Integrating a newly acquired startup into your company

Brian Zotter

Head of Product Engineering at Medium



"When I was leading the Work.com platform team at Salesforce, which was based in San Francisco, we acquired a small startup called Rypple, which was based in Toronto. When we started working together, the staff from Rypple became naturally frustrated as they felt that Salesforce, as a big company, was trying to force them to use all of our processes. They were reluctant to do this because as a startup they were focused on moving quickly and finding product market fit. The engineers from Salesforce side were equally frustrated, as they viewed Rypple's engineers as cowboys who didn't respect the rules and processes that Salesforce had that were optimized for quality and stability."

Actions taken

"To help resolve these conflicts, we started traveling a lot. I personally started traveling at least one week per month when we closed the acquisition. In addition, we brought the Rypple team to our headquarters for a week and we sent a bunch of the team to Toronto. Then we were sure to either send Rypple's engineers to San Francisco or Salesforce's engineers to Toronto for our release planning process, which was once every 4 months.
We also decided to use Salesforce's Scrum teams as a way to integrate the two cultures. We decided to have teams cross-pollinate and to be fully remote, with engineers from both Toronto and San Francisco. This meant that all of meetings would be held through video conferencing. This helped prevent the "us" versus "them" mentality from developing, as engineers were forced to work together as part of the same team."

Lessons learned

"Ensure the acquiring team really understands all the reasons for the acquisition. Companies are acquired for many reasons, like for the technology and customer base. But in a lot of cases it's also for the team and the culture. Rypple's fast moving culture was very appealing to us and we wanted to inject some of those values into our culture. On the flip side make sure the to be acquired company understands the culture its walking into. Clearly set expectations that the culture is different and there will be some tensions to work through after the honeymoon phase. As with a lot of organization problems it comes down to communication, setting clear expectations and lots of face to face time to really understand each other perspectives."

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Brian Zotter

Head of Product Engineering at Medium

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