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Stop bashing the 'uncool' Avis-Zipcar deal

January 3, 2013: 10:33 AM ET

story_zip_car_giKnee-jerk criticism of the Avis-Zipcar deal is misplaced.

FORTUNE -- There seemed to be a lot of Silicon Valley hand-wringing yesterday over yesterday's announcement that Avis Budget Group (CAR) plans to buy car-sharing service Zipcar (ZIP), with some suggesting that this will lead to the needless destruction of a successful "tech disruptor."

Let's leave aside, for a moment, that Zipcar isn't really a tech company. Or that it's not based in Silicon Valley. Or that its profits are nothing to write home about.

Instead, let's focus on what really seems to be the underlying issue: Zipcar can no longer be "cool" if owned by a staid incumbent like Avis Budget Group.

Look, I understand that acquisitions often don't work. Sometimes it's because of culture clashes. Sometimes it's the result of a big fish in a small pond being transformed into a small fish in a big pond (and the resource allocations that come along with it – or don't). Sometimes the expected synergies just don't come to fruition. And this may prove to be one of those unsuccessful deals.

MORE: VCs to score big on Zipcar sale

But bashing the deal based on "coolness" is absurd. People ultimately use most products or services because of usefulness, effectiveness, etc. Cool may get a certain demographic in the door, but it's not why they stay. Moreover, "cool" disappears over time.

Don't believe me? Just check out this list of music albums that turn 20 this year. I remember feeling quite cool blasting my In Utero cassette in 1993. Would I still? Probably not – and it has nothing to do with selling out.

The intrinsic value of disruptive technology should be in its ability to improve the lives of users, not in its ability to eat into an incumbent's market share. That's what's really "cool." And sometimes a deal like Avis-Zipcar reflects mainstream adoption of that improvement, rather than an attempt to turn back the clock.

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About This Author
Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Senior Editor, Fortune

Dan Primack joined Fortune.com in September 2010 to cover deals and dealmakers, from Wall Street to Sand Hill Road. Previously, Dan was an editor-at-large with Thomson Reuters, where he launched both peHUB.com and the peHUB Wire email service. In a past journalistic life, Dan ran a community paper in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He currently lives just outside of Boston.

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