That Founder Sold For Too Little!

"Why is it that people are constantly belittling the outcomes of startup Founders when they exit? Wouldn't it seem like any exit is a celebration? Who are these haters anyway?"

July 28th, 2021   |    By: Wil Schroter

"Did you hear about the Founder who sold their startup and 'only' made a million dollars?!"

Ah, the popular refrain of startup haters everywhere when they gleefully recount the supposedly "shitty" outcomes of hard-working Founders. They get almost giddy with speculation. Nothing excites the people who don't start companies more than trying to belittle the outcomes of those that do.

Well, startup haters, this one is for you. This is a not-so-subtle reminder that not only do your opinions not matter — at all — but how wrong your position is, to begin with.

"What Startup did You Sell Again?"

Before we even dig into how wrong their analysis even is, and it's almost always wrong, let's begin with who is even making this analysis. 99% of the time these are people who have never suited up themselves or have never achieved an outcome even remotely close to the one they are dogging.

Let me ask: "Are you a Startup Founder? No. Have you ever sold a startup? No. Have you ever made a million dollars? No. Then STFU!"

Before we even entertain someone's opinion, it seems only logical that we consider the source. How could we possibly value the input from someone who has no credentials to deliver it? And yet, we somehow let these bozos chatter on.

Life-Changing is a Big Enough Outcome

Let's say our startup sold for $200 million and we walked away with $2 million. Surely the hater-patrol will be out in full force. But wait a minute — isn't two million dollars incredibly life-changing for us? What were we going to do at our last job that was going to put $2 million in the bank? Probably nothing. So how is it that putting $2 million in the bank is somehow a miss in our lives?

That $2 million is going to be the nest egg that prevents us from ever having a substantial financial crisis for the rest of our lives. Even at a reasonable yield investment, we can generate enough extra cash per month on investments alone to make any career choice we want so much easier.

You know who doesn't have that outcome? The person complaining that ours wasn't enough! The person who actually put $2 million in the bank is thinking about what an incredible windfall that is, and even if they feel they could have gotten more, they can sleep on it in a bed of $100 bills!

Selling AT ALL Is The Win

What's missing in all of this analysis is that selling a startup at all is so incredibly hard to do! We act like selling is a constant, and that how much we sold is the only variable. How many cashed-out Founders are really good friends of yours? One, two, five? Why is that do you think?

That's because we're totally missing the point of an exit and what a unicorn moment that is in any startup's career. The fact that we're sitting around bitching about what the economics are is like watching someone pass the finish line at an Ironman Triathlon and complaining that they didn't get there fast enough.

This isn't about the score, it's about winning at all. And until you've put points on the board yourself, you're not entitled to have an opinion, to begin with. End rant.

In Case You Missed It

Focus On What You Don’t Want To Do. What happens when instead of worrying about the things we want to do, we focus on the things we never, ever want to do again? How can that start to take huge steps in reducing our overall stress?

Build Your Startup Around Your Passion. Not every passion pays well. However, instead of starting with, "what will make the most money?" and hoping we like it, let’s start with what we’re most passionate about and figure out how to do that profitably.

Is Doing Non-Startup Stuff Good For My Startup? (podcast). What if we knew that time away from our startup was the key to actually making it grow faster?

About the Author

Wil Schroter

Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes BizplanClarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.

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