The “should the founder sell” dilema
Today I read that that Svpply, a much loved product curation community that sold to Ebay less than two years ago, is shutting down. Shortly after the announcement, the founder launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of a new site independent of Ebay, very similar to Svpply, that he says will focus purely on the community, and never sell again. He’s turning to Kickstarter to fund the community so he’s not beholden to venture funding demands this time around.
If you think the story sounds familiar, it’s because the the the founder of Upcoming, a once popular event sharing community that sold to Yahoo! and saw his brainchild dissapear, just recently announced a Kickstarter to relaunch Upcoming campaign with the same promise. And before that, similar stories have played out with StumbleUpon [once sold to Ebay], Foursquare [an outgrowth of Dodgeball, which Google bought], AboutMe [once sold to AOL], and others.
When Svpply was acquired by Ebay a blog post that went up said “we couldn’t be happier to announce that we’ve been acquired by eBay Inc.
One thing we do want to make clear: Svpply is not going away.” When Upcoming was acquired by Yahoo! a blog post that went up said “I’m unbelievably proud to announce that Upcoming.org is now a member of the Yahoo! family. I’ve always had a warm and fuzzy feeling about Yahoo.” History has rewritten both.
I’m thinking about these stories because I’m currently building something I’m really excited about, that we’re about to show the world soon. If all goes well and we’re lucky enough for it to be successful, I know we’ll eventually have to make a decision to fight the good fight ourselves, or find a home for it. And I know when the time comes, finding a home for it will seem like the right decision. But I wonder how many people who sell their baby regret when they do. I wonder how often that is the wrong decision.
Even though venture funding and attractive acquisition offers are necessity for spurring innovation, and many of the great things we enjoy today are a result of that pattern, I’m curious how much we’ve also lost because the people who are passionate about their ideas lose control of them. I hope we can avoid that fate.
Note: This post was originally written on Medium