Startup Acquisition Stories with Justin Vanderheide, Founder of Swimgen

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Justin Vanderheide sold two SaaS businesses, Swimgen and Zendesk Apps this year each for six figures. The former he built as a teenaged swim instructor desperate to save a couple of hours. The other he built in weeks when he saw the market opportunity of a lifetime in 2019.

Here’s how it went down.

When he was 16, Justin spent evenings working as a swim instructor at the YMCA. Every so often, he had to fill out hundreds of report cards for his swimming students. He liked giving good feedback so he’d write long paragraphs until his hands cramped up. The process often took hours.

At this time, Justin was learning to code so he cooked up an application letting instructors input students’ strengths and weaknesses. Then it would automatically generate a paragraph of feedback.

His local YMCA loved it, and soon, through word of mouth, Swimgen became a household name in every YMCA in Canada. It even spread to hundreds of community pools and military bases.

Swimgen was a consistent source of revenue for Justin as he attended university and started working in the gaming industry. Over the years, he also developed strong personal relationships with his customers.

In 2019, while still running Swimgen, he noticed one more opportunity. Zendesk had a suite of free applications beloved by many businesses that were shutting down. They were key parts of many of their operations. 

Knowing he had a small window to act, he coded his own versions of the free apps in a few weeks called Zendesk Apps and put a small paywall on them. He timed the venture perfectly. Zendesk even promoted his project to the disappointed businesses asking them what they should do when their apps shut down.

Finally, in 2022 Justin and his wife opened a rock climbing slash ninja warrior gym. But they were worried they couldn’t give enough customer support in their apps (specifically Swimgen). They looked online for where to sell SaaS businesses and found 

Soon, they’d found 6-figure buyers for each application. For swimgen, it was a nearly-retired coder looking for a passion project in his freetime. And for Zendesk Apps, a group of investors looking for small SaaS businesses.

Listen to Justin’s talk with Andrew post acquisition to hear:

  • How to choose the best time to sell your business
  • Why Justin struck SaaS gold twice and how you can too
  • What to look for in a buyer for your business

Justin is just getting started and you can follow his journey here:

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