How and when should startup founders think about the “exit”? It’s the perennial question in tech entrepreneurialism, but the hows and whens are questions to which there are a multitude of answers. For one thing, new founders often forget that the terms of the exit may not eventually be entirely in their control. There’s the board to think of, the strategic direction of the company, the first-in investors, the last-in. You name it. We’ll be chatting about this at Disrupt 2020.
Exits normally happen in only one of two ways: Either the startup gets acquired for enough money to give the investors a return or it grows big enough to list on the public markets. And it just so happens we have two perfect founders who will be able to unpack their own journeys on those two roads.
When Cloudflare went public last year it certainly wasn’t the end of its 10-year journey, and nor was it PlanGrid’s when it was acquired by Autodesk in 2018.
Cloudflare’s Michelle Zatlyn saw every nook and cranny of the company’s journey toward its IPO, which received a warm reception, even if there were a few bumps along the road leading up to it. What comes after an IPO and how do you even get there in the first place? Zatlyn will be laying it all out for us.
PlanGrid’s journey to acquisition by Autodesk was equally fascinating, and Tracy Young — who, as CEO and co-founder, shepherded the company to an $875 million exit — will be able to give us insight into what it’s like to dance with a potential acquirer, go through that (often fraught) process and come out the other side.