Hustle & Flow

Once upon a time in my startup life, we stumbled across the deal of a lifetime. A large company was spinning off a subsidiary, and they were paying someone a few million bucks to take it off their hands.

Most folks looked at the numbers and said “no thanks” – $7mm in revenue and spending about $20mm… yuck. But these guys were running the exact same business as us, similar subscriber counts and all, and we knew they could be run spending $3-$5mm per annum (which is what we were spending). For instance their CEO was getting $4mm/annum and ours was making $1/annum (perfect example of why big companies can be bad at launching new products). So we put in a bid for -$2mm (yes thats a minus in front). I.e. pay us $2mm to take your company, and have it generate $2-$4mm a year in cash for us. Booya. You could imagine how excited we were. We basically re-enacted this Monty Pyton scene every day in the office for 2 weeks (word of caution – this is 10 minute video and there’s a part 2):

Yaaaaar, corporate raiders be we.

Until, sadly, of course, somebody outbid our -$2mm offer. Damn. I suppose -2mm isn’t that hard to outbid.

I’m telling this story to give another “meme” to startupdom. Lean product development, social marketing, customer development, iterations, pivots, etc – these are the more popular memes of today. Well there’s another one thats not mentioned enough – Hustle and Flow – doing deals, business development, partnerships, strategics, m&a, etc. There are many big famous startups who had deals with a big elephant: Google powering Yahoo, Amazon powering Target, the Microsoft/Apple/IBM/Xerox tangle, RIM’s pager deal with Ericsson. Its a crucial part of growing your startup, you gotta be able to do deals.

One of the current killer “deal-oriented” startups in Toronto right now is Kobo Books (@mserbinis). Kobo got frickin’ Li Ka Shing to back them, the guy is a business legend! Why waste time with tiny business punks like Paul Graham and Dave McClure (I joke) when you can have a business God invest in you. Plus Kobo has done huge, killer deals from top to bottom in every category of their business – checkout their partner list in here. That my friends is big pimpin’ Canadian startup style.

Here’s another one, check out the list of deals Fixmo (@ricksegal, @shyamsheth) has done. They acquired a company (Conceivium) as a year and a half old startup! How many of you entrepreneurs in your first year or so wake up and say “lets buy a company”. On top of that, as an unknown one year old startup they walked into the Department of Defense in the US and nailed a massive deal. That is pure brass-balled, biz dev game.

Would love to hear some other great Canadian business hustler success stories from folks (or near misses, or disasters), or give us your favourite links/resources for networking, bd, m&a, hustling, pimping, whatever. We’ll be following up with some resources and tips to help your biz dev game.