After acquisition, will founders stay or will they go?

–Scott Kirsner

What happens to talented employees after a big acquisition like Zipcar’s by Avis? Do they move on to their next adventure or stick around? Bijan Sabet, a general partner at Spark Capital, has been on both sides.

“The desires that entrepreneurs have to start their own company is just a thing they’ve got,’’ he said. “If their company gets acquired, that desire doesn’t go away. But there are people who at a new company, if they feel like if they can thrive and get support, they stay.’’

He pointed to Dan Porter, chief executive of OMGPop, which he invested in. A year after that company’s acquisition by Zynga, Porter stays on, currently as Zynga’s general manager in New York and vice president of mobile.


Sabet said that what determines whether founders stick around is when the acquisition is truly strategic, and when the founders are given ample room to lead these strategic initiatives.

But often times, the culture shift is just too much, and despite retention incentives, founders and early talented employees move on.

Or sometimes it’s the mothership that changes its mind.

Zynga purchased Conduit Labs in 2010, turning the start-up into its Boston offices, only to shutter those offices last year as the parent company faced trouble finding continued growth and revenue.

“When Conduit Labs was sold to Zynga, they started hiring like crazy out here, and then they shut down,’’ Sabet said. “Other times we see companies commit here and then continue to commit.’’

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