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The Prizm story has been a very successful one for all stakeholders. However, like in all success stories, there have been significant ups and downs. The company survived various periods of turbulence, beginning with starting up during the global financial crisis of 2008.

Mohit Bhatnagar and Loney Anthony talk about this period.

Loney Anthony
Prizm Payments

At first glance, none of us on the team fit the profile of the typical Sequoia founder. They were used to backing younger, denim clad entrepreneurs. We were older and had largely worked in MNCs before this.

Mohit Bhatnagar
Sequoia

We backed the team in 2008 and the worst of the financial crisis had just hit, a bad time to be selling ATM services to banks. It tested our conviction in the thesis.

Loney Anthony

In terms of Sequoia’s approach I think they continued to believe in the founding team in good times and bad; always tried to keep all options open which was I would say the key difference as an investing partner.

Mohit Bhatnagar

We had all pitched in together to create Prizm and believed in it. So through all the ups and downs of five years, Sequoia led every new round of investment because we knew we had a winning team.

Loney Anthony

Sequoia was consistently and completely supportive. There were times when we discussed growing into new areas, going into new markets, maybe looking at a few acquisitions. In the middle of all this Mohit would come with certain initiatives – ‘why don’t we go and acquire this company and grow the business to the next level’.

Mohit Bhatnagar

The real crucible moment was when the company had tasted business success and there was lots of inbound interest from strategic buyers. Our role was to help them evaluate options and enable the process.

Loney Anthony

We discussed how to go about the exit – whether it would be an IPO or a strategic exit route. We finally concluded that we wanted a strategic exit that would allow us to stay involved in the business for the next five to six years. And Sequoia backed us on that even though they probably would have liked to explore all possible full exit strategies

Mohit Bhatnagar

We were engaged with seven or eight potential suitors. Everybody was super pumped with the prospect of a successful exit. Talks with two suitors almost reached completion. But each time, after months of incredible hard work, things fell through. It was incredibly disheartening.

Loney Anthony

To not achieve results after long engagements with potential buyers was a big disappointment. We were two weeks away from signing agreements after spending two years in preparations from Dec 2011. For us it was a big let down. It was a bit of a déjà-vu, almost like what happened with our failed MBO before we started Prizm. But then we said, ‘a failed MBO led to us becoming entrepreneurs, this too will lead to something.’

Mohit Bhatnagar

During this time, I flew down to their office to meet them. I didn’t want it to be a mopey meeting so I went up the white board and wrote a quote I’d just come across– “It ain’t over till we are having fun and we are clearly not having fun”.

Loney Anthony

Yes, that’s exactly what he said. It was a perfect reflection of how we worked together. There was a very deep-rooted level of trust and communication in the relationship. If there was bad news, we knew we could be completely open with Mohit in a board meeting.

Mohit Bhatnagar

To get up when you are kicked down, dust off and get ready to fight again takes courage. These guys were the real deal.

Loney Anthony

A failed process is sometimes an opportunity. As a team and a partnership, there was always that belief that something was around the corner. Even amidst all the disappointment, Sequoia was willing to look at each option and say: “If it’s not strategic, then let’s move on to the next one”.


Our eventual deal with Hitachi happened because of a long-term association we had with the company. And that is the most important lesson for me in all of this – the fact that the best partnerships don’t come out of a process; they grow out of existing relationships. That has definitely been true with both Hitachi and Sequoia in our case.

Mohit Bhatnagar

We broke some rules when we backed big company professionals with white hair who lived in suits and ties. We did it because of their energy and hustle...that’s what gave us conviction that they can create a large business from scratch.

Loney Anthony

Mohit used to always think we were too corporatized as a team. I remember this dinner in Goa where we announced the exit to other Sequoia companies. Sequoia’s parting gift to us core founders was a tie cut in half, framed up in a box!

Prizm
Prizm Payment Services (acquired by Hitachi) is a leading provider of secure and innovative payments, mobile and card services.
Milestones
  • Founded 2008
  • Partnered 2008
  • Acquired 2014
Founders
  • Loney Antony
  • C Shyam Sunder
  • R Raghunathan
  • Jayant D'mello
Investment Advisors