In this podcast interview on “Founders Talk” with Adam Stacoviak we talk about the decision to sell my startup Mattermark, the process of getting the deal done, managing psychology and explore the many choices along the way.
If you’ve been following along on social media, you might have heard me say “I’m on sabbatical” lately. It’s true, I’m no longer an employee anywhere and this break is self-funded (some folks pointed out saying sabbatical sounds like something that I’d negotiated as part of the acquisition), so I’m not sure what to call it. Yesterday was the start of my 9th week of this new phase, and I’m not planning to work for the rest of 2018 (more on what I am up to coming in a future post).
This interview with Adam is my first deep dive into the process of selling Mattermark, and I hope it will be helpful to other founders who might find themselves in similar circumstances. I’ve tried to present the story with as little spin as possible, both on the positive side and also on the negative side. The truth is that I’m not devastated by this outcome and it is certainly still much better than that typical startup result (a total shutdown without any sale at all). I am proud to have “landed the plane” and I’m sure I was not the perfect CEO, but believe I have acted with high integrity at all times and generosity wherever it was possible. There is certainly a grieving process as I shed the roles, rituals and perks of being a startup founder and CEO but I am starting to see things in a more balanced light.
The coverage of Mattermark’s acquisition in December certainly wasn’t the kind of ending I’d hoped for after an exhausting process, but by that point so many other things had happened that it was really just another thing to survive. I was living life day-to-day, just waking up and putting one foot in front of the other, and I needed a break from the hyper-transparent life I’ve been leading on the Internet. Instead of the typical crappy acquisition fluff post TechCrunch tends to do, our deal details were leaked and the media angle was primarily a criticism of my tone in an email to common shareholders (I said “I have great news!” before telling common holders they’d been wiped out — not my best choice ever, but also not deserving of so much of the Internet’s asymmetrical ire in the Twitter outrage machine). It sucked.
When the story broke, I was so sleep deprived standing in my furniture-less rental house in Denver with the deal less than 24 hours from closing I could barely stand. Friends had a variety of pieces of advice, “You have to respond and defend your reputation! Your fans deserve to know the truth! Perhaps a mea culpa?”
After my head stopped spinning I puked in the sink, rinsed it down, and texted my board for advice. “Time to get off the Internet” they said. I focused my last dregs of energy on completing the deal (it closed the next day) and did just that. I’m proud of that, I knew I was strong but this was definitely the most I had been tested since some of the most stressful moments at Twilio… and the stakes were much higher.
I resumed work 3 weeks later and in total spent 6 months not only transitioning Mattermark but also running the Product organization at FullContact as a member of the exec team, professionalizing the Product org, establishing process and training, eliciting input from across the organization and establishing a roadmap aligned with the company’s strategy. I’m proud of the work I did there and truly believe I left things better than I found them. I loved getting to know my team and we’ve formed friendships that will last a long time, and we never would have been able to accomplish so much in just two quarters without their commitment and tireless engagement. Mattermark has been successfully transitioned, and continues to operate as a revenue-generating part of the FullContact product portfolio.
Now I’m a free agent.
I’d love to engage with readers who been through acquisitions, life and career resets, and other major transitions as I figure out what I would most like to do next. Start a company? Join a startup? Join a larger company? Switch industries? Become a full-time investor? Become a full time writer? It’s all on the table.
P.S. I am still actively angel investing in startups and funds, and you can learn more about how we are supporting female founders at XFactor Ventures. As reported by Forbes last month, we have big plans to raise a larger second fund.