automation capabilities that allow customers to streamline business decisions and unlock new levels of productivity,” Josh Kahn, senior vice president of Creator Workflow Products at ServiceNow, said in a statement. “With Intellibot, we will extend ServiceNow’s ability to help customers connect systems so they can easily automate workflows and drive productivity.”

This acquisition continues a trend of IT companies offering RPA capabilities, either by building them, as Microsoft has, or buying them, as SAP did when it acquired Signavio in January (see below).

March 19: Aveva completes $5B OSIsoft deal

British industrial software specialist Aveva completed the $5 billion acquisition of its US rival OSIsoft in March. The deal was initially announced last summer and passed regulatory approval in March 2021.

Based in California, OSIsoft is part of SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund portfolio and specializes in real-time industrial operational data, which should complement the Cambridge-based firm if smoothly integrated.

“Data has been enabling organizations to more effectively determine the cause of problems by allowing them to visualize what is happening in different locations, departments and systems. This agreement will enable our customers to improve business processes as well as eliminate inefficiencies,” AVEVA CEO Craig Hayman said in a statement last year when the deal was first announced.

March 18: VMware acquires Mesh7

VMware announced plans to acquire the security vendor Mesh7 for an undisclosed amount in March.

Based in Sunnyvale, CA, Mesh7 specializes in API security for distributed cloud environments. The Mesh7 team will join the Tanzu unit at VMware to work on service mesh security.

“Mesh7 technology will enable VMware to bring visibility, discovery, and better security to APIs,” Tom Gillis, senior vice president and general manager for networking and security at VMware, wrote in a blog post. “Security teams and operators need better visibility into application behavior and overall security posture, and the developer experience needs to lead to more secure operations.”

March 9: Dropbox acquires DocSend for $165M

In one of the more obviously complementary deals of the year so far, cloud file storage specialist Dropbox is acquiring DocSend, the secure document sharing company and fellow San Francisco native, for $165 million in cash.

DocSend had raised just $15 million in funding since being founded in 2013, marking an excellent exit for the company and its investors, which includes DCM Ventures and August Capital.

Its unique selling point is the ability to give those who share a documents full visibility into whether a doc is opened, by whom, and when. Dropbox also acquired the e-signature company HelloSign last year, and is looking to integrate all of those capabilities into a secure end-to-end document sharing experience for customers.

“DocSend is a perfect complement to our product roadmap and we’re thrilled to welcome them to our team. By bringing Dropbox, HelloSign, and DocSend together, we’ll be able to offer a full suite of secure, self-serve products to help them manage critical document workflows from start to finish,” Dropbox CEO Drew Houston said in a statement.

March 4: Square acquires streaming platform Tidal for $297M

Jack Dorsey’s fintech company Square announced it’s acquiring a majority ownership stake in the music streaming platform Tidal in a surprise $297 million stock-and-cash deal.

Tidal was founded in Norway in 2014, but was put on the map in 2015 when it was bought by American rapper and mogul Jay Z. It competes with Apple Music and Spotify and looks to set itself apart with high-quality streams and by promising to better compensate artists for their streams.

“It comes down to one simple idea: finding new ways for artists to support their work,” said Jack Dorsey, the Twitter and Square CEO, said in a statement. “New ideas are found at intersections, and we believe there’s a compelling one between music and the economy. I knew Tidal was something special as soon as I experienced it, and it will continue to be the best home for music, musicians, and culture.”

Tidal will continue to operate as a standalone business and Sean “Jay-Z” Carter will take a seat on the Square board as part of the deal.

March 4: Xero acquires Planday for €183.5M

Small-business focused accounting software maker Xero acquired Planday for a mix of cash and shares that could eventually reach a price of €183.5 million. Based in Denmark, Planday has built a specialist SaaS workforce management and rota scheduling product that counts a wide range of hospitality companies as customers. 

“The acquisition of Planday aligns with our purpose to make life better for people in small businesses and their advisors. Planday’s workforce management platform helps small businesses to respond to the rapidly changing nature of work. Planday also addresses the growing need for flexibility and rising compliance demands within the workplace,” Xero CEO Steve Vamos said in a statement.

March 3: Okta to acquire Auth0 for $6.5B 

Okta announced plans to acquire fellow identity management specialist Auth0 for $6.5 billion in an all-stock deal. That price represents a significant premium, as Auth0 was last valued at $1.92 billion privately after raising $120 million in July 2020; that investment was led by Salesforce Ventures.

At first glance, the acquisition looks highly complementary, as Okta builds SaaS tools to help organizations identify and authenticate access to applications across their business. Auth0 was established in 2013 by a team of ex-Microsoft engineers, intent on building a developer-friendly way to include identity management controls within applications.

Okta confirmed that Auth0 will continue to operate as an independent business unit, but Okta will look for  integration opportunities once the deal has been rubber stamped.

“Combining Auth0’s developer-centric identity solution with the Okta Identity Cloud will drive tremendous value for both current and future customers,” Okta CEO Todd McKinnon said in a statement. “Okta’s and Auth0’s shared vision for the identity market, rooted in customer success, will accelerate our innovation, opening up new ways for our customers to leverage identity to meet their business needs. We are thrilled to join forces with the Auth0 team, as they are ideal allies in building identity for the internet and establishing identity as a primary cloud.”

February 26: Atlassian acquires Chartio

Atlassian announced that it’s acquiring the popular data visualization tool Chartio for an undisclosed amount. The Australian software-as-a-service company will look to incorporate Chartio’s collaborative dashboards and reports into its own analytics tools and to give users of tools like Jira and Confluence better insight into their data.

“Atlassian products are home to a treasure trove of data, and our goal is to unleash the power of this data so our customers can go beyond out-of-the-box reports and truly customize analytics to meet the needs of their organization,” Zoe Ghani, head of product experience at platform at Atlassian, wrote in a blog post.

It’s bad news for existing Chartio customers however, who have been told they have a year to export their data to another tool.

February 26: Cision acquires Brandwatch for $450M

The UK media landscape shifted in February when the media monitoring and PR database Cision acquired Brandwatch, the online consumer intelligence and social media listening platform, for $450 million in a combined cash and stock deal.

Based in Brighton on the English south coast, Brandwatch specializes in social listening that allows brands to get a better idea of consumer sentiment. Cision hopes to bring this together with its media and PR smarts to give clients a fuller picture of how consumers view their brand.

“The continued digital shift and widespread adoption of social media is rapidly and fundamentally changing how brands and organizations engage with their customers. This is driving the imperative that PR, marketing, social, and customer care teams fully incorporate the unique insights now available into consumer-led strategies,” Cision CEO Abel Clark said in a statement.

February 24: Autodesk acquires Innovyze for $1B

Autodesk announced it would acquire software maker Innovyze for $1 billion in February. The Portland, OR-based Innovyze makes software to model, simulate and analyze water infrastructure.

Autodesk specializes in industrial CAD software for 3D modelling and is popular with architects and engineers. This acquisition is aimed at giving the company a foothold in the water utilities market.

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