How fintech startup Honest Dollar was acquired by Goldman Sachs

Imagine where you would go to dinner if one of the largest financial services companies in the world just offered to acquire your one-year-old startup.

For serial entrepreneur William Hurley, the choice was the decidedly unpretentious Chili’s Grill & Bar at the Love Field airport in Dallas. It might not seem like the appropriate setting for such an auspicious event but Hurley, the CEO of Honest Dollar Inc., had few choices.

It was November 2015, and Hurley and Chief Strategy Officer Anthony Bunnell had just returned to Texas after spending a grueling day answering questions about their business model — ostensibly for a Series A round of funding — during three separate meetings at the New York headquarters of Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

While walking through the Virgin America terminal on their way home, Hurley returned a phone message from Goldman Sachs Managing Director Manju Madhavan. That was when he learned about the prospect of being acquired.

After the call, Hurley told Bunnell they needed to talk. They went to the airport Chili’s and ordered strawberry margaritas.

“We were shell-shocked,” Hurley said. “We looked at each other at Chili’s as if to say this is not an outcome anyone could have predicted.”