Data shows a slowdown in acquisitions due to pandemic uncertainty, but as a "new normal" starts to emerge, there are some key ways for ambitious businesses to grow.
It comes as no surprise that COVID-19 has had a negative impact on the economy, and new data finds that it has caused mergers and acquisitions (M&A) to plummet in the tech sector.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has released data from the first half of 2020 that shows massive declines in the value and number of large tech acquisitions. M&A deals in the first half of 2020 only amounted to $73 billion, which is the lowest since PwC started tracking the totals in 2016. Some of the large deals so far include Koch Equity buying cloud software company Infor, JustEatTakeaway.com buying GrubHub, and Intuit buying Credit Karma.
More shocking than the decline in overall sale value is its ratio to the amount of actual M&A transactions so far in 2020: The amount of deals is only down 6%, but deal value is down 58%.
In short, now may not be the best time to sell your startup to a big tech company.
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A turnaround is expected, and PwC's US technology, media, and telecommunications leader Marc Suidan said July is already looking up. "With tech companies feeling better about their revenue outlooks, along with strong venture capital funding and vibrant capital markets, we are optimistic that M&A activity will be strong in the second half," Suidan said.
The sectors where tech acquisitions are happening have remained consistent, the report said. Software was the most active sub-sector, which PwC said has been driven by SaaS, cloud, and subscription-based models that have seen increased interest during the pandemic.
Video gaming has also seen big growth in 2020 due to people being stuck at home, as have e-commerce and online food delivery platforms, largely for the same reason.
What fast-growing tech companies can do to stay on top
"COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the tech space, accelerating trends that we expect to persist longer term," the report said. Those results include long-term shifts to remote work, which PwC said will make acquiring small tech companies an appealing prospect to large businesses looking to adapt in a post-pandemic world.
Those adaptations "will require rethinking of all aspects of the business from workforce, products and services, end-user experience and how these are all facilitated by a digital platform," the report said. That's good news for ambitious tech companies looking to increase their reach, launch an IPO, or be bought out.
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Companies that want to appear appealing, both as a vendor or potential M&A target, should "adopt a structured value creation methodology to identify and articulate the drivers of value created or lost through COVID-19," PwC said in its report.
Big companies, the report concludes, will be taking more deliberate approaches to deal making because COVID-19 responses are still shifting as the pandemic continues to evolve. Tech firms that want to look appealing to acquirers "will need to set up their own virtual process to provide transparency and give buyers comfort in closing the transaction."
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