How to Get Acquired

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…


 



When Privacy and Transparency Collide

I’m sure most of you saw that Barack Obama raised a record $55 million in the month of February, so I won’t regurgitate old news here. But what I find more interesting than the jaw dropping dollar amount, is how much of the fundraising activity is happening relatively under the radar. Yesterday his campaign made the rather boastful statement:

No campaign has ever raised this much in a single month in the history of presidential primaries. But more important than the total is how we did it — more than 90% of donations were $100 or less, and more than 385,000 new donors in February pushed us past our goal of more than 1,000,000 people owning a piece of this campaign.

 

My first reaction was “Wow! Go Baby Go”! Then my second thought was, “Wow! That’s roughly 900,000 donors we can’t track…”

 

The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) regulates that a campaign has to disclose all donors contributing more than $200 to Candidate. I downloaded the most recent FEC database and found only 84K contributors to the Obama Campaign at a time when he was claiming north of 500,000k. That means the vast majority of campaign money is originating virtually anonymously.

This raises questions around current Campaign Finance laws and if they will need to be revisited or reporting limits adjusted to adapt to current trends. My sense is that inevitably they will, but whether that’s good or bad for us is its own animal.

For example, last summer I contributed a whopping $25 to the Obama campaign. Should my Name, Address and Contribution Amount have to exist in a publicly accessible database as a matter of Campaign Finance Reform? From a privacy standpoint my reaction is “Not just no, but hell no”. But as a fan of Government Transparency, shouldn’t we be able to have visibility into the money flows of these campaigns? My answer is “yes”. So then, where in lies the balance?

The gray matter that exists at the intersection of Personal Privacy and Government Transparency when you participate in “public” activity will no doubt be the subject of much debate when the dust settles on this election. My gut says the issue will be raised from which ever side looses in November.

We Are Now A Part of Cisco

Well, WE DID IT!!

As most of you know, on Sept. 27th Latigent entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by Cisco Systems, Inc. (Press release here http://newsroom.cisco.com/dlls/2007/corp_092707.html )

I’m excited to say that last night we executed the final closing documents and officially turned over the keys.

I’ve received a lot of questions over the last week about what happens next. The short answer is that we were able to place almost the entire team with Cisco. I personally will be going into a senior Business Development role inside the Contact Center Business Unit and Jason is taking on a lead role in the engineering team. Cisco will begin integrating our product line into their Contact Center offering and begin transitioning support for our current customers.

It’s a bit wild to think that what started out as an idea scribbled on the back of a cocktail napkin (literally) will now be distributed in 17 different languages to virtually every corner of the planet and used by tens of thousands of people. To say that it’s been an amazing journey to get to this point would be both cliché and understated. It’s impossible to sum up in one post what I’ve learned from this experience and how it’s transformed me; so I’ll save all that for the book…

However, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge and thank the extraordinary people that stuck by our side through all the cheers and jeers: our alliance and channel partners, the customers who hired us and the one who fired us, industry analysts, vendors that didn’t always get paid on time, entrepreneurial mentors, and our friends and family for their daily support and inspiration.

Thank you to Jason for not just buying into the crazy idea of building the seemingly impossible, but actually building it.

Thank you to Gary, for being Gary and engineering us out of database hell; Justin, for saving my neck more times than any other guy on the planet; and Mark for hanging in there through all the uncertainty, even though you’re a SOX AND D-Backs  fan.

Most of all, thank you to the unsung hero of Latigent, my wife and confidant Amy, none of this would have been possible without your unselfish support and sacrifices, uncounted hours of behind the scenes work, and your faith that together we could do it.

Cheers everybody!

Chris Crosby

(Former) President/CEO – Latigent