Just two years after its founding, online video delivery startup Ankeena Networks is selling to Juniper Networks for a little less than $100 million, generating big returns for its top investors, Mayfield Fund and Clearstone Venture Partners.
The deal fits neatly into two major trends in online video. First, the ability for venture firms to win big and quickly with capital-efficient software and networking startups. And second, the wave of consolidation overtaking the online video space as it becomes more saturated.
Sumant Mandal, managing director at Clearstone Venture Partners — which incubated Ankeena, formerly Nokeena Networks — says the sale is representative of the returns that are possible across the board in online video.
“Online video that doesn’t necessarily rely on advertising revenue will be a phenomenal venture return market,” he says. “You can make money in online video through storage, content distribution, different business models.”
To put these returns in context, Mandal says his firm hasn’t seen such a high rate of return since its last big internet company sale in 2001 and 2002, which he guesses was PayPal’s sale to eBay. While the numbers involved in the Ankeena deal are smaller, the rate of return is comparable.
“I think all of our minds were blown by the demand for this technology,” he says. “The offer was very exciting for the amount of time and money we spent on the company.”
Seeing even more opportunity in the market, Mandal says that Clearstone is just starting to look into wireless video and backhaul services as other quick turnaround investments. He predicts that focus will shift to companies working to improve internet video quality. Ankeena fit into this category, serving video across various platforms while simultaneously shrinking needed data center resources.
“Think about where people increasingly consume their content: mobile devices,” Mandal points out. “The moment you start streaming video on a mobile device, it is all about quality of experience. And now we have the iPad, which will move it further in that direction.”
Ankeena and Juniper are far from strangers. The latter had been selling Ankeena’s software since last year through an OEM agreement, and has gotten positive feedback. On Ankeena’s side of the fence, it became clear that an acquisition would be the fastest and most lucrative way to get its technology to market.
“I think this company could have built a real business with another $15 to $20 million in investment,” Mandal says. “But that’s the time when decisions are made, and it was important for them to have a partner like Juniper.”
This brand of consolidation will become increasingly common in the video space he says. In particular, startups offering data center or networking technology will probably need to seek partnerships with big fish like Cisco Systems, Alcatel-Lucent, and, of course, Juniper. In most cases, these deals will segue into acquisitions — not necessarily a bad thing for a flock of young, capital-efficient companies.
Earlier this week, VentureBeat reported on Brightcove’s $12 million fundraise, suggesting that it might be one of a very few online video companies that survives all the way to an IPO. Mandal says that Brightcove, as a video management platform, is at the other end of the spectrum from Ankeena — the former is consumer-facing, while the latter focuses on the back-end — but that both areas will see more consolidation.