Build or Buy: Scaling Through Acquisitions and Ownership

Fireside chat


It’s one of the age-old questions for engineering leaders: do I build or acquire new technology to grow and scale our business? Whether building software from scratch, or integrating technology built by someone else into your software stack and infrastructure, the journey is typically more complex and costly than expected. What principles, priorities and trade-offs can today’s engineering leaders apply to making the build or buy decision? While an acquisition can transform the acquiring company overnight, how can a leader beat the statistical odds when only 50 percent of transactions are successful? And, how can instilling a start-up mindset within a mission-driven engineering culture accelerate the product development cycle? In a conversation led by the founder and managing partner of Cowboy Ventures - Aileen Lee, Intuit CTO - Marianna Tessel, will draw upon real-world experiences to describe the best practices – and pitfalls – of the build or buy decision.


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Marianna Tessel
CTO @ Intuit

Marianna oversees Intuit’s technology strategy and leads all of Intuit’s product engineering, data science, information technology and information security teams worldwide, harnessing advanced technology that helps power prosperity for our customers and partners around the world.

With more than twenty-five years of experience, Marianna joined Intuit in 2017 to lead product development for the Small Business and Self-Employed Group, responsible for Intuit’s QuickBooks product family. Previously, she served as executive vice president of Strategic Development at Docker, developing strategic partnerships and expanding its product portfolio and open source platform. Prior to Docker, she held engineering leadership roles at VMware, Ariba, and General Magic, working at the forefront of significant technology transformations, including virtualization, cloud, and DevOps.

At the beginning of her career, Marianna served as Captain for Computer Center R&D in the Israeli Army. She earned a B.S. in computer science from Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, and has coursework toward an M.S. in computer science and brain research from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

Aileen Lee
Founder and Managing Partner @ Cowboy Ventures

Aileen is founding Partner at Cowboy Ventures, a team that backs seed-stage technology companies re-imagining work and life through technology, what they call “life 2.0”. Cowboy Ventures works with a wide range of startups from modern enterprise oriented companies like Guild Education and Lightstep to new consumer digital native brands like Dollar Shave Club and Tally.

Aileen periodically writes about technology insights and is known for coining the business term “unicorn” for public and private companies valued over $!bn. She has been named to the Forbes Midas List of best investors and Forbes Most Powerful Women, as well as to Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people.

Prior to Cowboy, Aileen was a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers for over a decade, was founding CEO of digital media company RMG Networks and worked at Gap Inc in operating roles. She has degrees from MIT and HBS, is mom of 3 and wife to a startup founder, and is an Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellow and co-founder of the non-profit All Raise, aiming to accelerate success for women in the technology ecosystem.

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