Corey Leibow eased his car back onto Sand Hill Road in Palo Alto, California. As president and CEO of Mercado, a company that provided the search and merchandising technology to power retail web sites, he had just met with another venture capital (VC) firm in an effort to raise a $26-million Series E round of financing. It was June 2008 and Mercado currently offered both on-premise and on-demand or “software as a service (SaaS)” versions of its applications. Despite the fact that revenue from both solutions was projected to grow in excess of 80 percent that year, Leibow found that investors generally pushed back on the company’s hybrid approach to distribution. Some VCs wanted Mercado to focus solely on its traditional enterprise business based on a perpetual, on-premise licensing model. Other investors preferred to see Mercado morph into a pure play SaaS company. Leibow knew that he had to make a decision quickly in order to raise the capital the company needed, but he also wondered if it was possible to continue pursuing both angles. The choice he made would significantly affect Mercado’s sales force and R&D team as well as which customers the company targeted and how it would attract and retain them.
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