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VMware Sells SlideRocket To ClearSlide

Cloud presentation service was never quite a fit for the virtualization infrastructure market leader, VMware acknowledges.

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VMware has sold SlideRocket, fewer than two years after its acquisition, to ClearSlide, a San Francisco firm that provides a company's sales force with a sales engagement platform.

SlideRocket's online and interactive slide presentation service, a kind of PowerPoint on steroids, is expected to be used to augment the ClearSlide platform. The move marks the end of a brief era in which VMware spoke confidently of a future in which virtualized and online applications -- some of which VMware planned to originate -- displaced those of the personal computing era. Microsoft Office only grew more entrenched during the time.

Prior to offloading SlideRocket, Javier Soltero, VMware's earliest and most outspoken spokesman for that short-lived era, had moved on to greener pastures. Soltero was CEO of the Hyperic cloud monitoring service, acquired by VMware with SpringSource, and is now entrepreneur in residence at Redpoint Ventures in Menlo Park, Calif.

SlideRocket reportedly had 25-30 employees when VMware acquired it in April 2011; it was a two-year-old startup at the time. It grew 400% while inside VMware, and many of those employees will make the transition to ClearSlide, which currently has 150 employees and is headed for 250 by the end of the year.

[ Want to learn more about the controversy when VMware bought SlideRocket? See VMware, Why Are You Buying SlideRocket? ]

The sale is a favorable outcome for SlideRocket employees, who were left in limbo after VMware's fourth-quarter earnings call Jan. 28. A planned reduction in force amounting to 900 employees was announced during the call, with SlideRocket the only unit named as a target. "Products we will deemphasize include SlideRocket and other products which are not central to what our customers value the most from VMware," said CFO Jonathan Chadwick during VMware's fourth-quarter earnings call.

Badi Azad, a former SlideRocket employee who is staying behind as a senior product manager for VMware's SocialCast product line, said on his Facebook page: "Congratulations to the SlideRocket team, as they move to a new home. I'm sure we will see great things from them in the future."

"SlideRocket has been focused on helping teams communicate ideas more effectively," said Chuck Dietrich, former SlideRocket CEO and now VP and general manager of VMware's social software division. SlideRocket's presentation capabilities include tapping online sources, such as Twitter and Google Docs, to update a presentation or capture viewers' reactions to it, and they will be able to find a home at ClearSlide, he said. Dietrich is also staying at VMware.

ClearSlide seeks to offer tools that make it easier for a sales force to close the deal. With ClearSlide, a sales force has a single, online platform with which to communicate with and present to the customer. SlideRocket's "breakthrough presentation innovations" will augment its existing platform, said a ClearSlide spokesman as the deal was announced. No price was put on the sale.

ClearSlide will extend SlideRocket "content creation capabilities to sales teams who need to communicate with interactive media to their customers," said Al Lieb, co-founder of Evite and CEO of ClearSlide, in its announcement of the acquisition from VMware. "We're thrilled to welcome the SlideRocket team, customers and extended community." he said.

Immediately after the fourth-quarter earnings announcement, VMware's stock took a 20% hit as investors anticipated a slowing in VMware core product line sales, and VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger and president Carl Eschenbach said the firm was refocusing on its core strengths.

SlideRocket employees who complete the transition will be making a shift into a fast-growing Silicon Valley software company. ClearSlide has attracted $39 million in funding from Greylock Partners, Felicis Ventures and Bessemer Venture Partners. It counts the Wall Street Journal, Rackspace, Expedia, CA Technologies and LinkedIn among its customers.

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