In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob talks with Adii Pienaar of Conversio, about his life changing exit, when and why he decided to sell, and what the whole process was like.
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Rob: In this breaking news edition of Startups for the Rest of Us, we have the first interview with Adii Pienaar of Conversio after he sold his company to Campaign Monitor for a life-changing amount of money. This is Startups for the Rest of Us Episode 467.
Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers, and entrepreneurs be awesome at building, launching, and growing startups, whether you’ve built your fifth startup or you’re thinking about your first. I’m Rob, and today with Adii Pienaar, we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the mistakes we’ve made.
Welcome to this week’s episode of Startups for the Rest of Us. I’m Rob Walling. Each week on this show, we cover topics relating to building and growing startups in order to provide a better life for ourselves and our family but also to improve the world in a small way.
This podcast aims to highlight folks that are winning, highlight folks that are struggling, highlight folks that have one but let them talk about the struggles along the way because frankly, a lot of the media seems to whitewash it and the TechCrunch articles we read and Inked magazine and such, I don’t know, they paint the picture that maybe this is easy or that we should have millions in revenue in the first couple of years and that if you sell for less than a billion dollars, that’s somehow a failure, but it’s not.
We talk on this show about building businesses, building real companies instead of building slide decks. We don’t ask for permission to start companies. We go and start them and we build real businesses with real customers who pay us real money.
Starting a company is hard. More than half of building a successful startup is managing your own psychology. We’re going to dive into that today with Adii Pienaar as we do a breaking news interview with him after he exited from his company Conversio. Now, Adii Pienaar was a co-founder of WooThemes many years ago which later sold to WordPress (parent company Automattic). After leaving WooThemes, he started Conversio, which in the beginning was called Receiptful to SaaS app and it was essentially an email service provider that catered to eCommerce companies. They integrate with Shopify, BigCommerce, a few others, and he built it up into a multiple seven-figure SaaS app.
Adii and I have known each other for years. He’s a three-time MicroConf speaker. I was super happy for Adii that this exit went through and that he was able to have this moment especially with Campaign Monitor which is a company a lot of us know and respect. Now, he and his team are working for Campaign Monitor and they’ve rebranded Conversio to CM Commerce.
Before we dive in, I wanted to remind you that the TinySeed batch two applications open on November 1st. Head over to tinyseed.com and you can get an email when the applications open.
In this interview, Adii and I walk through it all. We talk a little bit about growing Conversio but we dive in mid-story, as I like to do, to cover when did Adii decide to sell, why did he decide to sell, what that process was like, how painful or not it was, how it took, how the transition’s been, and a couple of things that he bought shortly after the exit closed. I hope you enjoy this conversion with Adii Pienaar.
Adii Pienaar, thank you so much for joining me on the show.
Adii: Thanks for having me, Rob.
Rob: I’m so surprised. This is the first time that you’ve been on Startups for the Rest of Us. I just thought somewhere in the back of my mind, I had invited you on before but apparently, as you just told me, this is it, this is your premier.
Adii: Yeah. I’m just going to say, The most politically correct thing to say is absence makes the hardcore founder. I know I’m here just because of all these years of absence.
Rob: That’s right. What an episode to be on, man. We could have had you on years ago to talk about WooThemes, we could have talked about when you started Receiptful, renamed it to Conversio. The agony, the victories, and everything that it takes to build a seven-figure SaaS app, but here we are, we’re able to talk about essentially what I’m calling a life-changing exit. Does that sound reasonably correct.
Adii: Yeah, it does. That’s the way I describe it as well in more ways than one, but yeah, definitely life-changing. Even on the ground, saying that and thinking about, that you hear me say that […] into that new normal. That’s all I know that is life-changing because I don’t get settled into that new normal, I just know that it’s on the horizon.
Rob: Yeah, exactly. Can you take me back to the moment that the docs were signed and were you like me refreshing your bank account just to see when the wire came through? What did that feel like when you saw that many zeros in your bank account?
Adii: I think the […] Rob is that I saw the first cash from deal. I got paid last. Everyone else is all about I get paid first. I don’t know why some British legal thing. Then the money also went to our family office and they didn’t really have got to me in South Africa. By the time it got here, I’ve already just dipped into bit in South Africa just to buy a few things to reward myself. The money itself was odd. You think about that now, actually just receiving the money, it ended up not being the predominant experience that I seem to remember from recent weeks.
Rob: Yeah, that’s interesting. It never ceases to amaze me how something that you can chase your whole life, you can achieve it, and then within days or weeks, it suddenly becomes a new normal, as you said.
Adii: The way I think about it, money itself has never been a good motivator for me. I know that to many people that sounds weird because I have […] adult life, at least I’ve been an entrepreneur and I’ve been working my own things. There is that pursuit of money, but money itself is never a motivator. To me, it’s the kind of things that I attach the money, the kind of life I can build in a way.
To that extent, the thing that both Joan (my wife) and I said to each other beforehand was that we already had a really good life before and we didn’t need a single event, especially not one of this magnitude to change the fundamentals of our lives. We aren’t going to change our family values just because we had more money. That’s part of why I’ve probably just not enjoyed or indulged on the financial aspect of the exit just get.
Rob: I find that very common with makers. You’re a developer yourself and a lot of the makers I know, most of them start the companies not for the money but for the freedom that money can potentially bring them. In the same way, I just wanted to be able to go build interesting things. I found that working for other people, I couldn’t do that. I built really boring things that I didn’t like and I didn’t have any equity. Then at the end, finally starting your own thing, it’s like, “Wow, I just won enough time to build fun things and cool things that I’m interested in.” How do you get there? I think starting a company is one way to do that.
Adii: Exactly. We’re a little beyond two months now since the transaction closed. In those two months, my team and I had been hustling in terms of evolving the product, rebranding the product, trying to focus our attention on doing more good work because I just gravitate towards that. Everything else is a distraction to what I actually want to do. I just like to create value, do cool stuff, whether it’s my own or otherwise. I only have experience on working my own things, so I think going into a new parent company, that’s […] and it’s something I will evolve into, but that’s at least has been the focus for those two months. As I said, just getting back to doing good, focused work.
Rob: Folks who are listening know that you started Conversio, which essentially is an email service provider and you mentioned to me that you started it in 2014. Now, selling it here five years later, you grew it into a seven-figure SaaS app and then you had an exit, that’s “only” five years. When I say only, I either literally mean that or I mean it in quotes because sometimes, five years of running a software company and growing it can be very painful. How do you feel about that? Do you feel like, “Wow, this was a quick victory for me, a Cinderella story,” or do you feel like it was a grind and five years was really tough, “I feel good to have made this next step into this next stage of my life”?
Adii: I think on average, Rob, we started the […] this is life-changing and I do think positive at the whole exit like in that […], It is life-changing and the fact that I’m really happy about the new home that we found for both product and the team. The cool thing there is there’s some personal affinity with Campaign Monitor, our new parent company, in the sense that I […] user forever, like firstly a customer. We were still customers of theirs at the point of acquisition and that’s always been by choice, but also when I started working on WooThemes back in the day like 2007, those are the wild, wild west of software, online software, SaaS, et cetera. From afar, we always looked at Campaign Monitor and we would ship or […].
I can remember, for example, when they put up their fancy Sydney office. Magnus, Mark, and I were looking at that and drooling. Not that we needed a fancy office because we had a mostly-distributed team, but there’s always been that personal affinity and when you get almost your heroes, a hero company where you come in and express interest to buy this thing that you’ve built, that’s a great feeling as well.
That’s predominantly the lens that I look at the exit and depending on how deep you would get. Ultimately the flipside to that is we were operating in a pretty competitive space and I also knew that to compete, we had to either accelerate our growth organically or sustainably with our own means or we had to raise more money because we had well-funded competitors that were definitely making moves within the industry.
You look at that five years and say, “Could we have done more to grow it further and exited at a year or two, three, four down the line for some exponential model?” and yes, I think that is possible. But you sometimes just get an opportunity to get a really good exit which is what we got and you can actually see that. I want to see that moment because you never know what changes beyond your control the next 2–3 years.
Rob: Yeah, I’ve seen folks ride their business over the top, so to speak. Once that growth stops, suddenly your multiple is not 4X instead of 5X multiple. It becomes 1½X instead of 5X. It’s a huge change once your stop growing. Given the potential for recession that folks are talking about, it’s easy. If you’re in it for another 5–10 years, go for it, but if you’re at the point—like my mental model—where you’re burned out, or you’re thinking about doing something else, or “Hey, having enough money where I can ride off into the sunset,” is starting to sound appealing and you can get that, what’s the difference between having that and two times that? You know what I mean? I talk about this in a MicroConf talk after we sold Drip and it was the same model. It’s like, “Yeah, I can keep riding this stuff,” but I don’t want to be that person that winds up having a major regret about it.
Last year, you spoke at MicroConf Europe in Croatia and if I recall, your talk was pretty raw. You talked about running Conversio and some of the challenges that you’re facing, both emotionally and just with the business, that there were competitors. There are all kinds of stuff, as you said, in this space that make it difficult. When did you decide to sell and why? Was that part of it?
Adii: Yeah, definitely. I think many people look at—I hate the term, by the way—serial founders and they figure, “Oh, the second, third, or fourth time is just so much easier.” I actually found it was completely the opposite for me. The second time was much harder possibly because the first part was partly […] way than the extent of our success was you […] lack in timing et cetera. Coming into Conversio, it was just harder than that. We also started off growing wildly. Then the growth plateaued and it was harder.
The other thing that made Conversio really much harder for me over the years was the fact that Adii Jr. was born, I believe, two years. He was two years old by the time that I left WooThemes and sold out WooThemes. By the time I had started working on Conversio, I had a six-month-old baby in the house. Having dependent and two dependents, as well as Joan, that always seem to aggravate my fears, my awareness of risk, those kind of things, so the second time was just much, much harder.
By the time we had gotten to MicroConf, my talk was mostly sense of being tired. The short story there was about a year before, we thought we had revenue which we didn’t have and it contradicts with the message. We literally lost due to reporting. We lost about $25,000 MRR. We’ve been pretty frugal and keeping revenue and expenses close to break even, some months just over, some months just under, not a big cash reserve. Then, this revenue just disappears. The revenue we thought was there and there was a lag from our payment process […]. I had to lay off two team members. That’s November 2017.
For the next year, all we had to do was really be brutal in terms of turning the business around and making sure it was profitable. We did that on almost, not zero, but minimal. We probably did around about 10% revenue growth in that whole year, start to finish in that process, but we turned profitability around drastically. It was just a hard year. For me, just given an overall overarching experience of the second time being harder and then going through a tough year like that, I was just tired. At least for me, when I feel like that I don’t feel as energized and ambitious, then I start looking at options, which meant that throughout that year, for that lost year, I at least started putting feelers out there to see should we raise more money—that was one option—or should we actually look for some kind of strategic partnership or acquisition.
Rob: Those layoffs must have been really tough. Was that the first time you had to lay people off?
Adii: Yeah. I’ve had to let people go before due to performance or something, but this is the first time that a big reason for them leaving the team was just we couldn’t afford to keep them, and that was on me and that sucked.
Rob: Yeah, it’s really hard to be doing your best and trying to take care of everybody and to make a mistake like that. I know how that feels myself. A lot of people don’t realize how close to the margins so many of these successful SaaS apps actually run. You have an app doing $1 million–$3 million dollars a year and that sounds like this amazing windfall.
Of course, when an app stops growing, it will plateau and you can have this amazing profit margins. 50% is the net margin I hear thrown around for SaaS, if you need a team to do it and if there’s this special Cinderella SaaS where HitTail had 85% net margin or something.
You can get a lot out of it, but when an app is growing, you’re driving, you have a bunch of competitors, you’re building features, and you’re basically trying to keep your head above water as you’re growing, most of these apps will run at breakeven for a very long time. I don’t think that a lot of people realize that.
What that means is that one small misstep with cash or as you’re saying with an accounting snafu can really mean some pretty drastic stuff. I bet at that time, now we say like, “Oh, you have to lay two people off.” That was tough. At that time, did that feel catastrophic? Was that a huge weight on you?
Adii: Yeah. I can’t remember, Rob, at least in terms from day one of starting Conversio, going through a darker period of my life because part of that is I’m also a solo founder, nobody was as invested in this business as I was. Even if I consider Joan from a family perspective, she has that financial exposure but it wasn’t her decision that influenced what happened in the business.
It wasn’t on the shareholders either. They were passive ever since. They obviously had their capital exposed in that risk, but it’s not the same thing. It very quickly became a very, very lonely thing both in terms of taking responsibility for what happened but also, literally, the next steps in terms of telling two people, “Listen. You’re unfortunately redundant. Here’s the situation…” You’re doing that, handling the you’re being there for the rest of the team. Often, they lose friends to friends, for example. That’s hard.
Thinking about it now, the hardest part is going through such a tough experience also at the end of the calendar year, when one tends to be a little bit more tired probably than in January, having to rally the troops because the business needed to be turned around. It wasn’t just about letting two people go. We needed to shift momentum drastically. I probably walked through 2018 just feeling this immense, immense weight on my shoulders like I’ve never felt before, not with WooThemes, not with Conversio before, and probably not with anything else that I’ve done in my life.
Rob: How large was your team at the time?
Adii: Fourteen, I believe, we went down from 14 to 12.
Rob: To 12, yeah, that’s a big hit. Obviously, we can hear it in your voice and just in the events you’re talking about that why you would start thinking about other options? You mentioned raising funding and you actually dropped me a line, I believe. You sent me an email and asked about the Drip exit. Did you and I jump on a call? Remind me of what happened because I remember introducing you to Einar and this is before TinySeed, I believe, and then the two of you got in a conversation about what it would look like to exit. Remind me the process because I’m guessing you’ll remember better than I do.
Adii: Yeah. I don’t think we spoke enough after that, by the way. The last time before this split was a couple of weeks ago just after the exit.
Rob: Got it. Was it in MicroConf Europe?
Rob: Okay, so that was it. That would have been almost a year ago now.
Rob: You must have asked me about what it would look like to exit and I think I said, “Hey, I know this guy.” We’ve probably just announced TinySeed, literally, a week before that and I knew that Einar had hopes. Part of what he’s done over the past several years is helping seven-figure and eight-figure SaaS founders exit and then run a process and sell their companies to really strategic buyers is what they do. I intrude you there. Now, did you follow other leads as well or once you talked to Einar, were you like, “This is something”?
Adii: Yeah, I actually stuck to Einar. I’m a big believer, at least, both in life and business but in business, too. You need to tie and consolidate relationships as much as possible. If I find someone that resonated with me and there’s a fit for my personality, then I’m all in.
Rob: Einar is the founder of Discretion Capital and you worked with him to essentially run a process, is what it’s called. Folks who’ve done it know what that means but for folks who don’t know what that phrase means, can you talk about what that looks like? I guess from a high level what it looks like, but also I’m curious to hear your individual story as you went through that process.
Adii: We ended up having quite a simple process, but it’s also the first one that I ran. What that meant was Einar and I worked together to put together a prospectus of some kind for the business and then identify potential acquirers, both strategic or just financial sponsors, which was a new term that I learned as well. Then, the ultimate goal with any exits is once you have that, try and get multiple parties interested. If you have multiple parties interested, you can probably pay that interest off each other to make sure you get the best possible bid. In saying that, the best possible bid isn’t necessarily the one that has the highest variation. It could be related to payment terms, some restrictions or warranties, or just almost a cultural thing.
I know a friend, for example, that ran through a process. There’s one friend […] that has sold multiple businesses and he told me that in his last business, he didn’t choose the one that had the highest valuation. He chose the company and team that he thought would really make progress with the product because that was more important to him at that stage. I think that’s what that competitive bidding process looks like in terms of getting multiple interested parties and then hopefully multiple bids on the table.
Rob: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I’ve never been through a process and I’m not super familiar with it, but my understanding is when you work with a broker or an investment banker like this—they do run a process—they essentially take all your financials, they put them together, they crunch them, they run numbers, they put spreadsheets together, they put a 1–5-page teaser together that is totally anonymous and they circulate that out to folks that they think would be interested strategically and financially, as you said, and then they circulate that confidentially. Folks will respond and say, “Oh, I’m interested,” and then they sign an NDA. Then, they have a deck that they’ve prepared in essence and talks go from there. As you said, the key here is to get multiple offers because it’s a market and it’s the way to get the best price.
I’m curious, when I went through the Drip sale process to Leadpages, it was not that. We didn’t run a process. They approached us. It was still very, very painful. It was agonizing for me. It was a 13-month process total, but it was really hardcore for about 6 months, where it was maybe 10–20 hours a week for 6 months for me of negotiation, getting to the letter of intent, and then all that stuff. How long did it take once things started getting moving? I don’t just mean getting your financials together and doing other stuff, but actually when you started doing calls? Because it becomes real once you get on the phone or get on the Zoom call with a potential acquirer who’s like, “We’re going to write you a big check but we have all these hurdles to go through.” From that point when it started getting real, how long did it take until the deal closed?
Adii: Timeline from the first email indicating interest to transaction closing is less than three months.
Adii: It definitely has its advantages. Objectively, this wasn’t something as necessarily was top of mind for me, but having such a short close is generally beneficial to the seller because if for whatever reason the deal falls through, you can quickly get back on the market. If you had multiple interested parties before, you can pursue them.
That’s the objective benefit of a shorter close. I wasn’t concerned about that at all, and this is what we say in hindsight because my boss and colleagues are listening, that was just never a concern for me. I like the fact that there was momentum because it became a forcing function to get through tedious due diligence things, which was crazy. Ultimately at the same time—as I said, I’ll elaborate on all these benefits of the short close— I now just know what it felt like drinking from a firehose. I just had to learn so many different things like a legal documented compliance standpoint. I was exposed to new things at an incredible rate. That definitely took its toll just for me, personally, and again, because I’m a solo founder.
I was lucky to that extent. I had Einar who we’ve chatted about. I think his experience was really helpful in just guiding me through that process and also just running interference on certain things, so that was helpful. The other thing that I know it did, even though it cost me a lot of money, it shaved a couple of years off of the […] that would have had to, stressful that I would have had to pay, but as soon as we had lifeline, Einar advised me and he said, “If you don’t have your legal counsel that has M&A experience, find the best legal counsel you can find and get them involved.” We’ve got a fantastic firm in the UK that assisted us here with this and that’s I said, “It’s not cheap. It’s almost when you eventually bite the bullet. It feels like the grudge purchase thing, but objectively I know that there was no way for me to navigate this transaction without that experienced and expert help.
Rob: Yeah, it’s a big deal when this much money is thrown around. I went through the same mental process when Leadpages approached us to acquire Drip. It was like, “Do I hire someone to represent me like a broker? Do I hire a lawyer?” I hired both and you’re right, it’s not cheap, but I think it saved years of my life, I think, is what you were saying. It reduced so much stress because I just felt like I was dotting I’s and crossing the T’s, and I’m going to sell a couple of companies in my life probably.
Whereas on the other side, acquirers have often acquired 5, 10 15, 20, and the lawyers know way more about it than you do. Not having an expert on your side is tough. I do know some folks who have done it and they are better people than I in terms of being able to put up with the uncertainty.
Ninety days is short. I said wow when you said that. I hear a lot of acquisitions take a lot longer than that. Did it feel quick to you or did it feel like 90 days of agony, uncertainty, pain, due diligence?
Adii: Due diligence wasn’t that bad. I went into it expecting much, much worse and it wasn’t bad. My gut feel is it wasn’t that bad for two reasons. First is the parent company were trying to do almost—this is obviously not a term—malicious due diligence. They were not just doing due diligence for due diligence’ sake. I think that’s the first part.
The second part that I am actually proud of is that I ran a really clean business. I say that in the way that I’m not a tax advisor, so don’t take any of my words here as a tax advice, but I think most founders know how to find a few tax deficiencies in their businesses by interlacing personal interests, business interests, and whatnot. I just never did that. Even though I was a solo founder, even though I had more than 70% of the equity by the time this transaction closed, there just wasn’t stuff there and our accounts were up to date.
We tried to run, in terms of our […] back to solutions we used with a software or some process within the business. Everything, we tried to simplify things and that greatly assisted us, that due diligence wasn’t that bad. But the uncertainty was still there. For me, it was a tipping point and it was very early on where I know I shouldn’t get attached to things and then your mind pulls a trick on you where it says, “Don’t screw this up now because this is significant and potentially life-changing,” and then that uncertainty kicks in like, “What happens if I get onto one of these calls and they find some kind of skeleton in the closet that I wasn’t even aware of and the deal falls through?” Up until close, that was something that at least pulled a few mental strains for me in the way that wasn’t unnecessary pleasant or helpful.
Rob: As founders, we always find something to worry about, don’t we?
Adii: Yeah, because if we didn’t have that, we will also wouldn’t apply the same kind of mental gymnastics to conjure up creative valuable ideas and bring them to life.
Rob: Indeed. Exiting the Campaign Monitor is awesome. To be honest, Campaign Monitor may have been the first ESPI ever used even before Mailchimp. I’ve always had a lot of respect. It was an ESP for designers is what I thought of it. I was guessing it was started by a couple of designers based on the UX that they’ve had over the years.
You had a huge transition now and you were able to sell the company. Your whole team now works for Campaign Monitor that have actually rebranded Conversio to CM Commerce. What is it like to go from a team of a dozen or so people to working at a company that large? How many employees does Campaign Monitor have?
Adii: Almost 650, I think.
Rob: That’s a big difference. Talk us through that. How is that felt?
Adii: It definitely has its challenges. The way we used to work has to change. That’s the simple reality because the things that we did as a completely distributed team, small team, an intimate team at that, that doesn’t translate well to such a big corporation. I think part of that as well is we are the smallest conservation in terms of people volume. We were 11 people that ultimately went a long acquisition and those 600 people there that are already more settled. Some of them have been there for 10,11,12, or 13 years. That has to change and for us at least, we went through that change very quickly because we wanted to get to the improved rebranded version of the product pretty quickly.
We had to literally make relationships on the fly with our new colleagues which I think is just challenging because relationships take time. What struck me most is the fact that most people on my team—doesn’t matter which role they were hired for—wear multiple hats in terms of doing things that just needed to get done. I know that was true for me as founder and leader of the team as well.
The biggest change that I’ve noticed is that most people are more narrow in their definition of how they add value to the organization. This is my skill set, this is my expertise, these are my responsibilities. At least for me as a founder, that’s a hard natural jump to make. I think that’s the biggest challenge that I have, but it also brings along with it quite a bit of excitement where I can probably do some things that are a little freer, more creative, more suited to a particular strength of mine instead of having to unnecessarily worry about all these things.
I did conversions, bookkeeping, all the way up to […]. I could do it, they were perfect, and as I mentioned they […] flag them. Due diligence, for example, and taxes got paid, et cetera. But that’s probably not my magic. There’s probably better bookkeepers, accountants, and whatnot in the world, but I think that opportunity and that change is bittersweet to some extent because I am someone that can wear multiple hats. But as I said, I’m mostly focused on seeing where being a bit more of a specialist and focus on the specific area of business and seeing where that takes me in the future.
Rob: What was the hardest moment of the acquisition process? Remember a time during those 90 days when you just thought, “This is brutal”?
Adii: I guess the last week or so, the discussion seemed both sides as legal teams. It seems to extend and seem to get into […]. I literally had the sense of, we just have to wrap this up now. We are getting into semantics and I’m also just generally a very trusting person. That part of it felt very unnatural to me, but I can’t remember a single event, like a single email, or a single call, or a single issue that popped up, that I felt would threaten everything. The only thing that comes to my mind is the last week or two where it feels like we got 90% of the deal done, and then we literally have to cram that last 10% into that last week.
What made it worse was, I was actually on a trip in Europe, a pre-planned holiday with Jean and our best friends. I was literally having to jump on calls and answer emails in between those things, which just extenuated that. By the time that we got, literally Friday afternoon 6:00 PM kind of thing, got to a point where both parties had agreed that we put pencils down and we’ll be signing […] as it was in that stage.
The first thing I did was I literally broke down in Jean’s arms. I just cried and I don’t want to call it sadness, but it was just things pure outpouring of all of these pent up emotions and thoughts that culminated over the preceding weeks.
Rob: I have totally been there and shortly thereafter, I cracked open a bottle of whiskey. I literally remember the night that I closed, when we sold […]. It’s funny how many parallels that even though our experiences are different in terms of you running a process and me having a strategic or whatever, so much of what you are talking about is bringing up a little bit of trauma for me.
You’re right. The last week feels like a month’s worth of work. It’s like,”There’s no chance that we are going to close. Are you kidding me?” Then everyone is arguing about this sentence and that word, and what it means, and it’s infuriating. I was so frustrated, angry, and stressed because I’m like, “This has to go through.” That’s what you said. You’re mind is playing tricks on you and it’s like, “I don’t want to get attached to this, but really I’m kind of attached to it. I want this to happen,” and yet you can’t just give in. You can’t just be, ” I want this to happen,” so okay go ahead and do what you want. It’s an incredible mental battle.
Adii: Exactly. That’s the thing, Rob. For me, that part of selling a business is very unnatural, at least for me an entrepreneur. I suspect that it’s probably the case of most entrepreneurs. That most entrepreneurs are bigger picture people and negotiating an acquisition like this is going on to those very, very fine details. Those details where you know there was an email thread about three weeks ago, but for the life of you, you can’t find that exact line in that email anymore because that email thread is now a novel. Gmail has magically decided to split this up into multiple threads.
I just think that’s a very unnatural state for me, at least, you are getting to that level of […] and specially so late in the transaction because you get to the point of attachment where it is point of no return, where I know that I need to push through now because trying to turn this back and for this thing not to go through, that outcome is so much worse.
Rob: Are there one or two things that you bought after the acquisition that you bought to celebrate, that you wouldn’t have bought before? Do you now have a tesla in your driveway, for example?
Adii: No, I do not have a Tesla. Mostly because I figure there’s not, by far, any public charging stations. It’s not a vital purchase. If that wasn’t the case, then I might have. I’ve done two things. One is totally juvenile and the other one is pretty cool.
The juvenile thing is I’ve never bought as much wine as I have in the last two months and I already have too much wine. I’m a bit of a collector. I’m mostly a wine drinker, but we have too much wine. I definitely enjoyed taking out on wine and probably making purchases that I would not have made before.
The more significant thing for me, this is the biggest reward, direct reward at least, that I am also giving myself from the exit. I still wish I could claim that this was my idea, but it was Jean’s idea. We are actually taking my whole family—my parents, my sisters and their spouses, my one sister has two young kids I raised as mine—on a Disney cruise which has been pre-booked and planned for the middle of next year.
We are doing that. The reason I look forward to it is because getting the extended family to get together for any amount of item is already hard and getting to experience something like that with them is just something that I really look forward to. Those are the things I have for myself and […].
Rob: Love it. I often talk about freedom purpose in relationships and it’s like you’ve now achieved a level of freedom. I’m guessing 20 years ago, you would have pinched yourself to have. You did it while diving into a deeper purpose of starting a company doing something to improve your corner of the world.
I love the capstone comes back to relationships because one of the things you start spending a bit of money on is being with family. I guess it’s very poignant and I’m super happy for you in all honesty. I just wanted to say congratulations and thank you so much for taking the time to talk us through.
Folks actually wanted to hear more about it. I guess I got scooped. I thought that this was the first interview you were doing about the acquisition, but it turns out about four days ago on Friday, Zenfounder, my very own wife, scooped me. I know you didn’t go nearly as much detail but you did talk a little bit about that on her show so folks can certainly go check that out if they are interested.
Adii: The other thing that you should know, Rob, because I didn’t know how much I did share with you is that we also scooped a newfound interest in poetry. I’m curious to see how that’s going to play out for you well in the future, whether I’m going to see tweets about what kind of poetry from you.
Rob: Alright. I would love to hear it. Speaking of Twitter, you are @adii on Twitter. That’s an awesome first name. Anywhere else you like folks to follow you online?
Adii: It’s either @adii on Twitter as you said or adii.me which is my blog. Now that this massive live event has passed, I have more time and I’m back to weekly writing discipline. If anyone wants to hear what I’m thinking, then that’s where the place to go.
Rob: You did a really nice write up about this just about a week and a half ago. Folks can go to adii.me if they want to check it out. Frankly, if you have questions for Adii and you like to see him come back in the show and answer questions—I totally did not pitch him on this beforehand—you can email questions at startupsfortherestofus.com or tweet at @robwalling and if we get enough questions, we’ll get Adii back on to answer those assuming he’s up for it and can carve up the time.
Adii: I’m definitely up to it. I’ve been up for these kind of things. Ever since, as a teenager, I read Richard Branson […] where they said, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Whatever kind of spotlight I could get, I will be happy to take. If there’s questions, I’ll be happy to pop back into the show.
Rob: Sounds great. Thanks again, man, for coming into the show.
Adii: Thanks for having me, Rob.
Rob: Thanks again to Adii for coming to the show. As I mentioned, if you have questions for him, tweet them at me, email me. You can email us questions at startupfortherestofus.com or you could call our voice mail number (888) 801-9690 and leave a voicemail. I would bring Adii back on the show if we have enough questions for him to run through those in a future episode. This podcast’s theme music is an excerpt from We’re Outta Control by MoOt, used under Creative Commons. You should subscribe to this podcast. You can do it in iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify so that you don’t miss any episodes. Visit startupsfortherestofus.com to get a full transcript of each episode. Thank you so much for listening. I’ll see you next time.