Sounds a little like The Avengers movie and its parallel universes, but no. At some point in recent history, some of the big Internet companies we know may have changed owners (and even names) without us noticing.
If we remember a little, we will find historical moments on the Internet such as the purchase of YouTube by Google, or Microsoft taking over Hotmail. And those are the moments that make the course of one or several companies can change radically, with its corresponding effects being noticed some years later.
What could have been and was not
Based on this idea, it is interesting to investigate those purchases that were almost made but did not come to fruition. Over the last few decades there have been several attempts to purchase large services and companies which, if they had been carried out, would have changed the history of Interent forever. Let’s take a look at these almost-purchases that never materialized.
Blockbuster was able to buy Netflix, but made the mistake of not doing so
Although many people don’t know it, Netflix, the entertainment giant, was a mail-order DVD movie rental company, and there was a time in its history when it wasn’t having much fun.
While the company’s business idea was working, it wasn’t enough to make the company profitable. So back in 2000, after Amazon refused to buy from them, they managed, after several attempts, to schedule a meeting with the top executives of the Blockbuster video store chain.
Despite the obstacles (Blockbuster purposely scheduled the meeting at short notice so they couldn’t get there in time), the founders of Netflix had their proposal well defined: that Blockbuster should acquire Netflix for $50 million. This would combine the physical store business with the mail-order business, combining efforts and making more profit, thus creating a much larger company.
But when John Antioco (Blockbuster) heard the proposal he had to make an effort not to laugh out loud at the Netflix managers. There was not even a counteroffer, Reed Hastings and his people had to leave with their hands in their pockets. It was perhaps Blockbuster’s biggest mistake: the video store chain declared bankruptcy in 2010 while Netflix is now valued at over $154 billion.
Apple wanted to take over Dropbox
Dropbox was one of the first cloud file storage services, and one of the ones responsible for making people understand today, what a “cloud folder” is that syncs with all our devices. And this company was, until a few years ago, one of Steve Jobs‘ goals.
Apple was looking to reformulate its cloud services after the failure of Mobileme, and Dropbox’s syncing algorithms were a perfect solution. Jobs did his homework and made an offer he believed was irrefutable: to offer them $800 million at a time when Dropbox alone was only going to make an eighth of that money in annual revenue. Apple’s co-founder wanted to make them see that they would not get far on their own, and that accepting that offer to become part of the company’s ecosystem was the most reasonable thing for them to do.
But no, those responsible for Dropbox did not accept the offer. Steve Jobs was stunned, and warned them that in that case Apple was going to run its steamroller over them. And he tried that with iCloud, but despite that, they didn’t succeed in finishing them off.
Today, Apple is doing very well with its iCloud and its excellent financial results, and Dropbox enjoys a valuation of more than $7.1 billion.
Facebook was offered to MySpace for $ 75 million… and then for 10 times more
2005 was not a good time for Facebook, and at that time, Mark Zuckerberg and MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe met. Mark put a proposal on the table: That MySpace acquire Facebook for $75 million and both social networks be merged into one. DeWolfe rejected the offer.
Just a few months later, in the same year and after News Corp acquired MySpace for $580 million, Mark met again with DeWolfe and repeated the same proposal but with a tenfold increase in the purchase price: $750 million. DeWolfe rejected the offer again and Mark left with his hands in his pockets.
These were two chances DeWolfe had to buy into Facebook and they must have stolen his sleep every night of his life. Finally, MySpace didn’t work out, News Corp took it away from him selling it for only 35 million dollars and has ended up lurking among several more purchases.
Meanwhile, Facebook and its services (Instagram, WhatsApp), enjoy leading positions worldwide and the company is valued at over $620 billion on the stock market. What were you thinking about back then at DeWolfe?
Facebook tried to buy Snapchat
At the beginning of the last decade, Facebook began to see in its statistics that young people were no longer using its social network. At that time, one of the solutions was to directly acquire those networks to which the new generations were migrating. One of them was Snapchat, so Mark Zuckerberg didn’t fool around and offered the sum of 3 billion dollars for it. For comparison, Instagram was bought for “only” $1 billion.
Evan Spiegel, Snapchat’s CEO, rejected the offer, believing that they would become a great company on their own. Five years later, Zuckerberg made a new offer. Spiegel’s refusal was so fulminating that there wasn’t even time to make a formal proposal with a fixed purchase price. To this day, Snapchat is valued at over $25 billion.
Facebook tried to take over Twitter
In 2008, Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, had just been voted out of the CEO position to hand over the baton to other co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone. Mark Zuckerberg, taking advantage of that moment of fragility, invited those two Twitter leaders to a meeting.
The purpose of that meeting was to offer them that Facebook would buy out Twitter. The CEO of Facebook argued that both social networks would have a very profitable future together, and that he already had plans in mind for Facebook to evolve using more the concept of Twitter and not what he had done with Facebook to date. The executive ended with a nice warning: if they didn’t accept the offer, Facebook would create a Twitter clone to give them a raw deal.
The bid that Zuckerberg put on the table was initially reasonable for the co-founders of Twiter: 500 million dollars. But after some thought, Williams and Stone rejected the offer. They explained later in an internal statement, saying that Twitter was a company that could aspire to be more and that no competition could ever completely neutralize them.
Although Twitter has some problems at present, it is valued at almost $26 billion. Much more than the half a billion dollars that Facebook once offered.
Google was on the verge of absorbing Yelp
At the end of 2009, Google and Yelp were in the final stages of a $550 million purchase agreement, but just when it looked like everything was about to become official, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman decided to back out of the whole negotiation.
Years later, the same CEO discussed the details of that purchase attempt with Business Insider. In the middle of the negotiations, Jeremy received a call from Steve Jobs, who told him not to take the sale step, criticizing Google’s policy (it was the time of Apple’s co-founder’s fury after the launch of Android), and defending that Yelp was a big company that would get worse in the hands of Mountain View.
The purchase was not made, and curiously enough Yelp is now one of the services that is integrated with Apple’s maps. The company is now valued at over $2 billion.
WhatsApp almost ended up in the hands of Google
Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp is undoubtedly one of the most talked about acquisitions in the history of technology, but it could have ended very differently. A few days after Mark Zuckerberg made the first purchase offer to WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum, he received a call from Larry Page, Google’s CEO, who tried to convince him not to sell his company to Facebook.
And not only that: some media claimed that Google made them a bigger purchase offer than Facebook did – over $20 billion. But according to those same sources, Koum preferred to go with Facebook because his offer included a seat on the social network’s board of directors.
Today, WhatsApp is part of Facebook and remains an independent platform, though it does not generate profits despite its incredible number of users.
Microsoft intended to buy Yahoo
Twelve years ago, Steve Ballmer, who was still CEO of Microsoft, wanted to stay with another big company of the time: Yahoo. So the executive met with then Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang and presented him with a $45 billion offer. Yang showed the offer to his board of directors, and after studying it… they rejected it for “devaluing” Yahoo.
That was certainly the first of many mistakes Yahoo has made in years. Today, Yahoo continues to devalue itself and disappear from the memory of many Internet users without having been able to do anything about it until now.
Yahoo wanted to buy Facebook
Yahoo also had its good intentions to acquire other companies, and one of those attempts was to take over Facebook. It happened in July 2006, as Business Insider recalled. At that time Mark Zuckerberg declined the offer, arguing that he had many plans to grow the social network and that selling it would truncate all those plans.
Zuckerberg had the chance to make a billion dollars from that sale (that’s the offer he got) but preferred to keep working to make Facebook what it is now. It was risky but right, because now Facebook is the mastodon of social networks and Zuckerberg’s fortune was estimated at over $70 billion last year.
Motorola could have bought Huawei in 2003
In 2003, more than four years before the introduction of the original iPhone, Motorola was interested in acquiring Huawei for its networking technology. Meetings were convened, negotiations were held and a $7.5 billion purchase agreement was put on the table.
At the end of 2003, Huawei was not on the list of companies supported by the Chinese government. One of the company’s demands was therefore that Motorola pay a large part of the $7.5 billion up front in order to gain liquidity and continue to grow. Finally, for that reason, Motorola ended up getting out of the car. It was a lot of money for a Chinese company that was not very well known at that time.
The story tells the rest: In 2012, Google completed its purchase of Motorola for $12.5 billion, while Huawei surpassed $10 billion in revenue in 2018.
Microsoft tried to buy Nintendo more than 20 years ago
To conclude, we end this failed business story with a purchase attempt that would have changed the world of video games forever.
It was 1999 when Microsoft offered Nintendo $25 billion for the company. Apparently Nintendo first thought it was a joke, but when they saw that since Redmond they were not joking they studied it thoroughly.
Microsoft’s conditions were hard: Nintendo had to stop manufacturing its own consoles. All of the company’s games would appear for the XBOX, thus boosting that video game platform and reducing the market to a main competition between the XBOX and Sony’s PlayStation.
In the end, Nintendo declined the offer considering that Microsoft did not have enough experience in the videogame market to push Nintendo’s brands towards a profitable future and ended up this way, discarding any negotiation, for the good fortune of Mario’s lovers and their friends.