Sunday, March 10, 2024

A Personal Note

Greetings.  Some of you, to the extent that there are people who still come here looking for news, and don't just happen across it from a random Google search, might be wondering what the heck has happened over the past X number of years.  It's a reasonable question.  I'll start with a very personal answer.

In April 2011, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She was 42.  For the next eight years, this unavoidably dominated our lives.  We had two high-school age girls, and she poured herself into making everything as normal as it could be for them.  She pursued a reasonably successful course of treatment over the next year or so.  I was very fortunate to have a great team at xTuple, who took a lot of burden off me when they could.

Over the following years, things waxed and waned.  It came back, as it all so often does, and then it came back again.  In April of 2019, we lost her.

I won't dwell on the personal toll this took; those of you who have been through similar things can sympathize all too well.  But I will admit that, among many other things, it sharpened my thinking about where my ERP software company xTuple was going, as I was dealing with these massive personal issues.  Like many founders, I had put a lot of my own meager resources into the business - and had invited friends and family into it as well.  Having worked as a corporate VC, I was - shall we say - ambivalent about the idea of bringing in institutional money.  We had come close once or twice, but never pulled the trigger on a big growth investment, opting instead to go it alone.

As all these threads were playing out contemporaneously, I started getting serious about how best to position the company for future growth.  I brought on an outstanding fractional COO to help us get a lot of the day-to-day details of the business in order, and I hired an investment banker to help me explore my options for what that next stage of life could actually look like.

We ran a very successful "process," as they say in the business, and ended up with many serious offers.  The one I liked the best was a company that - brace yourselves, Graveyard readers - was a rollup of ERP and manufacturing-adjacent systems.  (Cue the cries of "sellout!") ... but what I liked about the business (and the very successful private equity group behind them) was that they had a real vision for what the combined company could become.

Longtime readers of this blog know my general point of view on this subject - and it's well-informed by shockingly brazen actions on the part of *much larger* private equity types trying to manage the impossible math of a $500+ million company, say, growing only in the single-digits organically, while still creating generous dividends for themselves (often at the expense of more debt).  I'm not a fan.

But without getting too far in the weeds, I can say that I am a fan of what CAI, the company that bought xTuple, is trying to do.  So much that I rolled a substantial piece of my equity in my company into what is, unavoidably, someone else's bigger company.

Going through this whole process from the seller side was an eye-opening experience for me.  Earlier in my career, I had done the same thing on the buyer/investor side, working as a corporate VC for a mid-sized media company.  Now, a year and a half after selling xTuple, and successfully transitioning the product, the team, and our customers and partners, I found myself thinking about how many other companies were out there wrestling with the same things that I did.

I had long been aware of a group called Corum - an investment bank exclusively focused on technology / software companies.  They did a LOT of market education, not just on tech M&A generally, but by individual sectors, highlighting particular disruptive trends, and generally just laying down breadcrumbs for companies who might be interested in some kind of transaction to be able to find them.  I had talked to them, of course, but ended up going with another firm that was smaller, I thought likely hungrier, and maybe more likely to get us a better result.

So let me be clear - xTuple's shareholders got a great result.  I developed a great relationship with the guy who was the lead on our deal, and we're good friends today.  Who knows if we could have had a different/better result with Corum?  For what it's worth, I will share that the balance of upfront retainer fees versus commission/success fees came out to be about a wash between the two companies.  I've always been fine with generous success fees - I want my banker to be deeply invested in getting me a good result!

All this is prologue for me to announce what you might already know, if you're so limited in fun hobbies that you follow me on LinkedIn.  I recently joined Corum as a VP, and will be working with lots of companies to help them get to a point where they can write rambling blogs like this of their own!  

But seriously, I really enjoy helping other entrepreneurs work through all the challenges that present themselves on a daily basis, and am particularly keen on the idea of helping them (and their shareholders) get rewarded for all their hard work over the years.

Oh, and to close out on a personal note, I'm happy to report that our daughters are both college graduates, out in the world with productive careers, making their father proud.  And I have been fortunate enough to find another wonderful woman with her own fabulous career, who will also abide all my tech geekery, Marvel/Star Trek/etc. background noise, and be my wife.  We celebrate our second anniversary in May.

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