Is an exit always a success?

Martin Bryant, over at The Next Web picked up on this story that first ran on TechCrunch a US startup buying a UK-based rival. What worries me about this is that we are hailing an exit, any exit, as a success. But is it? Is selling out to your rival something that we should praise?

  1. This was Martin’s piece, and his tweet.
  2. Cupple’s acquisition by its US rival is a shining example of how UK startups can succeed outside London tnw.to/h0bPO
  3. Steve O’Hear at TC, not the journalist behind the original piece, picked up Martin’s tweet:
  4. @MartinSFP Really? An exit to a competitor for an undisclosed sum.
  5. And I just butted in …
  6. @sohear @MartinSFP I am with you Steve. Should we count being bought by a rival as a good? Wouldn’t the other way round be better?
  7. @benjrooney @sohear Of course that would be *more* of a success, but people need to see acquisition deals are possible in their city.
  8. @sohear @benjrooney Just as happiness is relative, success it relative. It’s an inspiring story for the Newcastle community.
  9. In Martin’s piece he wrote:
    “In Silicon Valley, an early exit to a similarly-sized competitor wouldn’t necessarily be seen as a success, but in the north of England, stories like this can be really encouraging to the wider community. They show that you can have an exit you’re happy with while being based somewhere like Newcastle. The Cupple story will no doubt go on to be a case study for startups in the north of England.”
    This troubled me. Why should an exit in Newcastle be held to a different standard? Are we not, literally, selling ourselves short? 
  10. @MartinSFP @sohear Good enough for Newcastle? Shouldn’t we be aiming much higher?
  11. @benjrooney @sohear An exit like this is part of a mix of activity that makes for a healthy community. As I say in the piece, it’s not ‘big’

I don’t want to look like I am attacking a fellow journalist for a piece he wrote and I didn’t. I also don’t begrudge the entrepreneurs for selling — well done them for exiting, and let’s hope their next company smashes it.

But what troubles me about this whole story is the idea that we should praise a startup for exiting, no matter what the nature of the exit is.

It reminds me of that great line, whoever said it, “Congratulating an entrepreneur for raising money is like congratulating a chef for buying the ingredients.”

Martin is right that an exit will inspire others, but will it just inspire others to early money? Wouldn’t it be better to inspire others not to take the money? Wouldn’t that be more inspirational and better for the whole ecosystem?

One thought on “Is an exit always a success?

  1. Pingback: Salesforce.com acquires & kills the French ECM Entropysoft • Rude Baguette

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