Million-dollar Babe

Million-dollar Babe

On the middle finger of her left hand, Lim Qing Ru sports a ring with "April 10 2014" engraved on it.

That was the day news broke that Zopim, the tech company she joined as a co-founder in 2008, had been acquired by an American software company for a reported US$29.8 million (roughly S$37 million). The payout was split between herself and four other co-founders, making her a multimillionaire overnight. She was then two weeks shy of her 29th birthday.

"We went from being nameless entrepreneurs to instant role models for the tech industry," says Qing Ru, who turns 30 this April.

"All of a sudden, everyone was paying attention to us."

Journalists spun a blithe tale about how a group of scrappy entrepreneurs finally made good after years of surviving on meagre salaries: They created a winning product - a chat widget that allows business owners to send instant messages to customers and provide real-time customer service - after which the company was wooed by US-based customer support firm Zendesk.

The co-founders then signed an acquisition deal that gave each of them multimillion-dollar payouts. It was the perfect rags-to-riches tale.

Or so it seemed.

Like giving up a child

The truth was, it wasn't quite the happily-ever-after that most people imagined it to be.

"[The acquisition] wasn't an easy decision," admits Qing Ru. "I spent seven years building the company with my blood, sweat and tears. Then, I had to let it go." After signing the agreement, she sobbed uncontrollably. Till this day, she hasn't spent a cent of her millions - she can't bear to. All of it is sitting in a bank.

If going into a business is like getting married ("you stick with your partners through thick and thin"), then building a company is like giving birth to a child, she explains. "It's heartbreaking to give up your baby."

Even after the deal was closed, there were nail-biting moments. At the time of acquisition, Zendesk was a relatively young company and had not yet launched its initial public offering (IPO) - its IPO was launched only in May, the month following the acquisition. A portion of Qing Ru's payout was in the form of Zendesk shares, which could very well have ended up worthless if the IPO had failed.

"If things had turned out badly, I would never have forgiven myself," says Qing Ru. "I would have signed away my baby for nothing."

Fortunately, things went well. Zendesk shares started trading at $11.40 apiece - above the company's offering price of $9 - and their value doubled to around $23 apiece in December. Every day, she thanks her lucky stars that her instincts turned out right.

To read the rest of this article, get a copy of the February 2015 issue of Her World, Singapore’s No.1 women’s magazine. Her World, published by SPH Magazines is available at all newsstands now

Also, check out the February 2015 issue for these stories:
1) Look Fab in Feb: 10 cheery and pretty looks that work for a romantic Valentine’s Day date, and those Chinese New Year visits later.
2) Get A Date-worthy Face: Play up your best asset with trends like bold orange lipstick or vibrant eyeshadow… and watch him melt.
3) 35 Things Your Boss Won’t Tell You!: That office sports day that your superior said is voluntary? It really isn’t. This and other revelations from 20 managers.

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