(Despite posting this on April 1st, this is not an April Fool's joke.)
It appears that last Friday Moka5 laid off a majority (or perhaps all?) of their employees and they have since ceased operations. [UPDATE April 3: They kept a skeleton crew. Details here.]
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This information is based on emails from two employees who were employed at Moka5 up through Friday. They both said they were let go along with most of the employees in the company, and that they didn’t have any more information. When asked what was going on with the company, one said they didn’t know and the other said they were told that a third party would be running the company now.
Obviously this is a pretty big deal, so I wanted to try to get an “official” statement from the company before I wrote about it. Unfortunately I failed. I spent Monday and yesterday trying to find out more information. I emailed 8 or 9 people I knew from the company via their Moka5 email addresses but haven’t heard back. I heard back from one person via their personal email and also confirmed that they’re no longer there as of Friday and they don’t know what’s going on.
I also emailed my external PR contacts who handled Moka5 (which I heard from as recently as a few weeks ago), but I haven’t heard back from them either.
Clicking on the “Our Team” link on moka5.com today lists three VCs:
The Internet Archive link to that page from March 13 shows actual people in the "About Us" section as well as a "Test Drive" (for evaluation software downloads) link that is no longer on the current site.
Finally, since I still couldn’t confirm anything, I posted a hail mary tweet:
Two retweets. No replies.
So at this point I’m going to say it looks like Moka5 is no more.
Good tech. Tough business.
We’ve written 26 articles about Moka5 (and mentioned them in countless others) since we first mentioned them as part of our VMworld 2008 roundup. Back then their business was around managing Type 2 desktop VMs on Windows and Mac clients. They had delta disk image replication, encryption, remote wipe, and other features that provided many of the management benefits of VDI without the downsides of desktop remoting.
- 2008: Moka5 1.0
- Moka5 2.0 in 2009 introduced layering.
- In 2010 they announced a “bare metal” solution for corporate-owned laptops and well as version 3.0.
- In 2011 they released their layering technology as a standalone solution which was OEMed by Quest Software for vWorkspace.
- In 2012, Moka5 started to move in a new direction with an iOS product for accessing data and web apps and a “Trickleback” product for storing encrypted, secure data in unencrypted locations.
- In 2014 they released the Moka5 Suite 4.0 which included their Type 2 solution, their bare metal solution, and something called “LiveData” which was about providing secure data to various devices.
- Late last year, Moka5 announced a “next generation container” which brought EMM-like features to Windows and Mac OS X, releasing a preview (called “Project SkyNet”) just last month.
If you take a look back at their history, you can start to see the problem. Moka5 tried lots of different strategies but none of them really got good traction.
The core client VM management was slick. I wrote adoringly about it again and again. Unfortunately it would never become “the” client management solution for a company. Moka5 was almost always used alongside an existing Citrix or VMware desktop virtualization deployment. It was always a tough sell for customers to say, “Wait, so we already use Citrix. So are you instead of them? Or in addition? Or..”
The other problem is that even though it took some time, both Citrix and VMware have since released or announced products similar to Moka5. Citrix now has the Citrix Desktop Player, and VMware has Flex. Even though neither of these are as good as what Moka5 had, they scratch the itch customers might have, and since these are all used for a small subset of users anyway, customers are happier just to use what they have.
And, plus, how much has Type 2 client hypervisor management caught on? If it was really a big deal then Citrix or VMware would have done it years ago. And what other examples of it all there? Microsoft / Kidaro / MDOP? How’d that turn out?
The other problem they had was funding. CrunchBase shows that Moka5 raised $104m in eight (!) rounds. The problem with raising that much cash is that puts a selling price for them in the $200-300m range which is a figure you only get if (1) your tech is so “change the world amazing” that a buyer wants it and will do huge things with it, or (2) you have $100m in revenue with potential for growth. Unfortunately Moka5 had neither.
Moka5 has been in fire sale mode recently according to a few sources at larger companies who Moka5 approached. Unfortunately those conversations didn’t go anywhere and it appears the company essentially just ran out of money.
Assuming they are actually shut down, the next step is that the investors will try to sell the IP to whomever will buy it. There’s certainly a lot of good technology there, and it could be a good asset pickup for someone. The question is who? Maybe a Citrix or VMware buys them for a few million bucks? Maybe someone else in the management space? It’s hard to see a buyer taking the product back to market, rather, there could be some IP or patents (Moka5 has 20 granted and 15 more applied for) that are interesting to someone?
The bigger question for most of us is about Moka5’s customers.
What about customers?
This current Moka5 situation feels a lot like Pano Logic’s 2012 shutdown which they managed to keep secret from everyone, including customers. (Seriously, even the fact that the website remained up and unchanged with the exception of the removal of the names of the management team.)
If Moka5 has truly shut down, customers are going to be kind of stuck. Even if Moka5’s investors manage to sell the company’s IP to someone, it will probably be done as an asset deal where just the IP is sold at the existing support contracts and customers are left with a empty bankrupt husk of a company with no employees and no IP.
Even for bigger customers with source code in escrow—what exactly are they supposed to do with that? “Hey Bob. You’re the Moka5 admin here, right? Well here’s their source code, can you fix that bug we put in the support ticket for last week?"
There’s a finite amount of time a company can exist in a state like Moka5. In the EUC space, a new company basically has two options. (1) They get bought in the early, early stage before they have many customers because some big company really loves their technology and thinks it’s going to be a huge game changer, or (2) they need to go for a few years and get lots of customers and lots of revenue that some big company can grow even faster than what they could do on their own. After it was clear that Moka5 wouldn’t be the first type of company, they had to get the customers, the revenue, and the growth, which they just couldn’t do.