SaaS Industry Consolidation Continues as NetSuite Acquires OpenAir

| About: NetSuite Inc. (N)

As the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) “gold-rush” intensifies, industry consolidation is inevitable. The latest example of this consolidation process was Monday’s  announcement by NetSuite (NYSE:N) that it intends to acquire OpenAir.

This announcement not only reaffirmed the SaaS industry consolidation trend, but it also is the latest example of a company profiled by THINKstrategies being acquired shortly thereafter. Other examples include:

(Contact me if you'd like a copy of our Strategic Thinking profiles on these companies.)

I had the privilege of talking with Zach Nelson, CEO of NetSuite, and Morris Panner, the CEO of OpenAir, moments before Monday’s announcement was made public. They indicated that the acquisition was based on a trend which THINKstrategies has seen coming for a few months now.

Prospective SaaS users are not only seeking more industry-specific SaaS solutions, they are also looking for more strategic sources for these SaaS solutions. Instead of contracting for a series of SaaS point products from a wide array of vendors, corporate decision-makers, both business and IT, are taking a closer look at the SaaS vendors’ overall portfolios, platforms, partner ecosystems and financial viability so they can establish broader, long-term relationships with a fewer number of SaaS suppliers.

While the OpenAir acquisition gives NetSuite a stronger foothold in the professional services market, I think the acquisition also gives NetSuite a stronger set of human resource management [HRM] capabilities in its horizontal portfolio of enterprise applications.

Although the acquisition is another example of a Boston-based tech vendor being acquired by a west coast based company, the good news for OpenAir’s employees and the Boston area SaaS community is that NetSuite plans to use the acquisition as a beachhead for further investment aimed at establishing a greater east coast presence centered in the Hub.

Interestingly, NetSuite refers to its OpenAir plans as based on Oracle’s acquisition model and plans to operate OpenAir as a stand-alone product group with tighter integration to NetSuite’s platform. This reference just reinforces market perceptions of the close alignment of NetSuite with Oracle (NYSE:ORCL), and keeps alive suspicions that NetSuite may be acquired by Oracle in the future.

In the meantime, Zach Nelson and Morris Panner told me they will do all they can to maintain OpenAir’s relationship with (NYSE:CRM) via the AppExchange, and build on their other third-party relationships, including their respective channel partners.

Having gone through a number of unsuccessful acquisitions, I know first-hand about the various issues that can get in the way of these transactions achieving their business objectives. However, I think NetSuite and OpenAir have a very good chance of succeeding because they have the right combination of complementary executive personalities, solution capabilities, channel partners and geographic orientations.

The next question is what this acquisition means for OpenAir's primary competitor, QuickArrow? My bet is that they will also be an acquisition target in the coming months.


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