The rise and fall of the bad boy of Indian startups15 July, 2015 / Articles
The most gripping boardroom battle in India’s startup ecosystem is over.
After multiple bouts of speculation and much drama, Rahul Yadav—the 26-year-old chief executive officer and co-founder of real-estate portal Housing.com—has been fired from his job.
The decision was taken by the company’s investors and shareholders at a board meeting on July 1.
“The Housing board, unanimously agreed to bring Yadav’s tenure to a close, with reference to his behaviour towards investors, ecosystem and the media,” the company said in a statement. “The board believed that his behaviour is not befitting of a CEO and is detrimental to the company.”
Yadav—who dropped out of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay to start Housing.com—had it coming, some would say. A polarising figure in India’s startup scene, fellow entrepreneurs viewed his brashness and arrogance as “a recipe for disaster.” Others saw a “hint of Steve Jobs” in him.
Here is a timeline of how things unfolded for Yadav and Housing.com.
2007-2011: Yadav enters IIT Bombay, where he becomes a class representative and secretary of the student association. He creates Exambaba.com—an online question bank of old test papers for IIT-ians.
2011: Yadav drops out of IIT.
August 2012: Housing.com is launched by Yadav and 11 others in Mumbai. The idea was born after Yadav went looking for a house in Powai, the Mumbai suburb where the IIT Bombay campus is located, after he dropped out. That’s when he understood the challenges of house-hunting in India—and then set out to attempt at solving them.
February 2013: The startup raises an undisclosed amount of money from angel investors including Zishaan Hayath, co-founder of Chaupaati Bazaar and former vice president at Future Bazaar.
March 2013: Haresh Chawla, former Network18 chief executive officer and managing partner at India Value Fund Advisors, invests an undisclosed amount of money in a second round of funding.
May 2013: Housing.com launches in Hyderabad, Pune and Gurgaon.
June 2013: The company secures its third round of funding, worth $2.5 million (Rs15.9 crore), from Nexus Venture Partners.
June 2014: The fourth round of funding raises $18.08 million (Rs115 crore) for the startup. Investors include prominent venture capital (VC) firms like Helion Venture Partners, Nexus Venture Partners, and Qualcomm Ventures.
December 2014: Japan’s Softbank invests $90 million (Rs572 crore) in Housing.com. The funds, Housing says, would be used to map over 40 million houses across 300 cities in India.
February 2015: The company goes on a hiring spree and outlines plans to hire some 500 employees from the IITs and other topflight engineering schools. It also spends heavily on advertising campaigns.
March 2015: Yadav asks Shailendra Singh, managing director at private equity firm Sequoia Capital, to not “mess” with him and his company. Singh had reportedly offered a job to a Housing.com employee, which ticked off Yadav. In his email to Singh, he wrote:
I’ve been humble to you guys even after inhuman and unethical things that you’ve done with Housing in the past.
You did the same inhuman and unethical things with large number of entrepreneurs including Ola, TFS, Flipkart, Dexetra and many more…
Now I just came to know you personally are completely after Housing’s employees and are brainwashing them to open some stupid incubation.
If you don’t stop messing around with me, directly or even indirectly, I will vacate the best of your firm.
Also, this mark the beginning of the end of Sequoia Cap in India.
March 2015: India’s largest media house, the Times Group, sends a legal notice to Housing.com and seeks Rs100 crore ($16 million) in damages from the company. Yadav had reportedly claimed in an email to his employees that the Times Group was out to malign Housing.com. Times Group owns MagicBricks, a real estate search portal and a competitor.
May 2015: Yadav quits as the company’s CEO, with this scathing email to investors:
Dear board members and investors,
I don’t think you guys are intellectually capable enough to have any sensible discussion anymore. This is something which I not just believe but can prove on your faces also!
I had calculated long back (by taking avg life expectancy minus avg sleeping hrs) that I only have ~3L (hours) in my life. ~3L hrs are certainly not much to waste with you guys!
Hence resigning from the position of Directorship, Chairmanship and the CEO position of the company. I’m available for the next 7 days to help in the transition. Won’t give more time after that. So please be efficient in this duration.
May 2015: A day later, Housing.com says that Yadav has agreed to withdraw his resignation after a board meeting. “Today the Housing board met, and has been reconstituted to include all main shareholder representatives. After some good conversations the board has reaffirmed its faith in Rahul Yadav’s vision at Housing,” the company says in a statement.
May 2015: Yadav announces that he is giving away his stake in Housing.com to its employees. The shares are estimated to be worth between Rs150 and Rs200 crore ($23.58-31.44 million). “I’m just 26 and it’s too early in life to get serious about money etc,” Yadav explains.
July 2015: The co-founder is sacked. “Yadav who is also the co-founder of the company, will no longer be an employee of Housing and be associated with the company in any manner, going forward,” the company says in a statement. The search for an interim CEO is underway at Housing.com.
Yadav has not responded to phone calls from Quartz, and has not publicly indicated what he wants to do next.