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8 Tech Companies That Turned Down Huge Buyouts

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This week Snapchat founders Evan Spiegel, 23, and Bobby Murphy, 25, made headlines by rejecting a reported $3 billion offer from Facebook. They're holding out for something better. Here are eight more tech companies that rejected huge buyout offers. Some made the smart decision. Others, not so much.

1) Yahoo! rejects $44.6 billion offer from Microsoft (2008)

In 2008, Google was on the rise, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. In a last ditch effort, Microsoft rushed to defend against a Google global takeover by offering to buy Yahoo! for $44.6 billion. Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang felt the offer was too low and rejected Microsoft’s bid. Unfortunately, after the rejection, Yahoo! stock plummeted, Yang left the company, and Microsoft moved on. 

2) Groupon rejects $6 billion offer from Google (2010)

As Google’s global presence skyrocketed, the company sought to tap into local markets of the mom-and-pop variety in order to bolster profits. Naturally, Google shifted its gaze to Groupon, whose network had spread through North America, Latin America, and Europe. At the time, the company was gathering more than $1 billion in annual revenue. Google offered the company a $6 billion buyout, and Groupon CEO Andrew Mason rejected the offer. After the rejection, Groupon’s popularity waned and its profits bottomed out. Groupon fired Mason earlier this year.

3) Rovio rejects $2 billion offer from Zynga (2012)

Given the popularity of web games like FarmVille and CityVille in 2012, Zynga was on the hunt for the next big thing in social games. Zynga offered $2 billion to Rovio Entertainment Oy, the Finnish company that brought us the ever-addicting Angry Birds game. Rovio rejected the offer, and Zynga moved on to greener pastures in the mobile-game network.

4) Facebook rejects $1 billion offer from Yahoo! (2006)

In the early days of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg confronted offers left and right. In 2005, Zuckerberg was in negotiations with MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe about a Facebook buyout. When Zuckerberg insisted on an asking price of $75 million, DeWolfe balked. Early in 2006, Viacom offered Facebook $750 million; Zuckerberg raised his asking price to $2 billion, and Viacom snubbed the deal. Later that year, Yahoo! entered the picture and made an offer of $1 billion to Facebook. Yahoo! was quickly losing the interest of its younger demographic and saw Facebook as its last chance to catch the attention of wide-eyed youngsters. Zuckerberg eventually rejected the Yahoo! offer. Instead, Facebook made a deal with Microsoft to acquire the company’s Atlas Solutions, an ad-serving product Microsoft purchased in 2007.

5) Twitter rejects $500 million offer from Facebook (2008)

In 2008, Twitter’s popularity was on the rise, and Facebook quickly jumped at the chance to buy the company. Twitter rejected the offer for a couple of reasons. First, Facebook’s offer was an all-stock offer, and Twitter wanted cash. Twitter believed Facebook’s valuation was inflated, meaning the stock was far less valuable than Facebook claimed. Second, Twitter had high hopes for a secret revenue model that they hoped to launch in 2009. This month, Twitter finally went public. The company, which set its IPO pricing at $26 per share, saw its share price soar to $45.10 because of strong investor demand. The company received a valuation of over $24 billion.

6) Foursquare rejects $200 million offer from Yahoo! (2010)

In 2010, Foursquare was at the forefront of social networking and one of the first sites that existed entirely on a mobile platform. Both Facebook and Yahoo! offered Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley buyout offers, but Crowley rejected both in favor of a higher asking price. As time passed, other geotagging apps sprang up – like Gowalla and Spindle – and sold for far less. One business analyst believes that Foursquare will fail by the end of this year and will be forced to sell for less than $50 million.

7) Friendster rejects $30 million offer from Google (2003)

Founded in 2002, Friendster fielded an offer from Google in 2003 for $30 million. Friendster was essentially the pioneer of social networking and expected to become a huge hit. Many advised Friendster to reject the offer and wait for internet stardom. That stardom never came. As other social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook flooded the market, Friendster went the other way and became an iconic case of failure. For young business entrepreneurs looking for investors, “Tell me why you have the next big thing” became “Tell me why you’re not the next Friendster.” MOL Global purchased the company for $26.4 million in 2009. If Friendster had accepted Google’s offer, that stock would have been worth at least $180 million.

8) Qwiki rejects $150 million offer from Google (2010)

In 2010, Qwiki won the editor’s choice at TechCrunch Disrupt. The mobile video app quickly caught the eye of Google, which offered to buy the startup for $150 million. Qwiki believed their company was worth a lot more and decided to hold out. Unfortunately, Vine launched and Qwiki floundered. Yahoo! later bought Qwiki for $50 million.

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17 Electric Facts About MTV Unplugged
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Michael Stipe of R.E.M. goes Unplugged.
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Making its debut in 1989, MTV Unplugged—in which famous musicians perform stripped-down arrangements of their biggest hits—was a hit for both the cable network and the music industry, particularly in the early- to mid-'90s. Though it lost its regular time slot in 1999, in the near-20 years since, a handful of artists have popped in for brief revivals. But now it looks as if Unplugged is ready for a reboot; MTV has announced that the series will be back beginning on September 8, 2017, with Shawn Mendes as its first guest. In the meantime, here's a look behind the scenes of the music series that became a phenomenon.

1. OPINIONS VARY ON WHO CAME UP WITH THE IDEA.

Singer/songwriter Jules Shear has said that he came up with the concept for MTV Unplugged to promote his acoustic album, The Third Party. In 1992, The New York Times wrote that Shear was inspired by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora's two-song acoustic set at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards.

That's all well and good, but producers Jim Burns and Bob Small claim they got the idea for MTV Unplugged after Bruce Springsteen treated the two—and the thousands of other fans at one of his concerts—to a final encore featuring just himself and his acoustic guitar. (Springsteen would find his way onto Unplugged in 1992.)

Executive producer Joel Gallen has referred to Unplugged as his "baby" as well and, like Shear, was inspired by Bon Jovi and Sambora's VMA set, which he called a "jumping off point." In I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution, Small said: “Please do not credit Bon Jovi for creating Unplugged. Jon Bon Jovi thinks he was the inspiration for it. He wouldn’t even do the f***ing show until almost 20 years later.”

2. BOTH HBO AND PBS SAID NO.

HBO passed on Unplugged when Shear proposed the concept to the pay channel. Burns and Small pitched the series to PBS after MTV initially said no. PBS simply echoed MTV and HBO. It was only when Burns and Small ally Judy McGrath got a promotion at MTV that a pilot got a greenlight.

3. IT WAS A CHEAP PILOT TO SHOOT.

Bob Small said he had just four hours to set up for the Unplugged pilot, with another four hours to film it—and all on a budget of $18,000. "I couldn't get money to hire a director," Small said. "They said, 'You direct it.'"

4. THERE WAS A HOST FOR THE FIRST 13 EPISODES.

None other than Jules Shear was the undisputed master of ceremonies for the first season. He also joined in on some songs.

5. THE FIRST GUESTS DIDN'T QUITE GRASP THE CONCEPT OF UNPLUGGED.

Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford from Squeeze were the stars of the first episode, which aired on November 26, 1989. But they were unprepared. "Chris and Glenn showed up for rehearsal with electric guitars," Alex Coletti, who would end up producing the show through 2001, recalled. "I said: 'Very funny, guys. Where are the acoustics? It’s Unplugged.' They looked at each other and went, 'Riiight… Make a phone call, quick!'"

6. PRODUCERS SCRAMBLED TO GIVE JOE WALSH ACTUAL FRIENDS.

"The fifth episode was billed as Joe Walsh and Friends, and Joe showed up with only one friend—Ricky, his bass player," Coletti remembered. "We thought it meant his famous friends, but apparently that got lost in translation." Walsh had been a member of The Eagles, who had an infamous falling-out, but Walsh's claim of buddies gave MTV employees false hope. Producer Bruce Leddy found Dr. John recording at a neighboring studio and convinced him to come on and be Walsh's "friend."

7. DON HENLEY WAS NOT HAPPY THAT WALSH PLAYED "DESPERADO."

Walsh's former Eagles bandmate wrote "Desperado," as well as a three-page fax explaining to MTV that he didn't want Walsh to play it and he was refusing permission to air the performance. It was after the fax that the network invited Henley to come on the show himself to perform it. Henley was the first artist to get an entire half-hour on his own as the only artist, which quickly became the status quo for Unplugged. In 1994, when The Eagles reunited, they appeared on an MTV Unplugged special.

8. LL COOL J HAD NEVER WORKED WITH A LIVE BAND BEFORE.

The first Unplugged featuring rap artists took place in 1991. Pop's Cool Love backed LL Cool J, MC Lyte, De La Soul, and A Tribe Called Quest. “[It’s like] you drink milk for 10 years and then [you have to] drink fruit punch,” Quest's Q-Tip said about performing with the band. “It’s not that the fruit is bad, but you have to get used to it.”

But LL seemed able to adapt. "We rehearsed the night before and LL Cool J had never worked with a live band," Coletti said. "Before long, he was calling the shots like he'd been doing it his whole life."

9. LL COOL J KNOWS YOU SAW HIS DEODORANT.

"People have teased me about the deodorant for years, but I love it," he said. "It was raw! It was nasty! At least you know I wasn’t stinking.”

10. PAUL MCCARTNEY WAS THE FIRST ARTIST TO OFFICIALLY RELEASE HIS UNPLUGGED SET.

Before Paul McCartney, no other Unplugged artist body had thought to release their acoustic set as an album. But after he performed in 1991, the former Beatle was worried about it getting out to the masses illegally. “I figured that as Unplugged would be screened around the world there was every chance that some bright spark would tape the show and turn it into a bootleg, so we decided to bootleg the show ourselves," he admitted. "We heard the tapes in the car driving back. By the time we got home, we’d decided we’d got an album—albeit one of the fastest I’ve ever made.” He even titled the live performance collection Unplugged (The Official Bootleg).

11. ERIC CLAPTON WAS HESITANT TO RELEASE HIS SHOW AS AN ALBUM.

"Slowhand" performed to acclaim in 1992, but he initially didn't think it was good enough to be released officially as a CD. So naturally, his live album Unplugged won the Grammy for Album of the Year. His "Tears in Heaven" performance in particular won Song and Record of the Year. Two years later, Tony Bennett followed suit, winning the 1994 Album of the Year prize for his time on the show.

12. NEIL YOUNG WALKED OUT ON HIMSELF.

Neil Young's Unplugged was supposed to have been taped at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York on December 12, 1992. Instead, on that night—at that venue—the audience saw something they would probably never forget: Neil Young walking out the door after numerous mistakes. The "stunned" crew members managed to get him to come back to try again that night. Young opted to junk the performance entirely, and tried again two months later—this time with a band, and with much more success.

13. TORI AMOS WALKED OUT, TOO.

Amos was thrown off and "couldn't harness the energy." But unlike Young, she was able to walk back onstage, perform, and not have to try again with another set on a different night. As the singer/songwriter remembered it, she and her manager paced "beneath the MTV thing" backstage thinking about the problem. "Then my [lighting director] came down and said, 'Something just doesn't feel right. I can’t put my finger on it,'" Amos told Worstgig.com. "For 700 shows over the five years (prior to that), I'd played with the lights down. So all the lights were up to catch the audience and I felt like somebody was watching me take a shower. So they dimmed the lights, I felt better. By that point because I'd made the choice to stop it and make some changes, I felt like I began again. And I turned the whole show around."

14. ALEX COLETTI FOUGHT TO CUT "THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD" FROM NIRVANA'S EPISODE.

"Maybe I shouldn't give this secret away, but I built a fake box out in front of the amp to make it look like a monitor wedge," Coletti admitted to Guitar World in 1995. "It's an acoustic guitar, but he's obviously going through an amp," he added, talking about the now iconic David Bowie cover. "I actually fought pretty hard to leave that song out [of the final edit of the show], because I felt it wasn't as genuine as the rest of the songs. But I'm a huge Bowie fan, so I couldn't fight too hard against the song."

15. DAVE GROHL WAS ALMOST UNINVITED TO NIRVANA'S SHOW.

The Nirvana drummer remembered that it was a minor miracle that the band's Unplugged performance went so well. “That show was supposed to be a disaster,” Grohl said. “We hadn’t rehearsed. We weren’t used to playing acoustic. We did a few rehearsals and they were terrible. Everyone thought it was horrible. Even the people from MTV thought it was horrible. Then we sat down and the cameras started rolling and something clicked. It became one of the band’s most memorable performances.”

As Coletti told it, Kurt Cobain was thinking of just replacing Grohl behind the kit, or maybe not using a drummer at all. “What I didn’t know was up until the day [of the Unplugged performance], there was talk of Dave [Grohl] not playing at all in the show,” the producer revealed in 2014. “Kurt wasn’t happy with the way rehearsals were going; he didn’t like the way Dave sounded playing drums with sticks."

But Grohl turned up the day of filming, and Coletti gifted him some brushes and sizzle sticks to give his drumming a softer sound. "I was afraid Dave would just roll his eyes, like, 'Oh great, the a**hole from MTV is trying to be my friend,'" the producer remembered thinking. "But instead he opened the package and said, 'Cool, I've never had brushes before. I've never even tried using them.'" The album Unplugged in New York won the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album in 1996. It was the band's lone Grammy win.

16. YES, THEY TRIED TO GET ROBERT PLANT AND JIMMY PAGE TO PLAY "STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN."

The Led Zeppelin bandmates reunited in 1994 for the Unplugged special: No Quarter: Robert Plant and Jimmy Page Unledded, which at the time was the highest-rated episode of the series ever. MTV suggested they film it in Queens, New York. Plant suggested Morocco and Wales because it was where he wrote "Kashmir" and "Down by the Seaside," respectively. Network executives explicitly requested "Stairway" but were shot down. "I think we're in a disposable world and 'Stairway to Heaven' is one of the things that hasn't quite been thrown away yet," Plant said in 1994. "I think radio stations should be asked not to play it for 10 years, just to leave it alone for a bit so we can tell whether it's any good or not."

17. LIAM GALLAGHER HECKLED HIS BROTHER.

Oasis lead vocalist Liam Gallagher backed out of the Royal Festival Hall gig in London at the last minute due to a "sore throat," so songwriter/guitarist/brother Noel took over the vocal duties. Noel would later disclose that Liam in fact appeared an hour before showtime "sh*tfaced," and when he tried to sing it sounded "f**king dreadful." Liam watched the performance from the balcony and at times jeered the band. Noel told him to shut up. Coletti thought it was all for the best. "There's something when the songwriter himself sings it. Maybe he's a little more connected to the song."

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