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Qualtrics, the Provo, Utah-based enterprise software company famous for bootstrapping in its early years, has raised $180 million in new venture funding, valuing it at $2.5 billion. It’s a surprising move for the 15-year-old company, which has openly talked about its IPO plans in recent years and was widely expected to go public amid this year’s flurry of enterprise tech IPOs. As recently as Monday, a TechCrunch headline blared: “Is Qualtrics about to go public?”
Answer: Nope. Or at least, not right away. With $180 million in fresh capital, led by existing investors Insight Venture Partners and Accel with participation from Sequoia Capital, Qualtrics is poised to go on an acquisition spree instead. The investment also allowed some early employees to cash out on their shares, according to CEO Ryan Smith. “We don’t want so much pressure built up on the IPO,” he says. (Fortune profiled Smith and his company in 2016 as part of our 40 Under 40 issue.)
“Great companies that go public have a lot of optionality,” Smith says. In other words, he’s confident Qualtrics can pull off a successful IPO regardless of whether the so-called “window” is open. “We made some good decisions early on that are allowing us to write our own story. It’s awesome. It’s working,” he says.
Namely, the company’s decision to grow profitably from the start. This year, Qualtrics is on track to do more than $250 million in revenue. Raising venture capital – $400 million in total now – has not changed Smith’s perspective on the matter. “It’s part of our DNA. We just refuse to not be cash flow positive,” he says. “It’s hard when you’re trying to scale and you have a bunch of dry powder.”
Qualtrics’ investors are happy to keep providing more of it: Accel Partners has now co-led all three of its funding rounds. Ryan Sweeney, a partner at the firm, isn’t worried about an IPO. “There’s no reason to race and try to time the window because it just doesn’t matter for them,” he says. “Their growth is accelerating. They’re cash flow positive. The window will be there for them even if the market takes a turn.”
Regarding acquisitions, Quatrics is seeking companies that can fit into its recently launched Qualtrics XM Platform, which gives companies data on their customers’ experiences. (Smith believes every company will eventually have an “experience” software platform and executive focused on customer experience, just like they have a human resources platform and head of HR.)
A number of software startups startups focused on marketing and employee engagement-type problems are that haven’t figured out a go-to-market strategy are now putting themselves up for sale, according to Sweeney. “For Qualtrics to be there to buy some of these makes sense,” he adds.
Statwing, a company that Qualtrics acquired in 2016, was like “Qualtrics for statistics,” Smith says. “We plugged that right into the Qualtrics platform.” Qualtrics currently operates in 10 countries and may also look at international acquisitions.
Qualtrics still needs to “get its house in order,” before going public, Smith says. That includes adding a few more appointments to its board of directors. Alongside the funding, the company announced the addition of Murray Demo, CFO of Atlassian and former CFO of Adobe, to its board of directors and audit committee. The company also recently hired Zig Serafin, a 17-year Microsoft veteran, as its COO. And as Term Sheet noted yesterday, Qualtrics is one on a long list of tech companies seeking to bring on an experienced CFO, which Smith says is a possibility if it can find the right person.
Sweeney says he sees parallels between Qualtrics and Atlassian, another Accel-backed enterprise tech company that bootstrapped itself in its early days and went public amid a difficult IPO market. Both companies faced questions over the size of the markets they operated in when they were starting out. But each proved the markets they address are much bigger than anyone thought, Sweeney says. And both had strong go-to-market strategies. “To be able to scale a business in the hundreds of millions of dollars in the SaaS world, but to be cash flow positive quarter-to-quarter, is not like something we’ve seen,” he says.