On a Monday evening in October, Zain Dhanani accepted a acquisition offer for his e-commerce startup. On Tuesday morning, he woke up and wanted to start an investment bank.
Dhanani launched what would become Koar.com in 2012 and in three years, built it into a multimillion dollar retailer selling in twelve countries, with zero outside funding. Like most entrepreneurs, the daily demands of running an internet company in a 24 hour digital world left him with little time to sleep, much less daydream about the possibility of selling out for a big payday.
That day, however, inevitably came when investors and competitors started knocking on the door to find out who was behind the e¬commerce startup growing, in the age of Amazon, at over 400% a year. "I remember that first call from a private equity firm being very surreal," Dhanani says. "My life revolved around designing products and haggling over the cost of bubble mailers. I knew less than nothing about mergers and acquisitions."
He started talking to boutique investment bankers to help him find the right buyer and make the right deal but quickly realized that was easier said than done. "We were speaking two different languages," he explains. "Most of the buyers, like myself, had started their own businesses with nothing, fought tooth and nail to survive and wanted to take their companies to the next level. But wedged between these two scrappy entrepreneurs was an MBA in a three piece suit taking us out to a four course lunch."
He was always taught that running a company was entirely about substance but every broker he met cared entirely about style. Most bankers are clueless, he says: "While lofty graphics showing spikes in traffic and inconsistent member growth are impressive to MBAs, the only reason companies succeed and should be acquired is much simpler. Profit. The existence of it and the likelihood of it returning is all that matters."
That Tuesday morning, reflecting on all the frivolous experiences that led to his acquisition, Dhanani decided to take on Wall Street and Tinsli was born. "The reality is that there's not a single boutique investment bank out there properly connecting startups with strategic buyers," he explains. "Startup founders are lean and gritty while bankers are wasteful and pretentious. Tinsli will bring the disciplined minimalism that makes startups like Koar a success, to the distorted world of Wall Street."
Tinsli will avoid the traditional trappings of Wall Street, like towering offices on Fifth Avenue, expense accounts for entertaining clients and a roster of Ivy League graduates. The savings, according to Dhanani, will allow them to charge lower fees and work almost entirely on a performance basis. The Tinsli team will consist exclusively of entrepreneurs who, like Zain Dhanani, went through the acquisition experience and came out disillusioned with the inefficient process established to sell startups.
The Atlanta based financial startup will advise clients on starting, scaling and selling modern day companies. Zain Dhanani serves as Tinsli's President and CEO.