Sramana: How did the story with Teunti end?
Adeyemi Ajao: I ran it as the CEO for two years, and it was sold in 2010 to Telefonica. It was the biggest startup transaction in the history of Spain. We sold for $100 million.
Sramana: Were you with the company all the way through the transaction?
Adeyemi Ajao: I was with the board until the end. After two years, the company was established and settled on being the largest social network in Spain. Once I realized we had hit that point, I decided I wanted to do something else, and that is the true beginning of Identified.
Tuenti was an amazing experience, and I was super lucky to have been able to do that. One of the problems I noticed is that it is extremely difficult to innovate in Spain. When I went out to raise money in Spain seven years ago, nobody gave me credit. I was 22 years old and there were no previous success stories of tech entrepreneurs in Spain. There was no capital industry.
I was lucky that one of my professors in college wrote one of the first checks. I had also interned at a bank the previous summer, and one of the partners trusted me and wrote a check. It was very difficult to put together. Things like renting an office were difficult. We were serving billions of pages a day, but we did not have enough revenue to get anyone to rent us an office.
There was also a strange metamorphosis. When we started, my original service was to help university students know what their friends were doing for fun. That had a very strong location and mobile component. I would have the mobile phone tell users where their friends were going and ask if they wanted to join them. In 2005 and 2006 we were thinking about location.
When thinking about how to compete globally against Facebook, we decided that the best way would be to launch in South America and become a media distribution platform. We looked at social music recommendation. Those are all things I wanted to do, and I proposed to our board that we should hire people and make that investment. However, because we were in Spain it was very hard to get our investors to buy into that. It was hard to get senior engineers to work for us because we were very young. I went to the U.S. and hired people here and brought them back to Spain.
After a couple of years I got burnt out. I did not feel that we would be able to innovate at the same pace as Facebook. At the same time, I was intrigued by social networking and had learned a lot about it. I was intrigued by the new social identity that Facebook provided, and I wondered if I could do something around professional identity that could be unique. I also knew that I did not want to do that company in Spain, so I came to Silicon Valley.