With all due speed

Agilent prepares to acquire Velocity 11 in an effort to offer more complete workflows

Jeffrey Bouley
SANTA CLARA, Calif.-Though they may differ vastly in size and reach, Agilent Technologies Inc. and Velocity11 share a similar core design philosophy and core business ethics, which is one of the reasons the two companies are working to finalize an acquisition deal that would bring the privately held automated liquid handling and laboratory robotics company into the Agilent fold.
It also doesn't hurt that Velocity11 has been recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies not just in Silicon Valley but also in North America, notes Nick Roelofs, vice president and general manager of the Agilent Life Sciences Solutions Unit.
Financial details were not disclosed, but provided everything goes as planned, the acquisition is expected to be final before mid-January. And once complete, the acquisition would enable Agilent to offer a more comprehensive suite of workflow solutions to its life science customers in the pharmaceutical, biotech and academic research markets.
Velocity11 designs, manufactures and markets robotic solutions that range from stand-alone instrumentation to bench-top automation solutions to large, multi-armed robotic systems, Roelofs notes, and it also develops "world-class" software to control the robotics. Velocity11's technology is expected to strengthen Agilent's offering of automated sample-preparation solutions across a broad range of applications.
 "Strategically, it is the intent of Agilent to complete the workflows for customers in pharma, academia and government research," Roelofs says. "We've been on a mission to add to our very strong portfolio of separation, detection and informatics with further front-end capabilities in sample prep, sample manipulation and sample handling. Velocity 11 has the same basic strategy-they want to improve workflows for customers. Strong synergies and different scales, but exactly the same end point."
 As Roelofs describes Agilent's efforts, the company has been on a continuing mission to assemble pieces for customers to give them more complete solutions and "anything we can do to complete those workflows is important to us. "But he says the company's motives are different than that of a company like Thermo Fisher that aims to be more of a one-stop shop.
 "They want to be a full provider as I see it, and that's an admirable goal and I'm glad they are doing it," he says. "But our goal is to create specific workflows for life sciences discovery, pre-discovery and measurement. Our goal is a bit narrower, to be much more expert in focused pipelines than to be a one-stop provider."
 But while the strategic goals are very similar between Agilent and Velocity 11, the tactical benefits are more clearly skewed toward Velocity 11, Roelofs says, as merging with Agilent would give the smaller company a deeper and wider global market penetration. Velocity 11's CEO, Rob Nail, agrees.
 "The ability to leverage Agilent's global infrastructure and deep applications focus will allow us to continue to improve the services we provide our customers, innovate in new directions, and rapidly expand our reach worldwide," Nail says. "We are very excited to have found a company with such a complementary culture, product line, commitment to customer satisfaction and vision for providing complete automated workflow solutions."
Agilent is offering jobs to "substantially all" of Velocity11's approximately 150 employees worldwide, Roelofs reports. "With this deal, we are really buying the skills and talents of the people. Even if the company had no commercial products right now, I think we would do this deal on the strength of the people in it."
Only a handful of workers are unlikely to find a place in Agilent, Roelofs says, and almost all of those are people in finance and reporting roles, areas where a public company like Agilent has plenty of manpower already. But the company has even tried to find places for some of those people, Roelofs notes.
Headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif., Velocity11 has a second office in Melbourn, Hertfordshire, U.K. Agilent doesn't plan to close either office. In fact, Roelofs points out, Velocity 11's growth means it already had plans in place to move into a much larger location on the other side of Menlo Park, and Agilent has no desire to pull the plug on that expansion plan.

Jeffrey Bouley

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