This case follows the entrepreneurial experience of Buck French, a recent Harvard Business School graduate, who founded OnLink Technologies, a high technology company serving the Building Products Industry. The case follows the company’s creation and growth as well as – in 1999 – a large venture investment from Sierra Ventures. Buck forms a close mentorship and friendship with Dave Schwab, the Sierra venture capitalist; they work closely as Buck takes OnLink to “the next level,” eventually grappling with the case’s main dilemma: should Buck pursue a lucrative IPO opportunity, or accept Siebel System’s offer to acquire OnLink for$300 million. The beginning of the case presents some background on the process of forming a company, including idea generation, team formation, and financing. The issue of securing a venture capital investment – and the importance of a good VC partnership—is a primary focus of the case. Buck and his team had several false-starts before partnering with Dave Schwab at Sierra Ventures. The case also spotlights the process of correct positioning, both in securing investment as well as in securing customers, to build the company. The partnership with Schwab and Sierra proved key for the OnLink team in reaching the next level of growth. The final focus of the case is the decision whether to go public, as originally planned, or to pursue an opportunity to be acquired. OnLink prepares for IPO just as the NASDAQ ‘corrects’ in the spring of 2001. Buck French, Dave Schwab and the OnLink team – both most of all Buck – must weigh the pros and cons of either outcome to make the decision. The case includes a substantial amount of financial information for students to inspect (stock prices and comparables evaluation), but the case is primarily for qualitative analysis.
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