‘Jugs of coffee, lots of Advil, and we didn’t sleep for 4 days’: A startup founder reveals what it was like to sell his company for $3.7 billion

AppDynamics Jyoti Bansal AppDynamics
  • Jyoti Bansal’s company AppDynamics was set to IPO when he received an offer to sell his company for $US3.7 billion.
  • In an interview with Business Insider, Bansal reveals how he grappled with the decision to sell his company.

On a cold winter night in New York last January, the founding members of app analytics company AppDynamics were in a celebratory mood.

In 26 hours, the San Francisco-based company that many of them had helped grow from a struggling startup to a multi-billion dollar business, was set to IPO on the Nasdaq. Many of the executives were laying out their suits, tailor-made for the occasion, to ring the bell on opening day.

But the mood of AppDynamic’s CEO, Jyoti Bansal, wasn’t so triumphant.

Bansal hadn’t slept in four days. Unbeknownst to AppDynamic’s jubilant staff, for the past 96 hours, their company’s chief executive had been running back and forth to 14-hour board meetings, visiting his lawyer’s offices, and worriedly pacing around his dining room floor in between video conference calls.

What AppDynamic’s staff did not yet know was that their company might not be going public after all.

Just five days before AppDynamic’s IPO, Bansal had received an offer. Cisco, a global IT provider, was interested in acquiring his company. At first, Bansal and his team rejected the offer.

But Cisco was persistent.

“They came back with a second offer,” Bansal told Business Insider. Once again, AppDynamics declined.

Cisco tried a third time. This time, the offer was set at $US3.7 billion, nearly twice the size of what the company had offered originally, Bansal said.

“It was a surprise number, definitely,” said Bansal. “I think I thought that $US2 billion would be our market cap. That was what we were expecting with our IPO. If that’s the price you IPO at, then how much more do you sell your company for?”

“No one slept. I was drinking tons of coffee.”

With the clock ticking ever closer to AppDynamic’s imminent IPO, Bansal and his team were under enormous pressure.

Should they sell? If they sold, would they disappoint their entire team? How would the acquisition be structured? Was it in their best interest to hold onto their company and go through with the IPO?

“There was a lot of debate about whether or not we would take it,” said Bansal. “No one slept. I was drinking tons of coffee – jugs and jugs of coffee, and taking a lot of Advil. I maybe slept for two hours in four days. “

To add to the pressure even more, it was imperative that meetings took place in absolute secrecy so that AppDynamics wouldn’t derail their IPO if they decided not to sell.

“It was all very secret,” said Bansal. “Even our bankers didn’t know this was going on. We didn’t want any of this to distract from the IPO, so we continued doing the roadshow.”

The decision to sell

In considering the offer, Bansal said it was his employees he was most concerned about.

“AppDynamics has thousands of employees,” said Bansal. “They have to continue their journey with this company. We were concerned about what the acquisition would do to the company’s identity, to the company’s culture.”

But ultimately, Bansal said he believed the move to sell was in the favour of the majority of the company’s employees.

“As a founder, yes, it makes a financial difference to sell, but it doesn’t really effect you as much,” he said. “We had at least 400 employees who would make more than a million dollars if we sold. You have to do the right thing for them. A million dollars is life changing.”

The day before the IPO, Bansal called his team in New York. Over a video conference meeting, Bansal said that AppDynamics would not be going public after all, and that there would be no ringing of the bell the following day.

“We said, ‘Hey, come back from New York,” said Bansal. “I think people didn’t know what to think. They were really sad. We were so euphoric about the IPO, and it took some time for the news settle in.”

For Bansal, the moment was bittersweet.

“It’s hard to give up a company you’ve built yourself,” he said. “I felt that I had to do the right thing, and this was the right thing.”

It’s been a little over a year since Bansal sold AppDynamics. The founder says he’s still involved in the company, but only as an occasional mentor. Still, he believes he made the right choice.

There was an additional silver lining to AppDynamic’s sell, as well.

“We made a deal with Cisco that we would get to ring the bell if we sold,” said Bansal. “Cisco is a big stock for Nasdaq, so they pulled some strings.”

And so, two months later, when the deal closed, Bansal and his staff rang the bell in New York together.

These days, Bansal has moved on to other things. Already, he has another project in the works, a software automation company called Harnass.io that Bansal hopes to turn into his second multi-billion dollar company.