in an interview at Ploonge Disrupt in 2014, then Pure Storage CEO Scott Dietzen was asked about the possibility of exiting via acquisition.
He didn’t throw any punches: “Acquisitions always suck, and they’re worse than you think they’re going to suck.”
It doesn’t seem like being acquired is the best thing that could happen to your startup, but this is just one perspective on the matter, and maybe it depends on who you ask.
If being acquired means losing the brand and identity you’ve worked so hard to build – or perhaps worse, losing your cultural identity – it’s probably going to suck. If you get stuck with a company that simply imposes its will on you, it definitely will.
Sometimes, despite Dietzen’s proclamation, it can at least be OK, and both sides gain something from the deal: the acquiring company needs your product or your talent, you get an exit and a check.
Previously, we spoke with acquiring companies to get their perspective on the business and how they integrate these companies into a larger entity. Now, let’s hear from executives who worked at three companies they bought.
These companies said their acquisition experience was great, thank you very much. While they’re not about to rant about their new masters, you get the feeling they’ve landed in a pretty decent spot, all things considered.
deciding to sell
The companies we selected are not new startups by any means. One was owned by a private equity firm and the other was owned by another company when they were sold, so they were on the block and they knew what it was like to report to someone else. The last company, a 72-year-old operation, was the exception.
Will Conway, CEO of Pathwire, had walked this path before. His startup was a member of the YC Winter 2011 group and was sold to Rackspace a year later. Private equity firm Thoma Bravo bought it shortly afterwards and sold it to Sinch last year for $1.9 billion.
As part of a private equity firm, Conway didn’t have much of a stake when it came to selling. If the company was going to sell, it was going to sell, but in Conway’s opinion, he arrived at as good a company as he could have hoped for. Pathwire’s flagship products, Mailgun and Mailjet, gave Sinch a missing piece of email marketing and fit perfectly into the company’s communications services platform.