Here's what it's like when Apple wants to buy your company

The road to Apple. David Hodge has revealed how his transit app company was bought for Apple Maps

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Six years after Apple bought his transit app firm, David Hodge has revealed the tensions, the secrecy, and the conditions that Apple puts you through while buying your firm.

Back in 2013, while everyone else was watching Apple unveil macOS Mavericks, David Hodge was missing WWDC announcements because he was in the middle of selling his company. Even as Apple presented its news that Apple Maps was adding the 3D flyover, it was already negotiating to acquire Hodge' firm and improve future versions of its maps.

Now, six years later, Hodge has revealed a step by step account on Twitter of what happens when Apple buys your company.

In a series of 15 tweets, Hodge recounts how his company Embark was invited to visit Apple. At the time, Embark was an independent firm adding public transit features to Apple Maps in iOS 6

Ostensibly, this meeting at Apple was to discuss an improvement to a developer API that Embark wanted Apple to do.

"Turned out it was an audition for an acquisition," tweeted Hodge.

Even once Apple had made its intentions clear, and even though ultimately it did buy Hodge's Embark firm, the journey was fraught.

The Embark team circa 2013, when the company was bought by Apple.
The Embark team circa 2013, when the company was bought by Apple.

"What's it like to sell your company?" continues Hodge. "Well, it's a hellish process that might kill your company if it doesn't work."

While Hodge does not disclose what sums Apple eventually paid for the firm, he does reveal some of his costs. Simply negotiating with Apple required legal advice that cost dearly and ate into Embark's reserves. It ate into money that Hodge describes as the company's runway, the funds it had to keep going while it was growing.

"We also managed to rack up $195,000 in legal bills for a deal that might not close," he says. "Our runway went from a comfortable [approximately] 16 months to 8."

AppleInsider has spoken off the record with other firms who have been through this process and they confirm how constantly uncertain it is. Apple has a history of looking at multiple companies for similar purposes, such as when the original iTunes was made from SoundJam instead of Panic Software's Audion.

Similarly, AppleInsider has also reported on accounts from companies such as Luna Display who say Apple "used us for market research" before producing a rival to that firm's product.

Hodge reports that Apple even bought one of his firm's rivals.

"As I was in a meeting with the [Mergers & Acquisitions] team at One Infinite Loop," he continues, "the news leaked that Apple bought our competitor Hop Stop. My phone started blowing up. What did this mean for us?"

The old Embark app before being acquired by Apple
The old Embark app before being acquired by Apple

The protracted and serious secrecy over the negotations with Apple, says Hodge, put family relationships "under heavy strain." And Hodge himself started to have physical problems.

"Wasn't sleeping well," he explains, "and had developed an excruciating issue with my jaw from apparently clenching as I slept."

On August 13, 2013, the deal was completed — but the secrecy was not over. "We still couldn't tell anyone... So we celebrated by throwing a party for my co-founder's cat."

David Hodge and his colleagues joined Apple as part of the deal and Embark's features were incorporated into Apple Maps. Hodge stayed with Apple until 2016, shortly after which, he tweeted about the impact his company had brought to Apple Maps.

Apple's most recent improvements to its maps include the addition of the Street View-like Look Around and greater detailing, including transit improvements, to major US cities.