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July 2012

Marrying the Elephant – The Pro’s and Con’s of Playing Hard to Get

So you’ve had a few dates with the elephant – and the elephant wants to get serious with you.  What you have (whether IP, industry knowledge, technology expertise or vision) is very attractive to the elephant – and the elephant has developed their vision on how you can help them grow their existing business or break into a new market.Resisting

 Just like real people dating, you may be considering holding off embracing the elephant – playing hard to get – whether because you are unsure you really want to get married (are having second thoughts) or you are just angling for a larger dowry.

Two key points to consider is what the elephant views as “alternatives” – such as your competitors or developing in house – and who the elephant “feels” about you and your management team.  The former is all about the data – evaluating the costs of the different alternatives and the lost revenue opportunity due to delays from pursuing alternatives – and the latter is all about the difficulties that create real and substantial costs when getting in a relationship with a “difficult” management team.

For alternatives, you really need to know, and objectively evaluate, what the elephant’s alternatives are – and what the elephant believes the alternatives mean (not what you believe the alternatives mean).  Do you have competitors with comparable technology and expertise the elephant can readily start talking with?  Do you have technology and expertise that the elephant – given time – cannot readily develop internally – and is your view on this the same view the elephant is likely to have?  You need to be very good at introspection – or have an objective outside view - to really gauge the risk you take of the elephant pursuing alternatives if you play hard to get.

How key executives within the elephant “feel” about you is much harder to manage and foresee. A few words at the wrong time with the wrong person can create a naysayer within the elephant creating doubt that results in the elephant looking elsewhere.  Is some or your management team less emphatic, abrasive, or downright volatile?  How do you manage them during a due diligence process with the elephant?

Recall a prior post where I talked about the downside of an aborted marriage – where the elephant looks elsewhere – and then becomes your largest competitor.  Playing hard to get can – and does at times – result in a great opportunity to reap financial rewards turning into a nightmare (recall Yahoo turning down Microsoft’s $33 per share offer). Green Buffalo Down Wind DH

It’s always comes off a bit crass, and less a technology industry saying then wall street, but it’s still very true – “ pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered”.


I am soon off on five weeks’ vacation – on a boat where I am totally disconnected from the net.  That said, this post was on a delayed trigger, so I have already been gone for two weeks – and will be back in just another three weeks.  There is also some chance I’ll write another post in the next few days before I get on the boat so there will be just a two week gap in my postings.  Time will tell.  So see you (virtually) in early August – when I hope to cover the next chapter in Marrying the Elephant – “The Wedding”.

Elephants, Revolutions, and Innovation

I was talking to one of my team the other day about a presentation they were going to give to several Autodesk partners.  The presentation was about a few new Autodesk Cloud technologies that are creating new opportunities for partners to leverage Autodesk technology in very different ways then in the past with our desktop platforms.  All goodness – a typical day for one of my team members – evangelizing Autodesk technology to innovators and entrepreneurs.

 But then came the “what!?”

When talking to partners about Autodesk technology we also usually give some guidance on where we are headed in the future – so partners can invest “appropriately” having some idea where Autodesk is headed – so they can make an informed decision if they want to invest in front of (risking getting stepped on but also where the largest opportunities may be - and then there is always that M&A possibility) or beside Autodesk.  My team member had created a presentation on where Autodesk was headed – including recommendations on where they shouldn’t invest because “Autodesk was doing that”. 

This got my attention.Evolution

It assumes Autodesk is omniscient – we know exactly what customers want now and in the future.  And assumes we know everything Autodesk is going to develop over the next few years.  Of course this is just not true.  No one has a crystal ball.  None of us knows exactly what customers will want and need – and none of us knows what the next big thing will be (or when there will be a next big thing).  We all do our best and make educated decisions and investments – but there is always uncertainty.

So I told my staff member – and most of my staff – we need to be careful not to fall into this “trap” of thinking because we are a major presence in our industry, we have some sort of “special ability” to foresee the future.  In an evolutionary environment, where most improvements in technology are incremental, it’s easy to start believing one does know the future.

But that is not today.Revolution 

Cloud and Mobile technology has us all in a revolutionary disruptive environment.  Uncertainty is high. Innovation is high.  This is a time recommending what someone else should not do – as if one really knows the future – is just plain silly if not hubris.

So what does this mean to an innovator that is considering dancing with the elephant?  In a disruptive technology environment, you are most valuable to the elephant.  You have the most value – and leverage – with elephants when technology changes are revolutionary – not just evolutionary. 

So what condition are your business and software development plans in - to leverage Cloud and Mobile technologies?  Are you positioning your business (whether existing or about to start-up) to have maximum value to your partners – the elephants?

Next week…

Back to our “Marrying the Elephant” thread with “The Pro’s and Con’s of Playing Hard to Get”.