Business Management

Rimini Street thrives on poking software big bears

Of all the technology companies that have approached the public markets in recent years, Rimini Street has claims to have had the most interesting of journeys. When the Las Vegas-headquartered company emerged 12 years ago its chances of success looked long odds to many observers… including your reporter.

Its key selling point – providing enterprise software maintenance at a price that significantly undercut the software developers’ own charges – seemed destined to attract the sharp elbows and stronger weapons, including legal challenges, of those that stood to be discomforted. This was the technology world’s equivalent of trying to take the tastiest cuts of lunch from the heavyweight champions of the world. Sure enough, last year Oracle successfully won damages against the firm, when a jury found the company had innocently infringed copyright material.

But Rimini Street survived its days in court and even appeared to revel in the publicity those days attracted. In May this year it announced an agreement to merge with GP Investments Acquisition Corp. that will set it trade shares under its own name and the RMNI ticker symbol.

Founder and CEO Seth Ravin is characteristically plain-spoken on the topic.

“Think of it this way: we are merging with a pile of cash,” the former PeopleSoft executive tells me by phone. “When the dust settles, they will become Rimini Street.”


Expansionist strategy

The halo of being a public company is likely to reassure more customers that Rimini Street can provide a safe pair of hands when supporting some of the world’s most expensive business software. It already has annual run-rate revenues of almost $200m, is growing at more than a third per year, has 900 staff and nearly 1,300 clients.

“What’s on our mind is expansion, expansion, expansion,” Ravin says. “We’ve passed our entrepreneurial decade.”

He sees big cross-sell and up-sell opportunities, particularly as the company has just extended its portfolio by adding support for IBM DB2, Microsoft SQL Server and SAP (formerly Sybase) databases and entered a new realm, partnering with McAfee to provide database security monitoring.

“It’s been a long road and now it’s at the next stage,” he says. “We’re very much like Uber and Airbnb where there’s been 70 lawsuits in the US alone and everyone wants to block them. They deal with a lot of litigation and we started disrupting [enterprise software] with better pricing and better services.

“We’re just getting started in the next phase of the growth. We were willing to spend the money and exchange some gross margin; it’s not about how much money you can squeeze out of customers.”

The database security move might be a bit of a surprise but Ravin says it has already been proven via a soft launch two years ago. Besides, he sees plenty of adjacent markets to serve, having built a strong name in serving businesses.

“We’ve always been in the business of modernising things that are old and security is another where companies like Oracle talk about how great their security is, but there are significant challenges with the patching model. We’ve come out with a better model.”


Agent provocateur

He doesn’t attempt to skip around the notion that all of this must be fairly infuriating by the blue-chip software vendors who see key revenue streams diverted into Rimini Street’s pockets.

“We’re about poking the bear, right?” he asks. “We look for opportunities where prices are high, service is low, customers are not happy, and [the model is] ripe for innovation. Customers want more services and breadth. We’ve built a brand. I like to think we restored some trust to the vendor-client relationship where trust has eroded. Take care of your customers and they’ll take care of you.”

Having come through challenges to prove the model works and after battling with expensive lawyers it’s easy to see more adjacencies and Ravin says customers have asked for help in many areas of IT life, including hosting and understanding data governance rules.

Not short of chutzpah, Ravin even suggests that Rimini Street could work with Oracle, a company that has criticised Rimini Street in ferocious terms.

“Remember back when the software companies did all their own [deployment and service] relationships and now that is all competitively bid?” Ravin asks. “I’m still of the firm belief that the vendors have to take a more mature view and see the opportunity to win back that money and value-add to the customer.

“We could be a really effective partner someday. We’re not saying their product is bad, we just offer a better value-add. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Larry Ellison: how could you not respect the juggernaut he built with Oracle? I just disagree with how they work with customers. We’ve helped customers fund buying from Oracle and SAP. They take their savings and use them to buy new licence products. All we want is for customers to make whatever move works for them. We’re an agnostic company and there are some great products there.”

To go back to the earlier analogy, working in tandem with Oracle would be the equivalent of having taken those choice cuts and then moving into the heavyweight’s house. But then Rimini Street has shown it’s not a company to safely bet against, nor one to run away from a fight.


Also read:
After Oracle trial, Rimini Street offers CIOs support


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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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