There aren’t many startup founders that have done what Garrett Camp has done. After selling content discovery service StumbleUpon to eBay for $75 million in 2007, Camp and investors decided to buy it back for a reported $29 million in 2009.
After the initial Series A that was folded back into the spinoff, Camp raised $17 million from August Capital, Accel, and others in a Series B just last week, making StumbleUpon the most rare of comeback success stories.
Thus far buying yourself back after an acquisition is a feat that’s only been accomplished on a large scale by Webshots (which bought itself back from Excite@Home and resold itself to Cnet) and Skype, which also bought itself back from eBay. Andrew Dreskin, the founder of TicketFly, who sold his former company TicketWeb to TicketMaster and proceeded to directly compete with his former owner, also deserves an honorable mention here.
I sat down with Camp during SXSW to talk about the process of reacquiring your company, what he plans on doing with the StumbleUpon’s rare second chance, and which startup he likes better, StumbleUpon or Uber (of which he is a co-founder).
On the motivation behind the acquisition: “A desire for flexibility. I think bigger companies require more approvals, it takes longer to get stuff done. So I thought we would grow a lot faster if we were a smaller company.”
On the advantages of being part of a larger company: “The great thing about eBay is that I could totally focus on product, totally focused on engineering, I didn’t have to deal with fundraising, I didn’t have to deal with all the operational issues you have at a company. Because I was focused on that we actually grew really well. We tripled in size during out time there. We were there times bigger when we left than when we came in.”
On whether he’s more excited about StumbleUpon or Uber (the company he co-founded with Travis Kalanick: “That’s like saying ‘which is your favorite kid?’ I mean that’s hard to pick. Uber was basically a side project …”
Advice to other founders that find themselves bored post acquisition: “The decision you want to make is ‘Do you want to keep working on what you’re working on?'”
Pulling a phoenix from the ashes is that simple, except when it’s not.