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When Tre and I first met, one of the things that stuck out to me, you had a big 49ers banner and there's a lot of VCs that I'll meet that they don't do much prep. I feel like you're coming on no context. And that's a signal to me that they haven't done their homework on the space and they haven't done any work on me. And I got the opposite and I think that Thoma Bravo is affirmed. They do their homework.
I appreciate you saying that Brendan. And I always thought from the get-go that there was a great connection there. And I'll never forget we met at some bar in Union Square and had lunch and a beer. I haven't had a beer before 5 PM on a Friday and Lord knows how long. And, uh, it was good to just do something informal and not talk about business and further that personal relationship, which I'll never forget.
Welcome to Thoma Bravo's Behind The Deal. I'm Thoma Bravo founder and managing partner, Orlando Bravo. And that was Brendan O'Connor, co-founder and CEO of AppOmni speaking with Tre Sayle, a partner at Thoma Bravo. In June of 2022, we led a $90 million series C funding round for AppOmni, the market leading security solution for SaaS applications. As companies continue to shift their application footprint to SaaS, they need a better way to secure these applications. Since its founding in 2018, AppOmni has a track record of protecting tens of millions of users across a broad range of SaaS platforms, securing hundreds of millions of data records.
We started Thoma Bravo Growth to deliver the core competencies of our organization to growing pre-IPO software companies. We really work to select the best companies and software that we can partner with. And second, we help them significantly improve their operations. We have been doing this in buyouts for over 20 years and are so excited to apply this expertise to minority investments. And helping these great entrepreneurs build their businesses.
AppOmni is the first growth equity investment we have discussed in this podcast series. It's really appropriate since this company is in the cyber security space, an area that we have an incredible franchising. A big part of the allure of AppOmni is it's huge momentum. The company nearly tripled in size from 2020 to 2021. And then again the following year. We're looking at doubling the business this year and see the opportunity to both grow significantly and do so efficiently.
So today, you'll hear everything that went on Behind The Deal on this investment from Trey Sayle, our deal lead a Thoma Bravo, followed by his conversation with AppOmni co-founder and CEO Brendan O'Connor.
My name is Robert Sayle. My nickname is Tre. Most people call me Tre. I'm a partner at Thoma Bravo and I joined the firm in 2005. So if anybody's counting, that's 18 years running. One thing I've always noted what's great about this job and why I love it as I put it in the context of other professions, it's incredibly dynamic. And every new deal, you meet a different management team, a bunch of different personalities, a new opportunity, quite frankly to make lifelong friendships. I know it sounds all touchy-feely to say that but to be honest, it's the truth and that makes it very interesting and never boring.
As I said before, I've been the firm for 18 years. So I certainly know how to carry the Thoma Bravo flag and understand how we've created value in so many of our investments. And what I personally felt about the higher growth arena, which you should [inaudible 00:04:14] think about is typically earlier stage companies, not always but typically, is that they received tremendous help from an earlier stage investment community that has helped these businesses establish a product market fit as an example, and that's an invaluable kind of service that some of these investors can provide. But what gets a lot more challenging I found for these early stage investors is carrying the company, not just to the 10 million of revenue. I'm just pulling that number out of the air, but making that tango to 100 and that doesn't happen anymore just from the tailwind of a market or successfully, evangelizing a product, if you will. That actually takes repeatable consistent business practice inside a company in an organization that supports a very rapid scaling.
And so meaning you have to become a great operator and that's where our skillset has proven over and over again for 20 years to be so valuable to management teams. And we just felt like there was a void in this growth community for providing that kind of service to teams. And so I was really excited again given my tenure with the firm to go drive out in this growth arena. It's a team effort here in our growth fund at Thoma Bravo. And quite frankly, all of our funds is a very horizontal effort. Meaning, we also reduce similar activities and it was one of the team that actually surfaced this particular SaaS security posture management. And this was early on in the endeavors of this growth fund.
So we were still creating maps of different spaces and trying to identify priorities and so on and so forth. And as we dug a little bit deeper on the heels of reading about some of these financings, we realized very quickly that AppOmni was a market leader in this particular space. It's interesting when I thought about this backdrop, AppOmni, you know, jump to the front of my head in terms of thinking of representative companies that kind of fit this bill. And, you know, or successfully create a market category that wasn't widely appreciated or understood but already had some of those data points in a phenomenal management team to drive it.
What was really appealing about AppOmni is they took a really interesting approach, which is different from some of the other competition that's in the space. Everybody whether you pay very little attention to software technology for that matter, I think everybody appreciates hearing that this movement to the cloud or SaaS applications are the way forward for consuming applications if you're an enterprise. And central to that theme, we were looking for interesting security technologies that play to that tailwind and we're a huge part of that broader movement going forward and focused on securing cloud or, or SaaS environments. And the two founders of the company were actually fairly senior management always with a bend towards security from Salesforce and ServiceNow.
My name is Brendan O'Connor. I'm the CEO and co-founder at AppOmni. We founded the company in May of 2018. So we just had our fifth birthday. I never really got and saw myself as an entrepreneur, a CEO or a company founder. I was always a security engineer, but we looked at the market and we said everything is going SaaS, but there's something that everyone's forgetting. They don't understand the actual security challenges of Software as a Service.
In 2007, I joined a small company called Salesforce, which is on the forefront of what became Software as a Service and cloud. Back then they called it on-demand computing, actually. So I joined them in 2007 and I was there for a decade. Uh, first half of my career, managing product securities. And so even though I spent a decade working at Salesforce, which is a great company, that's not what gave me the idea for AppOmni. I left Salesforce and I actually joined ServiceNow as CTO of security because I wanted to build product. And ServiceNow is a great company, great product. But when I went to ServiceNow and I saw that none of my SaaS experience translated. I was in a foreign country and I didn't speak the language. I was fluent in 10 years of Salesforce. What I found is none of that applied to ServiceNow because ServiceNow was very similar, but they did everything a little bit different.
Their database is different. Their app schemas are different. Similar, but knowledge of one does not make you an expert in the other. So I looked at it, like languages, you know. I'm fluent in English, that doesn't make me 50% fluent in Japanese. I'm 0%. I've got to go learn Japanese. And if I become fluent in that, I'm not, now 75% fluent in Tamil. No, I have to go out and have to learn that language as well. Or I can hire a translator. I can use technology or a translator that I can say something in one language and have it heard and understood in another.
I knew how hard it was for me to stay up to date on one platform. You know, Salesforce, what we were building and I just knew every security team is going to have this problem. So we set out to build the Rosetta Stone for SaaS. I mean that's what AppOmni is. And that's really where our logo came for. That's the gear and the eye is we see deeply inside how things work and where that translation engine, that allows you to speak security in one place, one language and have it heard by all the applications to power your business.
AppOmni protects more than 78 million users and that number is, is such a large number because it service the global 2000 kind of customer. So you're talking about companies with populations of employees and sometimes the hundreds of thousands. Now those are the biggest of the big. But that is who, who some of these customers are. They've got healthcare customers. They've got financial institutions. They've got customers in the text based themselves but it's again, typically leaning towards larger customers, again, with a lot of critical information, a lot to lose quite frankly, if they don't secure themselves appropriately.
And it was one, again, consistent with the thesis we had about SaaS applications being a huge exposure and part of best practice for security, it all kind of came together and clicked for us at the same time. And one of my team reached out to Brendan and we had initial call. And I was a part of it from the get-go in terms of introducing our new growth fund and talking about our capabilities and how we can be helpful.
We reached out to Brendan in the spring of 2021. Sometimes timing is everything as I'm sure many of my peers would highlight that as well. And we were fortunate to catch Brendan at a time where he was proactively thinking about the next capital race of the company. So it was sort of fortuitous. I wish I could say we had pinpointed it through our own triangulation that it, now is the time to reach out to Brendan but again, sometimes better to be lucky than good. And that was kind of what led to the actual kind of timing.
But again, it was a maturation again of our growth fund. We've been in operation for about nine months at that point. And like I said we realized that this was going to be an area that hit our radar screen and one that we wanted to be all over as well.
Brendan, the other two things that come to mind when I think of Brendan as a CM, one of the founders of the company. He has incredible, and I like to use the term, ire, like he is so invested in his company and seeing the success of the business and development of his employees. And there is not a minute that he takes off, where he should be thinking about the company, again, so invested in, in the success of that business. And so I would see that as obviously something that's so critical and believe it or not, not all people who lead businesses kind of wake up with that same ire every day, but it's palpable with Brendan.
You have to believe that you're onto something special and Thoma Bravo has the experience and I think also the perspective to say, "Yes, you are special over here in this area. But in these ways, you're like every other company, we've looked at." And these are the types of things that you can do to build a better company, to build a leaner company, to build a stronger company. So what they give us is that expertise, that discipline, that understanding that they not only believed in us, and they do believe they were special, but they can also see in ways in, which were similar to other portfolio companies, other investments they've made, and, you know, help us get there faster.
And the other thing I noted about Brendan, that is so critical from operators is they have to realize when the current status quo is not working. And sometimes that means staring in the mirror and figuring out I need to surround myself with some other help. Some other figures or executives are people have experienced, perhaps in areas that I do not.
You know, early in my career, my mentor told me, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." And I really took that to heart. And we want to go far and Thoma Bravo is taking many companies public. Like they know how to build software. They know how to run software companies. I want someone with that level of experience in my corner, helping me go do the same thing.
And I always thought from the beginning, even in our evaluation of the company, he would always know that he had a roadmap for adding certain talented individuals to his staff, that would shore up some blind spots they have or lack of experience for that matter. And that's a very, I think, mature professional way for, you know, company to, to rally behind a leader and someone who can and note these things about themselves. And since our partnership has begun, we've been able to go help build out that group and provide, run some of the help that he's looking for. So, I thought those two things that the passion coupled with the self-recognition is rare.
The company ended up raising when the round was all said and done around 90 million of which we've contributed more than half of their other investors, that, that participated as well. You know, where, where, I think we build a lot of mutual respect for one another or trust is you might call it, I think Brendan obviously appreciated the franchise we build in the security space as a software investor more generally. And you know, was keen to get some of the benefits of our network, you know, from a security perspective.
But what I think, you know, more likely than not drove a lot of the, the excitement around the partnership for both of us was seeing how we could be helpful as a partner, that has seen a lot terms of operational initiative. And how we could make recommendations, suggestions, operationally for the business to help accelerate the growth profile of the company going forward. Stay tuned for my conversation with Brendan O'Connor, co-founder and CEO of AppOmni. Thoma Bravo's Behind The Deal will be right back.
Welcome back to Thoma Bravo's Behind The Deal. Here's my conversation with Brendan O'Connor, co-founder and CEO of AppOmni. Hi, Brendan. How's it going? How are you?
I'm doing well. My walls are empty, man. I'm moving.
That's amazing. Well, congrats man. I'm glad that it's all happening.
Although even though I'm moving to Nevada, or spending more of my time in Nevada, I'm still 49ers fan, I'm not getting on this Vegas Raiders BS now. (laughs)
The good news, I don't know how much you've been around the area there, Galena, or, or Reno, or anything like that, but they're mostly Niner. You're going to be at home. Trust me. I don't think the Vegas Raiders have set in yet there. You're going to be just fine.
Yeah, I hope so. (laughs)
I guess I can kick off here and just thinking about your last financing round, and as you headed into that, what were the things that you were looking for from a partner? +
You know, we needed someone to believed in us because I mean, you know, when we first met Tre, like I am just rock solid on this market. I called it from the beginning. I knew that this was emerging. We didn't always have conviction on the timing, but we knew everything is moving to SaaS more and more and every business is going to have the challenge that they're going to have multiple SaaS clouds that are closer to, you know, operating systems than simple applications. And that all of their workloads are going to be there. And that the two decades worth of on-premise and perimeter and kind of end point investment, it's not no longer needed, but it was going to have diminishing returns because it couldn't see where all the workloads were going.
And at the time, our sales were not huge. They were good, but they weren't, you know, huge, but we just had conviction. We have some momentum and I knew this is the way everything was going. So I needed a partner that could subscribe to that world view that okay, we see SaaS becoming almost like an operating system in the enterprise, or in the workplace. And that it becomes the, the place that employees go to get their work done more and more. And that all the security investments aren't going to lift and shift.
So we needed someone that believes in, in our mission, but also had conviction that the timing on this market that it would grow, when it was still a seed that it would grow into a tree.
Anything, Brendan, you remark from our first interactions when we first got to know each other and one thing is we had a mutual friend in Jim [Plfaging 00:16:57] that, that helped connect the dots a little bit for us.
You know, Jim is that he's a board member. He's a technology leader, he's a business leader. I've known him for several years. We met through a professional network and has always been very interested in what we're building. But is also had really great advice for me. And so, you know, Jim does work with Thoma Bravo. So I respect him and his opinion, pretty highly.
But when you and I first met, one of the things that stuck out to me and this is going to sound, I don't know, maybe inconsequential but you had a big 49ers banner. And the reason I like that is not that I need you to be fan of my same sports team and I love the you are 49ers fan. What it was is you did your homework on me. That means that you cared enough to put in and do the homework. It's like, I tell my team, whenever we have a meeting with a customer, we do a pre-meeting. We do our homework before the test. That's what we do. There's prep and I think that prep shows up in the final result.
And there's a lot of VCs that I'll meet that they don't do much prep or they get on their like, "So tell me about who you are and like the kind of started the beginning." I feel like they're coming on no context. And that's a signal to me that they haven't done their homework on the space or they haven't done their homework on me, and I got the opposite. And I think that Thoma Bravo as a firm, they do their homework, they're analytical, they investigate, they think it through.
And personally, uh, I'm an analytical thinker. I like that approach. So that resonated with me that the meeting was important enough for you to do your homework in advance. And that's a positive signal when we first meet.
I appreciate you saying that Brendan. And getting to know you, I feel like we were still a relic of the pandemic era because even in the spring of 2021, it was sort of taboo even though we're throw a baseball, I don't have a strong enough arm over to where you were, you know wasn't something people were doing with any frequency at that point and everything was still a little bit dicey. You know, so we had to get to know each other in the similar format of seeing your face on a computer screen right now and kind of forging relationship in that regard.
And obviously, you're, you made yourself available and, or at least demonstrated a lot of interest in seeing if we could be your partner. I always saw from the get-go that there was a great connection there. And I'll never forget our first opportunity. We finally, I don't know if it was our first in-person meeting, but in my mind it was, it was during some event or something. We met at some bar in Union Square and had lunch and a beer. I haven't had a beer before 5 PM on a Friday and Lord knows how long. But it was the most random of occurrences like, a place that neither of us had ever heard of and sat down, and, uh, it was good to just do something informal and not talk about business and, and further that personal relationship, which I'll never forget that.
It's right when we're closing the deal. We met, we had a beer. I want to have a beer with someone, I'm doing business with,. That's important to me. I want to meet in the real life, obviously. And the first thing that I noticed is you're so tall. You know, I- I'm a tall guy, I'm 6' 1" almost 6' 2". So, uh, I'm used to when I meet someone I'm taller than them or they're about my height. But you're what 6' 6"?
6' 6", although I think I'm retreating now. At my last physical, I fell, I am now 6' 5" and a half. So it's tough, tough news for someone in their mid-40s.
Shrinking in your old age.
I mean I, I'm sure it was a weird time for you, Tre. It was a very weird time for me. We had a really good year. We had grown by what 1000% or 900 in, in change percent that year. But that was from a very small start. But we had momentum and we had some big customers. Things were going well. But you could say that about tech in general. It was kind of like the beginning of the end of the bull run. So valuations were super high. There was a lot of irrational exuberance. There was a lot of other companies that were getting these, like, unicorn valuations.
And it was kind of a weird time, but that was all coming to an end. And so, we were raising on the tail end of that and it was weird to see, not only the dynamics of the, you know, founder investor changing but our whole Market changing on the macros, but we made it work. And the venture is very, very important to me and my company AppOmni. And Tre, I don't know what your impressions were that time.
Yeah, you know, Brendan, as an investor, I don't think the grass is ever greener whether you're an operator or investor. And sometimes there's some overlap on what our cares and concerns are. Sometimes they're completely different but you kind of hit it on the head. I mean, we were living this very tumultuous and I don't know that I would say today, there's been any further clarity and we're, we're basically at our one-year anniversary of when we made the investment at this point. But it was a really disconcerting time as you recall. And the reason it's disconcerting, I mean, you'd wake up some days in the NASDAQ. I don't want to overstate if it was down 6% or something like that.
You know, some days that's a lot, right? Like that doesn't happen every day. That's news. And trying to figure out where the sky is falling and to what degree and when's it going to stop. And, you know, we had to take a pause on a lot of the activities just to make sure we were focusing in the right areas and doubling down in businesses that we felt were tremendously exciting and suited frustum partnership where our services could be of most help to them. And the results that was a bombing at, at a time when there was not a whole lot, we were really looking to lean into.
And I guess I'll take the opportunity to also just mention Brendan. I mean, At the end of it, you set a certain financial outcome for the company from a top and bottom line and the company exceeded it for the year. So even a myth the sky falling, so to speak, Brendan, you and, and team is, you know, the, the, myself and the rest of the board have told you over and over again, executed phenomenally, had the massive Q4 that I don't think I saw on a relative or even absolute dollar basis from like 90%+ of the population of companies, regardless of size. And so you guys again, navigated even after the fact of an incredibly hard set of circumstances.
Yeah, it was a time, that like I said, we've first kicked off, you believed in us. Like there was a lot of hype. There was a lot of hype. And the hype was starting to come to an end and these companies that were built on high, we were starting to see they weren't doing so well as maybe as it would appear outwardly. But where we were as a company, I just had total conviction. I knew the deals, I knew the customers, I knew the problem space. And I, I knew our company. I knew our team. And I said we're going to hit that target.
You know, Brendan, what prompts the customer to look into your technology in the first instance? And, you know, kind of curious as you answer that question, how much things like Log4j or some of these source code repositories that have been recently hacked or the state of Vermont, you know, losing information from a SaaS systems from a huge ass platform. Is that what it takes for them to come to grips with the reality that they need the software, or are some customers more proactive in thinking through it? And any commentary, however, on that.
You know, unfortunately, I think, for the most part, the industry still driven by pain. There's so much to do and everyone's so busy that if something isn't causing you acute pain, it gets triaged farther down the priority list. And you know, Log4j was on no one's priority list until it was on everyone's priority list. And then they started to wake up into, you know, S bomb and what are all the packages that make it into the code that we use, we built our business on. And so people are looking into that more and more.
I don't think that you had a CISO that would say that they had a really great handle on their software bill of materials or their software supply chain before Log4j. So they kind of knew it was a weak point, but it wasn't super high on their priority list. They were thinking about, you know, ransomware and other things that were hitting the enterprise. So I think in some ways, we're always going to respond to pain and I think that's unfortunate because we're not being as proactive as we could be.
But having said that, we also see that there are some companies that take the security more serious than others, and they are much more forward thinking. And our ability to find and work with those early adopters, again, the people that believe in us, they know they don't have the right management. They know they don't have the right visibility. But they don't know what the solution looks like yet. They just know that what they have is inadequate. That's my favorite customer because they recognize that there's a problem, and we can take them on the journey to help them actually frame the problem. And think about how, you know, managing these cloud platforms is not a project. It's a program. It's a discipline. It's a thing you have to do now.
And so not just giving them software but giving them, you know, a, a framework by which to manage and solve this challenge across their business because it's like a point in time. It's all day, every day. This is what your users do now. They log into GitHub. They log into Salesforce. They lock into Microsoft 365, ServiceNow, Oracle, Concur, Expensify, Workday, like that's the modern enterprise. It's all these SaaS applications.
Curious to hear your thoughts on what the next three to five years have in store for AppOmni, and without revealing too much IP or roadmap, how do you think the company might get there?
Yeah, I like to think that long-term we're solving one problem. It's a big problem. We want to solve one problem extremely well. We have total clarity of vision. We're not an on-premise company. We're not a network company. We know what we're not. We are the SaaS security company. We think that the enterprise market for Software as a Service applications is absolutely huge. It's continuing to grow. It's a problem everyone has, and no one's doing it, you know, very well right now, from security and management perspective.
That's the problem that I've chosen to, you know, spend the next 10 years of my life working towards. So I can't solve every security problem, but I can make a really big dance in this one. So to me, the success is, is not economic success. It's not customer adoption. It's not even, you know, sales volume. To me, it's, have we woken the world up to this type of problem, and taught them how to think about this problem and solve this problem? And that, now, this is whether they're buying AppOmni or not. I hope they're buying AppOmni but the world is now thinking about their business applications as the next frontier. That this is the new operating system of work and this is where our data is and this is where users are because, you know, I'm a consumer, it's my data, it's my financial data. It's my insurance company. It's my vendors. It's, you know, the people that I do business with, too.
So I think that we can really solve this problem, industry-wide, teach the industry how to think about SaaS platforms. And if we do that, the economics will come. If we do that, the financial success will come. We just want to do that better than anyone in the world. And if we do, everything will work out.
You know, personally, I think you guys have established a breadth and depth so to speak with your product and covering the most important needs of customers who use SaaS applications. You can think about the next avenues to add on to your platform and you truly can become a platform. And there's things like M&A, the probably at some point become part of the story as well. And I see the opportunity to scale the business in the next three to five years. And as we continue to do that and continue building upon the go-to-market motion that address all these different opportunities for the company. I think the sky's the limit.
But Brendan, it's as always, as someone I got to know initially professionally, now consider a great friend, and a fellow fan of our favorite team, I really appreciate you making the time and effort to talk about what's driving some of the success of your business at AppOmni. And some of the things that you're looking forward to in the future.
Who's our quarterback gonna be this year, Tre?
That is an, an incredible question. Knowing the Niners, they'll throw us a curveball and it's someone that's not even on the roster at this point will (laughs) step in to be the quarterback. Nothing's done until the first week of the season. It's been a pleasure getting to know you so far and look forward to what the future holds in store.
Awesome! Thank you so much, Tre. Great being here. Always good to talk to you, buddy.
Appreciate it. Thanks for listening to Thoma Bravo's Behind The Deal. And thanks to Brendan O'Connor for taking the time to speak with me. To learn more about AppOmni and how they're securing SaaS applications for millions of end users across the globe, head to AppOmni.com. I'm Tres Sayle. Stay tuned for more stories, Behind The Deal on our next episode.
Thoma Bravo's Behind The Deal is produced by Thoma Bravo in partnership with Pod People. Stay tuned for more stories Behind The Deal. I'm Orlando Bravo. Thanks for listening.
Certain statements about Thoma Bravo made by portfolio company executives are intended to illustrate Thoma Bravo's business relationship with such persons rather than Thoma Bravo's capabilities or expertise with respect to investment advisory services. Portfolio company executives were not compensated in connection with their podcast participation, although they generally receive compensation and investment opportunities in connection with their portfolio company roles, and in certain cases are also owners of portfolio company securities and or investors in Thoma Bravo funds. Such compensation and investments subject podcast participants to potential conflicts of interest.
Certain statements about Thoma Bravo made by portfolio company executives are intended to illustrate Thoma Bravo's business relationship with such persons rather than Thoma Bravo's capabilities or expertise with respect to investment advisory services. Portfolio company executives were not compensated in connection with their podcast participation, although they generally receive compensation and investment opportunities in connection with their portfolio company roles, and in certain cases are also owners of portfolio company securities and/or investors in Thoma Bravo funds. Such compensation and investments subject podcast participants to potential conflicts of interest.