Why selling my company for $10 million made me miserable

p 1 why selling my company for 10 million made me miserable and what finally made me happy

You’d assume that attending to retire early with an enormous windfall of money within the financial institution could be a dream come true. It’s definitely what I first anticipated—which is why it was so stunning to search out that this dream was truly much more like a nightmare.

$10 million {dollars}, however no happiness assure

In 2008, with my fourth startup referred to as Sunbelt Software program, my crew and I developed and launched VIPRE, a state-of-the-art antivirus software program. Just a few years later, Microsoft began buying small antivirus corporations. Our concern was that their final plan was to get an antivirus instrument bundled proper inside their working system. That basically meant that customers would get their antivirus resolution for free, and I didn’t need to compete with free.

So, we discovered a merger accomplice, they usually not solely stored bettering VIPRE but in addition tossed $10 million in my checking account. It appeared just like the best-case state of affairs from my enterprise viewpoint, and I initially did the completely happy dance you would possibly count on.


Nevertheless, as quickly as I noticed that sale finalize, my temper tanked. The happiness I had felt fizzled quicker than Pop Rocks. Even my spouse stated I wasn’t performing just like the particular person she knew and beloved, and he or she puzzled who was this particular person she all of a sudden discovered herself married to.

Reclaiming what had true worth

The issue was that for years, I put the whole lot I had into the enterprise. Not simply sources, however relationships. I had constructed an actual neighborhood the place we had enjoyable, widespread targets, and values. And that disintegrated with the sale. There was no extra sport to play. No extra crew. All people was working for another person. I had nothing to do, and I used to be miserable.

So, I appeared again and tried to determine the largest downside my Sunbelt crew and I had by no means been capable of remedy for clients. I noticed that social engineering was the basis reason for the vast majority of knowledge breaches and workstations contaminated with malware. And, I couldn’t simply sit on that. After simply 5 days of “retirement,” I started work on my fifth startup KnowBe4, the place altering conduct to cut back safety dangers was the principle imaginative and prescient.

As I dug myself out of my droop, I purposely positioned KnowBe4 as providing administration of an ongoing downside, not “an answer.” I had two large causes for doing that.

From a sensible standpoint, safety wants and social engineering are each all the time mutating. There’s by no means going to be a completed product that may make your safety issues completely go away or anticipate the following large factor cybercriminals are going to dream up. The most effective you are able to do is monitor the whole lot and assist folks perceive acknowledge and shut gaps via what they personally do.

However the sale of Sunbelt Software program additionally confirmed me actually rapidly that contributing to constructing one thing that makes a distinction has actual worth. Folks truly like to resolve laborious issues. They want a way of function, route, and connection to others. And all of that may be value far more than $10 million within the financial institution.

I needed to make it possible for my new crew knew that they’d all the time have one thing to work on that would give them a sense of affect and belonging as a result of I knew that it could hold them (and me) extra . I did my finest to set the enterprise up in order that they actually owned the issue constantly, slightly than taking a one-and-done angle.


Within the company world, cash can look like the whole lot. You’ll be able to assume that, if you happen to simply have X {dollars} in your account, then you definitely’ve “made it” and gained’t have any issues anymore. However the sale of Sunbelt taught me that getting cash simply shifts which issues you’ve and that it does completely squat to maintain you out of the dumps.

This isn’t to say that you need to by no means promote a company or endeavor to make some huge cash. Simply just remember to’re not buying and selling what you’re keen on for a giant payout. Have one thing you may pivot to that’s going to maintain that sense of enjoyable and function going for you—slightly than abandoning it—to assist your total psychological well being. I discovered from private expertise that’s all the time going to be extra beneficial in the long term, it doesn’t matter what a purchaser would possibly provide.

Stu Sjouwerman is the CEO of KnowBe4, his fifth startup.