Of the different acquisitions with which Jason Leet became involved at ExactTarget of Indianapolis, Indiana, there’s little question that the seventh was the most impactful on his finance career.
As it turned out, this would also be his last acquisition—or perhaps we should say his last ExactTarget acquisition, given that this time it was ExactTarget itself that was being acquired.
In 2013, ExactTarget became not only the largest company that tech wunderkind Salesforce had ever acquired but also the first publicly traded one.Read More
Over the next 9 years, Leet would work on more than 40 acquisitions for Salesforce, including an additional four publicly traded firms. What’s more, over this period he would lead the finance team that took charge of what he calls Salesforce’s “best-in-class M&A machine.”
However, turn back the clock to his ExactTarget days, and it’s easy to see that for a number of months, Salesforce did indeed flip Leet’s world upside down.
“I was involved in some of the diligence, so I was aware of what was going down several months in advance,” explains Leet, who had joined ExactTarget in 2006, as he vividly recalls for us the company’s impressive climb upward—along with its disappointing 2007 decision to pull its IPO due to Wall Street’s economic collapse.
“Never waste a good crisis: Having that IPO door slammed became a pivotal moment in our future success,” comments Leet, who tells us that ExactTarget then turned to private investors for funding, which allowed the company to generously invest in the business at a time when many firms were curtailing their spending.
After consecutive years of impressive revenue growth, ExactTarget went public in 2012, after which Salesforce came knocking on the door with a $2.5 billion deal in 2013.
“Since this was Salesforce’s first acquisition of a publicly traded company, there was a sense of being in it together with the Salesforce folks with regard to how this whole thing was going to work,” remarks Leet, who tells us that when word of the deal first surfaced, he fed his enthusiasm for the career chapter that lay ahead by buying a copy of Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff’s book Behind the Cloud.
”To me,” he continues, “the acquisition was an opportunity, first, to support the business—but as you go through an integration, it’s also a chance to follow different lanes of experience, with an eye toward growing with your different teams.”
For Leet, this growth would remain inside the realm of M&A, where his 9 years at Salesforce would be what he describes as always being “fresh,” as he became engaged with the different management teams of the companies that Salesforce acquired and sought out knowledge to help in determining how best to invest in the acquired firm to maximize post-acquisition top-line growth.
From the ExactTarget acquisition on forward, Leet tells us, M&A has consistently broadened his view of the role that finance plays in business and exposed to him how often the “people part” is the most time-consuming yet most vital aspect of the success of an acquisition.
Leet concludes: “My team and I had this sense of ownership, in that we took personally the success or failure of the acquired companies—and because of this, we were able to step up and play a broader leadership role.” –Jack Sweeney
“Leverage your 360 degree view of your business to deliver valuable actionable insights to your leadership team. Always be looking around the corners to anticipate what could be coming up next that would impact your business and proactively provide contingency plans for the business. Above all else, invest in the value of trust every day.” – Jason Leet, CFO, Zylo
Made Possible By
CFOTL: Tell us about Zylo … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Leet: I’ve been here for about 9 months now as CFO. Zylo is near and dear to my heart because it was co-founded by someone I hired when I was at ExactTarget 10 years ago to solve the problem that Zylo now does for our customers.
What is Zylo? Zylo is the leader in the enterprise for SaaS management and optimization. What does this mean? We help organizations to manage, measure, and maximize their software investments. We are targeting two different personas: One is CIOs and IT departments that are charged with managing companies’ technology stack, including software, and the second is finance professionals like me, from CFOs to procurement leaders.Read More
What’s interesting is that in many companies, software is the second-largest operating expense behind employees. What we’re trying to do ultimately—at a high level, simplistically—is to help firms to make the most of the dollars that they’re spending in this category, which can often be a very large amount that is many times overlooked. We’ve done a lot of research based on our big customer base and the large amount of spend and benchmarking data that we have. We see that companies typically use only 56% of the software licenses that they’re buying, so there’s a lot of opportunity here. They’re spending a lot of money for things from which they’re not getting any value.
Another thing that’s happened, especially over the past 10 years, is that there has been just a proliferation of software in general across companies. It’s sprawling. There’s lots of duplication, and why is this? It’s because it’s Software-as-a-Service. It’s very easy to buy. It’s a contract. It’s a subscription.
Today, in many companies, it’s as easy to buy as pulling out your corporate credit card and submitting an expense report. This has really decentralized the ability of people to buy software across the company, in comparison to the previous traditional on-prem model. So, IT departments and finance organizations have lost their leverage on trying to be efficient, on trying to prevent duplication. And they’re losing leverage in their ability to consolidate these vendor agreements with software vendors. They’re lacking the ability or the opportunity to have the ability to negotiate price, for example.
I mentioned our enterprise focus. We certainly serve all sizes of companies and industries, but we have a great list of enterprise customers like Adobe, Atlassian, Coupa, DoorDash, Intuit, Salesforce, and so on, and so on. I’m super-excited about the company and the platform because from my purview as CFO, I can see the value proposition. I can understand the quantifiable value, the hard ROI that this software platform can deliver. This is not always the case with a lot of initiatives and a lot of other software tools that you may have.
Zylo | www.zylo.com | Indianapolis, IN