Selling a company is emotionally wrenching. It was even more intensive for us at Maplesoft since we had a large number of founders who had been actively involved with the company for 20+ years. The decision for founders to sell a company so that it can move to the next stage is truly massive.
We had the luxury of a number of suitors with essentially equivalent initial financial offers, but this also destined us for a long process with lots of discussion and many twists and detours along the way. I remember the saying: that which does not kill you makes you stronger ;-). This was also my 2nd time going through the full process and maybe I can offer some advice to novices, noting the old saying that free advice is not always worth the price.
If you are selling a company and you have the luxury of time and choice, what is the single most important aspect that you should consider? The reality is that it is impossible to develop a true appreciation of the company fit, and a full understanding of the technology, in any due diligence period. Like most important decisions, the choice is usually based on insufficient data. So the absolutely central question becomes “who would be the best fit”?
In the end we followed Curly’s advice from City Slickers… it’s all about one thing, just one thing.
We are self confessed technology junkies. It’s embarrassing to admit the pleasure it provides us to add or improve the most technically obtuse product feature. Core to our culture is this love of the technology; everything else is secondary. Against this criterion, Cybernet became the leading contender in the game. Cybernet has a full understanding of our technology, having sold it for > 20 years. Also, from our point of view, in the technology space, it seemed that Japan was taking the lead; it houses our biggest and most progressive set of customers. And most importantly, they not only had an understanding of our technology, but seemed to love it and were able to project future opportunities that it could provide.
Other contenders developed some level of understanding, but never sufficient to project it into the future. They could only judge our technology based on past history, not on future potential. Cybernet stood out as having a clear focus on the future and a confidence on where the technology could lead us. So, by joining with Cybernet, I believe that we have successfully combined great technology with outstanding worldwide marketing and sales experience. Despite managing communications via a 13-hour time difference, we seem to have made the right choice.
My advice: determine the one key aspect of company fit, in our case technology, and use that to determine your correct course of action. If the fit doesn’t exist, then save everyone a lot of time and money and walk away. And remember, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.