Launching a Media Company: The Early Days of They Got Acquired

September 12, 2022

When I left The Penny Hoarder in mid-2019, I wasn’t sure what I would build next.

I knew I wanted to create a new company, one that would give me the flexibility to work from home on my own schedule.

I certainly didn’t think it would take me two-and-a-half years to launch that new project. But we had a cross-country move on our plate, then a pandemic, with two kids under four to care for.

It felt torturous to move so slowly toward my next big project. But looking back, I can see that forced slowness did me some good: it helped me choose the right next project.

In this post, I’ll share:

  • How and why I chose the idea for my next company, They Got Acquired
  • What I did during the pre-launch phase (Feb. 2021 – Feb. 2022)
  • How we pulled off a successful launch (Feb. 2022)

I’ve also documented the build of this company on Indie Hackers; if you want to see our milestones in more detail, check out this timeline.

Why I chose to build They Got Acquired

Know what the hardest part of this whole process was?

Not getting the idea off the ground. Not finding writers. Not even growing our audience.

The hardest part was choosing a new company to work on.

Once I closed out my work with The Penny Hoarder and sold The Write Life, I had complete freedom to choose a new path. I found that exhilarating, but also daunting.

Two things helped me get through it:

  1. Following a framework for exploring my options. This gave me some structure even when I didn’t have a clear path ahead. I explained that framework in this post: What to do when you don’t know what you want.
  2. Reminding myself that this next company doesn’t have to be my forever company.

There’s so much pressure when you start something new; it’s gotta be the perfect idea, one that truly feels like your life’s work!

But that’s a bunch of baloney. Once I let go of that high bar, it was so much easier to choose They Got Acquired. I’m happy working on this right now, and that’s what matters.

So, what is They Got Acquired? 

They Got Acquired is a media company that shares stories of companies that sell for 6, 7 or low-8 figures. 

We help entrepreneurs sell their businesses by offering resources, guidance, and connections to trusted M&A professionals. 

They Got Acquired Logo

We’re also building a database that tracks these acquisitions, and will eventually make this data accessible to entrepreneurs who want to sell, so they can see how their company stacks up to similar companies that have sold.

If you’re selling your house, you’d look at other houses in the neighborhood to see what they sold for, right? We want you to be able to access comps when you sell your company, too.

This is a pain point I experienced myself when…

  • I sold my first company in 2015, and I didn’t know what I was doing or where to turn for help.
  • The Penny Hoarder, the personal finance company I helped build, sold in 2020 for $100 million — yet no big media covered this bootstrapped success story.
  • I sold a content site, The Write Life, in 2021, and once again didn’t see an obvious place to find reliable resources and professionals to support me.

While I’m the target audience for They Got Acquired, I’m not an expert in M&A (mergers & acquisitions). That’s where the fun comes in. I get to learn about this niche by leaning on experts in this space as we build the brand.

The pre-launch phase of They Got Acquired

I first shared the idea for They Got Acquired on Kern.al, a platform for getting feedback on startup ideas, in February, 2021. That was a full year before I actually launched the brand.

On February 9, 2021, I ran a poll on Twitter asking for feedback on possible names.

I chose They Got Acquired because it was the most colloquial, and in my opinion, the easiest to remember. I also appreciated that it included “acquired” in the URL for SEO.

In those early months, I chipped away slowly at the idea, crafting a business plan and getting a logo created. I pushed a simple landing page live in mid-March. I built it with Carrd.co and ConvertKit, so I could collect email addresses ahead of launch. 

Here’s what that first landing page looked like:

Landing page for They Got Acquired

That summer of 2021, however, I only inched the idea forward. My husband and I decided to take some time off work to make memories with the kids, which was such a gift. At the same time, it felt uncomfortable to have this big idea, to feel confident it was my next project — and not work on it. By the time the kids went to school in September, I was raring to go.

September 2021: The real work begins

I began putting real effort — between 25-30 hours/week — into building the company in September 2021.

I spent those first few months strategizing and beginning to execute on that plan. I organized our work into five buckets:

  1. Audience: Growing our audience is the most important piece of making this brand successful, and it’s also been the hardest. Our top success metric was and still is email subscribers.
  2. Product: Figuring out what our content, both written and audio, would look like, plus designing and developing the website that would house it.
  3. People: Bringing together a team of freelancers with expertise and credibility. This was harder than I expected given I’ve built many writing teams; it wasn’t easy to find reporters who can write authoritatively on business acquisitions.
  4. Monetization: My goal was to sell our data and insights, but I knew I could lean on advertising revenue and other media monetization avenues if that didn’t prove lucrative.
  5. Workflow: The tools and processes we use to bring all these pieces together.

As I put these pieces in place ahead of launch, my biggest goal was hitting 1,000 email subscribers ahead of our launch. We got there through pure scrappiness; here are the tactics we used to grow the email list.

The biggest challenge during pre-launch was getting people to take us seriously without a full website to showcase our credibility.

Without a website, it was tricky to hire freelance reporters, and it was also tough to convince entrepreneurs who had sold their businesses to share the details with us.

In January, just a month before launch, we had our first team meeting:

Nine team members calling into our virtual meeting.

Our first live team meeting for They Got Acquired. (We work mostly async.)

Those months also saw lots of other micro-milestones, which I shared on Twitter one week before launch: 

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    2 Replies to “Launching a Media Company: The Early Days of They Got Acquired”

    • Paul Kim says:

      This is so helpful! Thank you for sharing all this, Alexis. I’ve been following They Got Acquired since the prelaunch. Admire everything you’ve done with The Penny Hoarder and The Write Life, and excited to see you grow your new venture. Looking forward to more updates, they’re very inspiring and helpful. Specifically would love to learn more about how you sell newsletter sponsorships!

    • Lisa Waschka says:

      I just told a colleague that I never read your posts without thinking of ways to pivot, adapt, or change something in my life—business or personal.
      Thanks so much!

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