The very nature of a successful startup is that it offers something different from the status quo. That difference can be in the products it makes, the technology it uses — even the way it advertises and sells a boring commodity item. The cheeky advertising campaigns used to promote Dollar Shave Club were a big factor in the company’s being taken over by CPG giant Unilever in a billion-dollar deal.
But that takeover/merger/acquisition can also be the beginning of the end for what made the startup unique in the first place. The very things that made the company attractive to bidders can be crushed by corporate conformity. It’s a particular problem in the retail industry, where brands operate very much in the public eye, and where customer loyalty can hinge upon the startup company’s sometimes expensive commitment to customer care, or its offbeat sense of humor.
(Un)Happy Hour At Jet.com
The Walmart acquisition of Jet.com in August 2016 has been seen as a win-win for both entities overall, but apparently there have been a few rough spots on the road. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that one of Walmart’s changes was the removal of liquor from the Jet.com offices in Hoboken, N.J.:
“The startup’s regular Thursday evening happy hour would have to be moved out of the office to the Wicked Wolf Tavern and other local bars,” wrote Sarah Nassauer and Brian Baskin. “Casual deskside drinking had to go. ‘People were not thrilled,’ says Liza Landsman, a Jet executive who in 2015 helped launch the web site, which sells everything from detergent to designer purses, and is now president.”