Among the different human capital moments of insight that Chad Cohen has experienced over the years, few are likely as memorable as the one that woke him up from a sound sleep.
At the time, he was CFO of online real estate company Zillow Group, a CFO tour of duty that he completed just prior to joining Adaptive Biotechnologies.
Says Cohen: “I spent 4 years—or 16 earnings calls—as CFO, acquiredabout 10 companies, and raised somewhere between a half-billion and billion dollars in capital from the public markets for Zillow Group.”
Asked to recall a learning moment from his Zillow years, Cohen says that he recalls waking up in a cold sweat during the 20- to 30-day period that immediately followed Zillow’s 2015 acquisition of Trulia.
Having carefully crafted a 90- to 120-day postmerger integration plan, Cohen says, he realized that as the number of Trulia employee departures began to quickly escalate, “speed of integration” was going to play a plussize role in the merger’s success.
“Our retention bonuses—albeit very healthy and robust—were being offset by a very frothy employment market in San Francisco and even larger sign-on bonuses that we were having trouble competing with,” recalls Cohen.
“I called my controller in a panic and said: ‘Hey, we have to do this faster because I think I see how this scenario is playing out—and it ain’t going to be pretty,’” remarks Cohen, who then instructed his team to “rip up” the 90- to 120-day plan, while accenting his new mandate for speed with the words “We’re going to do this now!”
CFOTL: Has the Trulia integration experience helped you at Adaptive?
Cohen: Yes, I was able to apply that to Adaptive in a sense. Right after I joined Adaptive, I found that we were dealing with the recent acquisition of a company called Sequenta down in the Bay area. They had competing intellectual property, and we had been able to acquire them for a couple hundred million dollars. But, in the same way, they had a finance team that was knowledgeable. Coming fresh off the Trulia integration, I said that we couldn’t just let them sort of sit out there like that in somewhat of a dormant state—that we needed to rapidly and aggressively integrate their workforce and make sure that we brought all of their knowledge and all of their operations up to Seattle to really extract the synergies that were part of the calculus for making the acquisition in the first place.