Back in 1999, the mantra for start-ups was “pre–IPO.” Today, it could well be “pre-Google acquisition.” The days of starting a company and going public nine months later are over, but the same cannot be said for getting acquired by Google. YouTube and FeedBurner are two recent examples of young companies with little to no revenue getting plucked by Google for big bucks.
In the event that you are thinking about starting the next big Google acquisition, here’s a few hints on how to make it happen:
1. Create a competitive advantage through technology. Google loves to “solve problems pragmatically” so if your company uses cool technology to separate you from your competitors, Google will like you.
Examples: Keyhole (Google Earth), JotSpot (Web-based applications), Peakstream (parallel processing), and dozens of other technologies I am too dumb to comprehend.
2. Automate a previously un-automated marketing channel. Google loves bringing the automated auction model to non-search marketing channels. Find a previously offline channel, or a highly inefficient channel, that could use a 21st century shot-in-the-arm and build technology to level the playing field.
Examples: dMarc Communication (radio advertising), DoubleClick (banner advertising), Applied Semantics (content networks and domain parks). Future predictions: SpotRunner (TV ads), AdKnowledge (email).
3. Generate a lot of eyeballs ripe for monetization. OK, so we are still sort of in the 1990s apparently. Google needs new page views for its advertising. Create a really sticky site that will guarantee Google millions of impressions a day (preferably with a good demographic group like 18-35 year olds), and Google may help you buy your dream house in Atherton.
Examples: YouTube (video), Pyra (blogging), Baidu (Chinese portal, investment), AOL (portal, investment), Dodgeball (social networking).
4. Create technology that can add value to AdWords. Anything that can put AdWords ahead of its competitors is pure gold to Google. A lot of the acquisitions already mentioned have implicit value to AdWords, but since they aren’t directly correlated, I included them elsewhere.
Examples: Sprinks (user interface for keyword advertising), Urchin (Web analytics), AdScape (in-game advertising), Feedburner (RSS feeds).
5. Be wanted by Microsoft. A little interest from Google’s arch-nemesis will always help add a few dollars to your price tag. Note: if you can’t attract interest from Microsoft, at least try to copy some of their technology.
Examples: YouTube (Microsoft acquisition attempt), AOL (Microsoft acquisition attempt), DoubleClick (Microsoft acquisition attempt), Upstartle (Microsoft Word), Writely (Microsoft Excel).
So there you have it – five fool-proof ways to make billions being acquired by Google. Just don’t forget about me when you make it big time.