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UK open source firm Alfresco heads to US market for IPO

14 Jan 2013
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UK open source firm Alfresco has revealed its plans to go public in the US, choosing the nation over the UK because of its more vibrant stock market.

The firm has now opened up a Silicon Valley office and appointed a US chief executive, Doug Dennerline. Dennerline was the president of SuccessFactors before its $3.4bn acquisition by SAP last year.

Alfresco, now with seven million users, began competing in the enterprise content management market after its founding in the UK in 2005 by John Newton, co-founder of Documentum, and John Powell, former chief operating officer of Business Objects.

Newton told V3 that a combination of factors had led to the firm's decision to make its initial public offering (IPO) in the UK.

Factors he listed included a greater number of investment opportunities in the US to fund companies through their mature stages of growth, as well as a large amount of US analyst activity.

"Enterprise software businesses have also been very successful in their IPOs in the US recently, like QlikTech and Workday," added Newton.

He said Alfresco also hopes to extend its footprint in the US federal government and this growth is likely to be assisted by the business taking its trading to country's stock market.

Newton said smaller technology companies and start-ups need more support from UK government before they begin considering the country as a viable IPO alternative to the US.

Alfresco has had some difficulty entering the UK government market, which is dominated by larger US technology vendors.

Newton spoke of one instance where a UK government department had told Alfresco that it only bought technology from US vendors.

"But this situation is beginning to improve with [government chief technology officer] Liam Maxwell's reforms," said Newton, and he pointed to Maxwell's drive to increase open standards in the government market and level the playing field amongst small and large technology suppliers.

"The UK does very well in finance but the technology sector still needs work. The government has been trying to boost technology investment with its Tech City initiative, and that's likely to be successful but it will probably take a while."

"It's like the drive in Texas in the 1980s to produce semiconductor technology. Texas now has a successful market but it took a while to mature."

According to reports, only three technology companies embarked on an IPO in the UK last year. Collaboration software firm WANdisco had the largest market capital of the three at £41m.

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