Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of WRAL Tech Wire and business editor of WRAL.com.
RALEIGH, N.C. – Citrix Systems’ Data Sharing product group, which includes the Raleigh company once known as ShareFile, is gearing up to double its Triangle work force next year and also needs office space.
Lots of it – like 50,000 square feet.
So says Jesse Lipson, the self-taught software programmer who founded ShareFile in 2005 and sold the fast-growing venture in October to Florida-based Citrix.
“Things are going great,” Lipson, a magna cum laude graduate with a degree in philosophy from Duke, said in an interview. “We’ve added 10 or so people since the acquisition, and we’re looking to add 100 people next year.”
Doubling the team to 200 people also means ShareFile needs more space. Lipson is shopping, but he says the options are limited.
“We are staying in Raleigh and we are looking for space,” he explained. “We’re looking all over downtown. When you’re looking for 4,000 to 5,000 square feet, there are lots of choices.”
In the Cloud
Citrix (Nasdaq: CTXS) gobbled up ShareFire to capitalize on growing demand for cloud-based services. ShareFile enables secure transfer of documents through a software-as-a-service format, and nearly 20,000 companies use its technology worldwide. That customer base has increased by nearly 3,000 since the Citrix closing with ShareFile realizing immediate benefits from the size of the Citrix sales force and referrals from its customer base, Lipson said.
ShareFile’s revenues had already exploded over the past three years by more than 1,300 percent to $7.8 million in 2010, according to data it shared with Inc magazine. That performance earned ShareFile the No. 241 spot on the latest Inc 500 list for growing companies. Revenues in 2007 were just over $550,000.
The company also increased its work force to 70, according to its website, over three years. In the 2010 Inc 500 report, ShareFile reported 29 employees.
Citrix, a $1.9 billion a year company in 2010 which focuses on virtual computing services, made ShareFile part of its cloud-based data storage and sharing product suite. Cloud computing enables users to scale server and PC power on demand and to share systems without having to buy additional hardware or hire service personnel.
The combination process continues with the former ShareFile operation being “incubated” rather than merged, as Lipson described it. “It’s been a really good process,” he said.
Not the Boss
However, there have been some challenges as there are in any deal. For one, Lipson said, “I do have a boss.”
Having started and run his own firms, Lipson now reports to Citrix Chief Executive Officer Mark Templeton.
“It’s terrific,” Lipson said about working with Templeton. “He’s a great guy, and he’s an N.C. State graduate. I didn’t know that until we began the due acquisition process.”
One challenge for Lipson has been the fact he now is part of a corporate structure. That means many more meetings and having to better schedule his time, explained.
Lipson spoke at a gathering of entrepreneurs on Monday about how to grow a company without taking outside investment. He guided ShareFile’s rapid expansion with organically generated revenues but increasing competitive pressure finally forced him to look elsewhere for money.
“Bootstrapping,” Lipson said, was no longer feasible as a means of growth.
“One of our competitors was raising $100 million,” he recalled. With that kind of money, the competition could scale far beyond what ShareFile could do on its own.
“We could have raised a lot of money, too,” Lipson added. “Ultimately, we decided to be acquired.”
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