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On November 20, 2008, Gabe and I wrote that The Brian Madden Company had been acquired by TechTarget. It's hard to believe it's been a year already, although it's cool that I finally know most of my coworkers' names. In the past year I also I learned the importance of getting a cubicle that's in close proximity to the kitchen. (Trust me. Ease of access greatly outweighs the increase in foot traffic.) And I learned that an entire day can be ruined by missing out on the free bagels in the kitchen on Bagel Wednesday. (Never mind that I can buy one for a quarter from one of the three places I walk by each morning.)
I've been lucky enough to spend time talking to hundreds of people in our industry over this past year, and whenever the topic of my job comes up everyone always asks the same three or four questions about post-acquisition life is like now. So I thought today I'd share some thoughts on what we're asked most.
"Are you still allowed to write whatever you want?"
This one is simple: Yes. In the past year, no one at TechTarget has ever tried to edit, censor, influence, or control anything we've written. That was really important to us when we sold the company, and we're happy that it's been the case since then.
Of course that doesn't mean that everyone agrees with what we write (or even that everyone at TechTarget agrees with what we write). But that's fine with us. It's important that everyone knows that what we write is our own opinion, regardless of how stupid you may think it is. And I think we've shown that over the past year we have no problem sharing our honest thoughts.
"Why did you sell the company?"
Before TechTarget, The Brian Madden Company was a lifestyle business. We worked hard, but not too hard. We paid attention to money, but just so we had enough to pay the bills and our salaries. We didn't really think about growth or the future too much, because we really just wanted to do cool stuff. When I quit my job at HP to become a full-time blogger back in 2003, I initially spent about 90% of my time writing. Over the years I spent less and less time writing and more and more time running the business. Not that it was bad of course... I mean I could count my two best friends as coworkers and we got to have the company holiday party wherever I wanted, but I wasn't exactly doing what I wanted to be doing.
In May 2008 I got a call from Jon Brown at TechTarget. It was a few weeks before BriForum and I was living in a temporary apartment in Chicago. After some pleasantries he essentially said, "We want to talk about working together to build a desktop virtualization site, or possibly even acquiring you."
At this point I had no desire to be acquired. I was my own boss, living the dream! Fortunately I figured I should at least hear the guy out before saying "no," so I told him that I was super busy with BriForum but that I'd call him back in a month.
Once BriForum was over, Gabe and I flew to TechTarget's headquarters in Boston to meet with their execs. We figured the ball was really in our court since they came to us and we really didn't want to sell. We were nice to them, but also definitely felt like they needed to impress us. It didn't take long. When we sat down with Greg Strakosch, TechTarget's CEO, the first words out of his mouth were, "We want to take the *** work off of your plates so that you guys can just do what you do best." It took every once of self-control I had not to jump up and yell "SOLD!" right then!
We left the meeting, had some beers, and talked everything over. All-in-all it took another four months to get all the details worked out. (And to complicate things further, we were going through a platform migration on BrianMadden.com, so we had to show them that we weren't going to lose all our traffic after that.) The migration went well, we didn't lose ANY traffic, and we ended up closing the deal on November 18.
My very first big company experience was that TechTarget issued a press release on November 19 which they didn't tell me about ahead of time. I was at a seminar in Washington DC that day, so I didn't know about it until I got home where I was completely caught off guard. I called Gabe that night thinking, "What have we gotten ourselves into?"
I flew back to San Francisco (where I was living at this point) the next day to find my new hire paperwork at my apartment. That's when it hit me that I had a "real" job again. I didn't have the return address for the paperwork, so I hit TechTarget.com to look it up and discovered that TechTarget has an office in San Francisco!
My job was officially "remote," but working from home for almost ten years made me want to work in a real office again. Plus it doesn't hurt that the rest of my team (and my boss) would be 3,000 miles away. Even though my boss thought I was crazy ("You know you don't have to do this" he kept saying), he was cool with me working at the office and I made arrangements to go in a few days later. My first day ended up being the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. When you work at a company where the average age is 24 and most of the kids working there are from the East Coast, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving is a VERY sparse day at the office.
I showed up and rang the doorbell and was greeted by Pete, our local IT guy. (San Francisco is a branch office with about 40 people.) Pete was clearly surprised by my visit, and being one of only about three people in the office that day, he sort of said, "Umm.. I guess you can sit here" when I asked about a desk. Then he asked if I had a laptop, at which point I pulled my Mac out of my bag and Pete muttered something under his breath.
After a quick setup Pete left, and I was left in an office so quiet I could hear the blood flowing through my ears. I remember thinking that I had made a huge mistake for the second time in a week.
Fortunately things picked up. I moved to a better cubicle after a round or layoffs (the 10% staff cut that just about every company did in the end of 2008), and I hung the disco ball that I won at the Yankee Swap which took place during the company's ugly sweater party. (Hint: Goodwill's Ladies Department) Now I'm settled in. I have my cubicle with several monitors and about five computers; I have the little studio for Brian Madden TV; and I ride my bike to and from the office each day.
"How do you like it so far?"
Honestly being part of TechTarget is everything we'd hoped it would be. Sure, there's about 20% more bullshit than we had before in some areas--I filled out my first employee self-evaluation HR form a few weeks ago—but there's also about a 50% drop in bullshit in other areas. (No more finances. No more accounting. No more selling. No more worrying about the livelihood of my friends.) So overall, we're looking at about a 30% net BS drop.
It's funny working for a real company though. Like our SSL VPN doesn't support Windows 7 (or at least our IT department doesn't support Windows 7), so that means I have multiple VMs—an XP one for email and a Windows 7 one for everything else. And it's funny that if I need to change something about my Verizon service, I submit a helpdesk ticket instead of calling *611.
Of course this disconnect is great when problems occur. Like one day a few weeks ago, emails sent to email@example.com would bounce. So I called the helpdesk and submitted a Priority 1 ticket, and soon after my email started working again. I don't know what was wrong. I don't know how it was fixed or even who fixed it. All I know is that it has nothing to do with me. (Holy crap... I'm a user!?!)
But to really get an idea for how much we like it, just look at BrianMadden.com and let the results speak for themselves. Before TechTarget, we used to write what, two, maybe three articles per week? Now we do five new pieces a week on most weeks. And of course there's Brian Madden TV. And daily podcasts. And the fact that I actually go home at night and do things that aren't work.
What's next in 2010?
We don't exactly know what our 2010 will bring. From an industry standpoint, we'll see the continued maturation of the products, the mainstream release of client hypervisors, and more people than ever exploring desktop virtualization. And Gabe and I will be right there with them with Brian Madden TV and daily articles and podcasts and our eighth(!) BriForum. (Which will be in Chicago again, BTW.)
So thanks to all of you for reading, thanks to TechTarget helping us when we need it and staying out of our way when we don't, and thanks to the 120 desktop virtualization vendors whose confusing products guarantee that we'll be even stronger in 2010.
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