What It’s Like When Google Buys Your Startup

This article excerpt is from eFinancialCareers.

Most fintech start-up CEOs tend to come from finance. Brett Crosby, who recently started PeerStreet—an investing platform for real-estate loans—has spent the past decade in the inner sanctum at Google.

Crosby helped to start its mobile advertising business, ran the Google+ product marketing team and most recently ran the global teams tasked with spearheading the growth of Chrome, Gmail, Docs and Drive. But, more impressively, he only ended up in Silicon Valley because Google snapped up his first tech company—Urchin Software Corp.—in 2005 and then rebranded it as Google Analytics.

Crosby attended the Search Engine Strategies trade show in California representing Urchin in 2004. Two then-twenty-something Google executives—David Friedberg (who would later found Climate Corp. and sell it to Monsanto) and Wesley Chan (who founded Felicis Ventures, a venture capital firm that invested in PeerStreet)—approached Urchin’s booth and basically said, “Hey, we heard about you guys and we’d like to talk about a business development opportunity—can you show me the product?”

Crosby was already planning to attend Google Dance, a big party at the Mountain View HQ, the next day.

“I said, ‘We’re here for the trade show and Google Dance, so let’s meet tomorrow,’” Crosby said. “They said it was a ‘biz dev opportunity,’ but it was very clear it was an acquisition meeting based on the level of seniority in the room.”

It almost never happened. “They said if it leaked they’d kill the deal, and it did leak a couple of days before we were going to seal the deal, but they decided to go through with it,” he said. “It almost didn’t happen, but they had me help write up a press release and they announced the deal in 2005 a couple of days before my wedding. I actually signed the deal right before I walked down the aisle, and immediately after our honeymoon, I reported to work at Google.”

The deal paid Crosby and his co-founders half in cash, half in stock, and because they hit the post-acquisition milestones, the stock component alone doubled the value of the deal. That kind of dream-scenario exit is how entrepreneurs draw it up in business school but seems pretty difficult to replicate.

“It’s like we were playing Triple-A ball and the Yankees called and said, ‘We’re going to be in the World Series—can you pitch for us?’” Crosby said. “We rebranded Urchin, put it on Google infrastructure, and Google Analytics became many orders of magnitude more popular than we ever could have imagined—it’s by far the most widely used web analytics platform in the world.

“Google was an incredible place to learn,” he continued. “We went from a startup to a big company undergoing explosive growth—when I got there it was around 2,500 people, and I saw it grow to more than 100k.”

For more on Crosby’s adventures in startups, including the founding of PeerStreet and what that firm looks for in job candidates, check out the article on eFinancialCareers. It was originally written by Dan Butcher.