Are startups owed an exit? It sure felt that way when I wrote this piece. Somewhere down the line, my thinking changed.
All founders are desirous of the big exit. Be it a venture investment, IPO or maybe even being acquired. An investor and startup come together when it’s a win-win, right? The investor believes that the startup is a compelling story, that they would miss out if they didn’t invest. The startup believes taking the investors money and involvement has greater rewards than the trouble.
Then there are dire situations where founders are struggling and they believe they need a cash infusion to stay afloat. I know of many such journies. I too was at that point once. It felt then that an exit was owed. I denied myself the reward of persisting. A lesson learned.
You deserve an exit when a competitor believes they have to buy you out, an investor believes that you’re a must-have investment, a strategic investor thinks you’re going to deliver on a key priority, or it’s just simply too hard for you to go on. I imagine I might have missed some other rational or irrational scenario, but otherwise, there’s no exit.
Then there is future. There is always future. When we’re looking into the future, the exit goal clouds the constructive, path-finding attitude. So set it aside. You can build a future if you believe you have one. Surprise your self and those around you every day. Look to inspire and get that next customer, that next user, the next investor, the market and so on towards the larger more complex ideas. Trust me, as the future unfolds – you’ll see there are limitless possibilities to surprise you. I don’t say this trivially, I did find a future myself and I’m sure you’ll find yours.