You’ve probably heard by now that Hydroflask was acquired for $210 million by Helen of Troy, an El Paso, Texas-based consumer products company. Hydroflask’s 52 employees will stay in Bend, according to news reports, and the company still plans to move into its new corporate offices in Northwest Crossing this summer.
The past few months has seen a small flurry of acquisition activity, each with different and interesting outcomes:
- PulsedLight — maker of tiny, inexpensive distance sensors — was purchased by Texas-based Garmin in January for an undisclosed amount. Co-founders Bob Lewis and Dennis Corey are staying on with Garmin for the next few years. They noted that they’ll be hiring engineers and other technical positions to help them continue their product development at the new Garmin office in Bend.
- Also Mark Silliman sold his company, Smartwaiver, to a California investor group in December, also for an undisclosed amount. Smartwaiver remains in Bend. Silliman has since started his next company, Bold Robotics, which he introduced at last week’s PubTalk. More that endeavor next week.
In the startup community, acquisitions are usually heralded as milestone events that denote success. They both create and free up capital, which can then, ideally be reinvested in the next round of business ideas.
Specifically for Bend startups, acquisitions here are further proof to the outside world that starting and growing companies right here in beautiful Central Oregon is not just feasible, but in fact, profitable.
And when companies are acquired people take notice. Investor-types sure. But also entrepreneurs who’ve been on the fence about starting or moving a company here and in-demand talent, who have skills and insight to offer our startups (and would like to stop commuting 1.5 hours to their jobs).
However, there was some interesting discussion on various social media as people observed the difference in reaction to the HydroFlask acquisition versus AB InBev’s purchase of the 10 Barrel brewery in 2014. In general, the former has been primarily congratulatory while the latter was quite controversial, with a lot of in Bend beer fans feeling betrayed.
To be sure, acquisitions by out of town companies can bring legit worries that Bend-founded companies won’t be here for the long haul. (All of the recently acquired companies currently maintain that they’ll stay).
Then there’s the feeling that something that was once local and independent may not be anymore. Or that influence of outsiders will dilute what originally made the company and its products of this place and special.
It’s an interesting bigger picture discussion: How do we continue to grow (and likely sell) successful companies and cultivate a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem, while still maintaining all the things that make Bend — and Bend companies — unique?
My hunch is we’ll have many more opportunities to discuss this as Bend brands continue to flourish and become desirable beyond our little corner of the world. In the meantime, congrats to all the founders, investors, employees and supporters of these companies for their hard work and success. Excited to see what you’ll do next.