Selling to Google is something like hitting a home run in the World Series — everyone wants to do it, not many actually do, and it’s an undeniable emblem of success.
Over at Quora, a couple people who have sold their startups to the Internet search giant share their experiences of what it’s like to find yourself signing a lot of legal paperwork and going to work for Google.
It’s ‘like giving your child up for adoption’ … for $US700 million.
Dave Baggett sold ITA, a travel information service, to Google:
I’m a three-time startup entrepreneur (Naughty Dog, ITA Software, and now Inky) and we sold the middle one, ITA Software, to Google for ~$700M in 2010.
I can’t speak to the integration process, because I didn’t stay on as a Google employee, but I was heavily involved in the M&A process and can say that Google runs a very tight corporate development ship.
While their approach is pretty painful for the acquired company, it was reasonably fair and, I thought, entirely ethical. Our deal was — and, I suspect, most large acquisitions they make are — complicated by the DOJ making a Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) “second request” for (much) more information about the transaction. This meant that Google had many things to think about with respect to our transaction that really had nothing to do with our company per se, and caused the process towards closing to become quite protracted (10 months).
As to the emotions, selling your company is like giving your child up for adoption; it’s inherently agonizing and generally an awful feeling. Both times I’ve been involved in serious discussions to sell a company I (co)founded, I became physically ill from the stress.
But one strong argument in favour of Google as an acquirer for us was that our corporate culture at ITA Software was very similar to what we understood the culture at Google to be. And, indeed, the integration has gone well enough that very few ITA folks have left due to poor cultural fit, boredom, etc.
If I’m ever in a position to consider Google as an acquirer again, I would certainly not hesitate to engage with them. They are very good at M&A, and I think it’s one of their key success drivers now that they’re so large.
‘You are on a very public stage, and every move is scrutinized.’
Sam Schillace describes how he sold Writely, which ultimately became Google Docs:
Intense. Fun. Very hard. Scary. Sometimes frustrating.
We showed up with four people. They gave us desks, ran us through orientations and more or less turned us loose. Desks, laptops, no servers, here’s the intranet, figure it out.
We had to port our code to java (from C#), and then learn 12 different Google technologies in a quarter to get launched (that number is much higher now). Lots of people to meet, agendas to discover, and bureaucracy to decode. We had a ton of support from execs (particularly, Eric Schmidt, who was never anything but awesome to us, and both Larry and Sergey).
The scale is breathtaking, and kind of daunting. It’s like going from building cute little paper boats from newspaper to being given an army of welders and stacks of plate steel and being told to build an armada. Also, everyone has an idea about what you should be doing, and they’re all very smart and have more context at google than you do. And finally, you are on a very public stage, and every move is scrutinized. Watch what you say!
For us, overall, it was a good experience. Very intense, and not always pleasant, but we got to do exactly what we expected – we turned Writely into Google Docs (with the help of many, many very talented people, particularly the spreadsheet gang in NYC who now run the whole show).