selling out

April 1, 2006

When we first started thinking about starting the company, we didn't know that it was possible to get rich selling out. Shit, we didn't even know you could sell out: we didn't even know that tech companies bought other tech companies. That is to say, I had in theory heard of companies acquiring other companies before, like "Google now owns Blogger!", but I had never developed a mental connection between "Google now owns Blogger!" and "a bunch of nerds just got rich!"

Anyways, for good or for bad, our company was born not to greed, but just through two guys sitting at a bar talking about cool things they might like to build. A week after we had started sketching prototypes and writing specs, one of us jokingly quipped: "Hey, if we do this right, maybe Yahoo or Google will buy us!" We weren't even thinking about money.

Well, that's changed. Since we founded the company, there have been a maelstorm of acquisitions by Google and Yahoo. Here's the few companies that I can think of that have been bought (I pulled the numbers out of my ass, so if they're wrong, they're wrong):

  • del.icio.us ($17 million)
  • flickr ($35 million)
  • upcoming.org
  • writely
  • MySpace ($580 million)
  • Urchin
  • SketchUp
  • Newsroo

On top of that, everyone I've met in the entrepreneur game has told me about how "I sold my company to AOL in 2000 for $200 million." One investment banker I talked to told me a story about how they sold a company for twice what the founders had hoped to get, on hype alone. The final price tag: a pretty $160 million.

Honestly it doesn't matter if he was as full of shit as I suspect most i-bankers are. The point is that all of this–acquisitions happening on a weekly basis, every vetted entrepreneur I meet throwing up numbers like a score card, everyone blogging rampant speculation about how Technorati or the Facebook or ______ is about to be unloaded–all of this has made it so I only see dollar signs. When I go to sleep I dream about selling out. When I wake up I dream about selling out. I dream about selling out for a few million. I dream about selling out for hundreds of millions. I dream about swimming through a vault of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck, and being able to count every one. I've gotten to the point where a million dollars doesn't seem like anything. Where ten million doesn't seem like much. (100 million still seems like a lot!)

When I started out, it was all about the love, baby. And I still enjoy building the product, but it has been a bit overshadowed by the whole "Flip that company, Get that money" attitude that permeates the Web 2.0 entrepreneur's world. And that's a little sad.

Well, that last part sounds incredibly jaded. Hundred bucks says when I get paid I'll shut the fuck up.

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