You’ve read the statistic: 90% of startups fail. But what does it really mean? For one, it’s a slap in the face to all the founders grinding away on their passion projects. But it also reveals a truth many have failed to grasp. Entrepreneurship isn’t endlessly pursuing one idea until it becomes a unicorn but launching multiple startups, sometimes concurrently, until you can sell and seed a bigger, better business with some experience behind you.
On Sunday, April 26, 2020, Andrew Gazdecki, CEO and founder of Acquire, Acquired ForSaleByMaker from its founder Mubashar Iqbal. Rather than paddling a slow, rudderless course towards a billion-dollar valuation – chances of which are extremely rare – both entrepreneurs have focused on building helpful products, selling when the going is good, and then moving on to bigger, better things. This marks a new chapter for Iqbal whose prolific build roster earned him ProductHunt maker of the year in 2016 and runner up in 2015 and 2017.
“I love making things,” said Iqbal. “I’ve built close to a hundred different products, all of which were a joy to build, design, and develop. Exposure is the hard part. I know there are thousands, probably millions, of people like me whose projects never see the light of day because they’ve not been given the right platform. I started ForSaleByMaker to bring makers and buyers together, and with Andrew and the Acquire team taking over, I’m really excited to see this go further than I ever could’ve taken it alone.”
Gazdecki is a seasoned entrepreneur with three acquisitions under his belt – one of which he started in his dorm room at CSU Chico State and ultimately was acquired by a private equity firm. Gazdecki’s latest project – Acquire – is a startup acquisition marketplace where founders and buyers skip conventional channels to deal directly, saving those 10-15% commissions charged by online brokers. With ForSaleByMaker joining the fold, Gazdecki believes he can reach an even greater number of founders and bootstrappers to help fund their next ventures.
“My goal is to help entrepreneurs sell their startups, whether it’s a side project or a bootstrapped SaaS company generating serious revenue,” Gazdecki said. “Selling a company is really confusing and there aren’t many options that connect you directly with buyers to avoid paying huge commissions to traditional brokers. With our first acquisition of ForSaleByMaker, I’m happy to say we’ll be able to help even more entrepreneurs finally reach their goal of getting Acquired.”
Why is selling a startup so difficult? It’s a two-fold problem, argues Gazdecki. On the one hand, conventional acquisition involves pricey middlemen like brokers and investment bankers. It’s also time-consuming, involves stacks of paperwork, and negotiations can fall apart at any point before both parties sign. It’s enough to make anyone nervous, and pulls focus from things most founders enjoy, such as running their business, speaking to customers, and so on.
While Gazdecki and Iqbal both agree acquisitions should be easier, the other side to the problem is founders. Either they never get their side-project off the ground or they become too attached to it, forsaking other, perhaps better, ideas. In either case, Gazdecki argues, entrepreneurs need to set incremental goals and stick to them. Build something small, sell it, and then build something else. Play the long game instead of going all-in on the first hand.
“I used to start new companies every year,” Gazdecki said. “Not all the ideas were great, but I learned a great deal from them. The first business I sold, PhoneFreelancer, gave me the idea for another that would later generate millions of dollars in revenue. So in my experience, you’ve got to have the courage to build and the courage to walk away. Acquire gives founders a place to walk away to – where they can showcase their products, meet potential buyers, and start conversations that lead to a sale.”
Acquire lists startups with $500,000 ARR or less, giving smaller businesses a leg-up into what has been – until now – a buyers’ market. Founders who don’t want their intentions broadcast will find comfort in the anonymity of the platform, which ensures all listings and conversations are private. Buyers receive basic financial data and can start conversations to establish the right fit. There are no fees and no middlemen, which levels the playing field for startups of all sizes.
Gazdecki’s acquisition of ForSaleByMaker is a battle cry for entrepreneurs everywhere. If you start small, keep an open mind, and sell when the going is good, you stand a better chance of being in the 10% of startups that do succeed. You don’t need millions in funding nor a lifetime of toil, just the courage to follow through on your ideas and not be too scared to walk away when the time is right. “Celebrate small yet life-changing acquisitions,” Gazdecki argues, “as these unlock the next tier of your entrepreneurial career.”
As Gazdecki rallies bootstrappers and Iqbal starts anew, one can’t help but wonder if this might be the new face of modern entrepreneurship. One of inclusivity and accessibility. And if so, what might that startup statistic look like in a few years? Time will tell, but in the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt to play the odds in your favor.