There are many great articles about founding a company or working in a startup, offering tips and tricks for those starting a new business; but I wanted to focus on what it’s like to be at a startup that gets acquired, and how that experience has informed me in my career.
Acquisition is often the pie-in-the-sky goal for young companies. You have dreams about a large enterprise seeing value in your products, your team, and this thing you’ve built together. When an offer is actually made it’s a very exciting time but the transition can be challenging.
Here are five things that I wish I’d known before being acquired.
1. Due diligence can be adversarial
As a key member of the technical team, I was in the hot seat during due diligence. The acquiring company wants to know that what you’ve built is real – after all, they are going to shell out (hopefully) big bucks for your company.
Given that you’ve put heart and soul into your startup, it can be tough not to take the tough questions personally. Try instead to focus on where you might have gaps – the questioning can really reveal things you can or should be doing to improve.
Above all, remember – you’ve built something worthy of interest, otherwise you wouldn’t be sitting in a due diligence session.
2. Not everyone will come along
Part of the process for the FrontBridge acquisition included interviewing with Microsoft and it became clear that not everyone would “make it” to Microsoft.
I hadn’t anticipated this at all – some team members weren’t offered full time positions post-acquisition. This can be tough on the team – colleagues and friends may not be invited to continue with the new company, and you may lose people in the process who decide not to stay on after the acquisition.
3. Company culture will change
I wasn’t surprised that the culture changed in general, but rather by some of the nuances of going from a small company to a very large company and what I imagined a big company would be like.
I had assumed, totally incorrectly, that at a big company things are basically stable and unchanging. In hindsight, this makes sense – at a large company like Microsoft, people tend to move to different groups and products over the course of their career. At a small, successful startup, people tend to stick around for the duration.
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