By Kyle Strickland
Silicon Valley, with its multitudinous startups that make VC’s mouths water, is a breeding ground of cannibals. As Radiohead’s Thom Yorke might put it, “the big fish eat the little ones,” with large companies throwing down their cash weight to gobble up the competition or buy their way into new markets.
Last Friday it was announced that NICE Systems had acquired my current company, Merced Systems (unfortunately they won’t be renaming the new entity MICE Systems, to my dismay). I knew the announcement was coming up on that Friday because of a fellow employee’s intuition and smart snooping, but I had been planning on being in Park City for my dad’s birthday for a while and didn’t feel like sticking around for the shit-show that would undoubtedly ensue. I’ve been at companies when big news like this emerged, and I know an emotional and awkward atmosphere is inevitable. For instance, I was at HP when Mark Hurd, CEO at the time, resigned over a scandal with a humongous severance package (#goldenparachute) and saw the outrage in employees who have spent scores of their lifetime with HP. No work was done that day; all eyes were on the news and how it affected them.
The acquisition decision is very strategic and great for both companies, that much is true. In fact, my dad has been pushing both companies to do so for some time, since he is an independent IT consultant to both. But the news isn’t nearly as great for the people, many of whom lost their jobs as a result. Entire departments were let go instantaneously and are still expected to report for one more month. People who have been with the company for six years are gone, and few are happy about it.
During an acquisition, it is normal for only about one-third of the staff to remain through the merger. It is a trying period to survive with so much up in the air about new management structures, pay increases/decreases, job security and even job location. NICE, for instance, is headquartered in Israel. Who’s to guarantee you won’t have to move internationally to keep your job? Nobody.
For the people who have been let go, they depart only with a small stock payout and an even smaller severance. Acquisitions are great for the people that start the companies because they have large stakes in the company at a very small price; but if you just joined three years prior and have minimal stock options, you’re not about to see much of a profit from the merger. The original members are ready to retire, while others scrape together only a couple thousand to hold them over to their next job. It’s unfair, but timing and luck are everything if you want to get that big payday in the risky game of startups.
NICE is coming into the office daily now, and it will gradually impose its will and vision on the employees until they flee or succumb to the new way of life. The new reign means new everything, and it almost makes sense to get a new job where the headaches of uncertainty, changing management and possible relocation won’t follow.
For me, I am in a similar position as most. Lots of uncertainty enshrouds my job’s future, but it seems like I am in one of the few positions that our new parent company wishes to really hold on to and develop. We will soon see if they can offer me up something really NICE to keep me on board through this mess.