How Founder Partners Helped 2 Immigrants Build and Sell their Business to Yahoo! for Double Digit Millions on a Modest Investment in Only 9 Months
In 2011, Yi Mao and Wentong Li were energetic engineering grads of Tsinghua and Fudan, two of the top schools in China. They came to the US for graduate school and met through the Bay Area Chinese tech community. Their skills were honed at companies both big (Microsoft) and small (Turn), and their experience of architecting tech for a start-up and watching it become a large business made them hungry to do the same for their own company.
As they were working on prototyping their new tech, they met Greg Baszucki through a recruiter he knew from his Dealix days. Greg saw the potential in the new prototype and brought Yi and Wentong in to work with Founder Partners to help the new company achieve its maximum potential.
Founder Partners teamed with Yi and Wentong to form AdMovate, an omnichannel digital advertising company.
From a technical standpoint, things progressed rapidly and well. But the new company became plagued by threats of lawsuits from companies claiming rights to the new IP and was pressured to sell early with enticing promises of quick cash and an end to legal headaches.
Luckily, Greg and Brian were on board to guide Yi and Wentong, who were overwhelmed and intimidated, through the treacherous waters of handling IP challenges, negotiating M&A, payroll, and finding and securing the right CEO, with even a bit of a psych services component thrown in.
After all, coders want to code, not deal with threats and legal hassles, and everyone needs talking down from the tree every now and again.
And that’s how Founder Partners helped Yi and Wentong go from being two coders with no prior business experience who were facing lawsuits and dizzying early buyout offers to being the co-founders of a successful company that achieved a highly favorable exit in a very short period of time.
Testimonial from Co-Founder Yi Mao
It was our first time starting a business. We know what we’re good at, and we also know what we needed help with. Finding the right partner is hard, like dating. The right connection is subtle, elusive, hard to quantify. It’s a people thing. We wanted someone who understood us and what we were going through. With Brian and Greg, we found our perfect match. They were very honest, they let us know what they’re good at, but they trusted us to be in charge of our own destiny. They have their specialties that provide tremendous value to tech people like us, a very unique combination of qualities as compared to other investors. We liked their overall philosophy about the value of bootstrapping. I think we made the right choice.
One thing I’d say to a first-time entrepreneur is, never give up control of your company. It’s your venture, your destiny, and if you partner with the wrong investor, you can lose control because they have their own agenda. Brian and Greg helped us grow, but as true partners who were aligned with us and our vision so that we still had 100% control over the direction our business ultimately took.
Another thing that’s hard is putting together the right team. There’s alot at stake in the beginning, and everyone needs to do their job and trust each other, depend on each other, and be willing to go along with you and take risks. Startups are all about people in the end, and there needs to be the right chemistry for things to move forward. Brian and Greg helped us find that right team, and we’re still together now.
Startups are challenging. You never know what’s coming up so you need someone to help you who’s done it before. If tough times come up, you need someone to help you through it. After all, how much pain can you take? If you’re on your own and something comes up, it’s hard to see through to the end of it, so it’s of real value to have someone there to reassure you, this is OK, they’re just playing games, be patient.
And they’re nice guys too. We keep in touch even now, years later, catch up, have lunch. In the end I think we got really lucky teaming up with Brian and Greg when we did. It was perfect timing.