In 2006 Kelby Zorgdrager started DevelopIntelligence, an outsourced training provider that helps programmers develop new skills and adapt to ever-changing technologies.
The business snowballed as Zorgdrager onboarded most Fortune 500 giants in his space. However, Zorgdrager had a problem. The company was too dependent on him.
To ensure the business could succeed without him, Zorgdrager implemented a four-step system to replace himself as the rainmaker of his company.
The strategy worked. By 2020 Zorgdrager had grown the business to $12.1 million in revenue, which piqued the interest of some acquirers. A year later, Zorgdrager signed an acquisition offer from Pluralsight in a deal valued at $48.9 million.
In 2016 Trevr Smithlin and Dave Hanley founded AdvertiseCast, a marketplace connecting podcasters with advertisers. The company experienced tremendous growth, doubling revenue year-over-year until 2020. That’s when the uncertainty triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic caused Smithlin and Hanley to consider their strategic options.
In March 2021, Smithlin and Hanley signed an acquisition agreement from Libsyn for $30 million.
In 2016 Channing Allen and his brother Courtland founded Indie Hackers, a blog and forum that encourages founders to transparently share their ideas and stories.
After only eight months, the brothers had grown the business to $8,000 in revenue when they received an unexpected email from Patrick Collison (co-founder and CEO of Stripe), who was looking to acquire the company.
Although tempted to keep building, Stripe’s offer was too good to refuse. The brothers agreed to be acquired by Stripe in March 2017.
In 2012, Jaclyn Johnson founded Create & Cultivate, a media company that educates and inspires women to succeed in business.
By 2018, Johnson had grown Create & Cultivate to eight employees when an acquirer offered her a staggering $40 million. Unfortunately, the deal was too good to be true. When the acquirer discovered her hands-on management style, they pulled out.
Learning from her mistakes, Johnson implemented a collection of strategies to ensure Create & Cultivate could thrive without her.
By the end of 2019, Johnson had grown to $14 million in revenue ($4 million EBITDA) when acquirers came knocking again. This time she was ready. Create & Cultivate was acquired by Corridor Capital in a deal valued at $22 million.
In 2002 Chuck Crumpton started Medpoint to help businesses bring medical devices and pharmaceuticals to market. The company quickly took off after Crumpton landed a prominent blue-chip client.
It was a blessing and a curse.
At one point, the blue-chip customer made up 83% of Medpoint’s revenue. Determined to reduce his customer concentration, Crumpton implemented a clever strategy to minimize his dependency.
The strategy worked as Crumpton successfully reduced his reliance below 50%, allowing him to sell Medpoint in 2020 for around five times EBITDA.
In 2009 Natalie Nagele and her husband, Chris, launched Postmark to help businesses deliver emails to their customers quickly.
A decade in, Nagele had grown the company to around 40 employees, which was when she began feeling burned out. The pull to explore new interests was the catalyst to accepting a life-changing acquisition offer from Active Campaign in 2022.
In 2020 veterinarian Dr. Joseph Marchell started Old Brown Dog Veterinary Partners (OBDVP) after identifying a unique opportunity to do a rollup of family-owned animal hospitals.
Marchell acquired three practices for around ten times EBITDA. He then implemented a streamlined operational strategy that resulted in the sale of OBDVP less than two years later for almost three times the purchase price.
In 2015 Nick Santora founded Curricula, a cyber security awareness training program that helps companies defend themselves against hackers. Santora created fun, cartoon training videos in contrast to the dull content that existed at the time.
Companies happily embraced Santora’s approach. By 2021 he had grown Curricula to just over $2 million in annual recurring revenue when he accepted an acquisition offer from the cyber security giant Huntress for $22 million.
In 2008, Gavin Hammar started Sendible, a platform that allows companies to manage all their social media accounts from one place.
The company grew steadily until 2016, when Hammar hit a sales plateau. Challenged to combat a high churn rate, Hammar took several unique steps to humanize his business.
Becoming a more approachable brand worked. Sales increased by 30% year-over-year and by 2021, Sendible had 47 employees when they were approached by ASG with an acquisition offer Hammar couldn't refuse.
U.K.-based Nathan Winch started his career as a private equity investor after selling his first company, Winch Pharma, in 2017.
Since then, Winch has acquired over 20 businesses, with a focus on logistics and infrastructure companies. In the latest installment of Built to Sell Radio’s Inside the Mind of an Acquirer series, you’ll learn how to:
In 2014 Tim Grassin founded Candy Banners, which designs ads that show up along the top, bottom, and sides of a website.
Grassin built a remote team in the Philippines to minimize his costs. Hiring inexpensive developers allowed Grassin to charge lower rates to agency owners, resulting in rapid growth.
The business had grown to over seven figures in revenue in 2020 when Grassin received an acquisition offer from one of his clients, Native Touch. The offer valued Candy Banners at around five times EBITDA, and the deal closed in 2021.
In 2015 Mike Winnet started U.K.-based Learning Heroes after recognizing that most e-learning programs were long and boring. Winnet saw an opportunity to transform the industry by creating short, engaging, animated training courses.
Winnet started by trying to sell his courses to job seekers, but when his efforts failed, he pivoted to selling to companies. Instead of a few hundred dollars a year from job seekers, selling to companies meant he was getting a few thousand dollars a year.
The switch from B2C to B2B worked, and in less than three years, Winnet grew his company to around £2 million in annual recurring revenue, which was when he was approached by Litmos, a learning management software provider. Winnet sold Learning Heroes to Litmos for approximately four times revenue.
In 2013 South African entrepreneur Jason Bagley started Firing Squad, a lead generation company specializing in cold emails.
In 2020 Firing Squad signed an agreement to be acquired by Southern Web and was later rebranded to SiteCare.
The deal was something Bagley would later come to regret.
In 2012, Patrick Campbell founded ProfitWell to help SaaS companies increase revenue and reduce churn by managing their data in a single place.
After bootstrapping the business to 8-figures, Campbell decided it was time to raise money. While seeking a financial investor, Paddle approached him with an acquisition offer. Soon after, in 2022, Campbell sold ProfitWell to Paddle for over $200 million.
Ed Buckley started Peerfit, which allows companies to offer fitness classes as part of their employee benefits package. The company grew to more than 150 employees before receiving an acquisition offer for almost $100 million from a major fitness brand widely reported to be Peloton. As part of the deal, Buckley retained some of the IP, which, in a strange twist, he was able to sell in another eight-figure exit months later.
In 2012, Ryan Coon started Rentalutions, a platform to help landlords manage and communicate with their tenants more effectively.
The business showed steady growth, but Coon wasn’t satisfied.
Five years in, Coon rebranded the company to Avail and focused his marketing to target DIY landlords with under ten rental units to manage. The changes proved successful as Coon grew the business to around $7 million in revenue before selling to Realtor.com in 2020 for approximately five times revenue.
When Jodie Cook started her social media agency, nothing happened without her involvement.
Desperate to free herself up from the minutia of running her company, Cook started to systematize her business with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). After a few missteps, Cook mastered the art of delegation.
In 2016, Ryan Kulp launched Fomo because he saw marketers using aggressive popups on their websites.
Kulp reasoned that if he could show other people were shopping and interacting with a site, it would give new visitors confidence in the company.
Fomo allows businesses to show off real-time customer interactions (purchases, opt-ins, even pageviews) with a line of code the company installs on their site.
Kulp led Fomo to around $1 million in Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) before deciding to step down as CEO in 2020. Two years later, an acquirer approached Kulp about acquiring Fomo. Initially, he wasn't interested, but after some soul-searching, Kulp decided to sell Fomo to Relay Commerce in a lucrative exit.
The economy has been a roller-coaster over the last quarter.
In this special episode of Built to Sell Radio, John Warrillow reveals the downside of trying to time the market and shares four alternative ways to know when to sell.
Rory Fatt began his entrepreneurial journey running marketing seminars for restauranteurs. After several owners approached Fatt to do their marketing for them, he decided to launch Royalty Rewards in 2005.
The business was a multimedia marketing platform that helped small businesses market their products and services by rewarding loyal customers. The company took off, hitting just over $2 million in revenue in its first year.
Inspired to achieve financial freedom, Fatt began to explore selling his company. In 2022, he accepted an offer from Schianti Partners that would set his family up for life.
Jeremy Nagel started his entrepreneurial career teaching clients how to get the most out of Zoho, a popular CRM platform. Nagel began cultivating a small following on YouTube by sharing his advice for Zoho enthusiasts.
Given his status in their ecosystem, Zoho approached Nagel about creating an SMS plug-in for their application to allow users to text their clients while using Zoho. Nagel developed the application while keeping his day job. Despite only dedicating one or two days a week to its growth, the feature quickly became one of the top five applications in the Zoho marketplace.
Two years later, Nagel received a LinkedIn message from the head of corporate development at MessageMedia with a lucrative exit offer he could not refuse.
Touraj Parang has experienced the highs and lows of selling a company.
In 2009, Parang sold his first company, Jaxtr, for pennies on the dollar. He took the lessons he learned and joined Webs.com, where he helped Haroon Mokhtazarda sell his company for over $115 million.
Parang left Webs.com and joined GoDaddy as a leader in their acquisitions group, where they acquired dozens of companies during his tenure.
In the latest installment of Inside the Mind of An Acquirer, Parang shares how companies like GoDaddy acquire companies.
Ten years ago, Timo Armoo was on a flight from his home country of Ghana on his way to live in a council flat in one of the U.K.'s poorest neighborhoods.
Motivated to live a better life, Armoo started Fanbytes, an influencer marketing agency dedicated to connecting brands with social media influencers.
The company took off.
Fanbytes reached 65 employees and hit revenues of 8-figures when he decided to sell the company to Brainlabs for around 3X revenue.
In 2015, Lorenzo de Plano co-founded Solace Technologies, one of the first vape manufacturers in the United States. The goal of the business was to create a discreet vape pen that customers could use as an alternative to smoking cigarettes.
The business boomed to revenue of more than one million dollars a month, but a looming threat had de Plano eyeing an exit. So, when a $15 million offer came in, he bit.
In 2007, Laura Roeder started selling online courses on how to market through social media. Her courses gained popularity, resulting in Roeder growing an email list of around 70,000 people. Inspired to further serve her customers, she decided to create social media scheduling software.
It was one of the first social media planning tools that allowed you to schedule your social media content. Piggy backing off the list she had built from her online course business, the company hit $1 million in recurring revenue in only 11 months.