Thursday, May 15, 2014

Due Diligence: Tessella

I like to do a bit of public due diligence on companies of interest. Here's a brief example of some highlights from the dossier...

Tessella is a medium-sized technology consulting company that hires a small intake of talented developers each year, many of whom have PhDs. I'm interested in Tessella, and where their past employees have gone. I'd want to use a little LinkedIn based analysis tool for this data-dive [source], but until I get access, I'll have to do it the old fashioned way (read: manually, without a slick API...the humanity!)

Macro trends

At the macro-level, massive turn-over is a negative, but if no one ever leaves, that could be bad too. You'd expect at least a few consultants to fall for a client, and go work for them; it's how ideas spread in a knowledge ecosystem. I'm specifically interested in the Boston-office, so lets compare Boston to total...


Gender assignments are based on name/picture. Some of the gender numbers don't add-up due to the unavailability of this information.

Tessella, All Offices
Past: 276
Current: 193
Current + Past: 36
--> Left company: 240
--> Leaver/Current: 1.2
--> Promotion/Unpromoted: 0.23

Tessella, Boston
Past: 17
Current: 13
   Men: 9
   Women: 3
Current + Past: 2
--> Left company: 15
   Men: 13
   Women: 1
--> Leaver/Current: 1.3
--> Promotion/Unpromoted: 0.18
--> Men/Women: 22/4 = 5.5

No excess turn-over in Boston office

Self-explanatory, but some caveats...
1) Boston office is 10 years old, compared to 30 for the company as a whole; however, LinkedIn has a bias towards more recent events. A priori expect leaver/current to be higher for All offices.
2) The company has grown massively, so most of the people that have ever worked for Tessella have worked there is the past 10 years. Negates (1)
It's a wash; I'd say they're comparable.

Internal promotions are consistent between Boston and the rest of company

0.23 versus 0.18. I'd say these numbers are roughly the same given:
1) Small sample size for Boston
2) LinkedIn quirk. Not everyone listed a promotion as a separate job. I'd only detect a promotion if the person put in a separate entry. I personally know people that don't do this, thus 20 year tenures in their most senior position (for a 40 year old).
3) I wish I had a base-line metric for internal promotion. I'd be interesting to compare Tessella to peers.

White Male dominated

22:4 Men:Women for the Boston office. This is technology consulting after all. No surprises there. Of the male consultants, past and present, all but two are white. Curious how gender and diversity compare to peers. (Vet me LinkedIn! don't seem to present gender/racial data to the API, so I'd have to have some fun!)

Micro trends

I'm interested in where people did before Tessella, and where they go afterwards. With access to the LinkedIn API (please give me vetted access!) I could run an analysis on everyone in the company. There are 240 leavers, which is do-able by hand, but 1) I'm lazy (in the good way) and 2) to get a sense, I probably don't need to sample everyone. I'm specifically interested in the Boston office, so that's where I'll start...

Data (with homebrew classification)

Note: I made the bolded function/company classifications to help organize the data. There are of course other-ways to organize. There are only 14 people since I can't access information for the 15th.

Software Engineering: 5
Informatics/Analysis: 5
   Bioinformatics: 1
   Cheminformatics: 1
   Data Science: 1
   Industry R&D: 1
   Tech Consultant: 1
Project Management: 3
   Project Manager: 2
   Account Executive: 1
Self-employed: 1

Life Sciences Research: 2
   Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Life Sciences Companies: 4
   Life Technologies
   Novartis (2)
Big Technology: 4
   BBN Technologies (Raytheon R&D)
   IDBS (IT consultancy)
   Microsoft (2)
Small Technology: 3
   Complete (Digital Marketing)
   Extreme Reach (Video ads)
   Tokyo Electron (Semi-conductors)
Finance: 1
   HighVista Strategies (Asset Management)

Some range in functional exits, but they are all technically-aligned.

10/14 exits are day-to-day technical. The 2 project managers work at NIBR (Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research) and Life Technologies, so I'll assume that they are managing technical projects. The account executive works for IDBS, so I'll assume he's selling and overseeing technical projects. That means substantially ALL of the exits are technical. The biggest jump this group has made was to technical sales and support (account manager). It IS possible to not program day-to-day, but don't expect to stray too far from the technology function.

Some range in industry, but it's really either life sciences or tech.

6/14 in life sciences. 7/14 in technology. It's Boston after-all, I suspect the UK exits would be less life sciences dominated. Within the life sciences and technology silos, there is some diversity between Fortune500, research institutions and SMEs. Some are small, but I wouldn't consider any of them start-ups. I'd be interested in talking to the one outlier in Finance. Don't worry, he's still a techie.

Observation: People Leak on LinkedIn

I wasn't explicitly looking for this, but folks leak loads of information on LinkedIn. If it were possible to scrape and analyse this information, it would be possible to independently audit private company numbers accounts, or infer them if they don't release.

From reading profiles on LinkedIn, I inferred that Tessella will earn £21M for 2013. This is spot on with Tessella's own reporting [source], which (scouts honour) I did not view before the data-dive.

Information I observed from looking at profiles...
  • 2014: 250 people.
  • 2014: 30% PA growth in life sciences. 
  • 2011: His (two) offices (of 8) contribute ¼ of total revenue.
  • 2011, 210 staff. 160 earning, 50 admin.
  • 2011: Consulting is growing 20% PA, ⅕ of revenue. US is 17% of revenue.
  • 2011: Oversaw 37 staff, 4M GBP in revenue. 
  • 2010: Grew office to >20, >2M GBP
  • 2010: 88% of revenues are repeat business

How to estimate  £21M for 2013

£4M from his office, which is ¼ of company = £16M in 2011
- 30% life sciences...emphasizing that this is higher than average. Consulting is 20%, that it's mentioned implies it's higher than average. Let's assume 15% PA growth as a modest guess.
£16M in 2011 * 2 years at 15% = £21M in 2013
Simple example, but with a fire hose of data being automatically parsed, it may be possible to glean much much more.

Other LinkedIn Estimates

3:1 Tooth:Tail
£100k/consultant in revenues


Overall, the information available in the financials [source], line-up well with LinkedIn. Good to know that folks are bending the truth on their profiles.

There is so much gold in financials. I'm like a kid in a candy shop when I read through them. Not entirely sure it's normal, but I get positively giddy reading annual reports (financial tables first, naturally).

Many SMEs live hand-to-mouth; that's ok for start-ups, where you should be being compensated with a risk premium, but is inexcusable for an established SME. Not the case with Tessella, but it's a good idea to double check.

5:1 Tooth:Tail

(191:40   Billable:Non-billable)
Not sure how this compares to peers. My gut told me the LinkedIn estimate was a bit low. Went and checked. My gut was right. More tooth...woo!

Revenues are £110k/consultant

(21M / 191 consultants from 2013 annual report)
I think this places a natural cap on what a consultant could ever expect to earn. I'm guessing this is ball-park for a tech consultancy shop. Operations houses are pulling in 1.5-2x, while strategy houses are likely billing 3-5x.

Compensation Structure

Ok, you can't get this from the LinkedIn data...

  • £25k     Low
  • £45k     Median (est)
  • £65k     Mean
  • £160k   High
Annual report is £12M in wages (+£600k in pension cost) over 191 consultants. That's £65k/consultant in earnings versus (£21M revenue)  Highest paid director at £160k. Entry-level consultant at £25k. A 6x high-low multiple is actually fairly reasonable in this day and age. Though, the directors did gorge themselves a bit in 2012; suspect this was related to the management buy-out though. If you take the distribution of US household income as a guide, the median is about 2/3 of the mean, giving around £45k median wage.


If you're a tech-head, who wants to become/remain a male (kidding) tech-related-head with a technology or life sciences company, Tessella offers good exits. If you wanted to break into other areas of consultancy, say operations or strategy, or into another non-technical functions, one should probably look elsewhere. Loads of money, a la finance, also look elsewhere. 

To their credit, what I've found is exactly what's written on the tin. Tessella doesn't sell anything more, or anything less, than a solid technical training ground for new hires. Solid pass on the basic DD.

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