Critical Section


entrepreneurs inside the machine

Thursday,  05/17/07  08:43 AM

entrepreneurs inside the machineFortune discusses Entrepreneurs Inside the Machine, regarding integrating acquired entrepreneurs into a big company.

I find this to be an important issue, as a shareholder as well as an entrepreneur.  In the early days the value of a company like Aperio lies largely in its people.  Over time the value becomes institutionalized, and moves into the customers, the market approach, the brand, the products, etc.  (Not that people don’t remain important, but they become relatively less important.)  If an acquiring company plans to realize the maximum value from an acquisition, they must either provide a good home to those people, or wait until the value has shifted away from the people.  Or both.

From my personal experience Intuit bought its billpay business (which was a separate company) too soon, the key people left, and the value was not fully realized.  Digital Insight went public, experienced turnover without losing value (over a period of years), and was then ultimately acquired by Intuit, long after the value had moved.  PayPal went public, experienced a great deal of turnover and lost some value (over a period of a year), and was then ultimately acquired by eBay.  The value to eBay has been immense, but there was an even larger and more valuable business inside PayPal which wasn’t fully realized.  At one time we legitimately spoke of forming a rival to Wells Fargo and Citibank, now that seems silly.  (Many of the PayPal people who left went on to start other successful businesses, YouTube being the highest profile example.  Maybe someday Aperio will be another :)

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