IT services manager Cherwell Software joins private equity giant KKR’s growing tech portfolio

With a new $50 million investment from private equity giant KKR, IT service management company Cherwell Software becomes the latest business in the firm’s growing tech portfolio.

The investment, from KKR’s $711 million Next Generation Technology Fund, is the firm’s fifth deal since closing the fund last December.

Cherwell Software, a Colorado Springs-based company, makes its money in the sleepy world of IT service management. Basically, the company sells tools to manage and oversee IT deployments to businesses and organizations that don’t have the time or inclination to provide network management and oversight services themselves.

The company boasts customers like the University of Colorado and Jenny Craig.

It may not be glamorous, but outsourced IT managed services tools raked in about $2.2 billion in 2015, according to a Gartner report.

Perhaps more interesting than the fact that KKR has joined existing investor Insight Venture Partners in backing Cherwell, is the signal the investment sends that private equity interest into even the sleepiest corners of the tech industry remains undiminished.

Unlike tech-focused private equity firms like Silver Lake or Vista Equity Partners, KKR has made its name as more of a generalist, investing in everything from meat processing plants in China to oil and gas companies in Mexico.

But the firm does have sizable holdings in tech companies ranging from the embattled Magic Leap to the speaker manufacturer Sonos and security companies Cylance and Darktrace.

KKR began investing in tech companies from the Next Generation Technology Fund in late 2015. The firm’s first two deals were in GetYourGuide, in November 2015, and Jitterbit an integration as a service company, which got cash from KKR in early 2016.

And KKR is just one example of what has been private equity’s embrace of technology investments in recent years.

According to The Wall Street Journal, by the middle of 2016, private equity firms were spending unprecedented amounts on technology companies.

So far this year, tech companies accounted for 46% of all U.S. buyouts, the sector’s highest level since at least 1995, when data provider Dealogic started keeping track. The trend reflects the broader mergers-and-acquisitions market, in which tech is also the most popular sector.

Tech’s increasing popularity underscores a long-term shift for private-equity firms, which typically buy underperforming companies, fix them up and sell them for a profit in five years or so.

For decades, buyout firms shied away from tech companies, citing the blistering pace of technological advances. But over the past several years they have become comfortable with corners of tech that they see as relatively stable, such as corporate-software providers that generate steady revenue through long-term subscriptions.

In all, private equity firms spent roughly $160 billion in 567 technology deals, according to data from Pitchbook.