Before Exiting Your Startup, Consider These 3 Things


Opinions expressed by entrepreneur Contributors are their own.

When I was approached by Microsoft as a young entrepreneur in my 20s to take over my company, I jumped at the opportunity – well, who wouldn’t?

To provide a little background, a college friend and I became interested in certain facets of cybersecurity and took it upon ourselves to develop anti-spam software, quickly followed by anti-spyware software. That was before machine learning technologies existed, but big data was already a buzzword. We successfully launched GIANT Software and our company has grown exponentially fast.

Just a year after the release of our flagship product, Microsoft reached out to us. They loved what our technology offered and in a short time GIANT became Microsoft Anti-Spyware and my co-founder and I were brought into the company.

A few decades later and having had the time to reflect on past decisions, there are a few key elements I would recommend others in a similar position to think about before making a decision.

See also: Start planning your exit strategy now with these 4 tips

The grass isn’t always greener

Everyone has 20-20 vision in hindsight. Looking back, there’s an argument that I should have held out longer and not sold my business so quickly – though not necessarily for the reasons you might be thinking!

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The period immediately after the takeover was exciting. We moved to new offices in a new part of the country, hired hundreds of new people to join my team, and leveraged resources we never had before. It was really exciting and I felt like I was still able to tackle big problems head-on.

At some point, however, boredom set in. We went from startup mode to corporate mode so quickly. New processes, systems and internal policies that didn’t exist or weren’t relevant before suddenly became an important part of my day.

If you are an entrepreneur and your business is taken over, chances are you will go idle. Everyday life wasn’t as exciting as it used to be, and I lacked the creative kick, the hectic pace, the “reach for the stars” impulse that you have in the build-up phase.

Do you have a backup plan?

So my next piece of advice is: always have a backup plan in place for after the exit. Think about where you want to go next, whether within the same area or coming from a completely different direction. It’s always a good plan to have the next few ideas up your sleeve.

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For example, after my GIANT project I decided to try my hand at a number of different areas of engineering – including e-commerce, graph theory and consulting. Trying yourself and learning through hands-on experience can provide all kinds of inspiration and help you build your network and socialize.

At the same time, finding a colleague or partner who is on the same page as you can make entrepreneurship more rewarding. Two heads are better than one, and collaborating on projects will broaden your horizons. And of course colleagues who end the day the same way help with the work-life balance elements – a quick game call of Duty everyone?

Related: How to design your company’s ideal exit

love what you do

Are you leaving your startup for the right reasons? Are you giving up the reins to go in the right direction? Depending on your lineup, you may remain involved in the business or leave the business in competent hands and find yourself with plenty of free time. When you’ve worked hard to build something over the years, handing it off can feel a little surreal and the thought of doing it all over again can be overwhelming.

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Taking something you’re passionate about and turning it into what you do for a living is one of my top self-realization tips. I founded Reason Labs in 2016 when I decided to go back to my roots and get back into the world of cybersecurity. Today, I continue to do what I love most: finding and mitigating cyber threats with my team of RAV researchers.

Fortunately, my interest in cyber security also comes at a time when large companies and individuals are all eager to step up their cyber protections. It’s an area that currently has a lot of room for innovation, and working in an area that I personally find exciting means that the work never feels like work.

See also: 3 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Building Their Exit

Of course, this is easier said than done, and learning from past mishaps, decisions, and maneuvers are all ingredients that will guide a person in their work life. And as always, the advice and learning from others who have been in similar situations will help you to carefully weigh all aspects before taking a life-changing step and make decisions that are right for you and your business.



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