Everyone has been obsessed this week with Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp for a stupendous $19 billion.
When someone is buying Massachusetts companies for a price tag that ends in a “B,” it tends to be an enterprise technology company like Oracle — not one of the big Silicon Valley search or social giants. In recent years, Dell picked up EqualLogic for $1.4 billion, and Oracle bought two local companies, Endeca and Acme Packet, for $1.1 billion and $2.1 billion, respectively. We’ve also seen a handful of billion-dollar life sciences acquisitions, as when Japanese purchasers bought Millennium Pharmaceuticals ($8.8 billion) and Boston Biomedical ($2.6 billion.)
Our last local acquisition in the WhatsApp ballpark? When drug developer Genzyme was sold to Sanofi Aventis for $20 billion, plus performance bonuses. But Genzyme had 10,000 employees and $4.5 billion in revenue. (WhatsApp has 55 employees and undisclosed revenues.)
Here’s an interview I did with one entrepreneur who joined the billion-dollar club in 2011, Endeca founder Steve Papa. Endeca initially built software to help users find what they were looking for on e-commerce websites, and later business intelligence software to help companies analyze their operations. We talked about Papa’s upbringing in the Catskills; what made him feel like he could be an entrepreneur; hiring his first few employees; and building Endeca into a multi-national company. It was recorded at the TEDxBeaconStreet conference last November, and it runs about 15 minutes.
Papa has a great sense of humor, and some wonderful perspective on the entrepreneurial mindset. One quote I love:
“Building a startup company is a combination of profound creativity and insight in one sense, and profound ignorance in another sense. People will say, if they knew then what they know now, they probably wouldn’t have done it. Are you one to focus on what’s possible, versus what could go wrong? An entrepreneur, 99 percent of their thinking is on what’s possible.”
(In the interview, we also talk a bit about the story of Puffer the Pufferfish, Endeca’s mascot.)
Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
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