ThingMagic-Trimble Deal a “Desired Outcome,” and a Next Stage for RFID and GPS Technologies

Yesterday’s acquisition of Cambridge, MA, technology firm ThingMagic by Silicon Valley-based Trimble (NASDAQ: TRMB) left a lot of people in the radio frequency identification (RFID) and location-based tech sectors wanting to know more. I spoke with both companies late in the day to get some answers.

Overall it sounds like a fairly standard acquisition that allows ThingMagic to continue its RFID operations and business under new ownership. “We decided it was best to acquire the assets from ThingMagic—the people and the team, experience, and the [intellectual property], name, and branding. All [employees] are invited to come on over,” says Jurgen Kliem, vice president of Trimble’s strategy and business development.

ThingMagic is now a 33-person division of Trimble, which has some 3,800 employees in 23 countries (it already had a small software group in Waltham, MA). The ThingMagic offices in Cambridge and Woburn will remain, and employees will be staying put for now. That seems important, since the company is one of the stalwarts of Kendall Square and the local tech startup scene, having been founded in 2000.

“The benefit and opportunity, from my perspective, is enormous,” says Tom Grant, ThingMagic’s chairman and CEO, and now a general manager at Trimble. “We’re beginning to see substantial growth in RFID…and need to make sure we continue to fuel that growth.” Trimble represents a “shot in the arm,” he says, in that ThingMagic now gains the financial support of a billion-dollar company. Grant will lead a division that “lets us continue with our global market strategy,” he says.

The deal represents an exit for ThingMagic’s venture investors, which have included (all in the past five years) Tudor Ventures, The Exxel Group, Cisco Systems, Morningside Technology Ventures, and In-Q-Tel. The companies did not disclose the size of the acquisition, so it’s hard to tell how well the investors made out. (Word on the street is that ThingMagic raised more than $30 million, and—this is pure speculation based on what I’ve heard from sources outside the companies—the acquisition is for less than $55 million.)

“To our investors, this was a desired outcome. They wanted this and we accommodated it,” Grant says.

It’s not totally clear how Trimble plans to integrate RFID into its asset-tracking and … Next Page »

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