Martin Sláma for Forbes: “After the years, it seems to me a little like” Once upon a time… “. There is one intersting funny detail in our company history, it was not in our “Czech” hands for some time.
It was owned by the German joint stock company Heyde AG for about a year and a half (in 2000 and 2001). After eight years of Komix’s existence, we sold our shares at a total price comparable to the company’s annual turnover to this foreign company.
What led us to sell our company and what preceded it?
In 1992, I founded Komix together with my colleagues, with young programmers and two starting managers with experience from Czech research institutes. The reasons behind establishing were a coincidence and good friendship but no big business plan, transfered or well-established customer or some capital.
At that time, there was a huge market demand for robust database systems and tools for creating information systems. And we found ourselves as a group of young people in the market. We had the required know-how (materialized for example in the first book of the Informix database system), the determination to work without limitation for a longer period of time without income and the undisputed belief we would be successful.
The true, there was my wife at home with three small children and there was no income. However, the company grew very well in the first months of its establishment. After four months, we could afford to recruit new qualified employees and move to the basement spaces in Dejvice.
In the year 2000, the turnover of Komix made about 100 million crowns mostly from services and also the the world stock market was culminating. In the ICT sector, this period was called “dot com bubble”. A huge amount of speculative capital was invested in a number of stock companies, often with a very stupid intent.
At that time, we did not plan to sell the company, but interesting offers started to appear, and these led us to think. And selling the company seemed to be a step towards further development. An opportunity for both the owner and the employees, and especially for strengthening the influence of the company on our market.
Heyde AG was a respected company with a long-standing tradition which decided to expand greatly, especially in the area of Internet banking, which was just at its beginning.
They decided to buy product companies that would fit into the planned portfolio and then other companies in different countries that would deploy solutions to their customers. They hired young, educated and dynamic guys, graduates of prestigious schools to present visions and acquisitions.
They were pleasant and made the impression of professionalism, but I did feel like an illiterate when dealing with them. During social gatherings, they were able to switch fluently among several languages, present corporate visions in a perfect way, and the acquisition process was professionally managed.
In Komix, we did not enjoy luxury cars, but we knew the Germans considered cars to be really important, and they often came to see what car you arrived by. And since my fourth child was born at the same time, we got a nice seven-seater ‘Zafira’, which was a ‘smash’ at that time. I took it and hit the road together with my colleagues.
The major shareholder Dietrich Heyde, at that time an elderly gentleman and billionaire, was acting very modestly and decently, but not as a visionary like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.
Heyde AG had enough funds during steep growth in stock prices, so the sale of the Komix shares went smoothly under very decent terms. We hired one Czech brokerage company to realize the acquisition and I think it paid off.
Its representatives understood the German mentality and by a few appropriate reactions during the negotiations, they increased the company’s price by a few tens of millions. I was quite surprised how primitive it was to set the company’s price. It is really enough to know the multiplication of two numbers and two criteria for ICT.
After realizing the acquisition, we started to gain more insight into the holding and reporting processes, and so on. Chiefs of the individual holding subsidiaries flew monthly from around the world to consult, how to integrate a lot of quickly acquired companies and benefit from the potential synergy. Unfortunately, there sometimes happened that some of the quickly aquired companies were competitors.
About a year later, a cold shower appeared on the stock markets. Shares of Heyde AG suffered a drop and after some time they became practically worthless papers, even though the holding companies themselves continued their operation.
There started disintegration tendencies in the holding, because at that time the actual product holding internal integration was at the very beginning and there were no funds for further integration. The management of the holding offered us redemption of Komix at a fraction of the original price.
Again, there was a certain coincidence. I still appreciate this solid approach from Heyde AG as well as the willingness of some part of shareholders to reinvest and buy Komix back. Although we lost some part of the funds in shares of Heyde, but even so, it was business, which does not repeat.
You will find the whole article on the website of Forbes.