*Warning : If you are Hunter Walk then you are going to want to stop reading this post until after you have watched Batman – The Dark Knight Rises.*
My Apetite for an Acquihire
I recently read some articles by Sarah Lacy and Hunter Walk, both regarding Acquihires (when a large company acquires a startup just for its talent). These articles were especially relevant to me as a founder of a young startup that has recently been approached by a number a large companies here in Silicon Valley regarding acquihire opportunities. Although these big companies are straight up professional “winers-n-diners”, I personally haven’t found their proposals appetizing. For sure not on a gut level, but also not after giving it some more thought..
It was back in January 2012 that I moved from a small town in Utah to San Francisco after my startup, Scan, received a seed round of funding. For me, it was an exciting move to “the big leagues” of the startup world. San Francisco met all my expectations of brilliant people, amazing companies, and serendipitous meetups. It was incredibly interesting to have been using a product back home in Utah, and then be here getting to know the founders/creators behind the products. At first impression, it seemed that these founders (myself included) were all after the same thing : success.
However, as I have better gotten to know others, and further analyzed my own goals, it has become very clear to me that people’s motives are just as unique as they are. To some, success is a 120 man company, or a $120m valuation, or 120m downloads. Again, success can be defined as many different ways as there are people. After discussing it, I felt lucky and fortunate to find out that my co-founders and I happen to define success the same way : Freedom.
How Do You Define Your Personal Success?
So should we consider an acquihire a success? Depends your personal definition for success. I learned to be deathly afraid of acquihires based off of one specific instance. There was a particular startup that was getting started about the same time as Scan. I had the opportunity to meet the founder in person at the Google Ventures CEO Summit. We chatted about the exciting times of the startup life as you setup your creative workspace, hire amazing people, and see the visions in your head become products being enjoyed by people all around the world. Not much longer, I found out that he and his team had been acquihired. From his posts, he seemed excited about the acquihire. It seemed he has reached his success. All seemed well until he posted a picture on his first day with the new company of his new desk.
His caption with the picture read: “My new desk!”
I immediately took a screen shot of the image because I never want to forget that feeling I had the moment I saw that picture. Look at that phone. Look at that phone!
Some of my friends back home often ask me if I’m considering those offers to go design for those larger companies. I let them know that if I do, they can be sure that to a certain degree I have come up short of my goals and failed.
My Personal Definition of Success
So how do I personally define and prioritize of goals of success?
• Plan A : Freedom. The type of freedom that only comes from sincere hard work and true value creating success. I want to be the one shopping for acquisitions.
• Plan B : Acquired. You know, like the Instagram billion dollar type of acquisition. Billion..perhaps that is where the B in “Plan B” comes from.
• Plan C : Fail. If time moved slower than I wouldn’t be afraid of failure. But life moves quickly and I’ve got things to accomplish and value to create and honestly it is simply more enjoyable to succeed…so yes, I fear failure, but not so much that I’m going to tie a rope around my waste any time I jump.
• Plan F : Acquihire. The only thing I like about the acquihire model is just how much it hopefully makes students of this industry question the traditional education system. I’m for sure not saying education isn’t important but I’ve just seen too many of my sincere hard working friends come up jobless and struggling because they did exactly what their professors and schooling told them to (tests, grades, and homework). There are many of students who got into programs that rejected me, passed classes that I failed and got stampy things that I didn’t, only to apply for a design job at Facebook and never get a second look. I’m not saying it was because I am better than them, but that it takes something extra outside of what traditional schooling seems to offer.
Sweet Sweet Freedom
Lastly, if freedom is my ultimate success unit then why isn’t plan A to get acquired fully, receive a payout and go lay on a beach? In a beautiful way, Scan has graced my life with more freedom that I had ever planned on. Thanks to Scan, I have the creators paradise of working hard to perfect my skills, see my designs come to life, be seen and used by millions around the world, meet amazing people, and yea..every now and then as wanted, go lay on a beach : )
Alright. Well here’s the part where I become overwhelmed with gratitude for the level of freedom achieved and blessed with in my life and humbly work hard to be worthy and deserving of it.
“Define your success. Work hard for it. Then protect it.” – LG Neville