Feelings are universal emotions. But there is one feeling that is almost exclusively the preserve of startup founders. The bittersweet feeling of a startup exit. On the one hand, you experience the joy of shepherding your creation into a new home and gaining the personal freedom that life-changing money delivers. On the other hand, you feel an indescribable sense of loss—a dull, aching pain of losing something that you love and of closing a chapter in your life.
An exit represents an end and a beginning at the same time.
I am at a small cafe in Koramangala, the hub of the startup ecosystem in Bengaluru. Sitting across me is a startup founder who is grappling with this exact feeling.
Vijay Rayapati’s last day as CEO and Founder of Minjar was 16 March 2018. Minjar is a B2B Software as a Service (SaaS) startup that’s the maker of Botmetric, a service that makes the use of public clouds more efficient and cost-effective. It was just acquired by Nutanix, a US-based publicly-listed cloud infrastructure company. While the acquisition price hasn’t been officially announced yet, it is purported to be in the range of $50 million.
In a world where Indian startups are raising tens and hundreds of millions of dollars and are being valued in billions, $50 million might seem trivial. But if you make the mistake of believing that, you would be wrong.
The Unicorn Fallacy – Billion-dollar blind-spots
In the last few years, the Indian startup ecosystem seems to have developed a distorted view of what constitutes startup success. The only facet that seems to matter is valuation and funding. And, in turn, the only startups that seem to matter are the ones who have raised the most amount of money at the highest possible valuation. While unicorns like Flipkart and Ola are both important and successful in their own way, to assume that this is the only template for startup success is both myopic and factually incorrect. Startups like Minjar provide us with a different template for success—one that doesn’t necessarily require you to raise large amounts of capital or sell for billions of dollars.
Minjar’s Win-Win-Win formula
The most important aspect of Minjar’s exit was that it was a win-win-win proposition—a win for the founders, a win for the investors and a win for the employees. All three groups of key stakeholders made significant, even life-changing, amounts of money; something that bigger and lauded startups in India have been unable to pull off.
How did Minjar do this?