Piling on the VMW Mess Today

Lot’s of commentary today about VMware missing their number and CEO Greene out of the top job. For the record, when I was at SAP Ventures we looked at this deal but passed because of the husband/wife team (generally a big red flag for venture deals). It worked out for Diane and Mendel, and it would be stating the obvious to say that I regretted we passed on that deal but not just for the financial implications, Diane is the kind of entrepreneur you want to deal with, sincere and genuine but also really really smart.

Having said that, I think comments like this are misplaced and reactive:

Er, VMware may have tweaked its revenue forecast for 2008 to be “modestly below” previous guidance of 50 per cent growth. Few executives of multi-billion dollar companies usually get fired for 49 per cent growth, especially with an imploding worldwide economy in the background.

[From EMC CEO's ego has cost investors billions | The Register]

VMW has been at the center of a lot of confusion about their revenue forecasts and actual performance. Following the catastrophic Jan 28th conference call with analysts there was a lively discussion on the Enterprise Irregulars message board about their call and the details. In Q4’07 the company put up $412m against a $417m forecast… which being off $5m doesn’t seem disastrous but the fact that they came up $5m short while sitting on $550m in deferred revenues made no sense.

On that Jan 28th call they forecast that revenue would grow from $1.3b to $1.9b in 2008, 50% growth which again does not look bad. What that meant is that the company would need to add about $650m in 2008 revenue to meet their growth target of 50%, but when you consider that $550m in deferred revenue on the books it means they were really treading water for 2008. Basically they weren’t growing 50% at all but rather just covering their bases… and this from a company that had reliably put up 80% revenue growth.

At the time there was a line of thought that the company was resetting Wall St. expectations but today we can comfortably suggest that the company has some serious competitive and market challenges facing them. Blame Wall St. for being overly reactive but what investors were challenging is that apparent deceleration in VMW’s business and no substantive answers for what was going on.

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