Some people seem to think that getting acquired should be the highest aspiration for an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. I disagree vehemently.
In fact, I think that mindset does a disservice to the entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and around the world. This is exactly the wrong way to think about building a start-up not only because it develops the wrong company culture, but on a large scale it can poison the unique and innovative ecosystem that has developed in Silicon Valley over the past 40 years.
You want missionaries, not mercenaries –passionate, maniacally-focused founders who believe in a vision. Founders like this draw the most gifted and passionate employees, who maximize the chance of success, even if they ultimately fall short of their initial goals and get acquired.
There are of course mercenaries and people setting up for “acqui-hires” in the valley as well, but that is not what Silicon Valley’s special sauce is about.
In my view, it’s irreverence, foolish confidence and naivety combined with persistence, open mindedness and a continual ability to learn that created Facebook, Google, Yahoo, eBay, Microsoft, Apple, Juniper, AOL, Sun Microsystems and others.
Having a vision does not prevent you from being acquired, but starting a company to “do a deal” is not what Silicon Valley culture is about even if most companies that have a successful exit are acquired. An acquisition may be a safety net, a way to free yourself or learn to pursue another bigger or more interesting vision, but those are tools rather than goals of the true Silicon Valley entrepreneurs I have seen. (When I say Silicon Valley, I mean it how my Kleiner partner John Doerr meant it when he used to say “Silicon Valley is not a place but a state of mind.”)