Thanks for nothin’

If you are building a company, and you are hoping that company has a healthy exit some day, the way to do that is to focus on what it is you are doing, and do it so well that some larger exit opportunity comes along.

It’s kind of Zen, but you really can’t focus on the exit, you have to focus first on the task at hand. Sure you have to be smart, be well positioned for an exit, etc., but most of getting well positioned for a good exit is the same stuff you have to do to run a smart and solid business in the first place.

There’s a flip side to all this, however. If you do have an exit; If your company does get bought by some larger company, the way the rules of this country work, and the way the rules of human nature work and even the way manners dictate is that after the exit, it’s no longer your thing. It belongs to the ones that wrote the check. You have to just let go.

Here’s an example of two otherwise fine young men screwing that up. If you don’t want to click, it’s the story of two guys quitting Google because — grab your Web 2.0 Kleenx — they weren’t getting enough attention from their bosses.

So…. Alex and I quit Google on Friday.

It’s no real secret that Google wasn’t supporting dodgeball the way we expected. The whole experience was incredibly frustrating for us – especially as we couldn’t convince them that dodgeball was worth engineering resources, leaving us to watch as other startups got to innovate in the mobile + social space. And while it was a tough decision (and really disappointing) to walk away from dodgeball, I’m actually looking forward to getting to work on other projects again.

Whhaaaaaaaaa!

Look, if these guys want to quit, I have no issue with that. Fine. It’s the whining about not getting enough attention that rankles me. If they wanted to complain privately, I’m sure they could and some other sources could make their case in probably a much more effective way, as in this post from A VC pointing out how Google really is just a big company now. He easily could have written that post without having to link to that whiny missive.

I speak from direct experience here, as my first company was bought by bigger guys. I suppose I could have complained about something or another (though probably not as it was a great transaction.) And now that I’m out looking for investors in my next thing a connection from California through New York actually made it back to Traffic.com in Pennsylvania. The key guy there had great things to say about the whole transaction. If I had complained publicly, would I have gotten that positive back-channel feedback? I don’t think so.

And worse, I’m now running a great business, one that won’t be as big as YouTube or DoubleClick, but still could be a great acquisition for Google or some other big name. Knowing the bad taste left in the collective mouth of Google about this Dodgeball thing, aren’t they going to be just thismuch more shy about all the deals that are less than $1.5 billion?
Look, if you didn’t get the support you needed from within the acquiring company, that says more about your inability to work within the structure of a big company. If you can’t succeed at that, don’t blame the big company for acting like a big company, blame yourself for not being better at playing by those rules. If you just don’t want to be good at it, that’s fine, but don’t burn those bridges… other people may still want to use them.

So, thanks for nothin’, Dodgeball.

3 Responses to “Thanks for nothin’”

  1. Matt says:

    I’m not sure I fully understand your point at the end of the post. Are you trying to say that Google et. al. are going to stop buying startups because of the whining of the dodgeball guys?

  2. Scott says:

    Matt – I’m not saying there will be a direct link, but I think there are plenty of reasons NOT to do a deal for an acquiring company, and this kind of hassle will just add another one, and thereby increase the tendency to stay away from any deal that’s not a blockbuster.