As this article and the chart below from Business Insider points out, 50% of startup exits in 2012 exited for less than $50 million in value. Personally, I would only sell a business if it didn't have a great future ahead of it. This is the founder mindset needed to go long. At Bazaarvoice, we created over 1,000 jobs and a valuation of around $550 million today. But Brant and I could have sold Bazaarvoice for around $25 million when it was around a year old. As I point out in my Lucky7 post about the five critical ingredients to build a big company, the founder mindset matters for ultimately what ripple effects will be created.
Are you going to create 10 jobs or 1,000 jobs? Are you going to create less than $50 million of value or greater than $500 million? It all depends on your potential or TAM (Total Available Market), execution, and your mindset. Some entrepreneurs are only in it for the quick flip, and they do it over and over again. They feel more comfortable in that groove and they haven't pushed themselves to go beyond it - perhaps because it is so hard to do so.
If you are looking to join a startup, avoid these entrepreneurs unless you know that is the game and they are open enough to call it like it is. Make sure this is what you want to do - and you get a large percentage of the equity. There is a big difference in who makes money with a $50 million versus $500 million valuation, and that also means a big difference in the company's benefit to the community (jobs, future philanthrophy, etc). It is also really fun - but really hard - to go from a $50 million to a $500 million valuation. But I've never had more fun in my career than that ride at Bazaarvoice, even when factoring in all of the challenges and learning along the way. And I know many early Bazaarvoice employees feel the same way.