I have nothing but admiration for Autonomy, but my heart sunk a little when I heard on the news last night that HP was looking to buy them, and then dropped a little further when I read this morning that the Autonomy board is supporting the offer, making it pretty much a done deal. I don’t think that anyone is to blame here – the £7bn offer is a full valuation for the business and a 61% premium to the share price yesterday, and the board would have had a hard time arguing that it was against the interests of shareholders to accept the offer – I just wish this deal wasn’t happening.
Here in the UK and Europe we need more large independent technology businesses if we want the startup ecosystem to grow to its full potential and if this deal completes we lose one of the few big ones that we have.
Here are the reasons why it is important to have large indigenous tech businesses:
- It is easier for startups to get sales and technology partnerships with locally head quartered businesses than those based in the US – geographical proximity still counts for a lot
- It is much, much easier to sell a small company to a larger one that is head quartered nearby – when I looked at this a little while back 90% of Cisco’s acquisitions had been in the US and they were if anything more international than their peers
- Growing large companies locally creates more local wealth, much of which will flow back into the startup ecosystem
- The best and most interesting jobs are at company HQ – when the HQ is local the indigenous workforce gets better training and experience, when the HQ is abroad some of our best people will emigrate (e.g. Jonathan Ives)
Once again, I think Autonomy is a great company, and they have contributed a lot to the British technology scene generally and the startup scene in particular – both via acquisitions and via spin-outs like Blinkx, I’m just sad to see them go.