A Walmart executive who sold his startup for $550 million had a really weird reaction the moment he got rich -- here's why

  • Marc Lore is the CEO and president of Walmart eCommerce in the US. He sold his startup Quidsi to Amazon in 2010, for $US550 million.
  • Afterward, he felt depressed and somewhat disempowered. Even the huge amount of money he made didn’t help.
  • Many startup founders go through a similar experience and say they have mixed feelings about selling their company.

In 2010, Marc Lore sold his startup, Quidsi, to Amazon for $US550 million.

Immediately afterward, he felt terrible.

On an episode of Business Insider’s podcast, “Success! How I Did It,” Lore, who is now the CEO and president of Walmart eCommerce in the US, told US editor-in-chief Alyson Shontell what it felt like after the sale.

Here’s Lore:

“You think we would have been celebrating, like, ‘Wow, we just made enough money that we never have to work again,’ that sort of thing. ‘Family is set, grandkids are set,’ and everything. And it was this really depressing sort of moment where we didn’t even want to go out for a drink.

“It wasn’t a celebration; it was sort of like mourning. That’s what it felt like. And it was really weird. We were like, ‘Why do we feel so bad right now?’ Like, we just sold this company and made a lot of money, and we just didn’t feel great.”

Lore described feeling somewhat disempowered after selling Quidsi to Amazon. He told Shontell:

“I think a lot of entrepreneurship is about, like I said, having fun building something, being empowered to make decisions and run, build your own unique culture, hire the people you want to hire, watch them grow and develop, and go on to bigger and better things, and learn while they’re there. It’s, like, there’s a lot of benefit of doing it that go beyond dollars and cents.

“And I think that hit us, like, ‘Hey, in this new structure, this new world, a lot of the things that made us happy are not going to exist anymore.'”

Even the huge sum of money he’d just come into wasn’t enough to fill that emptiness. Lore said: “We had a nice house, nice cars, clothes, food, like, we were living fine before. It wasn’t like the money was going to suddenly bring us from poverty to sort of sustainability, right?

“And we knew we’d always be able to make money; we had good, you know, salary earning potential outside of this. So I guess the money really just didn’t do it.”

Many startup founders feel remorse after selling their company and losing control

Lore’s experience isn’t unique. Shontell previously spoke to Bryan Goldberg, founder of Bleacher Report (and later, Bustle) about what it was like when Turner Media purchased the company for around $US200 million in 2012.

“When the money hit the bank account, I was just relieved that this gruelling eight-month process was over,” Goldberg told Shontell. “Then you realise, I don’t own this [startup] anymore, which is a very powerful feeling.

“You go on the website and it just occurs to you, ‘This isn’t mine and it doesn’t belong to me in any way other than from a sentimental standpoint.'”

Ben Horowitz, a general partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, told The New York Times something similar about selling Opsware to Hewlett-Packard for $US1.6 billion in 2007.

“I spent eight years, all day every day, trying to build this thing, and all of a sudden it’s gone, it’s just over,” he said. “It’s a little bit like something dies.”

Lore’s experience informed the way he went about the sale of his next startup – Jet – to Walmart in 2016.

When he and Doug McMillion, the CEO of Walmart, started talking about working together, Lore said, “The one piece was I didn’t want to go down this path that we did last time, which was, ‘Hey, we’re going to let you do your thing.’ Because I learned that lesson before. And Doug said, ‘No, we actually want to give you the keys, and have you, your team, take the best of both worlds and drive this thing forward.’

He went on: “That slight difference in sort of mentality meant everything – that was the difference between being depressed and being really happy. And so when people say, ‘Yeah, but you sold,’ and I said, ‘Well, we sold the company, but we didn’t sell out, which we did the first time.'”

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