In an ideal world, no-one would know you’ve been acquired

In an ideal world, no-one would know you’ve been acquired

Seen that rumored sale of Digg to The Washington Post today? What was your first feeling? Were you thinking ‘Oh wow, that is great news for Digg and its users’? Or did you think ‘Oh boy, that will be the end of Digg as we know it’.

If it is true that The Washington Post is only acquiring the team behind Digg and not the site and technology, then sure, that would mean the end of the service. But even if they buy the whole service and integrate it into the The Washington Post, I still wouldn’t feel confident about its future.

Remember when Flickr and Delicious went to Yahoo? How about TechCrunch to AOL? It isn’t too often that startups find a great new home, stay loyal to the community that made them, and flourish under the new owner. It is very rare indeed.

I sold two companies in the past, and during both negotiations we solemnly swore we wanted to grow the company and stay on as management. Yeah right. Within 6 to 12 months we got so fed up with not being in charge and trying to get anything done within the new corporate structure that we all left.

It felt like we screwed up at the time. But since then I’ve found out that it is just how it works. Founders and entrepreneurs aren’t managers. We can’t adjust to our new roles and pretty soon we’ll get frustrated and leave. Arrington? The Flickr founders? Nobody sticks around for long.

Which makes me wonder how I would deal with an acquisition. I think I would try my best to persuade my acquirers to not announce the sale. If possible. I would simply announce a partnership and keep everything running like it is. Use our different strengths to advance both business, without integrating anything. In a perfect world you wouldn’t know we’d been acquired.

Of course that would be nearly impossible. Companies have to announce that kind of stuff and managers need to brag about the acquisitions they did to move up in the world. No way they would be able to keep this silent. Still, wouldn’t it be better?

In conclusion; should we be acquired by Bloomberg, I wouldn’t announce it, and if you would ask, I would deny it. Not that we have been acquired, but you know what I mean…

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