Launching a successful startup that ends up in an exit is super difficult, so we decided to learn how it's done from those who have made it. We went out and met with S (a very modest guy who preferes to remain anonymous) who founded an Israeli high tech company in the field of finance and made an Exit.
The company's story
After working very hard and barely sleeping for one year the team launched a product that was a flop. They barely broke even due to high customer acquisition costs. They made a pivot to an idea in the finance industry, and one of the founders was willing to put in his own money which allowed them to have another shot. After another gruelling 7 months of late nights, they launched a second product. This time it worked straight from the start. They still had to put in many hours but they were already making a lot of money. Things were looking great until they suddenly had legal issues and had to freeze operations in their main location. They were almost out of the game, and they got a purchase offer from a tycoon. S was against selling the startup, but the other founders supported this move. The luckiest thing that happened to them was that this deal eventually fell through. They managed to get a couple of licenses for other locations and after several months they were allowed to operate again in their main location. They made more and more money, giving out dividends to the founders and then they went public. Since then the value has constantly risen, making S a young millionaire. We wanted to hear how this changed his life and what we can learn from his story.
Did you know you were going to succeed?
S: We had a good feeling about the startup but of course you never know. The uncertainty was exciting. Working on it was a roller coaster, not for the faint-hearted.
Did you change your work habits after becoming a millionaire?
S: I still worked the same long hours, but after a few years I felt I needed something new. I took one day off a week for a couple of months, then I left my role and now I only advise the company.
How did the money change your life?
S: At the beginning I still compared prices at the supermarket but after a while I got used to having a lot and stopped doing that.
The money was great because we could use it to buy a house where we always dreamt of living. We also used it to help out family. But the day to day troubles in life are still there, money can't solve everything.
Do you miss being an entrepreneur?
S: I missed it a lot, so this year I started a new startup with one of my teammates and I feel excited again to go to work. The new startup is in a different industry which I am very passionate about so I couldn't miss out on the opportunity. I'm not in it just for the money. I do have to put in long hours again, since it is a startup and many things depend on my work. It's hard that I see my kids less but even my wife supported this step since she knew it would make my work life exciting again.
S's tips for entrepreneurs:
You have to be completely committed, or else there is no chance. You must believe.
Know who you are and what are your limitations, and have people to complement you. If you are the tech person, bring a strong business person, a marketing person, put all the pieces together.
Maximize your opportunities. It's very important to network and go outside and meet people. Make connections so that the opportunities can come.
Don't be afraid to call your competition's support line to understand how things work.
You don't have to reinvent the wheel. It's very difficult to educate the market. You can make something that already exists, just make it better.
You need plenty of luck. I know I owe a lot of our success to pure luck.
The best book I can recommend for entrepreneurs is Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. It emphasises how much your investment of time and hard work is more important than your talent. Perseverance is key.