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Salesforce rival SugarCRM scores $40m from Goldman Sachs

Will SaaSy player actually float this time?

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Salesforce's customer relationship management (CRM) software rival SugarCRM has landed a huge chunk of Wall Street money, in a possible move closer to an IPO.

SugarCRM Wednesday said it’s taken a $40m equity investment from banker Goldman Sachs and named Goldman vice president Antoine Munfa as a board director.

The amount is half of the total that SugarCRM has raised to date; it has pulled in $79m since it was founded in 2004.

The cash will be used to expand the company’s “global reach”, it said in a statement. Translated, that’ll mean additional sales and support staff.

Goldman in a statement said SugarCRM is “very well positioned” as a leading CRM player thanks to the rise of social media and mobile.

SugarCRM claims more than 6,500 customers, having added 600 in the second quarter of 2013, and 15 consecutive quarters of growth.

And while Wall St will likely see this as SugarCRM’s last jumping off point to the big float, they shouldn’t.

When SugarCRM last raised venture backing in April 2012, pulling in $33m, chief executive Larry Augustin was reported to have said there was a “high probability” that it would be his company’s final funding round. Bloomberg rather helpfully filled in the gaps on a SugarCRM IPO.

But rather than float, SugarCRM’s taken another round – this time from Goldman.

In November 2012, Augustin reportedly said there was a “chance” of going public in 2013, but with August sliding to its stately end, the window on a 2013 IPO is slowly closing.

While Augustin has mentioned going public in the plan, he's in no hurry to blow the bolts. Rather, it seems he’s building a cash cushion to fund operations and expansion. In the same interview where Augustin hinted at a 2013 IPO, he said SugarCRM would "burn" some cash in 2012.

A veteran of a failed Linux IPO – Augustin had been CEO of VA Linux – he was brought in to stabilise SugarCRM. A SugarCRM board member, he replaced SugarCRM co-founder John Roberts as CEO who resigned abruptly in May 2009 and left the company.

There had been growing questions over SugarCRM’s growth, as the company had failed to follow the explosive trajectory of SaaS rival Salesforce and as a number of strategically important sales people departed, along with one co-founder. Augustin took on the CEO position full-time in November 2009 and has since developed a functioning and expanding sales operation and landed major partners, including IBM.

Under Augustin, SugarCRM has re-written its app to dump Adobe's Flash and embrace HTML5, bought a company that provides a plug-in to IBM's Lotus Notes, and delivered versions of its apps for Android, BlackBerry, and iOS. ®

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