Is the "Facebook for the office" company joining the rest of the Valley in cranking up the IPO machine?
FORTUNE — Nothing says, “we plan to go public” more than when a startup bulks up its board with executives from brand-name companies. Software company Jive has just done that, with the addition of former McAfee MFE Chairman Chuck Robel, McAffee President David DeWalt, Facebook’s VP of Technical Operations Jonathan Heiliger and Mr. Chrome Browser himself, Sundar Pichai from Google GOOG .
Jive is in the fast-growing “social” business software category. They hate it when you say this, but think of Jive as Facebook for work. Instead of endless updates on that weekend in Tahoe, it’s about getting the latest project finishing with your colleagues and keeping customers happy. Other companies in this space include Salesforce.com CRM , SocialText, and Yammer among others.
Jive is running hard among its competitors, and with 15 million users is right there in the front of the pack. Going public might just give it the resources and attention it needs to try and distance itself from the competition. Jive CEO Tony Zingale, who’s led a few public companies himself, is vague on the subject of an IPO, though he has said in the past that he wants 2011 to be the year. “We see the benefits of being a public company,” Zingale says. Then like all CEOs not wanting to run afoul of SEC law, he will tell you that Jive is focused on being the best enterprise software company it can be.
Of course it is, but please. Robel cut his teeth as a partner at Robel PricewaterhouseCoopers managing IPOs. He’s not being added to the board to just look pretty. Which gets us to the fellows from Facebook and Google. Both Heiliger and Pichai made it clear they are serving as individuals, and their respective companies have no interest in Jive per se. Of course, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave Heiliger the OK to sit on the board, as did someone high up at Google in Pichai’s case. What Jive can learn from these two guys is clear, how to scale to massive numbers technically, and how to tune their product/platform. But it could be a two-way street.
Google is clearly interested in the enterprise space, and Pichai wants to make sure his Chrome browser can make massive inroads there. And since Facebook is the largest social network in the world, why wouldn’t it want a front-row seat in the social business category? “Jive is working on a really interesting and important problem,” Heiliger says. “It’s a problem that I see out in the market, and one that I would like to help solve.” All the new board members receive Jive stock as compensation for serving on the board.
So already we have Groupon, LinkedIn, Pandora on the IPO path (and how long will Facebook, Twitter and Zynga hold out?). Can you add Jive to that list? Failing another global economic slide, I would bet on it.
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