Can you imagine this scenario?
Austin, Texas-based Concur, the maker of travel and entertainment expense management software with 4,200 employees worldwide, agreed to be sold to SAP for $8.3 billion.
That’s right. One of the Seattle area’s most successful technology companies over the past two decades, nearly landed in Texas.
Good thing Concur co-founder Raj Singh hopped on a flight to Seattle back in 1993, before making his decision where to move. Even better, that the sun was shining, and the mountains were glowing.
Otherwise, Bellevue-based Concur — whose $8.3 billion acquisition by SAP is expected to close Dec. 4 — may have charted a much different course.
Here’s how Singh retold the story of moving to Seattle, and why the Detroit, Michigan native fell in love with the place. Singh made the remarks at the 9Mile Labs Demo Day event last week, also touching on how Concur grew through a series of pivots to achieve its $8.3 billion value. The full audio of the interview, conducted by 9Mile Labs co-founder Sandy Sharma, is available below.
“We chose Seattle on a lark. I was 23 years old. We didn’t want to be in California. To make a long story short, I flew to Austin, Texas one weekend and I flew to Seattle another weekend. We looked around (Seattle) and it was super sunny, and beautiful. That is no BS. That is a true story. I went back to California, I packed up my Honda, and drove up here. That is how we picked it. No science at all, other than the fact that we knew it was a good software market and Microsoft, this was 1993, was exploding. And, so know that I am here, though, there is a tendency to want to compare Seattle and the Pacific Northwest to San Francisco. It seems there is a cottage industry of just writing about why, and what is different about these markets.
Here’s what I love about this place. There’s an incredible grounded nature of the people who live here. That means you get great tenure. People will stick it out, and they will fight through hard times. They are not necessarily jumping to the next startup, because things got tough. I love that about this place.
I think there is a remarkable lack of concern about what you’ve done. It’s funny, because I live in Bellevue, and I will go jogging, and Steve Ballmer will be jogging by, and no one bothers the guy. No one is running up, and saying: ‘Hey, Mr. Ballmer, I’ve got an idea for you. And, by the way, Chris Paul, should have left.’ Nobody, does that. This city is remarkably unconcerned with anything other than the nature of your being. And I know I am giving you more of an existential answer than you’d like, but I think this is a market, and my good friend Kabir Shahani is out there somewhere, who coined this phrase that I love — The Seattle Renaissance phrase. This is a city that is poised to explode, and explode in a really great way. Because there are brilliant people here who want to build sustainably great businesses. And they are in it, not to flip it. They are in it to build it for the long-term. And those businesses, those are the ones that make a mark. The Amazons, and the Microsofts. Those are the ones that make a mark on a community, and build long-term sustainable value.”
Here’s the full interview from the 9Mile Labs Demo Day, with Singh’s comments starting around the 1:30 mark when he discusses the founding of Concur and its “long, and winding story.” The remarks about Seattle are at the 14:30 mark.