Jason Cohen is one of my favorite writers. He seems to speak from the same mouth as me, only so much more elegantly. One of his latest, Startup Identity and the Sadness of A Successful Exit, is something I struggle with personally.
My fingers trembled as I fed page 34 of 72 into the fax machine, deftly pressing the head of each page into its creaky jaws so that this shitty cheap-o machine wouldn’t snag two pages at once, slantways, obscuring the precious scribblings adorning the footer of each page where it read: “Seller’s Initials: _______”.
This is what the last six years were all for. All the labor. All the risk. The brave face for the troops. The self-inflicted unflagging optimism despite no evidence to support it. All those sleepless nights worried about making payroll. The care and feeding of becoming an expert in something. The hard lessons you have to recover from learning. The experience you get just after you need it. The inner doubt suppressed for the morale of the team. No salaries followed by low salaries. The “eat what we kill” mentality. The scrounging and scrabbling and begging and fighting the assholes for those morsels of revenue, those crumbs of validation.
It’s over. We did it. I did it. American dream? Check.
The 73rd page spat out confirming the successful transfer of the previous 72.
And then… sadness.
I haven’t been on the selling side but I have more than once grappled with moving on, with a business that couldn’t pay its bills anymore, but a business I still believed in with all my heart. I hope some day to be reconciling the mixed emotions of selling Infinity Softworks for a hefty profit but know that when that day comes, I will let go with a heavy heart. After 16 years, I am Infinity Softworks, after all, and Infinity Softworks is me.