How Do You Define Startup Success?

In 2013, Crisantos Hajibrahim launched gUnify, a firm that enables carriers to provide differentiated
services by integrating Google Apps with communication services, essentially creating a unified
communication platform. For example, gUnify can be used to provide a seamless bridge between a
smart phone and allowing users to see which customers have been called, track activity
and flagging users when important contacts are on the line.

Like many startups gUnify was a bootstrap effort. Crisantos had launched the firm with his own funds.
Everything was out of pocket and given his limited resources there was no ability to accelerate
development. In December of 2013 Crisantos met Josh Burwick of Sand Hill East. Josh had recently
written an article discussing the BroadSoft business model and his take on what the future held for them
especially vis a vis Google. The piece resonated with Crisantos because it demonstrated a strong
understanding of the telecom market and reflected what Crisantos was seeing. He reached out to Josh
and was surprised to learn that Josh was familiar with gUnify and even more surprising, knew that
gUnify needed funds.

With no connections to finance and a limited network, Crisantos had not been able to raise any outside
capital. Once he started to talk with Josh and Andy Brown, the co-founders of Sand Hill East, he realized
gUnify could really benefit from partnering with a firm that has a strong understanding of technology,
combined with key connections to the finance, venture capital and telecom worlds.

According to Crisantos, the two strongest benefits of working with Sand Hill East are the speed with
which the firm can raise money, “in a matter of weeks a couple hundred thousand had been raised” and
how well connected both Josh and Andy are across technology and banking. Sand Hill East invested in
gUnify and helped facilitate a $400K raise in short order. The successful raise gave gUnify breathing
room and the ability to accelerate development. A few early sales were made with emerging carriers
Alteva, Simple Signal and EvolveIP.

The carriers themselves are in a very tough business environment with limited margins and a somewhat
siloed view of technology. gUnify was offering a service that helps to truly differentiate their enterprise
offerings, but the sales process was quite lengthy. By the end of 2014 the funds from the first raise had
run out and there were insufficient sales to cover expenses. Crisantos was exhausted and he knew that
things could not continue as they were. At the same time, he felt personally responsible to his investors
and employees. Sand Hill and Crisantos agreed that he needed to sell the business. Sand Hill East
introduced him to Kevin Quinn, an investor who previously had run investment banking for Goldman
Sachs in Asia.

“Kevin is a superstar. The help he provided us was A+.”

Sand Hill East and Kevin led a process where multiple potential buyers were contacted. Four were
extremely interested and opted to participate in a bidding process. Kevin and Josh put the deal together
and helped ensure that the entire process ran smoothly. What almost surely would have been a
complete write-off was turned into a handsome return for the investors. gUnify found a new home with
Vonage; a great resurgent company that is currently highlighting the gUnify technology as the
centerpiece of a new business advertising campaign.

As Crisantos says, “the result was better than I imagined. It was a wild ride, but I learned so much”.

Most people define start up success in the size of the IPO or firm valuation. But success can also be
defined in terms of lessons learned, employees who are excited about their new jobs and investors who
received a welcome return on capital invested. Crisantos’ partnership with Sand Hill East turned a tough
lesson into a solid success.