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Australia-US Early Stage Exit Story

Vroom & Viegut Involvement

Rocksoft – Australian Early Stage Exit Story

by Peter Vroom

When I first met Ross Williams he had developed an innovative software technology product called ‘Veracity’ which verified at the ‘bit’ level that a copy made of a computer file was identical in content to the original file. Early customers included the global banking network SWIFT. There were already some US competitors on the scene at that time. We talked about the possibilities of attracting investors and I assisted Ross to raise his initial angel investor money. I became one of the foundation shareholders in Rocksoft.

Following this, Rocksoft developed and promoted Veracity, which involved more investors to fund on-going technical and business development. When looking for additional funds, Rocksoft was introduced to Todd Viegut by some Dallas based investors. Todd had a background in technology based businesses, some very large and others at the startup end.

Todd thought the market potential for Veracity as small (in US market size terms) and already crowded with competitors. However he saw real potential for a piece of technology, which Ross called ‘Blocklets’, that was a component of Rocksoft’s Veracity product. Ross discounted the technology as it was the foundation of some PhD work, yet Todd made a case for packaging Blocklets as a product in its own right. Rocksoft with some guidence from Todd did a ‘pivot’ in its change of focus from Veracity to Blocklets. The new plan was to take Blocklets to ‘strategic partners’ that offered extensive market reach and had ‘deep pockets’ and have them license the technology.

The ‘Blocklets’ technology was a patentable and real innovation that is now known as ‘data de-duplication’ (Todd as part of his process educated some major industry analysts and the term stuck). Todd then fostered a relationship with several solid ‘strategic partner’ targets for the ‘Blocklets’ technology, and in short period of time Advanced Digital Information Corporation (Nasdaq:ADIC), ‘the leader in Intelligent Storage(TM) solutions for the open systems market’, announced a definitive agreement to acquire Rocksoft.

Their press release on the acquisition said, ‘Rocksoft’s data de-duplication technology represents the most important technical advance over conventional data compression techniques in 20 years’.

Although there were some fairly major players interested in the technology, there were as yet no other customers for Blocklets and hence no revenue, however the price paid for the acquisition was AU$ 83 million. A good result even for late investors into Rocksoft.

There were some anxious moments when disk drive maker Quantum made an acquisition offer for ADIC before the Rocksoft transaction had settled! However after learning part of the public-to-public take over was driven by the Rocksoft deal all went well and the deal proceeded on. To this day the ex Rocksoft technical team is based in Adelaide, South Australia and continues to improve and support the data de-duplication technology that Quantum offers as a significant differentiator in the higher end storage market.

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