What I learned after being acquired by a US company

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Choosing to head down the acquisition path can be one of the most exciting, yet difficult, decisions to make for a Canadian startup. Being acquired by a large multinational has its benefits, no doubt, including immediate access to new geographies and markets. But is the risk of being swallowed up by a big organization really what you want? It wasn’t for me.

When Goran Kimovski, Pankaj Agarwal, and I first co-founded TriNimbus, our goal was to be the biggest Amazon Web Services (AWS) partner in Canada and we lived and breathed the cloud. In fact, we like to say that TriNimbus grew up in Canada but was born in the cloud.

By going beyond a business valuation, we managed to find the right fit for our team and customers while all of a sudden, having access to a whole new market, doubling office space, and more.
 

People at AWS like to say “TriNimbus was AWS in Canada before we opened our doors there.” We were deeply focused on the opportunity for AWS in Canada, including educating internal and external stakeholders on what is possible on the cloud.

Our journey included expanding coast to coast, opening five offices, and launching 10 AWS community user groups to expand skills locally. We had developed talent and a unique culture, but didn’t want to lose them if and when TriNimbus was acquired. Finding the right fit was of utmost importance to us. And this past August, we found it with Onica, one of the fastest-growing AWS premier consulting and managed service partners in the US. Here’s what I learned from the experience.

Get the right fit

Believe it or not, a mutual love of Peri Peri sauce got the discussion going. We met with Onica executives at Nando’s for everyone’s favourite chicken dinner, and to get a meeting of minds before any lawyers and accountants got involved. In the business world, we often lose sight that we are people first and foremost. Making that human connection upfront helped us to understand each other’s positions and determine right from the get-go if there was a fit or not. To us, cultural fit was almost, if not, as important as the business valuation during the process.

From that initial discussion, it was clear that there was a natural fit here as both companies were aligned in so many ways. We shared key priorities such as a focus on AWS, growth and expansion, and complementing existing skill sets with new technologies such as machine learning.

Also, Onica is no newbie when it comes to successful acquisitions. By the time we were in talks, Onica had successfully integrated Sturdy Networks, and we knew they understood and had the experience to handle the pain points. And that was important to us, too.

Hold out for what’s right

Onica wasn’t the first company to come knocking on our door to discuss a possible acquisition. Yes, there were others, but ultimately there wasn’t a fit and that wasn’t what we wanted for TriNimbus or the employees and partners who helped us get where we are today. Plus, there’s lots of opportunity in the Canadian market and we wanted to be with a company that saw that potential. In the end, we chose Onica as much as they chose us.

With Onica, because there was no redundancy, today we still have the same people who were here from day one.

According to IDC Canada, the use of cloud computing in Canada is accelerating rapidly with adoption of public cloud expected to surpass 50 percent by 2019. So my advice is to hold out for what feels right to you, and avoid those who are going to swallow you, or at best, treat you like a separate business unit—unless of course, that’s what you want.

 
Also, look at who is backing the company you are in talks with. Is it a VC or an equity growth partner? For us, the latter was the right choice, and Onica with the backing of Sunstone Partners fit the bill here too.

Do what’s right

The culture at TriNimbus was very unique. I personally know and speak with every employee who was a part of that journey. Ensuring everyone still had a career with us after an acquisition was an important consideration, too. We knew that the right thing for us to do was to find a company that would value and use our team’s expertise and knowledge to complement skill sets.

With Onica, because there was no redundancy, today we still have the same people who were here from day one. They still do the same jobs they were hired for but now, they have exposure to big US companies and best practices from Onica.

While the name TriNimbus changes to Onica, its people and passion for the cloud remain. By going beyond a business valuation, we managed to find the right fit for our team and customers while all of a sudden, having access to a whole new market, doubling office space, and more. And our culture is flourishing as we integrate to combine knowledge, resources, and learnings.

Doing what’s right for your employees, partners, and customers could mean doing what’s right for you in the long run. That’s what I found out.

Photo via Unsplash.

Jarrod Levitan

Jarrod Levitan

Jarrod has been working in the technology industry for over 15 years. He is an experienced entrepreneur and enterprise application provider who applies technology through a practical business lens. When he is not electrifying the cloud, Jarrod enjoys long distance and open water swimming.