More importantly, he said: “I didn’t get a sense that WhatsApp is looking to build out India with the independence of, as much as, say, an Amazon. It is only looking to see how it could make money from the existing base. It is more running of a company job than building something from scratch.”
Difficulties after leaving a corporate job
If that’s the case, for Bose, the WhatsApp job is coming a full circle. Bose, an American citizen, left a corporate job in Silicon Valley 13 years ago to come to India to become an entrepreneur. He was flown down to save NGpay, a mobile payment company in 2007, which ultimately shut shop. And now, he is back to working for a Valley company. And, in between, there was Ezetap.
“I came from Silicon Valley to India to fulfill my vision of being an entrepreneur,” says Bose. “I think I’ve done that in the building of Ezetap and we’re really proud of it… I didn’t want to just do a startup when I came in, I wanted to build an institution that left an impact. Part and parcel of being an entrepreneur are building an institution that outlives you. ”
But Ezetap still has a long road ahead to reach institution status. While WhatsApp, in a sense, is already one.
Work experience matters
As a 45-year old, Bose has about 15 years of work ahead of him. A limited amount of time to go big. So, if there’s an opportunity that is already primed up with all those users on a platter, plus seemingly limitless resources and one that is already positioned at the cusp of changing the way India uses the internet and technology, it comes with a fair bit of allure.
“You gotta love the challenge of being able to accomplish big things… I think this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity when you have something that has the potential to impact these many people on this scale.
It is uniquely at a scale that’s above what Ezetap could potentially [get to] by an order of magnitude. And it’s nothing about Ezetap. It’s a great company in any aspect of Indian business. But then, there’s just another level, given the nature of our country and in the nature of problems that we are solving,” says Bose.
In the course of a 40-minute interview, he reiterates, six times, that his decision to quit was for a singular reason. “WhatsApp is special.”
It is not just the scale that Ezetap won’t be able to match, but also the value of stock options that one would earn from Facebook. A role like this can command salaries of even $2.5- $3.5 million, much of which would be stock options, according to a top compensation consultant. (Bose said this type of number was incorrect and denies it strongly).
An amount like this is not something the board of Ezetap can even come close to offering, not when it has about $11 to $13 million left in the bank, according to a source associated with the company.
Role of the salary package
But founders typically don’t pay for salaries. The rush from creating impact and equity makes it worth their while. According to filings accessed from Singapore’s Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Ezetap is registered in Singapore), Palihapitiya is the largest shareholder with close to 3.2 million shares of the 8 million total shares. Bose has 200 shares, according to the latest filing. (This may not be fully representative of the shareholding as Bose could own shares through cross-holdings).
“Even if Bobby [Abhijit] gets an exit from Ezetap, he will not make as much money as he will in five years’ time in WhatsApp,” said a senior payments executive, requesting anonymity.
But it is not the opportunity that is under question. What about loftier things like a founder’s duty towards their company and the opportunity they set out to explore?
Bose thinks a founder’s duty is about being fully true to oneself. “When you bring other people on your journey, you have to be kind of true to doing what’s best for them. And what’s best for them is building as honest, professional and constructive a culture as you can. And you yourself are being honest, and kind of make sure that you’re in it to build institutions that’s all you can ask of any human being,” says Bose.