Pivotal scores $253 million Series C led by Ford on hefty $2.8 billion valuation

Pivotal has a couple of new friends with big wallets. Today it announced that Ford and Microsoft were joining EMC, VMware and GE as investment partners on a massive $253 million Series C investment with a whopping $2.8 billion valuation.

It’s not a coincidence that Pivotal has been working closely with Ford over the last year to help it in its own transformation from a car company to what Ford VP and CIO Marcy Klevorn called a “mobility” company driven by software development. Klevorn’s company is contributing $182.2 million of the round and Klevorn is joining Pivotal’s board as part of the deal.

One of the first projects to come out of the collaboration between Pivotal and Ford was the recently released FordPass, which Ford is billing as super innovative. In reality, it allows you to monitor your car from a smart phone app, access car sharing services and find parking spaces, among other things. While these are all useful services they aren’t innovative in the true sense because they’ve been done in various guises before. What is new is the programming methodology that went into developing FordPass, and Ford is hoping that by making this substantial investment in Pivotal, it will be able to continue to build on this initial success.

Unlike many companies born with the help of venture capital, Pivotal was launched three years ago by EMC and VMware — with a 10 percent investment from GE — as a kind of disruptive company that could move much more quickly than either of these publicly traded behemoths could on their own. Pivotal, which has now raised $358 million provides customers with the technology and a programming methodology for changing the way they develop products. The main idea is bringing a digital mindset and software design sense to companies that have operated in a more traditional fashion.

Among its key technology products are Pivotal Cloud Foundry, an open source Platform as a Service offering that enables customers (and others) to build cloud applications on top of it and its Big Data Suite, a set of tools for processing and analyzing big data sets.

It worth noting that Pivotal’s primary investors, EMC and VMware are ensnared in the $67 billion acquisition by Dell and all that entails, but it is an independently run company and all indications are it will remain that way. Just the other day when Michael Dell announced a new name for the combined Dell-EMC organizations, he indicated that Pivotal would continue on with its own branding.

There were reports last November suggesting that Pivotal could IPO early this year. As it turns out, it’s been a slow year for tech IPOs with Dell (coincidentally or not) being the lone company to venture out, spinning off SecureWorks in an IPO last month.

The company still plans to IPO eventually says Pivotal president and COO Bill Cook, but with this kind of cash in pocket the company can easily afford to wait for the market to get a bit more friendly. For now, it’s doing quite well boasting that among its clients are 7 of the top 10 U.S. Banks, 3 of the top five auto companies (including Ford, of course), and five of the top 10 telecommunications companies.

With this cash, Pivotal could expand its product development, hire engineers and developers and move into foreign markets. Cook was pretty closed-mouthed about details, saying that it was likely the company would expand beyond the 2000 employees it currently has, but just how many that would involve in the coming year or so and how it would be distributed among various departments and offices, he wasn’t willing to say.

The biggest question here is how well this methodology will scale. It has worked reasonably well in helping large organizations at least begin transforming into digitally driven companies to this point, but what’s not clear is how this will translate as the company grows and has to make this process work for an increasingly large customer base.

Whatever happens, they certainly have the cash to try some experiments, and apply their own methods in-house and see what works and what doesn’t as they become a much larger organization over the next couple of years.