My Startup exit is one of the most profound experiences of my life. It changed my life in many positive ways. When I reflect on the story of my exit, I still get goosebumps. Although, it was not easy, the journey during the exit was like a roller coaster ride. The build-up, drops, loops, turns, and acceleration got our blood pumping (in our case, blood pressure fluctuating).
It all started in early 2019: We were doing great with strong growth rate and potential. Gone were the days of worrying about payroll, expenses and paying bills. We had just opened an employee training center with plans to hire more people, and I was busy traveling and attending various conferences. During the same period, our first potential buyer reached out to me. After several discussions, they gave us an offer. Our team huddled internally and agreed to move ahead with the sale. After we accepted the offer, the due diligence started. Most of our days were spent understanding what was needed and delivering it. We completed the process in a few months, and our purchase agreement was ready. We had already started working on positioning and planning post-acquisition activities. In anticipation & excitement I planned celebration parties with friends and family.
Do you ever get that feeling, "Why Do Bad Things Keep Happening To Me?"
A few days before closing, the buyer could not get funding, and we returned to the negotiating table. The fact was, there was not enough funding to proceed, and I decided to put the sale on hold. This was heartbreaking for all of us, but more balls were up in the air than one could imagine. A few internal people had gone one step ahead and bought houses, expensive cars, and other things in anticipation of the close. I will not blame anyone because we were only a few weeks away from closing. Soon this started becoming my worst nightmare, with continuous demand for money and questioning of my leadership.
My mission soon became to sell the company and I started doing roadshows with my pitch deck. The business was growing and had a lot of potential for the future. The feedback was always great. In parallel, a few people were also planning coup and were sending people to try to buy out my stake in the business. To add to the misery, Covid had started, and everyone had gone offline. This was soon turning into "game of thrones" with a long winter. We would get offers, huddle with management to discuss the offer, raise hopes, accept a few, and end up rejecting them for various reasons. This turned into an endless loop.
The key to leadership is keeping nerves calm and lots of patience. The roadshow also helped to spread the word about our company. In the process, I came across one agency that believed in our growth and understood our fix. By mid-2021, we received a few offers that were exciting enough. The offers were comparable, and we short-listed one good one and started our due diligence process. I even met the buyer company's CEO and investor; they were great people to work with. The due diligence was a smooth process, and we soon started drafting a purchase agreement with them. Things were looking great, and everyone was upbeat. Then, it gets interesting; when we were about to sign their contract, we received another equally good offer from a public company. The dilemma we had was to accept the new offer or go ahead with the current one, which was equally strong.
The team finally decided to go ahead with the public company only if they could close in 30 days. This time the stars aligned for us. The due diligence and paperwork were completed in 15 days, and signing and closing were finalized within a day. I still remember that day; it seemed never-ending. One can imagine the thick pile of paperwork to review and sign. Even on the day of the signing, there were endless discussions and negotiations on a few points and we were at work with lawyers from both sides on call till late at night. Finally, once all the terms were finalized, the CEO of the buying company came to do the final signatures. That was the moment where all emotions were high and I could feel the anxiety of letting go of what I had built from scratch. But, I had to let go to face more significant challenges and grow more. Being a father of two beautiful daughters, I learned what is coming my way in a few years as they grow up.
Today, I am working on my next startup HiPaaS (www.hipaas.com) which is focused on solving complex clinical and revenue challenges in healthcare industry.
CEO, HiPaaS Inc