The WTIA’s annual TechNW conference opened with veteran Seattle tech investor Tom Huseby moderating a session with dealmakers from Google, Salesforce.com, Microsoft and Facebook.
Huseby said it’s difficult to predict the directions the companies are heading with acquisitions, but Microsoft’s the most predictable of the bunch.
“These guys don’t have an unmovable strategic roadmap – even Google doesn’t know where the map goes ; it has a lot of maps but doesn’t know where they all lead,” he said in the opening session of the event at the Bell Harbor conference center.
Huseby asked about deals pushed by corporate development teams versus product groups:
Google’s Neeraj Arora said corporate development can take deals to groups and to the company founders.
Salesforce can also float deals at different levels.
“We can raise opportunities to our CEO, we can go talk to product managers,” said Ryan Aytay, vice president of corporate development at Salesforce.com, adding that a few deals were led by his group.
How long should a deal knock on your door at corp dev without corporate sponsorship?
“I would say it varies … when we ultimately acquire a company it varies from weeks to months to years during which we get to know somebody,” said Ryan Cooper, director of corporate development at Microsoft.
How do they feel about bankers’ involvement in deals?
“Sometimes a bank can help to grease the skids … they can talk sense into an emotional CEO,” said Aytay.
“Purely agnostic from our side,” said Amin Zoufonoun, Facebook director of corporate development. He added that sub $50 million deals can get good advice from most law firms.
Huseby asked the panelists if they had questions they want to ask each other, publicly.
Aytay was the only one to ask something: “When is Microsoft going to do their next deal?”
“Soon,” Cooper said.
“Given Ryan’s previous answer maybe it was underway for eight years,” Huseby cracked, adding: “That was mean but it’s fun.”
The dealmakers said they’re all ready to move quickly and deals can happen within two weeks.
Huseby asked if patents slow things down.
Zoufonoun said “patents have not been a factor in slowing down a deal,” which is more likely to be delayed by the target company not having its documents in order.
Cooper said Microsoft’s deal team can also move fast.
“We’re typically not the bottleneck, despite the jokes,” he said, adding that IP and open-source issues can extend things.
On retention of employees who come through acquisition, Zoufonoun said nearly 100 percent of acquired employees have remained and most of the company’s product leaders have come through acquisition.