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.
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When I set out to start my own business three years ago, I never imagined bright lights and private jets to New York or Shanghai for business meetings. Good thing I didn’t because it is nothing like that at all. It was a struggle from day one and I had to embrace the grind to grow. (more…)
5 Hacks to Improve Your Writing Skills in English for ESL Learners
Studying in college is hard for everyone, but ESL learners arguably suffer the most. Moving to a foreign country, learning a new language, and keeping pace with the rest of the class may seem like an unbearable burden. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, but you have to pull through and not give up.
In moments like this, it’s always a good idea to seek help. Whether you go to WriteMyPaper to order an essay or just talk to a friend, admitting vulnerability is an important step towards improvement. In this article, you will find some tips on how to get better at essay writing, even if English is not your native language.
Control Your Environment
Improving your language skills is all about constant practice. Living in an English-speaking community is the first thing you should do to start your practice. It might be tempting to surround yourself with people who already speak a familiar language. However, this way, you won’t be practicing English on a daily basis.
You need to make those lessons almost intuitive in a way that you don’t have to do anything to learn the language. If you live in an English-speaking community, for example, if your roommate speaks English, you will have to practice the language, whether you want it or not.
Still, make sure you don’t take it too far. Taking care of yourself is still as important as ever. Feeling like an alien for the sake of education is not worth it. Remember to keep in touch with your friends and family, talk to them as often as necessary.
Practicing language is not just about doing your homework. You can make practicing English a normal part of your daily routine by watching TV, listening to music, and reading books in this language.
Yet, this is a bit tricky. When being surrounded by white noise, people tend to learn not to notice it. You need to ensure this doesn’t happen. As you watch movies or read books, maintain your attention on what you’re doing. If you hear or see a word that you don’t understand – translate it and write it down. Be mindful and remember what you’re doing this for.
Writing Is The Answer
If you want to specifically learn to write, you need to do one thing, and that is to write. Continuous practice will help you understand what mistakes you often make and, in time, eliminate them. Focus on your goal, and don’t get discouraged when something’s not working. After all, even Rome wasn’t built in a day!
Get a journal and write in it daily. Pick a new topic every time and note everything you can think of. It’s also important that you write by hand, a spelling checker in your computer is tempting, but it will not help you remember how to spell words correctly.
Besides, journaling as a habit has multiple health benefits, and it can be therapeutic. It can help you get in touch with yourself and process your emotions better.
Learn In a Group
It’s proven that learning in a group is more efficient due to the sense of competition. Find a bunch of like-minded people who want to study with you or join an already existing one, like a speaking club.
The benefit of such activities is that you get all these people from entirely different backgrounds who are all good at various things. This will help you exchange experiences, which is impossible if you’re alone.
Schedule regular meetings, come up with topics to discuss and activities to do. You could watch videos or movies together, or talk about common things. Having assignments like describing an event can also be beneficial for the entire group. This way, while one person speaks, the rest think about how they would say the same things differently.
This will help you feel more confident in your skills and, consequently, speak and write better.
The most important thing about learning a language is not to be afraid of making mistakes. It’s inevitable; you just have to take it as a natural part of a learning process.
A child that is learning how to walk doesn’t give up after falling once, and you shouldn’t either. It’s most likely that your friends understand that you’re just learning a language, and they won’t laugh at you for misusing a word or a few.
Get over that fear of error and make as many mistakes as it will take. Treat it lightly, and don’t beat yourself up for it. On the other hand, try to attend as many events as you can that will expose you to the foreign language. Not only will it boost your English skills, but also improve your social confidence!
Learning a language is hard; there’s no arguing about that. However, it’s going to get easier with time. Take every hard thing that life throws at you and turn it into a lesson.
Watch your favorite movies in English, converse with native speakers, and you’ll see the improvement very soon!
Remember to be patient about it. Don’t give up, and don’t beat yourself up over something that you have so little control of. Good luck!
Remote Work + Education: 3 Tips for Students Who Want to Have It All
Probably one of the greatest changes for the last year is the shifting to distant learning and working. There are many advantages to the issue, like, not having to commute every day, staying at a cozy home for a whole day. It makes our lives easier in terms of saving time and energy.
If you’re a student, you don’t have to bust out your textbooks every time you go to university. Instead, you have everything close and on the tips of your fingers.
However, within all the positive moments of distance learning, it is highly challenging for many of us. At college or in the office, we have a schedule, a plan which we simply have to stick to.
There is also a boss or a teacher who gives us tasks, checks and monitors our performance.
Well, now, we are our own bosses and teachers and have to come up with the plan and track our tasks independently.
So, how to stay tuned and efficient if you work and study from home? How to get the most of it and not drown in the ocean of procrastination? In this article, you will find three tips to help you out!
Set Up Your Workspace
When many think of a distance learning or work, they imagine themselves wearing pajamas and lying on a couch all day with the laptop. No more dress code, make-up, early mornings, coworkers or group mates, paradise!
This is a common misconception of remote work. If you want to work and study from home, it is crucial to create a space where you would stay focused and productive.
Still, if you have had a hard day and feel like having rest on your comfy couch, but there are assignments to be done, leave your worries to professionals in paperwritingservice, just place an order and enjoy your day.
When we both work and study from home, we stay with all those household essentials and, at the same time, have to focus on tasks. That is why a perfect workspace has to be created. So how to reach this ideal atmosphere at home? Here’re some pro tips.
Separate Spaces for Everything
This is a common problem for many that they sleep and study at the same place. Our body is a smart mechanism, which gets used to conditions very quickly.
So, as you sleep in your bed, every time you lie on it, your body gets ready to relax and concentrate is the last thing it is ready for. This principle is applied to any other space in your house.
So, your workspace should be particularly aimed at learning or/and work. Every time you get there, your brain will be ready to do the job.
Get Rid of All Distractions
This is a very important step if you want to stay productive at home. Your home may be a dangerous space in terms of concentration. To make it easier, help your brain and get rid of everything that might attract your attention and ultimately prevent good performance.
Plan Your Day
Every morning when you wake up, you approximately know what the tasks for a day are. So, what’s the sense in planning a day if you already have it all in your head?
This is one more important concept that helps us have everything done on time. Planning a day saves you time and boosts motivation and disciplines.
Here’s how it is done:
- You write down a list of tasks that have to be done;
- Prioritize them from less important to more important;
- Hang this list somewhere, where you can always see it;
- Mark completed tasks.
When you mark the task as accomplished, you’ll get a sense of satisfaction, which may be compared to some sort of praise. There are many tools to write a to-do list from paper to online apps.
Dedicate Time for Yourself
When you work and study from home, there will be a risk of abandoning our personal time in favor of more important matters. This factor leads not only to great results but also a concept called burning out.
When people face it, they feel exhausted, demotivated, and apathetic. To avoid this, it is crucial to have time for things you enjoy. It may be a sport, hobby, listening to music, watching movies, seeing friends. Your brain has to relax and get positive emotions to be more efficient in the long run.
No matter if you want to work and study from home, these principles can be applied to any activity. To manage it all, just follow these basic rules, and you’ll see how your productivity boosts.
Good luck with all your endeavors!
5 Ideas on Starting a Business in College
Getting your own business is a very responsible yet liberating undertaking. By starting a business while still in college, you can be sure to have an income when you graduate or to at least get some life-saving skills and experience that will help you land whatever job you like later on.
Although starting a business can be quite intimidating, there are lots of resources online that will help you go through the process easier. In the meantime, here are some valuable ideas that will help you make sure your business turns out to be a success.
Develop a Business Proposal
Before starting a business, you need a working idea, something that you can sell to your potential customer. Having an idea is, unfortunately, not enough for success here. It is important to make sure that there is an audience, a group of people that actually needs the product you want to create, and will be interested in buying it. You can even define a “Buyer Persona,” which is basically a description of your target customer, what they are like, what triggers them, what their interests and needs are.
Business proposals can be different, depending on how big a business you want to start. In case you are thinking about looking for some investors, your business proposal should be a solid description of your business idea, convincing enough for people to understand that they will get their money back and gain some profit when your product goes live. In case you don’t need investors, your business proposal can be more of a business plan outlining the main facets of your business idea and the things you need to do to make it work.
Get Some Help
As a person new to the business world, you might need some helpers and advisors to keep everything under control. When it comes to your studies, there might come the point where you need to choose between your business and your degree. To manage the problem, you can reach out to a professional academic writer from essayservice and ask them to take care of your assignments while you focus on developing your business.
Additionally, you might need to reach out or hire some business or tax advisors, or at least request a consultation with them. Starting a legal business will require you to be good at paperwork, which means some preparation is in place. With a business advisor by your side, you can be sure not to miss any important steps when developing and marketing your business. If you define your company as a start-up, it is possible that some business advisors will be willing to help you out for free, given that they get interested in your business idea and want to get profit out of it too.
Create a Website
Whatever business you choose, whether you deliver services or products, you need to have a website. Luckily, you can make do with little investments here: you don’t need to hire an IT guy or a Web Designer as there are lots of tools where you can create a great website from scratch. You might just have to pay for your domain if you want it to be unique. One of such sources is Wix; it is a free website builder.
Why do you need a website, you might wonder? Well, the days when people learn about businesses from newspapers and leaflets are long gone. Now everyone will go online, look your business up, and expect to see some clear definition of what it is you do and what value you can bring. In case you want to open a shop, your website will function as an online shop. In case it is a service you are offering, your website will give your potential customer enough information about your service and will hopefully convince them to reach out to you and order the service.
Work on Social Media Channels
Having social media channels is as essential as having a website in 2020. While a website is a place where people can order and buy your products or services, social media is a sort of a platform that will lead them up to your website.
With the help of social media channels like LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, you can find the right people, give them a brief description of your business, and get them to visit your website and learn more about what they can get there.
Social media is what can also help you develop a strong online presence and customer loyalty. Online presence means that your business gets regular online exposure. People see posts and notifications about it daily and thus remember and highlight it. When it comes to customer loyalty, social media can help you engage your potential customers, get their interest, and devotion to the product and the very idea of your product. They basically need to feel “at home” with your business, like it is something very close and personal to them.
Try Again Until You Make It
The reason why many businesses fail lies in the fact that people tend to give up if they fail, simple as that. However, the truth is that failure is part of the process. It is a sort of a learning curve you need to go through before you make your business into what it should actually be like. That’s why you should never expect to succeed on your first try or get disappointed if you fail several times in a row. Maybe it is just the universe testing how serious you are about achieving your goal.
Every company has this “success story,” where they tell everything about their ups and downs, their insights, and takeouts. It is good to read those stories to get some inspiration and do a reality check on what building a business actually looks like. If your determination and motivation are strong enough, your business will definitely succeed, no matter how many tries it takes to get there.
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