What’s your exit strategy?
I started the company because I want to change the telecom sector. I want it to be a ‘customer first, profit second’-business instead of a “how much money can I get for my shareholders and bonus”-kind. If you want to talk Sinek: I believe we can create a better telecom sector.
Now that you know the ‘why’ of my company, I want to talk Exit Strategy with you. These are a few questions I am often confronted with as the owner of a fast growing tech company:
* When is your IPO?
* When is market leader X going to buy your company?
- Raise money
My primary answer has always been: “Why would I want to sell something I love most?” For the last few years the only reason for me to sell a part of the company would have been to raise money. With more money we would be able to scale up and reach the critical tipping point faster, which would make us ‘too big to be ignored’.
- Selling to another telco
For us, selling our company to a publicly owned telco has always been the most unlikely scenario. They represent everything we don’t want to be and our customers don’t want us to be.
An IPO might be even worse. Shareholders want revenue and generally don’t care about our mission to improve the sector.
- Selling to a party like Google
The most likely scenario has always been to integrate with a party like Google. They would take in our tech in the same way they did with the Android project. By doing so, they could make our – soon to be fully open source – cloud based PBX part of their ‘Google for business’ suite. Google has one thing against them, the privacy ‘thingy’, which is a pretty big thing for us. But if the PBX source code could remain open, we could go global fast. This always felt like the most likely scenario…
- Visiting Firefox HQ
At the end of 2012 I visited Firefox HQ in Mountain View and there has been no place that made me feel more at home than they did. The culture, their mission, I felt a connection….
Sorry Google, we are not for sale anymore
Meanwhile, Google changed into a company that makes more and more ‘money-based’ decisions, instead of decisions driven by customer satisfaction.
And then the NSA came and Google started a lawsuit after the fact instead of before.
So, we are sorry Google, but we have decided that it is OK that it will take us a little longer to change the telecom sector. Sure you can use our codebase to build cool stuff, but my company will always be a client oriented organization.
Before you exit
So before you sell your company, think of your ‘Why’. Does the exit strategy match your ‘Why’? If it doesn’t: don’t exit. A second question you might want to ask yourself is: “Is my life or my job getting better or worse after I sell?” And don’t think about the money. Money is boring. Think purpose, because that’s the only thing you’ll leave behind that matters.
Mark Vletter is a proud father of three and the founder of the fastest growing telecom provider in the Netherlands. The company has been growing 60% or more over the past 7 years and has received ‘FD gazellen’ and ‘Deloitte Fast 50’ awards for this growth and a ‘Smartest Company’ award for our purposeful cultural. There are 37 people working at the management free company.
Image Credit: CC by Kurt Bauschardt