Hewlett-Packard may now have severe doubts about the sales figures of Autonomy, the British software firm that HP bought for $11-billion last year. What it cannot deny, however, is that Autonomy’s former chief executive and founder, Mike Lynch was a star at selling the company.
This is an old-fashioned story in two parts. The first is a fairy tale about a charismatic entrepreneur who left Cambridge University and set up a business with two friends and a £2,000 ($3,180) loan. He designed some revolutionary software and watched his business grow and grow and grow. The second part is a cautionary tale about a venerable but tired old company, struggling to make a living selling yesterday’s product – electronics in boxes – and that, in a desperate attempt to reinvent itself as a new, dazzling and sexy business, buys itself a software company.