If you do it right, an exit strategy can really be an entrance - the beginning of a new phase of growth and success. In September 2016, we sold Movidius, founded over twelve years ago, to Intel. It's been a win-win: Intel are already improving their products with our chip-set, and we're excited to see our technology scale up and realize its possibilities.
This successful exit has opened up powerful opportunities for our business. So how did we do it? These 3 lessons I learned can help you in building your company to sell to the best.
1) Have vision - and be ready to adapt that vision
The iPhone didn't exist yet when we started out. We started with an idea that our vision-processing chips would eventually be important to the technology industry. But when we began, the market for our technology simply didn't exist.
The lesson here is to think ahead of the market, and be willing to adapt your company's vision to where the technology was going. While you are hard at work, trying to make your product it can possibly be, make sure to keep one eye on the wider landscape and where your products and services might fit in - now and in future. Unforeseen uses for your product can also come from collaborations, mergers and acquisitions. In our original vision, we never imagined our chips driving drones or a USB neural compute stick, but combining with Intel brought our technology to new places. Staying open to the visions of others on the changing tech landscape can help your company advance beyond what you thought possible.
2) It's about your company, not about you
We brought the business through good times and rough times, but around the time the Intel deal came around, we were in a position where we had proven the product and market fit, the technology was ready and we were starting to scale up. Any founder would find it hard to lose control of their company at such a promising stage. You must ask yourself some hard questions: is your ambition to see your company achieve its fullest potential, or to boost our own ego? Good leaders need to know when it's time to let go. Seek exits and other collaborations that will give you the resources and vision to scale up aggressively, and push your technology or products in the marketplace.
3) Don't underestimate your importance post-exit
Selling your company is the beginning, not the end. In a large acquisition, companies like Intel want to make sure they maximize the value of the technology they've bought, so they'll usually try very hard to retain core team members. See selling as the beginning of your new role, and understand that you have a responsibility to make sure the transition goes well. Selling to a major company can give you the resources you need to have huge impact. But to really dominate the market, you will need to combine big company backing with the driven, start-up mentality and eagerness to invent that got you there in the first place. Post-acquisition is the time to put in more effort than ever - and yourself and your team need to be ready for the challenge.