Atlassian declares 'The M&A process is broken'

Atlassian is an interesting company that possibly doesn’t get the kudos it might deserve. As an Australian, I have admiration for seeing one of ours hit it big internationally. Atlassian and Canva are probably the only two Australian companies that immediately spring to mind as having won big in the international IT space.

I’m impressed that Atlassian continue to walk the walk in regard to their world-view and values. This is evident in their now public approach to mergers and acquisitions. They are trying to reduce the angst and power imbalance and increase the fairness and focus on outcomes.

From their blog post announcing the release of a new public term sheet to support merger and acquisition deals:

one thing has become very clear to us about the M&A process – it’s outdated, inefficient, and unnecessarily combative, with too much time and energy spent negotiating deal terms and not enough on what matters most: building great products together and delivering more customer value.

There is plenty of ego in the IT world. The ‘bro’ culture permeates, and it promotes ego and ‘winning’, rather than value creation and shared successes.

In an effort to reduce this unnecessary friction and increase trust, we’re doing something that, to our knowledge, no company has done before: we’ve crafted a new M&A term sheet and we’re making it public.

So much time is wasted through replicated effort. The software world is built on the reuse of frameworks. Not having to re-invent the wheel each time a new project begins is how great advancements are realised. What Atlassian are doing here is providing a fundamental public framework for mergers and acquisitions. Spend less time, money and effort doing things that have been done before and instead focus on getting the deal done and realising the value that prompted the M&A in the first place.

The reality is that because of the leverage that many buyers exert over sellers, certain “market” terms have evolved to buyers’ advantage, even though, based on the data, it’s simply not necessary.

Another example where pure laissez-faire markets are wonderful in theory and damaging in reality. Market power is a thing that is readily exerted. This creates a culture of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ where the real focus should be on having the reason for coming together create a win for all. This doesn’t need to be a zero-sum game.

I hope this new approach to M&As catches on, and less money is spent on wasteful lawyer fees and negotiation and everybody can end up with a better outcome at the end of the process. The market will be better off, customers will benefit, and the stakeholders to the deal will both be better off with less of the angst, stress and ill-feeling that can arise at the end of a protracted M&A process.

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