Beyond Emptiness: What Lies Ahead For the Founder After Buyout

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An entrepreneur’s life is tough – enough has been said about it already. After years of hard work, sacrifice, dedication and frustration, you build a startup only to give it all away – albeit for a huge sum of money. There is a chance that at the back of your mind somewhere you think that you are building the company with an aim that it will be bought out one day, but nothing can prepare you for the day you hand over your company to someone else.

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There would be challenges along the way. For some it could be exciting, for others very emotional. It is a roller-coaster ride filled with happiness and extreme emptiness for the founder. Once the acquisition is done, the founder finds himself grappling with an existential crisis – he was once the founder and CEO of his business, now what? Most take up a role in the company to help it grow further while others quit to carry on their entrepreneurial journey.

For the ones who take up a role, it is like them going back from entrepreneurship to a corporate life.  It becomes challenging for them to go from calling all the shots to being a mere cog in the wheel. We talked to Shantanu Mathur, Country Head, Knowlarity. He was previously the founder of Smartwads, a company that was recently acquired by Ambarish Gupta's Knowlarity. Shantanu's journey from being an entrepreneur to a corporate, in his own words:

"Moving to Knowlarity from Smartwards was a very exciting move for us. We are still working in the similar space - software for SME & Enterprise - and even though the product definition has changed a bit, we are still solving a similar problem to what we were before, but on a much larger platform. Moreover, the current role as Country Head for India is pretty much like running my own business as I have control over all parts of the business."

"As an entrepreneur, I used to be worried about multiple things - finding the product market fit, driving the business growth, executing every day, fund raising, investor management, team management, etc. I am still responsible for a bunch of these related to the business, but in a more established environment in terms of, we have product-market fit and are more focused on executing. The firm is more stable in terms of funds, but investor management is still there. Therefore, what has happened is we are now not focused on SURVIVING, but GROWING. This is very exciting. We are still optimizing limited resources, but on a much grander scale and with much larger impacts."

Shantanu will be continuing in Knowlarity as the Head of their India business controlling, sales, marketing and frontline ops. He said, "We were very excited about this opportunity and role and had thus chosen Knowlarity for the exit as opposed to some of the other options we had available. I look forward to growing Knowlarity to the next level."

He added, "Moreover, I have a lot of independence in this role thus I dont feel like I am in a job, just a more settled entrepreneurial journey. Combined with the number of ex-entrepreneurs in Knowlarity, it is a very exciting place to be and culture to be a part of. Laser focused on growth rather than subsistence and a get-shit-done place, which is what a startup should be!!"

Fortunately, for Shantanu, it has been a pleasant experience. But not everyone is so fortunate.

Prepare For Future

So, what should you do before signing the dotted line? Upon acquisition, things change, specifically, decision-making. It is vital to have the clarity of the new role and the information pertaining to who would take the final call. Then determine if you would be a fit. If you are not open to having a boss, you should work on a deal that you are comfortable with.

Adjusting to a new  company culture, one that you haven’t built and interacting with a different team, one that you haven’t hired can be a tricky situation. Try to blend.

It is extremely difficult to give up control. But that’s a part of entrepreneur’s journey. No matter what you choose, break new ground!