Dan Shapiro (Randy Stewart photo)

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.

“How To Sell Out” By Dan Shapiro from Red Russak on Vimeo.

Follow us on Twitter @geekwire.

Comments

  • http://www.rescuetime.com Anonymous

    I don’t think the two positions are mutually exclusive.  My favorite analogy for this is the “local vs. the expressway”.  You can carve two different paths to a huge outcome (depending on what you’re building, how you fund it and what market you’re playing in).  One is the expressway– a big/fast road to a wonderful destination (with no exits).  The other is the “Local” – a slightly smaller/slower road with some opportunities to get off (exit) or turn onto a different road (pivot)…  You can still get to the same wonderful destination– maybe a touch slower but with a LOT less risk for the entrepreneur.

    (disclosure: I think Dan himself gave me this wonderful analogy, which he got from Mark Suster).

  • Guest

    In plain English: take VC money (swing for the fences) and maybe you will get rich. With Ontela, no one got rich. Or you can built to flip (Sparkbuy), lower your risk and got paid. 

  • http://www.danshapiro.com/blog Dan Shapiro

    A few points of clarification:

    – “Guest”‘s summary isn’t quite right; the plain English version is: “I tried one thing, and then I tried something else, because I like to try lots of different things.”

    – Ontela is still going strong after the merger with Photobucket, and I think it will be a great outcome for everyone involved!

    – The summary implies that I disagree with Rich and said you shouldn’t swing for the fences.  I don’t think that at all.  I advocate thinking hard about what you want, and then working like hell to make that happen.  I did that twice, two different ways, and couldn’t be happier with both outcomes.

    – Lest the title be misleading – I always book coach.  Sometimes I get lucky and get bumped to first.  Once, I got really, really lucky, and made the connection that landed Sparkbuy at Google. :)

    – Regarding @webwright:disqus’s advice to “take the local” – @msuster:twitter, the font of startup wisdom, was my source for that indeed. 

  • http://twitter.com/danad103 Dana D.

    For someone new to this world, I was super inspired. Some of my fave quotes/partial quotes from Shapiro:

    It’s the…. “… spark of randomness that makes companies work.”

    “It’s the little conversations and relationships that make or break companies.”

    In searching for investors: “Do they see the world the way I do? Do they see the outcome the way i do?” — that was from TA McCann

    Also from TA: “We’re trying to bring the power of this thing to tens of millions of people and how do we do that.”

    As I maneuver my way throughout the startup community I continue to be blown away by the generosity of those who have been there, done that and continue to do more. Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/danad103 Dana D.

    For someone new to this world, I was super inspired. Some of my fave quotes/partial quotes from Shapiro:

    It’s the…. “… spark of randomness that makes companies work.”

    “It’s the little conversations and relationships that make or break companies.”

    In searching for investors: “Do they see the world the way I do? Do they see the outcome the way i do?” — that was from TA McCann

    Also from TA: “We’re trying to bring the power of this thing to tens of millions of people and how do we do that.”

    As I maneuver my way throughout the startup community I continue to be blown away by the generosity of those who have been there, done that and continue to do more. Thank you!

Job Listings on GeekWork

Find more jobs on GeekWork. Employers, post a job here.