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July 6, 2011

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Exactly seven years ago, Blackboard raised $47.5M in its IPO and gave us a glimmer of hope after the tech bubble burst. Now the company is going private, and many are wondering why.
Nixon Peabody securities and public company transactions lawyer Lloyd Spencer

Providence Equity Partner’s $1.64B purchase of Blackboard takes the public company off the Nasdaq and into the Providence, R.I. firm’s portfolio. Nixon Peabody securities and public company transactions lawyer Lloyd Spencer doesn’t represent Blackboard, but he knows a thing or two about going private. Lloyd says the deal is a little unusual: most going-private transactions are led by company affiliates like management teams or a group of shareholders. But Blackboard was reacting to an acquisition offer made in April by an unknown party. The education tech firm likely took the Providence deal because it was the best they’d get, Lloyd says. The deal doesn’t signal a going-private trend, Lloyd says. While IPOs dropped off during the recession, activity is picking up with LinkedIn’s recent offering and speculation that LivingSocial and Facebook will go public.

IR Optimization’s Deirdre Skolfield

We asked IR Optimization’s Deirdre Skolfield, an IR consultant to tech companies, for her take on the deal (since Blackboard and Providence are remaining mum). She says companies go private to cut expenses and get out from under the quarterly reports cycle. The demands of SEC regulations and responding to analysts and investors can be intense, especially for a small cap public company. Fluctuating stock prices can also drive a company to privacy. (Blackboard’s stock has ranged from $32.55 to $50.26 in the last year.) Private equity is attractive because firms come with cash and access to low-rate financing. But she’s also had companies decide to stay public to retain control they might lose to private equity firms. (Isn’t that same reason entrepreneurs reject VC?)

Parature co-founder Duke Chung  with wife Lucille and the owners of Oliva in Venice.

Parature co-founder Duke Chung is spending a lot of time on the road. (He’s seen here, right, with wife Lucile and the owners of Oliva in Venice.) But he'll be standing still long enough to impart some lessons on life as a tech entrepreneur at our July 21 Entrepreneur Series event. (Sign up here!) It’s been a month since he became executive chairman of the Web-based customer service software firm, transitioning out of a chief strategy role. Duke is now schmoozing with Parature’s more than 1K customers and partners and telling the company story to the media. He started the Vienna company straight out of Cornell in 2001 after spending four years watching Internet businesses take off. He also said good-bye to classmates who left early to work for Silicon Valley start-ups. Parature’s founding during the downturn made the team focus on building the product and attracting small business customers.

Parature's weekly Parahoops basketball tourney

This isn’t a shot of the NBA All-Stars but the weekly basketball game known as Parahoops that Duke organizes for his 80 employees and friends. Traveling through Europe with his wife, collecting art, and taking a 3-5 mile morning run are also on the 33-year-old’s list of hobbies. He’s also working on Parature’s new focus on social media and transitioning customer service functions to places like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs. Duke gives credit to venture firm Accel Partners, which invested in the company in 2008, with helping make the introduction to Facebook executives. It led to the Parature for Facebook app. The company was bootstrapped for its first five years, which taught Duke some lessons: never run out of cash and hire strategically. The company eventually raised a little over $30M in VC.

TASC's new Chief Growth Officer Dale Luddeke
Is July executive appointment month? (It is actually Nude Recreation Week, but that's not relevant to this story.) Just this week TASC brought on Dale Luddeke as chief growth officer (new title at TASC). Dale comes from CACI where he was corporate biz dev EVP since 2007. He’s also had management positions at CSC (executive biz dev and program management), McDonnell Aircraft (senior engineer), and Unisys (defense senior program manager).
The launch of the ORS-1 satellite aboar a Minotaur I rocket from Wallops Island in June.
TASC has been getting a lot of visibility lately, thanks in part to its role in last week's launch of the ORS-1 spy satellite from Virginia Spaceport at Wallops Island. TASC provided independent mission assurance, as well as launch site and engineering support for the Minotaur I system and for the government-furnished Minuteman II rocket motors used as the rocket's first two stages.
MaxID CEO Bob Irwin
And in another (unrelated) executive hire, MaxID announced that Bob Irwin has joined as CEO. Irwin was head of Sterling Commerce, an IBM enterprise software company. The Reston-based mobile identity and access solutions provider took several months to find Bob, who they say will focus on MaxID’s growth. Before being Sterling's CEO, Bob was the company's top sales exec, so building a tech sales force won't be new ground. The real challenge: getting his hands on a rocket ship.

We're not making any executive announcements of our own. But our executive editor Sean Gallagher would like to hear about your exec news, or anything else you'd like to share (rants and praise included).  Email him at Sean.Gallagher@bisnow.com. And don't forget to send your Fed Tech Power 50 nominations by Friday!

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