When is the best time to sell your SaaS?
Adam White is a serial entrepreneur who just sold his 4th bootstrapped SaaS business for 7 figures. In this interview, Peter and Adam chat about his experience starting and selling SaaS businesses and Adam shares how he grew SEOJet using Facebook Ads. Having started and sold over fifteen online businesses, Adam shares insight on when is the best time to sell your SaaS.
[00:00:00] – Peter
Okay, so I’m here live speaking with Adam White, SaaS founder. Welcome to the group, Adam. Thanks for talking with us. Would you like to introduce yourself, tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?
[00:00:11] – Adam
Yeah, thanks for having me. I am the founder of Squidvision.com and also JustReachOut.io, four-time, two platforms that help SaaS companies grow in different ways. And I’ve been doing SEO probably for 20 something years and this is the fourth. I’m a four-time SaaS founder and the last one I exited last year for a pretty decent exit, typically I bootstrap, and I’m a solopreneur, co-founders although I do have some co-founders on these other two that I have currently. But anyways, live in Arizona with my family. I’ve got seven kids and a wife.
[00:00:48] – Peter
[00:00:49] – Adam
[00:00:50] – Peter
Okay, so I’m really interested in hearing about your exit, but first of all, I just wanted to touch on the two products that you’re running now. We’ll come back to them later. So, SquidVision, can you just describe to us quickly what SquidVision does?
[00:01:06] – Adam
Yeah, essentially I like to describe it like this. It’s like Hotjar but with revenue. So essentially it’ll track your site and do an overlay, but then it’ll give revenue attribution so you can see exactly how much money every button and link is making you. So it’s really cool for conversion rate optimization and just to see what users are actually doing with the metrics that we actually care about the most. Clicks are fine, but revenue is the thing we really care about. So that’s in closed beta right now. There’s a waitlist. If you want to get on it, that’s fine, but it’s in closed beta. But we’re getting ready to launch. It’s going to be freaking awesome.
[00:01:38] – Peter
Sounds like really cool visibility on revenue. And what are the activities that drive that and actually make the sales? You’re currently the other SaaS that you’re working on, JustReachOut can you tell us about it?
[00:01:56] – Adam
Yeah, so just reach out. Essentially with SaaS startups, I think the biggest problem is just like everyone’s like, how do I get my first20-plus 100 customers, how do I grow? How do I grow my MRR. Right? And the content marketing seems to be like the main focus for most SaaS startups. And so what it is, is we built these tools. There are six tools in there that help you get one, get pressed from real customers or sorry, from real outlets. And then we also have tools to help you do outreach for link building. So it’s really cool stuff. Again, I’ve been in the SEO world for 20 plus years and this is why I acquired this company, because I was like, these tools are really the best way to do link building naturally without having to just pay for link after link. So that’s what it is.
[00:02:42] – Peter
That’s great. Sounds great. So it sounds like you’ve got a wealth of experience, definitely with SEO and also with founding SaaS businesses and succeeding with them. So would you be happy to share your story with us about your previous staff, how you built and scaled that business, and what was the process of actually selling that business?
[00:03:02] – Adam
Sure. Yeah. So the company was SEOJet, and I was doing SEO for a big client, and I just kept running this issue of, like, nobody’s really talking about it. They say, be careful on how you link build because it might look unnatural. But nobody was like, well, here’s how you do it the natural way. What does that actually mean? Right? And I was like, why isn’t there just something that can tell me? Hey, get this link next, and this link next, and this link next. And that’s what Google wants to see, right? And that just didn’t exist. I’m like, well, if anybody can build it, it’s me.
So I literally just went out and did the research, figured out what Google actually wanted to see in a backlink profile, and built software to help just basically give roadmaps to SEOs, right? And so I knew if it was a problem for me, it would be a problem for lots of other SEO people. And sure enough, it was. I had initially built a small tool called guest post tracker, which was essentially like a curated list of blogs that accept guest posts, again, for link-building purposes, right?
[00:04:04] – Adam
Because it was annoying to try to find guest posts all the time, places the guest post. And that became I sold that for, like $37 for lifetime access to the list. But that became my tripwire offer for SEOJet. I didn’t do this on purpose. It just worked out this way that I built that first tool. And then as I was building SEOJet, I’m like, oh, I have all these people that are doing SEO that I can now reach out to and just ask them what they think about SEOJet, and essentially got my first hundred customers just going to those people and going, hey, is this something that’s interesting to you? Here’s what I’m building. It’s really cool. Let me give you a demo.
And I just demoed all those people. Wouldn’t let them sign up until I talked to him like this, and then got my first set of customers, and we were off and rolling and then used SEO to build traffic to the site. And that worked for several years, but eventually growth kind of stagnated. And I was worried because if you’re not growing, I’m always looking for an exit, right?
[00:05:06] – Adam
I’ve actually sold 17 internet businesses over the last 15 years. I don’t hang on the businesses for very long, probably because I have ADHD. And so I was like, all right, two years in, I’m like, all right, I need to exit this thing. I’m getting antsy here. But I was like, if it’s not growing, it’s a stupid thing to sell, right? Like, I would lose so much value on it. And so I was trying to figure out, how do I solve this problem? How do I get more traffic and get more consistent growth to where it’s going to look better, to someone that’s going to acquire it?
And I went through a lot of different steps to do that. The biggest one was I knew I needed to get predictable growth and the only way to do that is with doing paid ads, right? Because if I spend a dollar, I can make three, right? And you just know that and then you just grow consistently. And I didn’t know how to do Facebook ads. I had dabbled with it a few times and failed. And I’m like, all right, I’m just going to reach out to this other founder who I had met at a marketing conference.
[00:06:05] – Adam
I know he’s very successful and I’m just literally going to just offer him money to teach me how to do it, because I know he knows how to do it. And so that’s what I did. He accepted. And it wasn’t cheap, but it was the best money I’ve ever spent, frankly, because he taught me what to do. It worked like magic. And literally, within six months of starting Facebook ads, the business had doubled in size and there was consistent growth there. And that’s when you want to sell, is when you’re just showing awesome growth month after month after month.
SEOJet had two ways to make money, right? The first one was with this monthly subscription on the back end. I also sold a link-building service, right, because you have these roadmaps that said, hey, get these links next. And it was like the obvious thing was to go, let me just click this button and buy the link right here inside the software. I didn’t do the fulfilment on that myself. I just partnered with three companies that I trusted and they were good companies and so they were loving it because they’re making tonnes of money for me.
[00:07:13] – Adam
I’m just sending them link after link after link orders, right? And then I reached out to two of those and said, hey, guys, I’m thinking about selling this thing. Are you interested? Because I knew it would be worth more to them than to anybody else, right? Because if they could take all those link orders, instead of having to divide among three companies, all of a sudden their revenue just takes a massive jump. And so I knew I could get more out of them. It was really a strategic decision to sell to those people. So, anyways, I got two of them talking and one of them was really interested and we negotiated for a while and eventually worked out a deal that we were both happy with, or unhappy with, I guess is however you want to call it, negotiations. So anyways, that’s how it went.
[00:07:56] – Peter
Great. Sounds like an amazing story. It seems like you did a lot of the work, the hard work that takes a long time, and then you got it into a position where when you applied ads, it scaled really fast. Do you think that had you done ads any sooner, it may not have had the same effect? You wouldn’t have been in a position to serve that scale? Or do you think that it would have helped you move faster if you started using ads sooner?
[00:08:31] – Adam
I think it might have helped a little bit, but there were other things that I did, I think that really helped to make the software more sticky. I think the first thing was we did a total redesign of the software. It really was kind of in its original form for the first two or three years. And then so we did a full revamp of the software and just made it as clean as possible. Secondly, I knew that the real value was on the subscription side. Right. Because predictable revenue is what investors want when they’re going to acquire a company.
And so having all of the money beyond the link building side, where people were buying links on the back end, that wasn’t predictable. One decision I made, which was, I think, key in this, was I decided that I was going to make more expensive monthly plans, but give way bigger discounts on the links on the back end. Right. So the more you pay monthly, the cheaper your links work for you. Essentially, my customers would save a tonne of money if they were buying a lot of links, but I had more MRR on the front end and I knew that would be more appealing.
[00:09:33] – Adam
And the great thing about that was that really reduced churn because people did not want to give up those discounts. These SEO agencies that were getting such great prices on these backlinks were like, I don’t want to give that up so they wouldn’t cancel. You know what I mean? So it really worked out. Then when you throw in the Facebook ads and start to get people on board and get used to that whole system, then it had real growth. So, yeah, I think there was a combination of all these things that really made that work.
[00:10:00] – Peter
Yeah, it just sounds like really good timing and you’ve done all the important things, like you say, making the product more sticky and getting into a good stage for that period of growth. Adam, we’re going to have to wrap up, but I really appreciate that story. It’s really great to hear about how you did that and the two products you’re working on now. It sounds like you have a real habit of building and scaling really good products quickly, so no doubt that’s going to happen with these two. So I’m looking forward to seeing how you go. Do you want to share with us an offer for either of those platforms for anybody who’s interested in growing their software or their Mr. Yeah, just reach out.
[00:10:40] – Adam
Come give it a try. I will give you any of our Facebook Group listeners. I will give a 25% lifetime discount on it. So just message me on Facebook saying, hey, I’m I signed up. Can I get the discount and I’ll just apply it. And if you’ve been charged already, I’ll just refund whatever the difference was. I would love beta testers for Squid Vision. Right? We need more. We have some right now, but we’re going to need more. So go put throw your name on the waitlist over at squidvision.com, and that’d be awesome. The website looks geared toward eCommerce, but we’re actually built for Shopify people and SaaS people, so it’s just not reflected on the design of that. So it’s all in beta, man. We’re still dialling all that in, but it’s going to be awesome.
[00:11:22] – Peter
Okay, so that’s squidvision.com for beta. Sign up some basic users and testers, and for just Reach Out, that’s a 25% off lifetime deal for members of the SaaS founders building scale group. So if you just want to reach out to Adam, drop him a message on Facebook or reach out to him via the website and mention the group, then the offer is there for you. Okay, well, thanks for joining us, Adam. It’s been great speaking with you.
[00:11:46] – Adam
You bet. Thank you. Bye.
Final Words on the best time to sell your SaaS
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