The Personal Side of Ventures: The Exit
This month two close friends were offered a liquidation event in their respective ventures. A liquidation event, for the uninitiated is when your stock paper in a company is converted to actual money and is usually tied to going public, or to the sale of the company. Both events were vastly different. One event was here in India, another overseas. For employees and founders, the event is very welcome. Even if you’re tied into your venture for the long run, at some point you will spare a thought for where you’d want all of this to lead up to.
Apart from the economic upside of such an event, there is a deep personal side. Think of it as an outcome tied not only to have worked hard, but also to having made the same decisions differently. As I recalled the decisions one of my friends made that led up to the outcome, there were visible choices – many times having said ‘yes’ to a path, other times having said ‘no’. The decisions where you refuse a path are usually the critical ones.
To help understand this better, I remember discussing a job option with one of them where in hindsight, the employer would’ve clearly hired him simply for his skills and nothing else. In many cases, we won’t know what we’re losing out on having simply made the size of the paycheck pivotal to the decision. The friend in question bravely said no to the option at hand and instead decided to wait for his blue sky opportunity. Shortly thereafter he joined the company that gave him the liquidation event we’re celebrating today a good five years down the road. His choice was vindicated and handsomely. But we could not have known that for sure.
I’d admit that luck had a role to play only if I could alter the definition of luck to include his aspirations and the actions he took to go towards them. Then that is a viable definition of luck. In my book there isn’t much room for overnight successes. In addition to those decisions, working at a startup demands a self-rewarding nature amongst other things. Why so? It’s hard to take on a challenge where your role inherently requires you to convince others of something you believe in and can’t tangibly show, engineers being no exception. There will be confusing times where ideas are orphaned, thoughts aren’t clearly spelt out, where the product is vapor ware while you work to make it more compelling. At these times only you can reward yourself and keep things going.
Finally, while you won’t be able to precisely determine what size your exit will have but you must believe that it can be big enough to tie up all of those little decisions together. When it does happen, never mind all that could have gone and did go wrong. Simply congratulate yourself on a job well done.