Stop Selling Your Damn Startups

PublishedSeptember 17 2022

With the recent news of Adobe consuming its staunchest rival, Figma, I am once again left in shock and awe at the truly short-sighted and innovation-destroying nature of the modern startup economy.

I have struggled to come to terms with the death of startup-led disruption in recent times. A startup is a risk, an idea, and a fresh perspective; a startup is the free market working correctly in pushing innovation forward and preventing stagnation.

We live in an era saturated with startups in practically every market, and yet we still suffer through ever-increasing monopolisation and fairly extreme stagnation in most business-adjacent technology. Why? How? What has taken us here?

Short-sighted greed.

Take a look at Figma: they were crushing the market. Big tech, small tech, indepedent designers – Figma was an unmitigated force in the design industry, finally providing a cross-platform and powerful answer to a market largely dominated by a stagnant incumbent: Adobe.

But when Adobe knocks on your door with a wheelbarrow full of cash, it’s seen as an “opportunity.” What opportunity would that be? What sort of “opportunity” is it to give up when you’re winning?

A wheelbarrow full of cash, especially in the arms of an enemy, is an admission of defeat – an act of desperation. If someone offers you twenty billion US dollars for your company, it means you are worth multiples of that sum. It means someone, somewhere, did a calculation and figured out that USD$20B was an acceptable short-term loss. They’re thinking of the long term, why aren’t you?

Five years from now, would anyone have though of Adobe® Photoshop® or Adobe® XD® when they needed to mock up a new UI project? Absolutely not. They would have reached for Figma.

Figma could have become a multi-billion dollar independent company, and dominated the market, but they instead chose suicide by acquisiton.

The key point everyone should take from Figma’s untimely demise in the hands of its competitor: you’re worth significantly more than some fearful executive can pen in a deal; they told you as much by offering to acquire you.

A wheelbarrow of cash isn’t an “opportunity,” it’s confirmation that your idea has merit and can succeed far beyond where it is today.

Don’t sell your startup.

Especially you, Sketch.