In response to the news of Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer, I was asked for my opinion on whether this kind of “selling out” is good thing. The asker of the question cited concerns that the “big, grey corporation” might stifle the product, slow innovation, or in other ways ruin a good thing. Following is my answer – what do you think?
I think about the pros and cons of selling my current venture to a “big, grey corporation” all the time. This is always a complex issue and even more so because mine is a mission-based startup. Our goals are not just about financial returns, but also about positively changing the way people use energy around the world. So the prospect of selling out has not only the risks identified above, but also the risk that the acquirer may not have values aligned with ours.
At the same time, acquisition by a “big, grey corporation” is the likeliest scenario by which we will be able to return value to our investors who have empowered us to develop this venture with their capital, expertise, and connections.
So does this mean that selling a venture is necessarily at odds with our values and goals? Not at all. Selling to a “big, grey corporation” with the resources (capital, personnel, distribution networks, partnerships, client relationships, etc.) to accelerate our business’s growth may actually be the fastest way for us to achieve the scale of impact that we believe is possible in our space.
If you have a venture worth buying, I think it likely that more than one potential acquirer would be interested. The key is to sell to a company that will help you achieve your goals rather than trade them for cash.