Microsoft announced on Monday that it was buying the software development platform GitHub for $7.5 billion worth of Microsoft stock in a deal expected to close later this year:
GitHub will retain its developer-first ethos and will operate independently to provide an open platform for all developers in all industries. Developers will continue to be able to use the programming languages, tools and operating systems of their choice for their projects — and will still be able to deploy their code to any operating system, any cloud and any device. Microsoft Corporate Vice President Nat Friedman, founder of Xamarin and an open source veteran, will assume the role of GitHub CEO. GitHub’s current CEO, Chris Wanstrath, will become a Microsoft technical fellow, reporting to Executive Vice President Scott Guthrie, to work on strategic software initiatives.
Ten-year-old GitHub, based in San Francisco, is widely used among software developers to share and collaborate on code. In earlier years, Bloomberg’s Dina Bass and Eric Newcomer note, Microsoft leaders were hostile toward open-source projects like those being shared on GitHub, with co-founder Bill Gates and former CEO Steve Ballmer encouraging developers to build proprietary software for their company. Current CEO Satya Nadella has taken a notably more positive line on open source, making GitHub a more natural addition to the way the software giant currently operates. In that context, Tom Warren writes at the Verge, “it’s easy to imagine why Microsoft would want to acquire GitHub”:
Microsoft killed its own GitHub competitor, Codeplex, in December and is now the top contributor to GitHub, Microsoft now has more than 1,000 employees actively pushing code to GitHub repositories. Its popularity among developers could see Microsoft earn some much-needed trust and respect from developers. In bigger enterprises and slower moving businesses, the fact Microsoft has acquired GitHub will make it more trusted to use for projects and source control, simply because Microsoft is already trusted across many software and services by these companies.
In a blog post discussing the acquisition, Nadella insists the move is all about empowering developers:
Whole Foods Under Amazon is a fascinating recent case study (conducted by Harvard Business School professors Dennis Campbell and Tatiana Sandino and co-written with James Barnett and Christine Snively) which considers the cultural challenges inherent in the acquisition the e-commerce giant agreed with the high-end supermarket chain last year. Historically, the two companies had very different approaches to business, the authors tell Michael Blanding at HBS Working Knowledge, with Amazon focused on driving costs down through data-driven supply chain efficiency and Whole Foods’ decentralized model, in contrast, allowing for a distinctive personal touch from store to store, which in turn justified a higher price point. In the case study, based on secondhand reports in the media of how the acquisition is working out, Campbell and Sandino speculate on how culture clash could be making the integration of these companies more challenging:
The question that Campbell and Sandino ask in their case is: Given the pressures Amazon was facing to turn around Whole Foods’ slide, should they have approached the acquisition differently? While there are no easy answers, Campbell says that part of the issue is realizing the limits of standardization, even for a company that has perfected data-driven management.
“It’s not totally clear that data will be a perfect substitute for human judgment,” he says. “That might work in a digital platform, where you have tons of data on customer history you can use to drive a recommendation engine, but in a store environment, there is a lot of learning that takes place from employees interacting with customers that can be very localized and specific.”
Whole Foods is still in its early days as an Amazon property, so it’s too soon to say with any certainty how prepared Amazon was for this culture conflict and how well they are handling it, especially without having an inside view of the acquisition. However, we do know from our research at CEB, now Gartner, that culture fit is a huge concern for CEOs when thinking about mergers and acquisitions and discussing the topic with investors. Our research shows that 20 percent of the time, when CEOs bring up culture on earnings calls, they are doing so in the context of M&A. CEOs leading through M&A are increasingly under pressure to provide details on how they are integrating two distinct cultures to satisfy investors’ concerns. (CEB Corporate Leadership Council Members can learn more in our Inside View on Discussing Corporate Culture with the Street.)
In the latest of this year’s big waves in recruiting technology, the Japanese HR conglomerate Recruit Holdings has finalized a deal to acquire the recruiting, job review, and salary transparency site Glassdoor for $1.2 billion, GeekWire’s Taylor Soper reported on Tuesday night:
Glassdoor, founded in 2008, will remain a “distinct and separate part” of Recruit Holdings’ HR technology business segment. The Tokyo-based company has more than 45,000 employees; its last big acquisition was swooping up jobs site Indeed in 2012. The all-cash deal is subject to regulatory approval, expected this summer.
CEO Robert Hohman will continue to lead the company. The acquisition is in line with Glassdoor’s longstanding vision of becoming a world-leading recruiting platform, Soper notes, pointing to remarks co-founder Rich Barton made at a Zillow event in 2014:
“Our BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) for Glassdoor is to become the largest recruiting company in the world, to help everyone find a job and company they love, to become ‘TripAdvisor for employment,’” he said in 2014. ” … This is a revolution in the jobs industry. One day we will become the most important company, the most important marketplace, in recruiting.”
Recruit being the owner of Indeed (as well as SimplyHired, another major job search site), it is natural to speculate that it might combine these massive properties into an even larger online recruiting behemoth. Hisayuki Idekoba, Recruit’s chief operating officer, says there are no plans to integrate Glassdoor and Indeed, but they may partner on “specific challenges,” Bloomberg’s Alex Barinka adds.
The Swiss staffing company Adecco has made a deal to acquire the New York-based coding bootcamp and education technology startup General Assembly for $413 million, Axios’s Dan Primack reported on Monday. The acquisition reflects the evolution of GA’s business, which is increasingly focused on enterprise customers rather than individuals:
A majority of GA’s revenue by year-end is expected to be business-to-business, whereas it was only 15% two years ago. Most of that is in terms of re-skilling workers, including a “talent pipeline as-a-service” business whereby GA acts not only as a recruiter, but also as a trainer (with hiring companies paying the freight).
GA will continue to operate as an independent division under the umbrella of Adecco Group, co-founder and CEO Jake Schwartz said in a statement. Schwartz will remain at the helm of the company, reporting to Sergio Picarelli on Adecco’s executive committee, Jonathan Shieber adds at TechCrunch.
Joining the European conglomerate is “not an ignominious outcome for General Assembly,” Shieber comments, “but not the exit that many in the New York tech ecosystem had hoped for”:
Last Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Walmart was in talks to acquire the health insurance company Humana, currently valued at around $37 billion, raising the prospect of another merger with transformative implications for the benefits industry. Both companies are keeping mum about the possible deal, though Bloomberg heard from a person familiar with the talks that the most likely outcome was a closer partnership between the retailer and the insurer, which already collaborate on providing prescription drugs for US senior citizens insured through Medicare (Humana is the second-largest provider of government-supported private Medicare Advantage plans in the US).
Either way, a closer partnership between these giants could have some major implications for the US health insurance market, especially in combination with the other changes that are going on. The pharmacy chain CVS announced in December that it had agreed to purchase the insurer Aetna for $69 billion as part of an effort to transform its 9,700 retail drug stores into “health care supermarkets” complete with wellness clinics for preventive care (That merger was approved by shareholders last month but has yet to pass muster with antitrust regulators in the Justice Department).
A similar move by Walmart would be groundbreaking, given the big-box retailer’s massive presence throughout the US. Even a deal to provide health care for Walmart’s 1.5 million US employees would be significant. Walmart becoming a health care provider would make a big difference, Tracy Watts, senior partner at Mercer, tells Employee Benefit News reporter Kathryn Mayer:
“I would think whatever happens with the deal, Walmart would leverage its relationship with Humana to provide primary care or extend convenience care to its employees in addition to the general public,” Watts says. She also predicts the retailer will leverage its onsite care locations to provide a convenient, cost-effective way for employees and others to receive basic treatments. “For employees to get healthcare from Walmart in those rural locations can be a really good thing,” she says.
From our research at CEB, now Gartner, we know that most mergers and acquisitions are not clear successes. As with other forms of major enterprise change, there are many possible reasons why two companies might fail to integrate: culture clash, product mix-ups, stalled growth, complex technology integrations, and so on. According to INSEAD professor Quy Huy, another reason M&A can fail is because the communication plan is overly positive and too frequently impersonal.
Huy believes that part of the problem is what he calls the “trap of professionalism,” a symptom of modern corporate culture in which negative feelings are suppressed and politeness is overvalued relative to raising constructive tensions that can improve ideas. Additionally, once disagreements bubble to the surface, the response is often more rosy messaging rather than straightforward attempts to discuss and address any issues.
Huy discovered how this dynamic of productive disagreement plays out in the context of M&A by interviewing 73 managers across both organizations involved in an acquisition. At first, both sides were excited by the possibilities of their merger. The acquirer saw value in gaining specialized expertise within its walls and the acquired company was excited about having the resources to take on more ambitious projects. But tension quickly arose, initially due to differences in the philosophy of each organization’s sales strategy, and later due to challenges in IT integration.
The issue wasn’t that these tensions existed, but that they were never discussed or addressed.
While coastal cities like San Francisco, Seattle, and now Boston have gotten a lot of attention for their explosive growth driven by the tech industry, a different kind of tech job is emerging in the manufacturing powerhouses of the Midwest that were once the heart of industry in the US and the key to the country’s unprecedented prosperity. Quartz’s Michael J. Coren defines these “mid-tech” jobs, which are springing up in Midwest cities such as Columbus, Indianapolis, Detroit, and St. Louis, as “skilled tech work that doesn’t require a college degree: just intense, focused training on the job or in vocational programs like those of blue-collar trades of the industrial past.”
Also known as “middle skill” jobs, these opportunities are popping up as a result of the massive expansion of high-tech products and services and savvy companies taking advantage of labor and office costs much lower than in their coastal outposts. Coren points to several examples of mid-tech development in the region, including a program set up in Kentucky by software firm Interapt that trains coal miners and workers with “technical aptitude” to become software developers, and Ai-Media, a company contracted to caption Facebook’s live streams that opened up an operation in Youngstown, Ohio last year.
“The modern factory job is a mid-tech job,” Patrick McKenna, a San Francisco-based entrepreneur and venture capitalist who helped broker the Ai-Media deal, told Coren.
The Midwest’s startups have also gained attention from venture capitalists, particularly after acquisitions like McKesson’s recent purchase of the Ohio-based company CoverMyMeds for a $1.1 billion. Overall, 2017 was a banner year for the region’s startups, with 37 Midwest-based startup companies exiting for a total value of $5.1 billion, according to VentureBeat.