Sunday, August 12, 2012

In a BLiNQ deal, Martore's big challenge ahead: would founder Williams stay on board post-deal?

Entrepreneurs launch companies because they've got a burning desire to do something better than anyone else. Really successful ones are charismatic enough to persuade other people -- smart employees, early investors, customers -- to buy into their idea.

But perhaps above all else, they're risk-takers who don't have patience for the slow-mo pace of stodgy corporate bureaucracies. That makes them a difficult fit in corporations that acquire their companies when they're ready to cash in their idea. Inevitably, they leave because they don't want to be bossed around by execs at the acquiring company, and would rather launch another start-up.

Just consider Dave Williams, the CEO of BLiNQ, a social media advertising start-up Gannett is reportedly now buying for up to $92 million. Before founding BLiNQ four years ago, he was co-founder and chief strategist for 360i, a search marketing firm. He's an early investor and director at two other technology start-ups; was a partner in a venture-capital firm, and a co-founder and advisor to several other start-ups.

All this came after only a brief stint early in his career as a CPA at PriceWaterHouse, where he worked less than three years in the mid-1990s. So much for traditional Corporate America.

In his spare time, Williams likes adventure travel and extreme sports. Recent adventures, according to his BLiNQ bio, included hiking Mount Kilimanjaro, exploring the Galapagos Islands, trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc, Snowboarding in Whistler, biking through Vietnam, and running in the New York City Marathon and the Xterra National Trail Running Championship.

Among BLiNQ's other 12 top executives, you see plenty of former founders and employees who've hopped from one technology start-up to another.

One of the reasons companies like Gannett buy start-ups is to harness this kind of entrepreneurial spirit in hopes of spreading it across the corporation. They want these smart, driven people to stay. Perhaps CEO Gracia Martore -- a GCI lifer since 1985 -- will find a way to keep Williams & Co. if, indeed, she follows through on what would be a huge financial bet.

But if Martore does, she'll have accomplished something that few corporate chieftains have done before.

[Photo: AllFacebook]


  1. Two words: Golden Handcuffs.

    Or, if you stay you can have a month to dance with the polar bears on the north pole. That might work too.

  2. Big companies have a history of writing down acquisitions a few years later. They just don't know how to deal with the newbies. Or they totally misunderstand what they bought, and it withers.

    HP just wrote down $8 BILLION of a $13 BILLION purchase of EDS. Took all of five years for them to burn $8 billion of equity.

    News Corp paid a few hundred million for MySpace, and recently sold it for pocket change.

    On the other hand, Steve Jobs made billions with technology that Xerox and George Lucas couldn't bother to exploit.

    At least it's only $92 million. And as long as they paid in stock, it's not real money anyway. They DID pay in stock, didn't they? Of course, if the BLiNQ people took Gannett stock . . .


    Yes, there's usually a clause that requires the top folks to stay a few years.

    Which, of course, can be shortened, in a NYC moment, for a variety of reasons (new CEO, no results, boring work).

  4. I am really not sure why we would purchase this company. Perhaps for an existing portfolio of clients?? Other than that, BLINQ seems to have a very basic concept of advertising on mobile devices. Advertising via mobile devices should be easy enough with Gannett's current resources. It's a somewhat expensive aquistion, for that type of product.. MUST be for the BLINQ's existing client portfolio. HOPE SO!
    Because that type of adverting could be done, in-house, for pennies on the dollar.

    Thumbs down. A poor use of resources, and a complete lack of imagination on the part of Gannett.

  5. THINK

    " .. Other than that, BLINQ seems to have a very basic concept of advertising on mobile devices .."

    How much programming for mobile devices have you done? Do you have any idea, how complex the "basic" is?

    Glad to see, the CEO's office is posting here. /deep sarcasm/

  6. 4:42 you crack me up. You make an uniformed, ignorant analysis based on no in depth information. I love the Blog

  7. Gannett only bought them so they have more people to lay off.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. 4:42, we have a guy or three whose whole job revoLves around/ deals. So figure we did overpay, probably did the deal for the revenue and sales connections. This guy has an exit clause and will leave soon enough once he gets a taste of corporate. Maybe some of the deal eventually sticks. Not a home run deal, but a potential double.

  10. Does Ripple6 come to mind anyone???? Gannett spent over $40mm on that one!!!

  11. @ 4:22 I guess you didn't bother to check the whole proprietary social ad tool suite? I don't think we have hat in house.

  12. RIPPLE6

    Right here --

    Gad, as noted, there are some really stupid people posting here. How many tens of billions does Google need to have, before the stupid start to keyboard?

    Well, maybe they went to Harvard Law --

  13. Companies, especially Gannett, buy these kinds of companies because they are completely unable to develop and nurture similar ideas because of corporate beaurocracy and poor leadership.

    People who start these companies want no part of the Gannett culture and it's only a matter of time before they are spit out the meat grinder. Probably right after they've been asked to forecast for the 8th time in a quarter.

  14. Build vs. buy - Gannett doesn't attract or seek out the type of talent to form companies of this nature and or build IP that's bleeding-edge. It's not in the companies culture. For Gannett to remain relevant in terms of advertising and marketing options it's going to have to buy more and more startups to stay fresh and relevant. Just as the drug companies have to do when their money-makers go generic. It's much easy and cheaper to purchase 3-4 smaller drug companies than to spend 10 years in R&D and testing to make a new drug - same with Gannett and it's media offerings.

  15. We built the verticals at a costmof more than $7.5 million so far. What do we have to snow for it, other ths Hearher and Matthew Greenberg taking up space and the rest of their cre w on banker's hours?


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