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Invact Metaversity CEO Manish Maheshwari steps down as rift goes public

Invact Metaversity CEO Manish Maheshwari steps down as rift goes public
Photo Credit: 123RF.com
27 May, 2022
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Manish Maheshwari has stepped down as the chief executive officer (CEO) and director of edtech firm Invact Metaversity to pursue new endeavours, the company said on Twitter on May 27. 

“Over the last few days, we have been in the news, more than we have ever been! So here is the official update. Manish Maheshwari has stepped down from his position as chief executive officer and director of Invact, Inc. as of May 27, 2022,” the company informed through a post on the microblogging website.  

"The decision to part ways was not an easy one, but ultimately, @manishm and @tanaypratap had diverging visions for the company's long-term prospects. Invact will continue and under leadership of Tanay (Pratap) will pursue its vision to make quality education accessible via Metaversity" the statement added.  

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Responding to the statement, Maheshwari tweeted,” We both are passionate and uncompromising about what we believe in, as founders usually are. While we are parting ways, we have fond memories of working together not just as colleagues, but also as brothers.” 

The news comes following an outrage by one of the firm's angel investors Gergely Orosz on the microblogging website against the Maheshwari, former Twitter India chief, who founded Invact Metaversity along with senior software engineer at Microsoft, Tanay Pratap.  

Both the founders of Invact Metaversity, which began operations in October last year, have had differences of opinion over the vision and execution of the startup. The issues were brought before their investors last month.   

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Less than a year ago, the edtech startup’s troubles escalated as Orosz, in an email to the company’s investors, said that Maheshwari wants ‘more equity than vested’.  

The rift comes to light in just months after some prominent names like Future Group’s Kishore Biyani got onboarded as its investors. 

Earlier this week, Maheshwari had tweeted that the startup is exploring possibilities to pivot or return the unspent capital to investors. He also said it may consider letting one of the founders take full charge.   

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The tweet came after the startup's first batch of MBA course - which was to begin on May 12 with a cohort of 60 students - got cancelled.  

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Orosz raised concerns publicly about the ongoing conflict between cofounders Maheshwari and Pratap.  

Orosz alleged that Maheshwari was holding the company hostage. “Yes, we tried to resolve it in private. It looked like it worked. Until investors got lied to, agreements walked back on,” he tweeted.  

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Orosz alleged that Maheshwari had earlier said he would leave the startup but has gone back on his words.  

Orosz added, “If I invest in a company, and a co-founder unethically holds that company hostage, looking at their sole selfish interest: I will do what is best for the employees, the customers and the investors. If the only way to do this is in public: I do it in public @manishm.”  

After its launch last year, Invact Metaversity, operated by Invact School Pvt. Ltd, raised an undisclosed amount at $33 million (around $256 crore) valuation from Future Group’s Kishore Biyani, TV Mohandas Pai of Manipal Global Education and former Facebook India head Kirthiga Reddy, among other investors, in February this year.  

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The same month, it also announced a seed capital of $5 million (around Rs 37 crore) from global venture capital firms including Arkam Ventures, Antler India, Picus Capital, M Venture Partners, BECO Capital and 2am VC.  

Maheshwari recently expressed the return of unspent capital being considered to set an example of how to execute fast, learn fast and not commit oneself to building an undifferentiated product just because one has capital. 

As the fissure intensified, Invact also looked for potential buyers and explored placement/acqui-hires of employees, as per an email sent by co-founder Pratap to its investors. However, the sale process was abandoned on 18 May as no buyer would purchase it at their desired price.  

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With Maheshwari out of the company, the startup said it will continue to run the company’s operations under Pratap.  

Following Maheshwari’s resignation, Pratap tweeted, “Changes are often heart-breaking but sometimes necessary. We started together, built together, and celebrated together. Invact will continue to build on its vision of accessible quality education for all. Wishing Manish all the best for the future. Goodbyes are always hard.”  

“Manish will focus on new endeavours. “The company places on record Manish’s tremendous contributions to Invact’s business since its incorporation and expresses its gratitude. The Company and Manish wish each other the best of luck for the future,” the company said on Friday.