Startup Founder Reveals Harrowing Experience When Apple Bought His Company

Tim Cook Congratulating Credit: Tim Cook
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What’s it like when Apple buys your company? If David Hodge’s experience is any indication, it’s a lot more complicated than you probably think.

Hodge is the former founder and CEO of a transit mapping app called Embark, which Apple acquired in 2013. Now, six years later, Hodge has shared the acquisition experience on Twitter.

Embark was a Silicon Valley-based firm that built apps for different cities so that they could provide transit route and stop information to users.

Back in 2013, Apple was apparently looking into buying Embark to improve its Maps app.

Hodge, as the CEO, was a central figure in the acquisition. And in a throwback Twitter thread, he recounted his experience.

On May 7, 2013, for example, Hodge went to Apple headquarters to “pitch an API improvement we wanted.” As it turned out, that pitch ended up as an audition for an acquisition.

Even though Apple eventually bought Embark, Hodge notes that the entire process was much more complicated and nerve-wracking than many people probably assume.

“What’s it like to sell your company,” Hodge wrote. “Well, it’s a hellish process that might kill your company if it doesn’t work.”

That was apparently the experience for Hodge, even after Apple announced its intention to acquire his startup.

The startup founder never revealed how much Apple paid for his firm, but he did disclose that just the act of negotiating with Apple racked up some serious legal bills — around $195,000 “for a deal that might nose close.”

It all got even more confusing and muddled when news broke that Apple had acquired one of Embark’s competitors. That’s not even accounting for the secrecy expected when Apple wants to buy your company.

At the time, Hodge said he was “under heavy strain” and wasn’t sleeping well.

Even after Apple officially inked a deal to buy Embark, those involved were still sworn to secrecy. “We still couldn’t tell anyone … So we celebrated by throwing a party for my co-founder’s cat,” Hodge noted.

Apple Acquisitions

Although companies acquired by Apple aren’t really allowed to discuss details of the deal, it can probably be safely assumed that Hodge’s experience is probably similar to those of other startup founders or employees.

And Apple does acquire or otherwise buy a lot of smaller companies. That has included firms ranging from Beats in 2014 to a “dying” self-driving car startup called Drive.ai this year.

Many of those acquisitions turn out to be wildly successful and important purchases for Apple. But even the “smaller” acquisitions like Embark end up contributing greatly to Apple’s products and technology.

Hodge himself stayed on at Apple until 2016. Shortly after he departed the company, he tweeted about how Embark and the technology he pioneered improved Apple Maps.

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