How To Adapt During An Acquisition

Author:

Aurelien Mottier
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Episode

58

How To Adapt During An Acquisition

Aurelien Mottier

CEO at Operatix

Varun Kohli

Co Founder and Chief Business Officer at MachEye

Acquisitions.

You could throw your hands in the air and panic — or you could be patient, learn something new, and have your boss’s boss show up to your cubicle offering amazing opportunities.

I recently sat down with Varun Kohli, Co Founder and Chief Business Officer at MachEye, to talk about surviving acquisition and how to adapt during an acquisition.

Varun works on an intelligence platform with clickless analytics so that even if people don’t know what to ask, they still get business intelligence at their fingertips: MachEye.

He’s been a part of several acquisitions and exemplifies how adaptation during acquisition doesn’t have to lead to frustration.

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Keep an open mindset from your customer’s point of view and see if you can give them more than what you could get them earlier.

Varun Kohli – Co Founder and Chief Business Officer at MachEye

Professionals Need to Be Professional

Professionalism matters during acquisitions, too.

Here are Varun’s acquisition badges:

  • Skycure acquired by Symantec.
  • IronPort acquired by Cisco.
  • ArcSight acquired by HP.
  • CipherTrust acquired by Secure Computing.
  • Secure Computing acquired by McAfee.
  • McAfee acquired by Intel.

During one of those acquisitions, Varun switched from engineering to marketing.

He was writing code when suddenly, during an acquisition, nobody was presenting the solution to customers. 

“Nine out of 10 customers I presented to bought the solution, which is why the head of marketing walked into my cube and said, Do you want to do product marketing?” Varun explained. “And I said, how do you spell that?”

Product marketing was a perfect fit for Varun. He started at ArcSight to do product marketing, where he was given a $20 million product.

“We grew it from $20 million to $80 million,” Varun said. Four and half years later? “When I left, I was running marketing for a $1 billion product line.”

The one principle he held to during this transition not only from companies but also from professions was putting the customer first.

“We should do what’s right for the customer,” Varun said.

This also affects whether an acquired company should retain its autonomy or be completely absorbed. “We have to think of it from a customer point of view,” Varun said. “Are they customers who will look at multiple different solutions as individual products? Or would it be better for customers to combine different solutions into a bundle?”

“It all depends on what’s right for the customer, and that’s what we should do as a company,” he said.

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That’s what we do best as humans, we adapt.

Varun Kohli – Co Founder and Chief Business Officer at MachEye

Attitudes & Expectations During Acquisitions

Employees feel apprehensive during acquisitions. They just do.

“Advice that we got from board members to one of these transitions was absolutely on the need to know basis. If you don’t need that news to be known, they should not be sharing this broadly with the whole company” Varun said.

You don’t have to tell everyone.

You shouldn’t tell everyone.

Why? “There is always something that can go wrong,” Varun pointed out.

If an acquisition does happen, employees will fret. And if it doesn’t, they’ll still fret! Why did someone not acquire us?

Something could be found in due diligence that cancels the deal.

When an acquisition is ready to share–celebrate!

Varun tells a story about an acquisition that he couldn’t share with employees until the day before the news was supposed to go live on a Tuesday. He went to the office early Monday morning and decorated it with balloons and cake.

“That was the only day in my life that I drank champagne at 6:00 in the morning,” he said.

Here are the three pieces of advice Varun has for teams with companies going through an acquisition.

  1. Be patient
  2. Be human
  3. Adapt

“That’s what we do best as humans. We adapt,” Varun said.

During an acquisition, patience is rewarding. “There will be many voids that will be created. If you keep on raising your hand and keep running to the fire and not away from the fire, good things will happen to you,” Varun said.

Bonus: You could even have fun and learn something new.

“Don’t run away from something. Always run towards something,” Varun added. “Hang in there, and do the right thing for the customer. Enjoy and love what you do, and you’ll excel in that.”

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right quote

It all depends on what’s right for the customer, and that’s what we should do as a company.

Varun Kohli – Co Founder and Chief Business Officer at MachEye

It’s wrong for sales to leap out of the boat as soon as an acquisition is finalized.

Sure, maybe you’re being asked to sell something different or something more than you were before, which requires change. Try to find synergies between products.

“Have that open mindset and you might be able to see certain things that did not exist earlier or even after the acquisition. Your company’s the only one that can offer that solution,” he said.

When Symantec acquired a web isolation company, Varun could combine that with email to create an entirely new product and industry.

“Keep an open mindset mindset from your customer’s point of view and see if you can give them more than what you could get them earlier,” he said.

Same in marketing as it is in sales — things can change, but mostly for the better.

Marketing’s two jobs: Meet revenue and pipeline goals by keeping the sales team busy and making sure everybody knows the brand.

Well, acquisitions give you more opportunities to do those two things.

Meeting revenue. “In larger companies, one is accomplished by a set of products as compared to a single product,” Varun said.

Brand awareness. “Your startup is probably not known by many companies out there,” he pointed out. Association with another company gives you a way to change that perception.

Varun capitalized on that after an acquisition by ranking the top 50 tourist destinations by security risk based on connecting to public wifi for Travel and Leisure magazine.

“It was very successful. 250 plus TV channels covered us. It went all the way to the Today Show, which is watched by 5 million people in the U.S. Once we were on TV, that changed everything on the awareness run.”

Two goals for marketers: Meet revenue (it will come from multiple products) and meet awareness goals (it will go from nobody knowing you to changing the perception).

Contact Varun on his LinkedIn, Twitter, or by email at hello@macheye.com.


This post is based on an interview with Varun Kohli from MachEye.

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About Operatix

Operatix is a Sales Acceleration company specialized in supporting B2B Software vendors to identify new revenue streams, increase qualified sales pipeline, and accelerate channel development across Europe and North America. Operatix has a wealth of experience in working with the biggest tech players worldwide as well as a multitude of emerging software vendors.

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