The Irony of Dot-Com Acquisitions

It goes something like this:

  • Startup website takes off
  • New features continue pumping out like crazy. Soon, you have everything covered – tags, RSS feeds, gradient bling, and your very own corporate blog
  • Cha Ching. FunkyBigDotCom just bought you. You explain on your blog now you’ll have the resources to do all the things you’ve been wanting to do.
  • You spend the next 12 months integrating into *their* legacy system while the rest of your industry charges ahead. In the old days, it was just “cultural disparity” or some-such that would cause friction after an acquisition. Or maybe the hassle of plugging enterprise systems together. But here, you’re working on the bleeding edge – that’s why they bought you – and it’s all come to a screeching halt…instead of integrating with Pownce and Twittergram, you’re now porting your Linux server over to BSD. Woohoo! No more innovation and your site fades into obscurity and innuendo. So much for extra resources to free things up. Oh the irony.

Some good websites have gone this way, which is a bit sad. I think one reason is that no-one ever considers technical factors during acquisitions…it’s all about how many eyeballs you have, talent of the staff, and so on. Of course, those things are all absolutely critical, but if you leave the entire process up to a buzzworthy MBA, that could be a big mistake. Ultimately the agility of the operation going forth is going to be heavily influenced by (a) the quality of the architecture and code that’s just been inherited; (b) how well it fits with the acquirers’ systems and competenecies.

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