Grabbing a Bottle Rocket-Making Techquisition Work
Tech companies spent more than $100 billion on acquisitions in 2010, often to create a bottle-rocket effect of fast growth, yet industry leaders estimate 70-90 percent of tech acquisitions fail. A “techquisition” lives or dies by its own set of rules – a mix of financial and cultural, along with a business boost, but rarely in equal parts. Two Austin companies – HomeAway and WhaleShark Media – were inquisitive before they were acquisitive. The companies set out on a deliberate course with each acquisition, to avoid ending up grasping at the tail of a bottle rocket so their propulsion forward was without a loss of control.
In six years, HomeAway navigated 18 acquisitions, with huge successes and a lot of lessons learned. Across town, WhaleShark brought aboard more than eight companies into its portfolio of online coupon websites in two years. In this session, HomeAway and WhaleShark pull back the curtain and give insider advice on how to keep control of a potential bottle rocket.
Shepherd co-founded HomeAway with CEO Brian Sharples and oversees the company's worldwide corporate development efforts including mergers, acquisitions and key partnerships.
For six years, Shepherd served as the chief operating officer of Hoover’s Online. Under his management, the business developed into a leading source for business information online, culminating in an IPO in 1999 and the eventual sale of the company to Dun & Bradstreet in March 2003.
His career began as a consultant, working for what is now Accenture and establishing a practice based in the advertising industry. He served as chief financial officer of magazine publishers Texas Monthly, Inc. and Hanley-Wood, Inc. Shepherd holds a bachelor of arts degree in business administration from Texas Christian University and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.
Cotter Cunningham is the founder, president and CEO of WhaleShark Media, the world's largest online coupon and deals marketplace. Founded in 2009, WhaleShark has 330 employees with offices in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and France. In 2012, the company facilitated an estimated $2.5 billion in merchant sales. WhaleShark’s portfolio includes RetailMeNot.com and VoucherCodes.co.uk – the largest online coupon sites in the United States and United Kingdom, respectively. The company has raised approximately $300 million from investors including Austin Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Adams Street Partners, Institutional Venture Partners, JP Morgan and Google Ventures.
Prior to WhaleShark, Cotter was the COO of Bankrate Inc. (NYSE: RATE) for seven years, taking the company public and growing its revenues eight-fold. Cotter also was an executive with interactive agency VML and H&R Block, where he worked primarily with its CompuServe subsidiary. He wrote the book Your Financial Action Plan: 12 Simple Steps to Achieve Money Success. He has an MBA from Vanderbilt University and lives in Austin, Texas.