When I first started Credit Karma in 2007, my co-founders and I received a lot of resistance from credit bureaus and investors and were faced with massive headwinds navigating the financial crisis in 2008. However, just two years after launch, we had given away our one millionth free credit score and secured our first round of VC funding.
This wasn't easy, there were countless times when I thought we wouldn't make it. For example, when we received a cease and desist letter from our only data source, TransUnion. Though despite early challenges, we were able to significantly expand our product to include nearly every facet of a consumer's financial life, including auto, mortgage, personal loans, tax filing and savings.
More than a decade later, when we finally started to look at the possibility of an exit, it was critical for us to partner with a company that has a similar mission and the ability to accelerate our vision. For Credit Karma, that meant the possibility of delivering on our product roadmap in five years, instead of what could have taken more than 10. This is one of the main reasons why we decided to go with Intuit, and why Credit Karma agreed to be acquired by the financial software company for $7.1 billion.
Our steady path of growth and profitability, especially during the last few years, really paid off when we were thinking about our exit. It put the company in a strong position and gave us the option of choice. Many acquisitions and public events happen because companies run out of money, and that wasn't the case for us. Instead, this was a unique opportunity to accelerate our mission and propel our business forward by partnering with a company that has the same values of making money easier to understand for consumers.
As I reflect on our journey, and the acquisition, a few pieces of advice come to mind for fellow entrepreneurs:
Choose purpose over profit from the beginning.
Building and scaling an impactful business requires a drive beyond making money. Having the passion to deliver on your company's purpose will fuel you through the trying times.
Do the right thing by your members.
Put the member first, revenue will follow. There were many times over the years when we were faced with the option to do the right thing by our members or increase our bottom line, we chose our members. As a business owner, your customers and their trust are paramount. To maintain this, you must be willing to sacrifice short term profit gains to protect your members.
Don't listen to the naysayers.
You're going to hear a lot of "nos" on the fundraising trail, but don't get discouraged. In the early days, we couldn't convince anyone on Sand Hill Road to invest in us, but we knew we had a good idea. So we had to get creative and resort to less traditional methods of fundraising outside of Silicon Valley.
The IPO should not be the end goal.
We've always viewed an IPO as a tool in our toolbox, not a final destination. Instead, we stayed focused on building a solid business and delivering on our mission on behalf of our members.
Let your leaders lead.
Hire great leaders and let them lead. As CEO, I've had to hand over the reins many times. This can be challenging at first, but it will ultimately free up your time to do your best work and empower your leaders to do theirs.
Don't stop building.
Credit Karma started out as a destination for free credit scores, but we didn't stop there. To meet the evolving needs of our members, we continue to expand our products to include all aspects of a persons' finances. This doesn't stop with the acquisition, we believe this will enable us to keep building--at scale.