MicroAcquire acquires ForSaleByMaker to help bootstrapped founders find buyers for their startups
A little over a year ago, I participated in the Product Hunt Makers Festival to celebrate the launch of their new API.
I actually built two projects during the hackathon, For Sale By Maker (FSBM), and Maker Network. Although I have continued to maintain both sites, the amount of time I have for both sites has been very limited
The sites were designed to require little maintenance, to run on autopilot. While this is perfectly acceptable for a site like Maker Network, this is less than ideal for a marketplace like FSBM.
Although I considered finding a new home for the project, finding the right buyer proved tougher than I hoped. Until this past Sunday when I was contacted by Andrew Gazdecki, the founder of MicroAcquire.
I remembered seeing MicroAcquire's launch on Product Hunt, and thought it was a great resource for anyone looking to sell their startup.
A lot of great things happen on Twitter, and this was another thing to add to my list. Andrew sent me a DM asking if I'd be interested in selling FSBM.
We exchanged a few messages, talked about the state of our projects, and our desired goals and agreed rough terms. We moved our conversation to Zoom for a video call and hashed out the details.
I've had a few enquires like this in the past (on other projects), and the breakdown has typically come on the matter of price. Pre-revenue projects can be especially hard to agree terms for.
You really have to 2 routes for accessing value:
Assets: The normal asset that people buy is customers, but these are lacking in anything pre-revenue. You could have potential customers in consistent website traffic or active user base. You could have a mailing list with subscribers, these are assets, a little trickier to put a monetary value too.
Time/Cost to build: It takes time to build, and time is money, so if someone wanted to replicate or emulate what you had built, how long would it take them to do that. Is it better for them to buy what you have and continue from there, or just start for themselves from scratch.
Keep in mind though, the only thing that really matters however is what is someone is willing to pay for your project. Although Instagram was acquired by Facebook in 2012 for close to $1B it had no revenue and 30 million users. This is clearly not the norm, and many people say Facebook made the deal to keep Instagram from its rivals. Instagram now accounts for about 20% of Facebook's revenue, clearly a good long term deal.
Of course FSBM is no Instagram, so how to get to a fair price for both myself and Andrew.
I decided on a somewhat novel approach in this instance. Back in January 2019 I jokingly offered to build an MVP in exchange for a trip to warmer weather (this lead me to building Product News with Hiten Shah.)
I've thinking it was about time to replace my laptop for something a little more powerful for the development of my side-projects, and so I pitched the idea of Andrew acquiring FSBM for the cost of my new laptop.
We googled the price of a good laptop, and quickly agreed on a price we were both happy with.
I believe this helps reframe the question of price, from an abstract monetary discussion, to something more tangible, that both sides can see, touch and feel.
I stopped thinking about maintaining control of FSBM. Instead I started thinking of advancing the other projects I was already spending more time on, with a new faster, more powerful laptop.
This is the 2nd time that I've sold a project to a "competitor".
Many years ago I started a design gallery that showcased websites that were just one page, called Full Single.
After a couple of years Rob Hope offered to buy the gallery from me. Rob was and is still running One Page Love a similar gallery and resource for One Page websites. It made sense to pass him the reigns. Not being a designer and not actively building one page websites anymore, I had lost interest in the project. Rob was clearly still very passionate about One Page Love.
Similarly Micro Acquire shares many of the goals that I had when I started FSBM, namely to make buying and selling startups easier by connecting founders with legitimate buyers.
Andrew shares my experience, my pains when selling startups. The time wasted and money spent looking for buyers, and he is working hard to fix the process. Having sold For Sale By Maker to him, you can be sure I'll be back the next I need to sell a startup.
At this point you're probably thinking, well this is great for you Mubs, but people don't reach out to me, to buy my projects! Definitely part of this is luck, picking projects to build that I can automate, in markets that I believe are going to be important/relevant in the future is not luck.
When I built FSBM, I believed there would be trend of people looking to acquire projects earlier, but the effort required to make sure the quality of project you list required a lot of manual effort. Using Product Hunt as a filter to ensure some level of quality, and the Product Hunt API to get data on projects helped remove a lot of that manual effort.
Even though I wasn't actively making updates to FSBM I tried to keep awareness of it up. When people used the platform, I shared their stories/successes. When people talked to me about buying and selling projects I would be sure to mention that I built FSBM. Don't go on a spamming spree about your project, but when it is relevant make sure you plug it, even if you're not actively working on it. Especially if you might have in the back of your mind that it might be good to find a new owner.
Recently, FSBM was included in a post on "Trends" related to "Micro Private Equity" by Dru Riley. I've never spoken with Dru, and my project was nearly a year old, but by keeping it relevant you make it relevant and interesting for people that might be a buyer.
If I'm a potential buyer I'm much more likely to reach out about a project if I keep seeing it mentioned. If a project is listed somewhere for sale, I'm more likely to take a closer look if it's something I've seen mentioned a few times than if I don't remember hearing about it before. Likely they heard about it a year ago when you launched, but they've probably forgotten about it.
If you're looking to buy an existing project, they might have just what you're looking for!