1. Blackstone hosted its inaugural Tech Forum in Silicon Valley today, Ivan, what was the genesis behind organizing the Forum?
Silicon Valley is a truly unique ecosystem of technology innovation, and we’re eager to show our continued support through our inaugural Technology Forum. Blackstone’s Technology Advisory team works with executives from leading companies across the technology landscape. At the same time, our portfolio companies realize that technology investments are a key driver of growth and operational improvements. The Technology Forum is an opportunity for Blackstone to showcase propriety resources across the firm including our Operating Partners, CIO network, Advisory Group and client network to create an interesting environment for collaboration.
The forum is designed as a gathering of peers, enabling them to interact and exchange ideas with one another in an engaging and stimulating setting. Participants will discuss and share best practices, stay on top of emerging technology trends and collaborate on strategies for future investments. Blackstone is committed to staying at the forefront of technological innovation and we are excited about the emerging disruptive companies and technologies featured at this forum.
2. How will this forum benefit the CIOs from Blackstone Portfolio companies who will be attending?
One of the many goals of the forum will be to highlight emerging technology trends and IT’s evolving role in achieving business goals. Our CIOs will benefit from a valuable opportunity to gain insights into strategic business and technology issues, and hear from companies that are at the forefront of enterprise IT innovation.
We believe that the Enterprise IT landscape is undergoing a transformational shift with the emergence of technologies such as cloud computing, and this forum is designed to address the implications for organizations and discuss how to best architect the IT strategies of the future.
Our hope is that CIOs can leverage these insights as they select vendors for various internal projects, deploy IT enabled solutions and analyze the longer term priorities that will drive growth and efficiency at their respective organizations.
3. The technology forum will also feature CEOs from leading technology companies. Can you talk about what these companies will gain from attending this forum?
Technology companies that will attend the forum will enjoy featured visibility in front of some of the leading CIOs in the world. As you might know, Blackstone’s combined portfolio makes it one of the largest employers in the world, therefore participants have the opportunity to present their ideas and solutions and have engaging discussions with some of the leading influencers of Corporate IT strategy. We believe that the companies attending are at the forefront of the type of innovation that will transform the enterprise IT landscape for decades to come and we want to provide a forum for them to showcase their disruptive products and services.
4. Can you give us any insights into next generation enterprise IT trends and other hot topics that you anticipate driving the conversation during the summit?
While there are a lot of disruptive IT trends that are emerging, we think Cloud Computing and Mobility are two themes that are driving a profound transformation for the future of enterprise IT.
Cloud Computing is a ‘once-in-several-decades’ shift in the IT landscape. It is changing the way we design and manage data centers and applications, how IT departments deliver capabilities to users, and how users access, select and interact with applications. And, it’s enabling entirely new applications and capabilities that didn’t exist just a few years ago. We have a host of panels and keynotes around Cloud Infrastructure, SaaS and Virtualization to address this important shift.
As we enter the post-PC era, mobile devices, whether they are smartphones or tablets, are increasingly becoming ubiquitous in enterprise environments. As a result, we are witnessing a new generation of ‘computing anywhere’ with a mobilized workforce that can be far more productive than ever before. This creates ever greater challenges for IT departments looking to secure and manage an effectively borderless mobile enterprise and an opportunity for software and solutions vendors to address the needs of a mobile workforce.
Finally, we will focus on how to think strategically about IT investments, so that IT spending is not just a cost center for companies but a driver of revenue growth and employee productivity. Given the breadth of our private equity portfolio, we’re uniquely positioned to both discover and share best practices here.
5. Can you talk a little about the M&A and consolidation activity you are seeing in the technology sector?
Many of the trends we will discuss at the forum, such as next-gen datacenter, cloud computing and mobile, continue to be catalysts for increased deal activity in the Technology sector. The over-arching theme is the migration to cloud computing. We believe we are at the very beginning of a ~20 year cycle which will be just as transformative as the prior shift from mainframe to client server. As we saw in that cycle, it is imperative for the mega technology vendors to transform themselves or risk becoming obsolete (as many did).
For many large vendors, organic activity alone is simply not creating enough innovation to keep up with this transformation. As a result, larger vendors are looking to M&A. There is intense competition among vendors and virtually unlimited capacity to complete deals given the massive cash balances and broad availability of capital. These trends are driving higher premiums and competitive bidding for the most strategic assets.
Blackstone’s Technology Advisory Group serves as a strategic advisor to companies across the technology landscape and has advised on several recent landmark M&A transactions such as Compellent’s sale to Dell and Xerox’s acquisition of ACS. Our team based in Silicon Valley, Boston and London is committed to working with both larger technology vendors and emerging disruptors in a variety of capacities including buy-side, sell-side and private capital advisory. Blackstone was originally founded as an M&A advisory firm in 1985, and our team continues that tradition as active participants in the technology industry.