For a long time, I have been sick and tired of having to fill out forms on my iPhone with such a small screen. Then I was lucky enough to meet Chris Koch and Chad Stephens from Lets Pop. I have seen thousands of pitch docs and presentations in my time, but the one I saw from Chris and Chad before I even thought about doing this interview, is the best I have ever seen!
The guys previously sold their last startup, 1Form, which was a platform to help tenants apply for rental properties, without having to repeat the process of entering their information every time.
This startup sold for $15 million AUD in 2014 and had Carsales.com founders Greg Roebuck, Wal Pisciotta and Steve Kloss invest in them.
It was a grander vision that caused them to want to sell 1Form, to fund their new startup Lets Pop. Their new startup takes the 1Form idea and applies it to everything, not just real estate.
The need for Pop came about when they realised they couldn’t build a form that would be able to be used by every single industry in the world. In simple terms, Pop is an application to replace the need to input information.
Lets Pop still have their original Carsales.com investors on board and as the business continues to grow rapidly they will asses whether relocating to Silicon Valley will help them achieve their global goals, be visible to the US market, meet their customers needs and have access to the valley’s valuation models.
What follows, in the interview that I did with Chris, are his top tips for selling your startup to a corporate!
1. Know when it’s the right time to sell your startup
For Chris, he says that it’s always a gut feeling of when the time is right. You can quite often get a feel for the inertia of your business, you can see what’s coming, you can see competitors joining and maybe they might enter the space you’re in. Or maybe the time is right and the value that you are getting out of your startup is at its maximum.
2. Approach is everything. Use those consultants for something useful
Try and approach a corporate in a way where it’s not you going directly in. Quite often, you will have consultants, accountants or companies that you work with within your startup, who have a relationship with corporates already. It would be a great idea to take one of these contacts out to lunch and ask them to get your startup in the door through a recommendation first, before trying any other way.
“ If you want to ask a corporate to buy you, then you never want to come in the door as if you were asking for that. Asking for a corporate to purchase your startup yourself is automatically perceived as you being in a position of lesser power. “
Corporates will be looking at a number of things when looking to buy your startup, which will depend on the industry and the market. In the real estate industry for Chris, it was the data space that a lot of the corporates wanted to play in. Think about the markets you play in.
For other industries like tech, it might be talent – if your startup has got some talent then that’s attractive. In the banking world, it might specifically be technology that can streamline processes for the customer.
3. You need to create competitive tension
Domian.com.au and Realestate.com.au really helped create that competitive tension when the guys went to sell 1Form. Once you have an intro into a corporate then it’s worth mentioning in your meeting that you are thinking of divesting out of your startup and that you have other corporates interested. This creates a much better position of power than asking them to buy you. When you’re starting to get the word out that your startup is for sale, it’s best to try and go to similar competitors, all at once, within the industry you’re targeting.
When you use this strategy, what you will often find is that one of them will ask you for an exclusive period. That’s fine, but you have to just let them know that once that period is over, you will then shop it to their opposition. Obviously this is done in a friendly, professional, non smart-ass way.
4. Understand the advantages of both sides
The question you really need to ask yourself is how do you go about it and build your product in a way that a corporate couldn’t. You may hear a corporate say that they could build your technology or service themselves, but the reality is that that is very rarely the case. They could never build it with the speed and complexity that a startup could.
Quite often, what you will find is that if a corporate can see the benefit of your product or service and they understand that they couldn’t build it themselves, or as fast as you can, they may offer to buy you without you even asking.
If a corporate is using and relying on your technology then the decision may come down the track for them to want to buy it, so they are not paying fee’s to your startup. It’s only best to consider this offer if you have more than one corporate using your technology.
The thing to be very careful of here is that if one of your corporate customers is grossly larger than the rest, the corporate might realise that if they cancel their contract with you for a year or more (and make you bleed), buying your startup could be a much cheaper scenario for them. At the same time, you should ensure that your customer base is never completely dependent on one particular client.
5. Communication with corporates shouldn’t be like trying to understand a foreign language
If you’re trying to get a corporate to buy your startup then the way you communicate with them is crucial. You really need to control the process as much as possible and the best way to do this is with timelines and deadlines. You tell the corporate that if a decision is not by reached by a certain date; you are walking away as you have other people that you’re chatting to.
Failing to control the process properly could see your startup meeting with every executive in the corporates management ladder and having them still not be able to make a decision. In the initial stages of dealing with them you follow their process but the moment you hit a brick wall that’s frustrating, you immediately go outside of their process as hard and as fast as you can.
If one of the executive’s just comes back with a response to your proposal such as “thanks, I have seen your pitch deck which John Smith forwarded to me,” and you’re not getting much buy in, you don’t take that for an answer.
You need to go back to the person who is not that interested and say, “everyone else seems to be interested, how come you’re not.” In that response, you would even consider copying in everyone else from the corporate you have met with. You would also reiterate again that there is a deadline to make a decision and there are other competing clients who are interested.
When I was talking with Chris on this topic he also agreed with Filip Eldic, from our Bluedot interview,, that startups need to be very careful dealing with corporates in the early stages because it’s very easy to burn cash quickly on these types of proposals.
6. Write a great pitch deck
Before writing the pitch remember not to make it too long. If a corporate is looking at a pitch deck as part of their decision-making, below are some slides you might want to include.
- Demonstrate what’s changed in society for your product to be relevant and what problems are occurring.
- Very clearly, you need to show how your product solves that problem in a way that it hasn’t been solved in the past.
- Halfway through the deck is a great spot to put the “who we are “slide.
- Show an exact example of how you solve the problem
- Spell out the high-level revenue opportunity
- Talk about the size of the market for your product and how you’re going to get a percentage of it
- Finally, show some competitive analysis
“So many Startups come up with ideas that aren’t really solving a problem, they are creating a problem and then their product is fixing it. “
7. Decide how much to sell
For 1Form, the amount of equity they sold was a lot to do with where they were at and their future plans. This will often determine whether you sell part of your startup or the whole thing. Specifically, when selling equity to a corporate and not the whole thing, you can create a lot of headaches for your startup.
The corporate will want a board seat, a say in the decision-making and the suggestions they make about your product will be more about what might help their company, not the other companies who are your customers. All of this could slow you down so consider very carefully before going down this path.
8. Negotiating the price of your startup and what country to sell it in
Demonstrate the value of your startup and look at similar companies in similar spaces. It’s worth comparing the multiples and valuations that these companies received and using that as the basis for your own valuation. Once you have proven your model regionally, overseas corporates will be much more likely to want to be involved, so consider what country you sell your startup in.
The other thing to look at is what’s known as the accretive value. If the corporate you’re dealing with is listed on the stock exchange they will have a PE (price to earnings) value based on their share price. Whatever earnings are going to hit the company ‘s bottom line, because of the acquisition of your startup, can actually be used to work out the accretive value. You shouldn’t expect to get all of the accretive value, but you can certainly ask for a percentage of it.
An example of this would be, let’s say the company that’s acquiring your startup has a multiple on the stock market of 37, if you’re going to bring a bottom line hit of $1 million, they are effectively going to get an accretive value of $37 million. If they pay $30 million for your startup, that still leaves $7 million on the table for them. If you’re in Australia, the only issue you will have is that valuations aren’t looked at this way; they typically look at discounted cash flows. In Silicon Valley though, they certainly are.
9. Know your appetite for risk
With 1Form, the guys had many years of corporates approaching them to buy their technology. They decided that they had exhausted the market in Australia and that there was going to be a risk to try and take it global. The guys were fine with risk but realised that both going global, and building Lets Pop, was going to be risky.
The question then came, which one would have the bigger reward? The answer was simple, starting Lets Pop. Once the decision was made they had to focus all their energy on it and get red hot on their technology. The next step was then for them to go back to the corporates that had try to buy them before and tell them that they were interested in selling 1 Form.
10. Understand the timeframe
The time it takes to negotiate these deals is a hell of a lot longer than you may think. You have to get your partners, board / investors and the corporate all to agree. You also need to spend the time to go out and talk to the interested parties and put together the IM doc for this. From here you need to agree with the interested party, sign a term sheet and then this term sheet gets turned into a contract.
Once you have agreed on the contract (this takes a lot of time) then you have to finalise a lot of CP’s (condition precedents). Once all of this is done then the money will finally hit your bank account.
The process for 1Form took about 8 months from when they decided to sell, which is a relatively short time – it can take 1-2 years in some cases.
The way I have written the process may sound like it’s all very complicated, but it’s really not and occurs on a daily basis. You just have to have the guts and determination to make it happen.
The exception to the rule though is in Silicon Valley, where these deals can be literally done overnight. The reason Chris and his team didn’t look to the valley when they sold 1Form was because they were visible to companies like Yahoo, Facebook and Google so when the phone call when out to them, because they hadn’t heard of their company, they just weren’t interested. This is why it made more sense for 1Form to be sold locally.
Not having these overseas companies be aware of their startup, was probably one mistake that Chris thinks they made and have learnt from.
“Be visible to the right people that will pay the most for your startup. These are usually the ones that can extract the most value from you.”
Now you have the money from the sale, what do you do now?
This part of the journey is going to be different for every startup. In Chris and Chad’s case, they never viewed selling their business as a retirement deal. What a lot of people told Chris and Chad, was to let the money sit in their account for at least a couple of months and not to go and buy anything straight away – this decision often has a lot to do with your risk appetite. Ideally you would also take some sort of holiday for around 3-6 months before jumping into anything else.
Should you stay on after the sale?
A lot of this will depend on the deal that you have negotiated and the next thing that you want to do. If you stay on and you continue to grow the business for the company that acquired it, it looks great for anyone that wants to work with you again, but if you stay on and it doesn’t do well then it will affect your credibility going forward.
Typically once your startup is sold there will also be an earn out. For Chris, it was only 6 months but that is considered very short in these types of deals. The main reason for that was because Chris’s startups technology, did all the work, so there wasn’t any need to stay any longer.
I hope you got some good tips (I know I did) and if you’re sick and tired of filling out forms then I suggest you check out Lets Pop, as it will change your online experience.
5 Ways to Deal With Startup Uncertainty
Starting your own company may sound like a dream come true in your mind, on social media, and to all the people looking on in envy from their office jobs. But when the fantasy fades, you realize how much uncertainty you now have in your life. The inherent risk in any startup is that you are trading the certainty of a normal job for real growth and freedom. What people get from office jobs is much more than a steady pay check and free coffee. It’s a sense of certainty that their lives, work, and finances are in order.
You will have to give up certainty to fully take on the risks of this lifestyle. It will be roller-coaster and something you need to prepare for. Logically, it’s easy to know that. But emotionally, there are so many ups and downs in an entrepreneur’s life. Stress, frustration, and decreased motivation are inevitable.
Here are 5 ways you can deal with startup uncertainty:
1. Stick to a morning routine
There’s many ways to start a morning routine. What’s important is to have a stable, predictable routine. This centers your mind and gives you some order to your day. You manage your business and you can do whatever you want. No boss and no one telling you what to do, it can be mix of productive to outright messy days. By giving yourself some stability, you start the day off in a predictable way so that you can jump into work each day.
It’s as easy as taking your dog to the park, having a cup of coffee, and listening to a motivating audiobook for 20 minutes. You may need meditation to get into the state. Whatever it is that you need to get from a sleepy/hungover mindset to that of taking on the day.
“If you win the morning, you win the day.” – Tim Ferriss
2. Make time for high performance books
Speaking of audiobooks, everyone – especially entrepreneurs, need motivation. Get a few motivating books from other business leaders. This will do incredible things for your mindset and the way you think. Most of them help by keeping you excited for bigger goals. Look for classics from Jim Rohn and Tony Robbins. Or the newer motivational personalities like David Goggins and Rachel Hollis. You’ll be surprised at how much hearing someone’s hardships on their journey will help you on your own.
It’s easy to get a packed calendar working an office job. Everyone else in the company seems to be demanding your time for one meeting or another. Pointless meetings are even the reason some people leave their jobs in the first place. The issue with having your own startup is that while the pointless meetings are gone, so too is any semblance of structure from a filled up calendar.
Spend one evening and fill the upcoming week as much as possible. I recommend Sunday afternoons to think about your goals. Plan big tasks every day throughout the week. That way you always know what you should be working on and stay on track.
4. Hit the gym
This one is actually part of my morning routine and it’s benefits can’t be overstated. Exercise helps fight off anxiety and stress. There’s no better way to funnel your business frustrations more than into the weights. By the time you’re done, your body and mind will be much more relaxed. A necessity when it comes to the tension of being an entrepreneur. Whether that’s staring at your laptop or making sales calls.
“Daily exercise is an insurance policy for future illness.” – Robin Sharma
5. Be grateful
Gratitude was one of the feel good things that I always used to skip whenever it was mentioned. I wanted cold, calculated strategy or tools I could use to build a business as fast as possible. Many brilliant minds in not only self help but also in business, speak about the need for gratitude.
Here’s why it helps me when the business is going through growing pains or everything seems like it is going wrong. I get filled with doubt and uncertainty and gratitude is the quickest way to relief.
Yes, starting your own business is a massive effort, but there is always some job out there. You decided to launch something of your own because you don’t want a baseline existence. You want to grow and build with the freedom someone can only give themselves.
That alone is enough to be grateful. But if you need more, how about that most people are too scared to do what you’re doing. Or that you are taking the time to believe in yourself and live a life of taking chances.
That speaks to your character and self-worth. Much more than the life of quiet misery so many people in the world allow to decide their entire lifestyle. Be grateful you have this opportunity and make the most of it.
The Best Side Hustle You Can Start Today In Just 15 Minutes
The best side hustle you can start in 15 minutes is blogging.
It can be writing, making videos or speaking about topics you love through a regular podcast show. All of these acts are a form of blogging.
15 minutes is not long
That’s why blogging is a good choice.
A video that’s less than 15 minutes is easy to make and will work well.
A short piece of writing can be written in under 15 minutes.
A 10-minute audio conversation on one single question will give people heaps of value and detail in one particular area.
Starting is not where the power lies. Doing this side hustle every single day is how you get what you’re really looking for.
Many successful people are doing this
Whether it’s Hollywood actors like Will Smith or writers like Tim Ferriss or musicians like Ariana Grande — everyone is doing it.
Why is everyone doing the side hustle of blogging?
- It’s how we connect with each other.
- It actually works.
- It’s a way to create an audience which can become a business.
I didn’t invent this side hustle
I just tried it for myself and saw how powerful it was.
It got me:
- New clients for my 9–5
- A new 4 day a week day job
- Clients to coach via Skype
- Features in major publications like CNBC
- The opportunity to meet amazing human beings like LinkedIn influencer Michael Chapman
The side hustle of blogging gave me meaning for my life
Before this side hustle, I was washed up, uninspired, negative and pissed off with the world.
Spending 15 minutes to start the habit of blogging got me out of my head. It forced me to search all over the internet and find things to talk about. Pretty soon I was spending 2+ hours a night researching personal development and figuring out what I wanted to blog about.
Blogging led me to want to help the homeless, share my very private battle with mental illness, come to grips with my startup failures and share the lessons, and even overcome my fear of public speaking in the process.
Now I have a meaning for my life thanks to the side hustle of blogging. I reckon it can do the same to help you grow and get you to the next level. You can blog about whatever you want and then watch it grow from there.
Why is blogging the best side hustle?
It’s how you be creative.
It’s how you express yourself.
It’s how you grow.
It’s how you attract the right people into your life.
There are many side hustles you could choose. Blogging is one of many. In my opinion and based on my experience, it’s the best. There are so many avenues you can go down.
“Attracting what you want in your life has a lot to do with what you’re putting out into the world”
Blogging is a fantastic way to put out more of what’s important to you, into the world. Like a magnet, blogging attracts more of what you put out into your life.
Oh and don’t forget the income
Investing, giving back and making an income are all possible through blogging too. Part of my monthly income comes from blogging.
This allows me to back causes that help those in need, invest in stocks that provide me with a passive income and have money to spend on the occasional treat such as dinner dates and drinks with my co-workers.
That money comes from:
- Ghostwriting for other people
- Posting on Medium.com
- Coaching clients via Skype
- Consulting to businesses on how they can create content that aligns with their brand
There aren’t too many side hustles that can do that for you
Seriously, blogging is a game-changer. It’s a habit you can start in 15 minutes and repeat daily without much effort. Choose your poison — writing, video or audio — and then get started.
Do it for around twelve months and then send me an email with what you experience. I already know, having challenged lots of people already to start this side hustle, that it will work. It just requires patience and the habit of doing it daily.
15 minutes to start today.
And then 15 minutes every day for the rest of your life.
You Are The Problem With Your Business
A great way to screw up your company is to get into the habit of blaming your suppliers, the market, your staff or your product for your failures.
I recently heard a story of a business that had set up a website. They sold various products and services focusing on helping people with psychological issues. The business owner was smart. The product solved a problem.
Unfortunately, the company was making almost no money. They’d hired someone to help them with their digital marketing and it wasn’t working.
Plenty of traffic was coming to the site, users were having a look around and then not buying a single thing. Who’s fault was this?
Well, according to the business owner it was the person running their digital marketing. As a result, they wasted approximately eight months marketing a website that couldn’t make any sales. The reason the business was failing according to the owner was because of the keywords that were being targeted in the marketing campaign. This is a horrible excuse.
The reason your business fails is because you’re blaming someone other than yourself. It’s the quickest way to bankruptcy. Don’t do that.
Your company is a reflection of you.
It took me a long time to figure out that a company is a reflection of its founder.
One of the businesses I had, had a toxic culture and a bunch of people that were rude to customers, arrogant and not nice people. That was a reflection of exactly who I was at the time.
The company was reflecting the flaws of my own life and what I refused to admit.
In the case of the business owner above, what was obvious is that they were good at telling lies to themselves. It was easy not to change as a business owner and insist that the change needed was nothing to do with their vision.
The issue of their company was not the digital marketing strategy but their lack of understanding around what their customer wanted.
The thought that their products were too complicated, not solving a real problem or priced incorrectly was an admission of guilt they wanted no part in. Hence the eventual demise of their company.
Take responsibility and it will change.
When you own the business, everything is your fault.
You have the power to solve any problem you choose. It starts with you being brave enough to admit that there’s a problem, and then secondly, being bold enough to insist it’s your fault and that you can change it.
The problems in your business can all be solved. That’s what it took me a very long time to understand. When I changed as a person and faced up to my hidden battle with mental illness that I didn’t want to talk about, the odds turned in my favor.
Had I have not taken responsibility for my mental illness, I would have never become a leader in a business or started another side hustle. I would have been crippled by the big, bad world that I thought I could control.
Control came from responsibility, and responsibility solved the major problem in my business: me.
Change is a must.
Not with your digital marketing strategy.
Not with hiring new people.
Not with developing a new product.
“Changing yourself is the *must* because YOU attract the problems and the solutions into your business”
You can’t find the solutions or stop the never-ending problems until you stop the cause of it all: you. You’re the problem with your business. The good news is that it’s entirely within your control to fix.
Not the business.
The Different Ways of Measuring the Success of Your Start-Up
You’ve probably heard people use the term “unicorn” in a business context. This means a privately held start-up whose value has grown to at least one billion American dollars. Think Airbnb, Uber, and so forth. There is no doubt that some start-ups have been major financial successes. And many smaller-scale start-ups are doing great as well, working hard and turning a steady profit. But that begs the question of whether finances are the only way to measure the success of a start-up. As it turns out, they might not be. At least, not always and not on their own.
How to Evaluate Success
As anyone who’s been involved with start-ups knows, you need a fair amount of flexibility to do well in this environment. Take the division of labour for example – rather than strict roles, you’ll often see everyone do a bit of everything. The same principle extends to measuring success. It can be vague and mean different things to different people, and it can change over time.
But amongst all that vagueness, one thing has become clear. Predicting the success of a start-up is very difficult for external observers. As a matter of fact, it’s often impossible. Therefore, in order to evaluate how successful a start-up has truly been, we need to know the goals of its founder(s).
“Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.” – Marianne Williamson
When people think about business, it’s common to boil matters down to the finances. And it certainly is possible to use numbers to measure and predict the performance of a start-up business. Net worth, gross margin, customer acquisition cost – these can all be indicators of success. But, a start-up can post impressive numbers for a while, perhaps even attract large investors, and still shut down in the end. So does this make it a failure?
The answer to this depends. If the founders wanted to start a lasting business, then yes, they failed to meet their goal. However, that isn’t always the case. If they were looking for a short-term solution and came out with more money than they had coming in, a closed-down start-up needn’t be unsuccessful. It can actually be the opposite of that.
So, looking at the figures isn’t enough, and there are different perspectives to consider. When they start planning their business venture, start-up founders may not have any particular numbers in mind when it comes to profit. Instead, they can judge their success according to some of the following criteria.
1. Happy Customers and Solving Problems
The story of a start-up often begins with a problem. The desire to help people overcome a specific issue can be the spark which ignites the creation of an entire business. And in the end, that may be all that matters to the founders.
This is closely connected to the happiness of the customers. If the resulting product or service has made people happy by helping them solve a problem, that is all that may be required for a start-up to be a success. Now, no business wants unsatisfied customers. But in cases like this, happy customers aren’t the way toward the ultimate goal – they are that goal.
In other words, some start-up founders don’t just use financial reports to measure how much they’ve achieved. To them, the one metric which stands above all others is the quantity of positive feedback they’ve received. The main area of focus is customers who use the start-up’s products or services to solve a problem they were having.
Every start-up founder likes doing well in terms of revenue. But for some of these entrepreneurs, the profit is merely a side effect of what they actually set out to do – impact the world in a positive manner. You can see an example of this line of thought with Elon Musk. He said that back in college, he had wanted to be a part of things that could end up changing the world. The continuation of this philosophy is evident in his electric cars (which aim to reduce pollution) and the SpaceX program (which strives to break down some of the barriers of space exploration).
In both cases, the furthering of mankind is the ultimate goal. Many other start-up founders feel the same, even if they have smaller goals in mind. To these people, there is no greater proof of success than if their company has had a positive impact on society or even a small segment of it. In their view, to make a difference is to succeed.
“The only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment.” – Tony Robbins
For some, starting up their own business is less about getting rich and more about gaining the freedom to conduct their business the way they want to. In this case, financial success is just a means to an end. The endgame is to be your own boss.
The fact is, some people don’t do well when they’re constantly receiving orders. They are simply hardwired to be free thinkers and they require an environment that allows them to do things in their own way.
Being in a position where you hold all the cards can be exhilarating. The knowledge that your decisions are final is very empowering, and many strive for such freedom. If a start-up can allow such people to go from being a regular employee to being in charge of making all the decisions, then it has already achieved all the success that it needs to.
4. Time for Friends and Family
As many people know all too well, a job can easily turn into the focal point of your daily life. Instead of being a way to support your lifestyle, your work dominates your time. And when that happens, the time you have to dedicate to your loved ones becomes scarce. Combating this is precisely what some have in mind when they decide to take the leap and start their own business.
Now, running your own company is no mean feat and it will require a lot of effort. But the beginning is the most time-consuming part of the process. Later on, it can be possible to create a system which leaves you with a lot more time on your hands. You can spend this time with your significant other, your children, or your friends. A start-up which gives you this opportunity is perhaps the greatest success of all.
A start-up is an extension of its founders and so are that company’s goals. Some entrepreneurs are in it for the profit, but not all of them. In the end, there is no single way to measure the success of a start-up. It all comes down to the specific aims of those who established it. But if the founders can end their day on a happy note, then the venture is a success even if it doesn’t fit some standard definition of the term.
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