Autonomy founder Mike Lynch: 'It was always about changing the world'

You Live And You Learn: Mike Lynch, the founder of Autonomy, on the fallout with HP, why he doesn't waste time with mediocrity, and why Britain needs to be more like the US.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 02 Oct 2015

It was incredibly sad to see the destruction of something so special in HP's hands. I'd spent a good slice of my life building Autonomy into a business with amazing technology and people.

When I started Autonomy in 1996, it was always about changing the world. I would have been stunned if it had become worth £10m, never mind £10bn. Autonomy was so successful because we had amazingly special people. To be blunt, it was ruthlessly meritocratic: we weren't very interested in mediocrity.

A week after HP fired me, I was happy again. It was a relief to no longer have to deal with the bureaucracy, the infighting and all the corporate politics. I also realised that all the talented people had left and were out there doing interesting things.

George Bernard Shaw said the reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one tries to adapt the world to him. I don't have a problem about being slightly unreasonable. If I think something needs to change, I'm quite happy to try and make that happen.

The cultures of Autonomy and HP are very different. The people at HP who did the acquisition and shared the vision were fired. It was much more difficult after they left. HP needs to concentrate on innovation rather than trying to hit the competition down with a brick.

The US can be a good place to do business. It has a more can-do attitude. In Britain, we tend to be too cynical. But the UK has some of the best universities and some great talent. So that's what I'm doing now: I'm hoping to find the next Bill Gates - through a company called Invoke.

I've met Bill Gates only once so it's not for me to comment on any similarity between us. He's done an amazing job - as did Steve Jobs. When I pull out an iPhone, I'm stunned at what he achieved.

We're absolutely happy with the accounting at Autonomy. I haven't heard anything from HP since last year. We'd love to see what HP has to offer. Then we would be in a position to respond to it.

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