Tableau Taking More Steps Toward Possible IPO

2/23/12Follow @curtwoodward

Updated 12pm Pacific 2/23
Tableau Software
is taking more steps toward a possible initial public offering of its stock, a move the data visualization company has publicly entertained for some time.

The nearly 10-year-old company doesn’t seem to be in a rush, however, with its venture capital backer saying next year is the timeframe being discussed and a newly appointed board member saying the company will be IPO-ready “when the timing and climate are appropriate.”

The latest news about Seattle-based Tableau’s IPO ambitions bubbled up Wednesday afternoon, when Fortune reporter Dan Primack talked with New Enterprise Associates partner Scott Sandell about Tableau’s plans. (Primack’s digging was prompted by what looks like a fantastically fumbled public relations pitch.)

New Enterprise Associates is Tableau’s largest outside shareholder—in fact, Tableau has never spent a dime of the $15 million in VC it’s raised from NEA over the years. Sandell was quoted as saying there are “‘board-level discussions’ about taking the company public next year, even though it has the numbers to go out now.”

The Stanford University-bred company, which makes easy-to-use software that turns data into interactive graphs and charts, has long been a quiet success in the tech world. That’s partly because its particular innovation is in the traditionally dry world of “business intelligence” data analytics for big companies.

Tableau has long been profitable, and has recently reported a few years of large revenue growth—the latest was a near-doubling of sales bookings to $72 million in 2011. Tableau started this year with about 350 people worldwide, and plans to add another 300 to its roster in 2012 as it expands into new international territories.

On Wednesday night, Tableau also announced that it is appointing to its board software executive Brooke Seawell, who already is on the boards of publicly traded Informatica and NVIDIA. He also is being named chairman of Tableau’s audit committee, a group that would be called upon to help get Tableau’s books in order for the public markets.

I also spoke with co-founder and CEO Christian Chabot on Thursday morning. He confirms that we shouldn’t be looking for SEC registration papers anytime soon. “We havnet made any decision with regard to timing,” Chabot says. “This step is one of the steps we’re making to take the company the the next level—strengthening the team to lay the foundation for being a successful, publicly held concern at some point.”

The Seawell release is one of those masterpieces of read-between-the-lines corporate communication, which has some necessity behind it since executives are always wary of getting slapped by securities regulators for soliciting buyers too early.

In it, Tableau notes Seawell’s “extensive experience in public company finance, accounting, governance and technology company operations.” And, of course, he’s quoted saying of Tableau: “It has the right team in place and will be well-positioned to go public when the timing and climate are appropriate.”

In a subsequent rundown of the company’s leadership team, several other executives are called out for their public-company experience.

Tableau has never really made its general IPO ambitions any secret. As Chabot told me recently, “Tableau’s intention as part of its business plan is to be a big, independent, global, publicly traded company. I mean, there’s no doubt about that. This company is not for sale. … Our intention is to take the company public, and be a great public stock.”

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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