Startup Acquisition Stories with Alan Li, Co-founder of Moxa

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What’s easier? Selling something people know they need, or selling something people don’t know they need?

Alan Li had lots of initial success with his startup, Moxa, an app for guided acupressure sessions. He even went viral on Tiktok a handful of times.

However, growth slowed because he constantly had to convince Western audiences to try Eastern medicine. Eventually, he was forced to sell to an East Asian buyer with a hunch that audiences in Singapore and beyond would be easier sells. Fortunately, he’d prepared to sell from the beginning.

Here’s how it happened.

Alan is a firm believer in holistic medicine. He can count the number of times he’s taken ibuprofen for a headache on one hand. As an adult, he regularly attended acupuncture sessions. Acupuncture is the Eastern Asian practice of sticking needles into pressure points on the body to relieve ailments.

During COVID, Allen was forced to forgo these sessions due to social distancing. Instead, he would Zoom call his therapist for self-guided “acupressure” sessions. In these, the therapist guides the patient to apply pressure to the same points the therapist punctures in acupuncture.

These sessions inspired Alan and his cofounder to create an application letting people do follow-along acupressure sessions at any time and any place on their phone. They picked up some seed funding, constructed an app, and started building Moxa through informational campaigns on TikTok.

However, even with rave reviews from customers describing the experience as “transcendent”, Alan found they spent too much time convincing Western audiences of the benefits of Eastern healing techniques. They were too used to the fast-acting effects of pills.

Burned out after 1.5 years of slow growth, Alan and his business partner listed Moxa on and sold to a buyer in Singapore within three months. They are now using their sale dollars to be buyers themselves. Looking for businesses they could acquire and add value to grow rapidly from online to main street.

Post-acquisition, Andrew got on a call with Alan to discuss:

  • How he harnessed the power of TikTok to drive traffic to his app (and went viral).
  • Why he chose to sell on despite a higher offer off platform.
  • How he leveraged his background in investment banking to make his company highly desirable for sale.

Follow Alan as he takes his dive into the other side of M&A as a buyer:

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