I debated for most of the day about using my energy to work on this blog post about NI (formerly known as National Instruments). It has long been one of my favorite companies. Its user conference, NI Week, overflowed with energy and bright engineers with big ideas. The founders were brilliant, yet humble, men. And I met some of the nicest people in the industry there.
Their marketing and PR people identified me with automation and control, for obvious reasons. Beginning in about 2010 or 2011, they seemed to become more distant until by the 2011 and 2012 NI Weeks, they didn’t talk to me about a single interview. I met with marketing people through 2014, and then all was quiet.
But I’m a keen observer. I noticed that industrial automation and even IoT were being rapidly de-emphasized in favor of the test market. That’s where the company started and remains the core competency. I also noticed that by 2012 the keynotes were no longer about “gee whiz” technology but rather about big engineering ideas—none of which were in industrial control and automation.
And they began emphasizing “NI” rather than the entire name more than 10 years ago.
Therefore, the big splash about rebranding and new directions were not entirely a surprise to me. Well, the green color scheme was. And I have a pet peeve about senior executives explaining what the logo means. I believe that a logo should be self-evident. But as for a new direction, everything they talked about were things I’ve seen them doing for years—solving big engineering problems, community contributions, diversity, sustainability. It’s almost like internally they realized what they had become. But I knew it. No longer the company of the small sale where the average order was $1,000, but now the company of solving big engineering problems.
Which is all good.
Even so, I am interested in data—data acquisition, analytics, and data used for problem solving.
Therefore, the acquisition. This should be a great move. I’m a possibility thinker, so I see these moves and see all the possibilities for good that can happen with a strong merger.
The news in short:
The acquisition strengthens data analytics software capability to provide enterprise-level value.
NI has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire OptimalPlus Ltd., a global leader in data analytics software for the semiconductor, automotive, and electronics industries. The acquisition will expand NI’s enterprise software capabilities to provide customers with business-critical insights through advanced product analytics across their product development flow and supply chain.
NI and OptimalPlus serve highly complementary positions in the semiconductor, automotive, and electronics industries. NI test systems are used in semiconductor manufacturing with OptimalPlus serving as a leading supplier of semiconductor manufacturing data analytics. Similarly, the NI automotive and electronics production test offerings are complementary to OptimalPlus’ growing automotive and electronics analytics business. Combining the strength of NI’s software-centric approach with OptimalPlus’ enterprise-level analytics software is expected to dramatically increase the value of test and manufacturing data, enabling product insights that will improve quality, efficiency and time to market for both NI and OptimalPlus customers.
“The addition of OptimalPlus’ data analytics capabilities will enable us to accelerate our growth strategy by increasing enterprise-level value for shared customers in the semiconductor and automotive industries.” said Eric Starkloff, NI President and CEO. “During this age of digital transformation, we remain committed to delivering innovative software and systems that leverage a robust data platform to address our customers’ business challenges. I welcome the employees of OptimalPlus and look forward to collectively accelerating our long-term growth ambitions.”
“OptimalPlus is excited to join the NI team. We are confident NI is the ideal partner to accelerate our innovation and increase sales opportunities through advanced product analytics,” said Dan Glotter, OptimalPlus Founder and CEO. “It is evident we share the unique commitment to high-quality software tools and need for world-class customer experience. The acquisition by a technology leader like NI is testament to the leading-edge innovation delivered by our R&D, Product and Data Science teams in Israel and to the great dedication and commitment of our employees across the world. Together with NI, we will provide enterprise-level analytics to enable customers to achieve their digital transformation objectives while expanding our customer reach.”
The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approval. The transaction is valued at $365 million and expected to close in early Q3 2020. OptimalPlus had 2019 revenue of $51 million and employs approximately 240 employees. Due to the highly complementary nature of the companies, there will be minimal cost synergies from this transaction. NI plans to fund the transaction through a combination of cash on hand and debt.
OptimalPlus develops analytic solutions based on its big data platform technology which combines machine-learning with a global data infrastructure to provide real-time product analytics and to extract insights from data across the entire supply chain. Serving tier-1 suppliers and OEMs, in the market of semiconductor, automotive and electronic industries. The company provides technology to enhance key manufacturing metrics such as yield and efficiency, improve product quality and reliability and provide full supply chain visibility. OptimalPlus headquarters and R&D are in Israel with offices in Asia, Europe, and the United States.