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When Loren Bendele started online coupon company Savings.com in 2007, he wondered why traditional paper coupon companies didn't have more of an internet presence. It was a simple idea that filled a niche in an established market.
While his marketing plan initially was designed to attract customers, it also was meant to gain the attention of prospective acquirers--and it did. In June 2012 Bendele sold Savings.com to Cox Target Media, parent company of Valpak, for a reported $100 million.
"We always thought the traditional coupon players would be looking for ways to migrate their business," Bendele explains. So he intentionally built his company to sell.
Ken Wisnefski, meanwhile, has flipped two companies and now runs Mount Laurel, N.J.-based WebiMax, which provides internet marketing services such as search engine optimization. His first tip on building a business to sell? "You should treat [each company] as though you are going to keep it for 100 years," he says.
In other words, starting a company with the intention to flip is not so different from starting any company, but it does come with its own set of guidelines.
"With very few exceptions, startups get bought, they don't go public," says Nat Burgess, president of Bothell, Wash.-based Corum Group, which provides mergers and acquisitions advice for the software industry. "The ones that go public go through so many funding rounds and recapitalizations that they are thoroughly vetted by the time they file for IPO. For the other 99 percent of startup companies, proper planning and strategy are critical to a successful sale. Without a good business, quality team and solid execution, there is no exit."
Nate Redmond, managing partner at Rustic Canyon Ventures in Santa Monica, Calif., was one of the venture funders of Savings.com. He stresses that the business itself is more important than any exit strategy. "Rarely do we make an investment with the stated intent to sell," he says. Instead, the investment decision is based on market conditions, competitive position and company execution. "The best companies are bought, not sold," he adds. "We believe it is important to keep the focus on the long-term horizon until buyers come calling."
However, nearly every entrepreneur and investor who has been through a sale says there are crucial ingredients to any exit plan. Above all, the company needs an easily adaptable product or concept, clean books, good old-fashioned buzz, delegated authority and attention to the customer mix. Finally, the details of daily management have to support a company's long-term growth. "Startups get acquired because the acquirer believes they can scale up the company," Burgess says. "If the company is held together with duct tape and baling wire, it won't scale. Even though they start small, entrepreneurs have to think big from day one."
[Via - Entrepreneur]
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