Yesterday marked the three year anniversary of closing the Cisco/Latigent acquisition, and I thought it a good time to address one of the questions I am constantly asked by those such aspired (as I once was).
“How do I get bought by Google, or Cisco, or Oracle, or…”
People approach this question as if there is some secret mythical wisdom that can be imparted on them, yet I think the answer is pretty straight forward.
“You won’t, because you’re asking the wrong questions and are focused on the wrong goal.”
Let’s establish a common truth. Companies like Cisco, Google, Oracle, etc. typically don’t buy companies just to buy companies. They acquire companies that: solve needed problems, that can accelerate innovation or development in a certain market, and whose technology and people compliment their existing products in ways that make financial sense. Trying to build products that meet these objectives for companies that you don’t know much about, or who don’t know much about you is a bit like shopping for a mail-order bride. And it will get you nowhere but out of business.
My advice then, is rather simple. Solve real problems for your customers. And solve those problems better than anyone else. If you focus on developing your core differentiated assets and growing your company into something that adds value for people, then you will inevitably find yourself on the radar of the big dogs. Not only will you get their attention, but you will have built a strong viable business that demands a higher valuation than merely having to liquidate your “assets” because you failed to create anything meaningful along the way.
Latigent addressed an age old problem in new and innovative ways. We essentially fixed the ‘reporting problem’ for call centers. This was an iterative process over several years with one goal in mind “profitably increase the consumption of our product”. Achieving this meant listening to our customers and adapting our software to meet their needs. It didn’t mean constantly trying to guess what a company like Cisco would want to acquire (although, admittedly there was a little of that that went on from time to time). This strategy translated to more users for us, more customers and ultimately a product and business that Cisco saw value in. The rest, shall we say, is history…