At some point, it seemed that everyone who’s company got acquired was handed talking points for a spiel about Our Incredible Journey. There’s ample reason to laugh at this trope, but there’s also ample reason to dig a little deeper.
(I enjoy playing an armchair remote psychologists because it’s both easy and the patient doesn’t talk back. It’s also pretty likely to be wrong for any particular individual, so take the following with a grain of that extra coarse, seaside salt that people who’ve sold their company can afford.)
I think part of the reason that so many exiters have latched on to The Incredible Journey trope is exactly because it’s a trope, and therefore safe. It shows proper deference to the company’s new overlords, it tries to soothe the sting for employees who’s work will now likely be distorted or flushed, and, most importantly, it seeks to reaffirm the seller that They Did The Right thing.
We all want to do the right thing. So badly that even when we’re doing things that aren’t “right”, we just come up with fanciful reasons for why those wrongs shouldn’t matter or aren’t important. I think that’s what’s happening here.
The Incredible Journey also offers a convenient banner for people who want to cheer on someone selling their company. One that’s more palatable than “hey, congrats on that big check!”. If we all pretend to believe that The Next Step is this beautiful leap to unlimited resources, backing, and potential, hell, we can have a party instead of a wake. How convenient!
Yet it’s still just a refuge and a bit of a sham. Imagine how much more liberating it would be for all parties, if you just spilled the beans however they got baked. I think customers of products that got shuttered or neglected after acquisition would be more forgiving and understanding, if this journey bullshit was replaced with some honest truths instead.
Like, “I was just not sure whether this thing ultimately had legs. And it’s the best idea I’ve ever had. I’ve dreamt of buying my mom a new house since forever. So I just couldn’t stomach the risk that this dream would evaporate. I’m sorry / not sorry!”.
Or, “I started this company because I really didn’t have another idea at the time, and pursuing Flappy Bingo seemed like a hot thing to do. Now it’s big, but I still don’t care about the particulars of Flappy Bingo, so better I pack my bags and find something I really care about. Adios!”
Isn’t the whole point of cashing a fuck-you sized check that you can finally tell people how it really is? Give it a try next time and let that incredible journey take a rest.