My twitter feed feels like a trading floor rumor mill. Rumors of Big Switch Networks, Plurabis Networks, Square all to be acquired. Yet an unrumored (at least from my twitter feed) acquisition happened: Cloudscaling acquired by EMC. The constant stream of acquisition rumors is starting to out pace the rumors of hacks.
Let’s be clear about something: If an executive at one company talks to someone in business development at another company, merger or acquisition is assumed (normally acquisition). Realistically, M&A talks are always happening, and for good reason: companies need to focus on success and ruling out M&A is a bad idea. As companies grow, there may be a need for a cash infusion (box and dropbox are good examples). The money can come from VCs, Strategic Investments, IPO or Acquisition by a company with access to funds (Apple, Google, etc).
There are great success stories in M&A and there are companies that are built by acquiring other companies for their technology and people (Cisco, EMC to name a few). There are also horror stories of companies being acquired just to be shut down (Meebo is an example) and companies being acquired for their parts due to running out of runway (I have a few of these in my past).
While it is fun to feel involved in the behind the scenes, secret world of mergers and acquisitions, the reality is: if there are synergies between two companies, there have probably been, or are acquisition talks or at least internal discussions regarding them. We are all correct, but as seen with the recent Twitch acquisition, the outcome will probably be totally different.
As many of you know, I am the Chief Technical Officer of Sideband Networks, a still-in-stealth startup using real-time analytics to assist in the networking space. I was previously VP of Technology for XDN, who re-invented the content delivery space and was acquired by Fortinet.
With the six-month anniversary of my joining with my fellow ex-exodus friend, Zane Taylor coming up around the corner, I thought I would share some of what I have learned so far.
- The Chief part of your title means you must lead by example: You are the technical center of the company. The decisions you make, the work that you do, must push the company in the direction of success.
- Pivoting is natural, do it intelligently: In the early stages of company building, there will be times when you must make hard decisions. You might need to change hardware vendors, or stick with one may not be optimal in the long term. There may be decisions about software strategy where time and money are involved. The best way to pivot, is to do it carefully and if at all possible, in a minor way. Micro-pivots are easy to deal with and are strategic to tightening up the focus of the company.
- When you are doing things that have not been achieved before, celebrate the small victories: The company looks to the CTO to validate the direction and progress of the product(s). Know what your customers are looking for and when milestones are hit, point them out.
- Above all, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty: Sometimes you have to cable up some new equipment, deliver boxes to customers or clean off a desk for a new employee. Embrace these tasks and do what you want your other employees to do.
Being a CTO is not just about Evangelizing products and solutions. It’s about being a thought leader and focusing on the future, how to get there and the future includes NOW.