All Aboard the M&A Train!

It seems that the M&A train, once sporadic, is now running on a regular schedule (thanks largely to Coupa and it’s 1B valuation that allowed it to raise enough cash to scoop up providers left, right and center). Is this good or bad? The answer is it all depends who you are.

Generally, when a company buys another, it does so with an objective in mind that, should the acquisition help it to complete the objective, helps the buyer and usually the set of customers that the buying company wants to satisfy. This might also include a sub-set of the acquired’s customers, which would then be helped in the process, but may also exclude a set of the acquired’s customers, which would not be help. Then there’s the acquired. Depending on the strength of the company, the goals of the management / owners on acquisition, and the alignment with the buying organization, it might be a good thing, or it might be a bad (or very bad) thing.

What do we mean? Let’s take each affected group at a high level and indicate what could be good or bad.

Buying Company

Potential Positive: New Technology

New technology offers the buying company a host of potential benefits including, but not limited to, new technology to sell its current customer base, new technology to bolt onto in a potentially new customer base, and process insights it did not have before.

Potential Negative: Dis-satisfied Customer Base

Expanding the customer base is not always a positive if the customers being acquired are not happy customers from the get-go. Even if the customers are happy, they might be unsettled by an acquisition …

Buying Company’s Customers

Potential Positive: New Technology

Not only does the buying company have new technology to sell, the existing customer base has new technology, that they might desperately need, to buy, and, moreover, they might also be able to buy at a discount because they are already spending with the vendor.

Potential Negative: Less Support

If the company acquired an unhappy customer base, all of the resources might be tasked with making the acquired customers happy because the company was acquired for those customers. This means that support for current customers would drop. And that’s not good.

Bought Company’s Customers

Potential Positive: Vendor has a bigger piggy bank

If the acquiring company has more resources, those could be spent improving the situation for the bought company’s customers. Better support, tech upgrades, more integrations, etc.

Potential Negative: Acquiring company is Mega-co

… and acquired company is mini-co, acquired only because it’s technology posed a future threat and mega-co decided the best risk mitigation was to buy mini-co when it was small and cheap with just a few customers as the acquisition cost dwarfed the potential losses to market share if mini-co succeeded in their efforts. In this case, Mega-co wouldn’t care at all about the customer base and could just ignore them completely.

Bought Company

Potential Positive: Bigger Piggy Bank

… which could be used to further the mission … but

Potential Negative: Lack of Support

… if the mission of the bought company does not match the mission of the buying company.

So what does this mean for Coupa, Trade Extensions, and their customers? the doctor knows you want to know, but the doctor will not provide his thoughts until the acquisition is complete.