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On December 9th, Venture Archetypes and Greenberg Traurig pulled together a panel of some of the top entrepreneurs and most active acquirers in Silicon Valley to answer your questions about start-up M&A. So whether you’d like to know what the serious players are looking for or how to position your start-up for a healthy acquisition, you’ll find the wisdom right here!. Read the rules.
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How does an entrepreneur get on your radar? Is it better to go in through a business unit or a product unit than to go in to Corp. development? How do they start talking to corporate development folks?
Elad Gil
Twitter (sold Mixer Labs)
Question: How did the initial discussion start off with Mixture Labs? I guess I'd go back to an old saying, which is: Company's don't get sold; they get bought. And I think our case was an example of that, where we basically had a hostage geolocation service and we were going through a large list of partners that we were actually trying to get on-board as a partner who would actually pay us for the service in terms of, you know, we'd build a monthly kind of thing. After the third or fourth conversation I got an email from Ev, who at the time was a CEO of Twitter, saying, Hey, we don't think it makes sense to have you do this as a partner, but we'd love to talk about having you come in-house to actually work with us. And that's what actually kicked off the discussions.
Amin Zoufonoun
Director, Corporate Development
I think it's pretty much what my colleagues here said. I would just add that I would also go back to why we looked to acquire. If it's for engineering prowess, obviously having an engineering team within the company that supports that and feels there's a need for a team with that kind of expertise is something that's more determinative, as Mike mentioned, through the engineering and products teams than it is through Corp Dev. But we acquire for other reasons as well. We acquire products or technologies which we feel give us time to market advantage and help us achieve some goal that we're trying to achieve faster or better. Other times we acquire for what I would call "big bets." Android is a good example of that. And we also acquire things that have some kind of leadership position, market leadership and technology leadership, and we can think of all the big deals that Google has done that are good examples of those.
Taylor Barada
Senior Director, Corporate Development
I think we see both. We do a lot of extra outreach in terms of just being out there, such as doing events, talking to different people, checking in with all the VC relationships we have, and seeing what they're talking about and what they have invested in. So introductions through people we know is always a good thing as part of the theory of social networks and what not. And I think certainly coming from product is also great, but I totally agree with Mike. We are trying to partner with our business leaders and product leaders to build the business. While in many ways we may be the people to get it done, often times in the early stages we act more as a concierge to make a connection, because you may or may not be at a point where you are actually even looking to exit and you’re just looking to establish that relationship. So I think that's another thing that we end up doing quite a bit of. In a big company like Yahoo, Google, and Facebook it's probably well on its way to getting that way too. People say, Hey, I'd like to talk to you about x, y, and z, but I just don't know who to go to, and I think with us being more externally focused out there and talking to people, it’s more than likely you know someone that we know, and you can just get connected into us. Then we can get you in touch with the product person if there's a product partnership you are looking to do in the short run. And then in the long run we're aware of you, that's a good thing too.
Michael Brown
Manager, Corporate Development
Facebook's an engineering company. Engineers rule. So the best way to get on our radar is through the engineering side of the organization. You can come to me and say, "Hey Mike, we're thinking of our strategic options," or whatever parlance people use. And I'll certainly do my best to be helpful. I will make the right introductions to the right people inside the company. But ultimately if you can get a product or an engineering leader at Facebook excited about what you are doing, especially if they know you, if you have known them from prior work experiences, that's really the best way create momentum. Then my job actually gets a lot easier. And the process goes smoother because when I sit in front of our CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, and he looks at me and says, "Mike, you don't know how to code your way out of a box," which is true. I can say, "Yeah, but so and so really thinks these guys are good." When we have that kind of support to get a project done, meaning an acquisition consummated, it really is the most compelling thing for Facebook and it gets us excited to move faster and to make it happen.

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