Back in September, Concur co-founders Mike Hilton and Raj Singh faced a difficult decision. They had stuck together for the past 22 years, building up a successful travel expense company that at one point was nearly delisted from NASDAQ but bounced back and hit a revenue run rate of $700 million last year.
But then SAP made an acquisition offer: $8.3 billion, a 20 percent premium over the Bellevue company’s Sept. 17 closing price. Ultimately, the founders and longtime friends decided to sell — but it certainly wasn’t easy.
“As a founder, it’s like giving up your baby — it was gut wrenching, internally,” Hilton said on stage today at GeekWire Startup Day. “It was not easy for any of us. It was very, very difficult.”
Hilton noted that the list of potential acquirers to take over Concur — the company wasn’t necessarily looking to be acquired, as CEO Steve Singh noted in September — was small. But the executive team felt confident that SAP would be a great home for not only shareholders, but Concur’s employees and its customers.
“We thought this was a great place to land,” Hilton said.
Singh said that there were companies he knew that Concur would never be acquired by, based on how employees were treated at said corporations.
Early in the discussions, SAP ensured that it wanted every Concur employee to continue working at Concur.
“They were very clear about the desire to retain the people that worked at Concur,” Singh said. “That was very important.”
The Concur execs also wanted to make sure that SAP would embrace the culture and mission that Concur had spent more than two decades building.
“That was massively important to us,” Singh said. “We spent a lot of time with SAP talking about why the cloud DNA that existed at Concur was going to be critical for long-term growth.”
Hilton and Singh’s talk at Startup Day today was actually their final day at Concur, as the pair announced their decision to step down earlier this month. Friday was certainly a bittersweet moment for the entrepreneurs.
“It’s mixed emotions,” Singh said. “You can’t go through any 22-year journey and not have emotions of sadness when you think about having that commute, going into that office, up those stairs, and into a building for 22 years, doing my job. It’s still blowing my mind a little. That said, there’s an alternative that comes with that. There is something new, thinking about what’s coming next. That’s pretty exciting to me.”
Neither would say what their next project would be, but both said they’d work together again without question.
The founders also offered up some valuable advice on building company culture, and described how exactly Concur recovered from its stock dropping to 28 cents per share more than a decade ago. We’ll have the details on GeekWire later, so check back for that.