Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Boom Not Gloom: IT Search Firm Splunk

Posted by Tom Foremski - February 3, 2009

BoomWatch Series: There are some diamonds out there--companies that are doing very well amid the gloom. One of these is Splunk, based in San Francisco.

Splunk is in the business of IT search -- its technology allows large enterprises to sift through massive amounts of log data produced by networks, servers, routers, etc -- to troubleshoot problems, meet compliance requirements, investigate security incidents, and much more. This is the "dark matter" of enterprise data and there is huge amounts of it. It's not easy to search but it is vital to a modern enterprise.

Splunk has become so useful that in many organizations people say "Splunk it" when trying to troubleshoot a problem.

It's a booming business. Take a look at some of its 2008 achievements:

- Q4 2008 best quarter in company history (+68% vs. Q4 '07)

- Year over year growth of 85%

- 143 new customers in Q4

- 411 new customers in 2008 (+88% vs. 2007)

- 29 Customers in the Fortune 100

SplunkCEO.jpg Late last year I met with Splunk CEO Godfrey Sullivan, a veteran Silicon Valley entrepreneur. He first came to California as a young man and soon began working for Apple -- during the fun early growth years. "I learnt a huge amount when I was at Apple," he says. "After 11 years I left and joined Autodesk."

He was president of Autodesk's Discreet Division and after 8 years left to run Promptu, a short-lived enterprise marketing automation software company.

In 2001 he was tapped to run Hyperion Solutions -- successfully turning it around from $500m in revenues in 2001 to more than double the revenues in 2007 -- and a six-fold increase in its market cap. He's also on the board of Citrix Systems and Informatica.

He could have retired many times over but was lured back into the industry by the opportunity to run Splunk.

"I spent a lot of time looking at the industry to see if there were any companies where I could add a lot of value. And there wasn't much out there. There were a lot of medium sized companies, where their competitors had been acquired by larger firms. But those were the chumps that the gorillas had left behind."

Splunk had all the qualities and positioning where he felt he could make a difference. And that certainly has been the case so far.

In gloomy times Mr Sullivan says it is important to be realistic with your board of directors and set expectations. And it is important to have a "Plan B" just in case. But so far "Plan A" is working out very well for Splunk.

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