The truth behind multi-million dollar startup exits

Here is what you forgot to include in your exit strategy.

“Life after exit” is a common cliche that most people don’t understand or don’t want to talk about. It’s a significant achievement, both personal and business wise, but the outcome is irreversible, and most founders are not emotionally prepared for it.

Don’t understand

After all, you have all the money you need, and you are set for life. You don’t have to work another day in your life and still live a more than decent and fulfilling life that others only dream of. What could not be good about that? Even you won’t understand this before going through your first exit.

Most entrepreneurs don’t start a business only for the money. They do it because they believe in something, they think they can solve a problem, and they’re excited to ride the journey of a business from the ground up, from nothing but an idea to a successful business.

Over time this behavior creates a community of people around them, a way to structure their plans and their lives and, most important, gives them a purpose to get out of bed every morning and defines their identity.

As a founder, you love your “job” and all the stuff that comes with it. Now.. imagine losing all of these. You will at least feel disoriented, if not lost.

Don’t talk

When everybody expects you to be fulfilled and happy, very few will understand if you tell them you’re not. You’re living what they’re dreaming; only that real life can sometimes suck compared to dreaming.

In more developed startup ecosystems, there are so-called post-exit communities where people can talk about it, know what to expect, prepare for it and get help and advice afterward.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably just like me, with no post-exit community around you, you were not prepared for this, and you don’t understand the mixed feelings that you are experiencing. But guess what, you’re not alone.

The reason why I started writing this is that very few people dare to talk about it publicly. Our society is obsessed with positivity, and usually highlights only the good parts and the benefits of everything, creating false expectations. When reality hits, “life after exit” is not all rainbows and unicorns.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +442,678 people.

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