If investor Omar Hamoui had checked his spam folder in his email, he might have noticed that Steve Jobs was interested in acquiring his company, AdMob, in 2009.
It wasn’t until two weeks later when Jobs called him personally to invite him to his house that Hamoui found out that Apple was interested in his ad tech company.
“I ignored an email from him for two weeks,” Hamoui joked onstage at the Mobile First Summit in San Francisco. “I was already playing hard ball from the beginning.”
What followed was what Hamoui described as an “interesting conversation.” Jobs thought Apple needed to be in the advertising businesses and told Hamoui they should do it right around where their last round of venture capital was and call it a day.
Hamoui took time to think about it, but then ended up in a six-month back-and-forth with the Apple CEO and no one else. There wasn’t an M&A team to negotiate with, only Jobs himself.
“It’s not necessarily a good thing,” Hamoui said. “There’s sort of this hard line.”
In the end, Hamoui went with an offer from Google. Apple had put in an offer for $US600 million, but Google pounced at the last-minute and won the $US750 million deal and regulatory approval to combine the advertising networks.
How did Jobs take it? Hamoui describes the whole six-month conversation as a long back-and-forth of “who’s breaking up first”. They had turned each other down repeatedly, but in the end, Hamoui decided he liked the culture and incorporation of his team at Google more, he said.
Now an investor at Sequoia Capital, Hamoui said he now advises startups to not be logical about acquisitions, but religious. Having a plan of waiting until an offer comes along to determine its value isn’t as thoughtful of a plan as founders think. Instead, the need to believe religiously in their company and at what point they would consider selling — maybe that’s only after two years, or not selling to public companies — and stick to it.
And if you’re willing to pick up the phone and talk to Steve Jobs, then you’ve already signalled some willingness to be acquired and go forward with it. There’s no coming back to business as usual.
“The first step into the acquisition conversation, you’re halfway into it already,” Hamoui said.
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