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Google Businesses Technology

Google's Rules of Acquisition 115

Posted by Soulskill
from the once-you-have-their-money-you-never-give-it-back dept.
waderoush writes "For many startup entrepreneurs, getting acquired by Google is the dream exit. But these days Google is getting a lot more discriminating about what kinds of companies it buys — and a lot more careful about how it integrates newly acquired teams. This article offers an in-depth look at how Google achieves a two-thirds success rate with acquisitions, and why things still occasionally go south. 'The return on our acquisition dollars has been extraordinary,' says vice president of business development David Lawee, Google's M&A czar. But Google insiders say it still takes a lot of work to make sure acquired startups go the way of Android (the mobile operating system, acquired in 2005) and not Aardvark (the social search site, acquired in 2010 and shut down in 2011)."
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Google's Rules of Acquisition

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  • by macraig (621737) <`mark.a.craig' `at' `gmail.com'> on Monday March 05, 2012 @08:13PM (#39256339)

    And apparently when Google acquired the company Aardvark they also swung the wrecking ball at the lone developer of the Aardvark extension for Firefox. So in the process of acquiring a lame duck and trying to protect its trademark Google also destroyed one of the best extensions for Firefox.

    Thanks, Google.

    • by darrylo (97569)

      For a reasonable replacement for Aardvark, see HackTheWeb: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/hack-the-web/ [mozilla.org]

      • by darrylo (97569)

        (In case it's not clear, "HackTheWeb" is a viable replacement for "Aardvark" the firefox extension, and not "Aardvark" the social search engine.)

      • by macraig (621737)

        Thanks for that. I had tried to create my own private localized implementation of Aardvark, but could never get it to work.

    • And apparently when Google acquired the company Aardvark they also swung the wrecking ball at the lone developer of the Aardvark extension for Firefox. So in the process of acquiring a lame duck and trying to protect its trademark Google also destroyed one of the best extensions for Firefox.

      Thanks, Google.

      Yeah, I was wondering about that. If the acquired companies product doesn't work out, what happens to it? It won't be produced anymore, but the company still holds the IP rights. So effectively, this line of innovation is killed. Appearantly, Siri -- before acquisition -- was supposed to be for all devices in everyday life (even cars, houses), but with Apple holding their hand on it, it won't come to the consumer.

      • by macraig (621737)

        Note the other comment here that mentions a newer Firefox extension named HackTheWeb, which is effectively a direct descendant of Aardvark. Installed! This will make me a much happier surfer again.

    • So in the process of acquiring a lame duck and trying to protect its trademark Google also destroyed one of the best extensions for Firefox.

      To which Google would say, "Use Chrome!" It's always good when you can achieve multiple objectives at once.

    • How do you know this?

      • by macraig (621737)

        Before the extension disappeared the author had posted or blogged something about being approached about the trademark, and he wound up folding and handing it over.

  • >Sergey spread this mantra internally that he wanted more features, less products So how does Google avoid becoming the next Yahoo?
  • by MacColossus (932054) on Monday March 05, 2012 @08:13PM (#39256345) Journal
    Well done Quark Brin! The Grand Nagus will be pleased!
    • Interestingly, Oracle also has a set of rules of acquisition. You can read about them here [memory-alpha.org].
      • by tehcyder (746570)

        Interestingly, Oracle also has a set of rules of acquisition. You can read about them here [memory-alpha.org].

        Presumably along the lines of " There will be no glory in your sacrifice. I will erase even the memory of Sparta from the histories! Every piece of Greek parchment shall be burned. Every Greek historian, and every scribe shall have their eyes pulled out, and their tongues cut from their mouths. Why, uttering the very name of Sparta, or Leonidas, will be punishable by death! The world will never know you existed at all!"

      • Do you know about lung transplants? I'd like to ask about how long the blood bypasses the lungs.

        • In any major heart or lung transplant the patient's own organs must be bypassed for the duration of the surgery. Usually this is as short as possible because the non-rhythmic pumping in a heart and lung machine can cause plaques to break loose and block vessels. The surgery typically lasts anywhere from 4 to 12 hours [nytimes.com] depending on how many lungs are involved.
          • That's what I thought. It seems so crazy to imply otherwise. I guess that skeptics aren't as smart as they think.

            Thanks!

  • by SexyKellyOsbourne (606860) on Monday March 05, 2012 @08:26PM (#39256447) Journal

    The fact that Google achieves a 66.66% success rate in acquisitions is amazing. Most M&A's have a success rate of 17%.

    According to a quote from the Wharton School of Business:

    "Various studies have shown that mergers have failure rates of more than 50 percent. One recent study found that 83 percent of all mergers fail to create value and half actually destroy value. This is an abysmal record. What is particularly amazing is that in polling the boards of the companies involved in those same mergers, over 80 percent of the board members thought their acquisitions had created value.

    — Robert W. Holthausen, The Nomura Securities Company Professor, Professor of Accounting and Finance and Management

    http://executiveeducation.wharton.upenn.edu/open-enrollment/finance-programs/mergers-acquisitions-program.cfm [upenn.edu]

    • What statistics (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MushMouth (5650) on Monday March 05, 2012 @08:34PM (#39256497) Homepage

      the 2/3rds quote was what Google said they achieve, but there is nothing in the article which actually quantitates it, so I'm going to go with the M&A exec blowing smoke.

      • Re:What statistics (Score:5, Insightful)

        by icebike (68054) * on Monday March 05, 2012 @09:10PM (#39256673)

        On the other hand, how does the Wharton School really know what does or does not "create value", and is that the real measurement?

        Acquiring a business that runs a real risk of eating your lunch may not actually create any value at the visible level, but you may gain things (patents, customers) that my not appear or may not be visible to outsiders for years. Acquisition is a preventative measure in many cases. Business schools are not in the best position to judge what might have happened had not the merger taken place.

        (Actually nobody really is in a good position to judge this, its the experiment not run to completion).

        It seldom as simple as adding the net worth of two companies separately and then comparing that to the value after the merger.

        • by Herkum01 (592704)

          You are very wrong that "nobody" is a good position to judge this. We have public companies filing documents with the SEC all the time, we have an effective hsitory of at l00 years worth of data. It is not like these people are stupid, there is a lot of information to work with, but you really have to make an effort to gather it together. There are very good business professors who know what they are doing and how they are doing it.

          t seldom as simple as adding the net worth of two companies separately and then comparing that to the value after the merger.

          I disagree, sometimes IT IS as simple as that. Give a great example, AOL

          • by icebike (68054) *

            SEC filings? Really?
            Have you read those?

            You can hide the Queen Mary in there, and big companies do it all the time. On a scale from ONE to Google you can hide two dozen of these little acquisitions and the revenue or loss that they may generate. These documents simply aren't broken down that fine. Apple hid the entire iPhone development project for three years. There is no requirement that detail line item projects be reported.

            AOL is not germane. Nobody ever claimed that was a success. Everybody knew

        • Business schools ought to be in a great position to judge this. Surely they would have models to factor in M&A in which the target is a competitor, or a resource a competitor was after, etc? The question is, do the various studies cited take those factors into account? (And if not, are there studies that do).
    • by Dzimas (547818)
      You're comparing apples to uranium. Merging two enormous and well established companies -- Chrysler and Fiat, perhaps -- is a monumental M&A challenge in the traditional sense. Absorbing a 20-person startup into Google is completely different. It's all about taking an existing business idea, extending it, adapting it to Google's architecture and scaling it.
  • Opportunity plus instinct equals profit.

    I think this is what defines many firms, who can take advantage of an opportunity. Google has always been willing to do whatever it takes to monetize a situation.

  • by SleepyHappyDoc (813919) on Monday March 05, 2012 @09:06PM (#39256655)

    Give it to them??

  • by colordev (1764040) on Monday March 05, 2012 @09:17PM (#39256699) Homepage
    I made a tool [colordev.com] that can semi-automatically set the colors right in adsense ads; in about 30 seconds
    And I thought google might be interested as with their webmaster center tools, the same task takes ~30 minutes (to match the colors to the hosting web-page).
    As Adsense is basically their money making machine, so one might think they would be interested to see a demo of that technology - NOT.

    As of now there's probably noone at the google who knows about the tool / technology. And it is not because I would not have tried enough. To summarise I tried to call to at least 30 people at the Google headquarters (found couple of answering machines) , I send a message *twice* to all kinds of "business proposal" "partner with google" mailboxes at Google's website. And based on my logs nobody ever came to test drive the tool. And I send a message to Google adsense forum. Still no comment from anyone. And I kept calling google offices around Europe and the most human contact was with the telephone answering machine. Well, except in spain and (I think) Norway? there was a receptionis who said she was just a hired office receptionist not working for google and there's noone at google she could connect me to.

    And, here in Finland, I saw Google opened office in Oulu, So I went there and meet em in person. And at the lobby hall I said I have a tood / demo that might interest Google. But no, she basically run away without checking the demo. Later last summer I challenged someone who had been co-operating with Googles Finnish leader Anni Ronkainen to try to get her to check the demo. But as this helpful person tried to reach CEO Anni Ronkainen, she never came back to this PhD lecturer person with whom she actually had agreed partisipate at a seminar later. And I send Anni couple sms - messagea asking to contact me - no reply. And someone suggested I might be able to connect Google people through one ad agency that does online-ad campaings with google, no that didn't work eather. And it didn't work eather through another guy who had written PhD thesis online advertisement - even he wan's able to contact anyone there - PhD guy was at least facined about the technology.)

    To summarize, my experience is that nobody works at Google. The company is probably a front office and run by Skynet or something.
    • I made a tool [colordev.com] that can semi-automatically set the colors right in adsense ads; in about 30 seconds

      What is your goal for this technology? Do you want to sell the idea? Do you want them to hire you? Do you want them to take you over? By the way, that page doesn't work in Chromium (on Ubuntu), although it worked on Firefox. I assume it probably doesn't work on Chrome (on Windows) either.

      And I thought google might be interested as with their webmaster center tools, the same task takes ~30 minutes (to match the colors to the hosting web-page).

      Yes, they may be interested, but one problem is that they could be liable to you if they ever implement your idea after having just seen the demo from you. And in at least one case I heard of, they weren't liable, but they

      • by colordev (1764040)

        What is your goal for this technology?

        Using this technology webmasters can optimize Adsense colors,borders&fonts so quickly, that any webmaster could make several versions of each ad. This would allow Google to measure the performance of each of those "approved" ad formats. And then choosing to use those that are most attractive and most profitable.

        The current Adsense ad-setting technology is slow and cumbersome as webmasters need to (by hand) adjust hex values for text, border and background colors and font-sizes and font-types, trying

    • by vinlud (230623)

      They're all on Google+ I guess :)

  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Monday March 05, 2012 @09:20PM (#39256713) Journal

    1 Once you have their money ... never give it back.
    3 Never pay more for an acquisition than you have to.
    6 Never allow family to stand in the way of opportunity.
    6 A man is only worth the sum of his possessions.
    7 Keep your ears open.
    8 Small print leads to large risk.
    9 Opportunity plus instinct equals profit.
    10 Greed is eternal.
    13 Anything worth doing is worth doing for money.
    16 A deal is a deal ... until a better one comes along.
    17 A contract is a contract is a contract (but only between Ferengi).
    18 A Ferengi without profit is no Ferengi at all.
    19 Satisfaction is not guaranteed.
    21 Never place friendship above profit.
    22 A wise man can hear profit in the wind.
    23 Nothing is more important than your health--except for your money.
    27 There's nothing more dangerous than an honest businessman.
    31 Never make fun of a Ferengi's mother ... insult something he cares about instead.
    33 It never hurts to suck up to the boss.
    34 Peace is good for business.
    35 War is good for business.
    40 She can touch your lobes but never your latinum.
    41 Profit is its own reward.
    44 Never confuse wisdom with luck.
    45 Expand, or die.
    47 Don't trust a man wearing a better suit than your own.
    48 The bigger the smile, the sharper the knife.
    52 Never ask when you can take.
    57 Good customers are as rare as latinum -- treasure them.
    58 There is no substitute for success.
    59 Free advice is seldom cheap.
    60 Keep your lies consistent.
    62 The riskier the road, the greater the profit.
    65 Win or lose, there's always Hyperian beetle snuff.
    75 Home is where the heart is ... but the stars are made of latinum.
    76 Every once in a while, declare peace. It confuses the hell out of your enemies.
    79 Beware of the Vulcan greed for knowledge.
    82 The flimsier the product, the higher the price.
    85 Never let the competition know what you're thinking.
    89 Ask not what your profits can do for you, but what you can do for your profits.
    94 Females and finances don't mix.
    97 Enough ... is never enough.
    99 Trust is the biggest liability of all.
    102 Nature decays, but latinum lasts forever.
    103 Sleep can interfere with profit.
    104 Faith moves mountains ... of inventory.
    106 There is no honour in poverty.
    109 Dignity and an empty sack is worth the sack.
    111 Treat people in your debt like family ... exploit them.
    112 Never have sex with the boss's sister.
    113 Always have sex with the boss.
    117 You can't free a fish from water.
    121 Everything is for sale, even friendship.
    123 Even a blind man can recognize the glow of latinum.
    139 Wives serve, brothers inherit.
    141 Only fools pay retail.
    144 There's nothing wrong with charity ... as long as it winds up in your pocket.
    162 Even in the worst of times someone turns a profit.
    177 Know your enemies ... but do business with them always.
    181 Not even dishonesty can tarnish the shine of profit.
    189 Let others keep their reputation. You keep their money.
    192 Never cheat a Klingon ... unless you're sure you can get away with it.
    194 It's always good business to know about new customers before they walk in the door.
    202 The justification for profit is profit.
    203 New customers are like razortoothed grubworms. They can be succulent, but sometimes they can bite back.
    211 Employees are rungs on the ladder of success. Don't hesitate to step on them.
    214 Never begin a negotiation on an empty stomach.

    Shamelessly stolen from here: http://www.sjtrek.com/trek/rules/ [sjtrek.com]
    I had to leave out the last few rules because /.'s spam filter insists on 40 characters per line

  • Or an outsourcing reference? Either way, greetings from south america.

  • Fluff article (Score:5, Informative)

    by slasho81 (455509) on Monday March 05, 2012 @10:10PM (#39256961)

    I read TFA. Yes, I know - I must be new here, etc.

    Let me save you time. It's the usual self-congratulating corporatespeak. Basically, they discovered it's a good idea to have a good fit between Google and the acquired startup, and a bunch of other common sense "rules" anyone with half a brain could come up with.

    • by Jonner (189691)

      I read TFA. Yes, I know - I must be new here, etc.

      Let me save you time. It's the usual self-congratulating corporatespeak. Basically, they discovered it's a good idea to have a good fit between Google and the acquired startup, and a bunch of other common sense "rules" anyone with half a brain could come up with.

      What you may be missing is that unlike most corporate executives, Googles' brains don't seem to have melted and drifted down or dribbled out their ears yet.

    • by cshark (673578)
      I wouldn't discount them that easily. Just in general.
  • Ferengi rules of acquisition, anyone?
  • I miss the Ferengi...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    getting acquired by Google is the dream exit? Are you mad? It's better to let the company grow and see inimaginable numbers in the bank. For the God's sake... selling a good company to Google is the worst you can do in your life. Grow up!

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