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Originally published June 14, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 14, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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Buyer finds bargain in price for Aventail

Aventail, a high-flying startup during the dot-com heyday, is being sold to SonicWall for $25 million in cash, less than a quarter of the...

Seattle Times Technology reporter

Aventail, a high-flying startup during the dot-com heyday, is being sold to SonicWall for $25 million in cash, less than a quarter of the capital it raised during its 11-year existence.

The Seattle company, which made the announcement late Tuesday, was co-founded by Chief Executive Evan Kaplan. It sells software that gives employees secure access to corporate information when away from the office.

The technology is called SSL VPN, or secure socket layer virtual private networks.

SonicWall, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., competes in the same business. It plans to keep Aventail's Seattle offices, where 86 employees work.

In all, about 75 percent of Aventail's 175 employees worldwide will remain after the merger closes in early July, Kaplan said.

From 1996 to 2001, Aventail raised $110 million in venture capital; its last jolt at $55 million came in 2001, when it decided against going public.

In subsequent years — characterized by investors as the "nuclear winter" — Aventail buckled down and never raised another dime.

In 2005, the company sold the services side of the business, which was profitable, for an undisclosed sum to Netifice, now California-based MegaPath.

Proceeds from the two sales won't be enough for Aventail to return all of the capital back to its investors, which include Oak Investment Partners, Morgan Stanley, Trinity Ventures, Pivotal Asset Management, Fidelity Ventures, Madrona Venture Group and VeriSign.

"When you add the two sums together, it's less than $110 million," Kaplan said.

"We raised a lot of money, and it was gone before 2001 — it was lost during the bubble period... ," he said.

"I feel like we've served the Seattle community well but I would have liked to be better by my investors."

Last year, Aventail's sales reached $18 million and the company was not profitable, Kaplan added.

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or tduryee@seattletimes.com

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