Getting acquired is a dream scenario for many startup CEOs. Getting there, however, is damn near impossible. According to Bloomberg, eight out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months.
On the other hand, there are those entrepreneurs who move fast, decide faster and build something big. Katherine Hague is one of these entrepreneurs.
Katherine started ShopLocket, an e-commerce tool originally designed to let anyone sell anything from a single product to a line of goods on the existing website.
ShopLocket was recently acquired by PCH International and has since been rebranded to The Blueprint, an online retail destination for the latest in consumer hardware and wearable tech. Katherine was 23 when her company was acquired.
As a fascinated (and older) employee at The Blueprint who attends a ton of tech events, I’m asked so many questions about the acquisition. People basically need to pick their jaws up off the floor when they learn that a female, 23-year-old founder got her company acquired.
Tired of answering with, "She’s just a genius," I sat down with my ballin’ boss to find out the answers to the most common, very curious questions:
1) Build your network before you need it.
This is Katherine’s signature advice. Before knowing that she wanted to create ShopLocket, she was everywhere. She was at every conference, every tech event and spoke on any panel, including diverse events outside of her field of work -- not just the ones of great interest to her.
Put yourself in slightly uncomfortable situations (i.e. going to an event about Ruby on Rails when you don’t know a damn thing about the language) and learn. Katherine was able to connect with her technical cofounder through networking.
2) Do a lot of people favors.
When I first started at ShopLocket, Katherine email-introduced me to about 20 people within an hour to connect with and learn about the industry.
After trying to manage my overwhelming curiosity about who these people were, I wouldn’t stop receiving confirmation from people who wanted to help me.
This gal sure had pull, and since then, Katherine has continued to introduce founders and connect me to people without thinking twice. This, no doubt, has built up some good will and has helped her connect with top people. I mean, we’ve interviewed the top founders of our industry through building connections.
3) Take Risks: Do what others would not do.
Katherine is willing to invest both financially and with her time in projects or trips about which she has a hunch. For example, when ShopLocket started serving the hardware community, she went to where the action was: Shenzhen, China (a solo trip, of course).
Now, for many, a trip to a country 14 hours away, not knowing anyone, would be a risk. But it was here that she connected with Liam Casey, the founder of PCH International, who met with her, loved her passion and vision for her company and eventually started the dialogue to acquire the company.
4) Develop a thick skin.
As a founder, you will be dealing with all kinds of people -- from the super nice to the super psycho. Katherine’s advice here is to keep persisting, despite negativity. The more you try, the faster you move on and forget any people trying to hold you back.
5) When the opportunity to get acquired comes up, hire the right help.
Okay, so you’re in official talks to get acquired. Now’s the time to get it together. Katherine and her cofounders hired someone to be the negotiator. (Katherine connected with an angel investor in her company.)
An investor recommended hiring an accountant and an interim CEO who worked for 10 hours for two weeks. Get the right lawyer who has closed deals like this. You’re so close; don’t let age stop you.
Bonus tip: Get tax advice (less glamorous, but super important).
Photo Courtesy: Relativity Media/The Social Network