Entrepreneur Dan Shapiro –who sold Sparkbuy to Google back in May and merged Ontela with Photobucket in 2009 — offers some advice on selling your startup company at the Lean Startup Meetup Monday night in Seattle.
Interestingly, Shapiro started out his talk by taking a counter position to Rich Barton’s advice at the GeekWire Meetup last month where the Expedia and Zillow founder encouraged entrepreneurs to swing for the fences.
Shapiro — introduced by GeekWire community manager and former Lean Startup Seattle organizer — said that wasn’t really his goal when he started Sparkbuy.
“When I started Sparkbuy, I said: ‘You know what, I don’t want to swing for the fences. I don’t want to pull in giant piles of VC investment. I want to try to build something very bite-sized, very tangible. Maybe it is something that can grow to be huge, and I do want to have some sort of vision for what that could be out there, but I want to build real value and I want to build it quickly. I want to build revenue. I want to build customers. And that is not what we did with Ontela. Ontela was an exercise of build for two years, and then ‘tada.’”
Interestingly, Shapiro said that he created a list with Sparkbuy of potential acquirers very early on, a list that included both Amazon.com and CNET. But it was a chance meeting with a Google manager on an airplane trip between Silicon Valley and Seattle — a trip in which Shapiro was upgraded to first class — that helped spark Sparkbuy and lead to its sale.
Shapiro notes: “In general, in startups in particular, and as a leader of a startup most specifically, your job is to create serendipity. It is to give it every opportunity for the right thing to happen, magically and by sheer dumb luck.”
That said, Shapiro is quick to point out that selling your startup can be an absolutely “crippling” decision. “The smaller you are, the harder and worse and more distracting it is,” said Shapiro, adding that there’s “this thing in the air” that you can’t really talk about it.
Here’s the full video of Shapiro’s remarks from the Lean Startup Seattle event in which he digs into the particulars of what it’s like to sell your company.
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