Members of New York’s business development (BD) community gathered in AppNexus’ posh new auditorium to hear from a panel of companies that have all been acquired. The panel, Business Development Pre/Post-Acquisition: How my job changed, was hosted by BD Meetup and organized by Alex Taub (Dwolla) and Eric Batscha (AppNexus).
“This panel came up because there have been a lot of NYC startups that have been acquired in the last twelve to eighteen months. The Pre/Post-acquisition panel wouldn’t have been able to exist, or at least would have looked very different if it had been held at the beginning of 2011,” says Batscha.
In fact, only one of the six panelists was acquired before 2011 (see below).
|Name||Acquired Company||Acquiring Company||Date Acquired||Acquisition cost|
|Jane Kim||Quigo||AOL||11/7/07||$363m [source]|
|Tanuj Parikh||GroupMe||Skype||8/21/11||$85m [source]|
|Drew Stern||Buddy Media||Salesforce||6/4/12||$689m [source]|
|Scott Britton||SinglePlatform||Constant Contact||6/12/12||$100m [source]|
|Maxine Friedman||Clickable||Syncapse||6/14/12||Approx. $33m, mostly equity [source]|
|Chris Watson||Savored||GroupOn||9/24/12||$20m [source]|
The panelists, all business development professionals, shared their acquisition experiences. Each panelist had unique stories and advice, given the different natures of each company and respective acquiring company.
SinglePlatform was excited to “all of a sudden have a war chest of 500,000 clients to play with,” Britton told the audience.
GroupMe had a slow start, because Skype was being acquired by Microsoft at that time. Parikh said, “We had to wait a few months to figure out our role in Skype’s new role as part of Microsoft.”
Kim said Quigo was thrown into AOL as “the stepchildren” because AOL had already acquired two other ad tech companies (and a fourth after Quigo). All of a sudden, Kim found herself among four presidents, four vice presidents, and nine VPs of Sales. Clearly, there was need for restructuring.
Buddy Media was joined with Canadian company Radiant 6 as part of the Salesforce acquisition. Stern’s dilemma was that his new team had the same partners. “We had to figure out whose partnerships were stronger,” he recalls. Although sorting through contacts was frustrating, the process made Stern and his new team stronger.
Some stories, however, had common themes. The panelists agreed that learning how to navigate the process of a big company is important. For Watson, quick iterations now took longer, as being pushed through other departments slowed the process. No longer was he in a startup environment, where suggesting product changes meant walking down the hall and knocking on a co-worker’s door. Parikh was also affected by working with new departments. “Every time the contract is about to be signed, another lawyer is cc’d in the email thread. I never know why,” he bemoaned.
The panelists also stressed the importance of building and maintaining relationships with new co-workers, especially executives and influencers. “As a BD person, you need to try to figure out who’s really running the show. You need to ask discovery questions,” Friedman advised.
But being acquired is a long, exciting, and confusing process. A lot of startups have an exit as part of their strategy. They want to be bought by a major company, but not many understand what that actually means. These panelists didn’t figure it out until after the acquisition is announced. They all described celebrating hard the night of their announced acquisitions, but the day after were left with the question, “Now what happens?”
The next BD Tech Meetup is tentatively scheduled for April 15th.
Be sure to keep up to date with the upcoming events in New York by visit the AlleyWatch calendar.