6 Months After Launch: Where We Are With They Got Acquired

September 14, 2022

I wrote this post at the end of July 2022, about six months after launching They Got Acquired. The updates and numbers here reflect that time frame, even though I didn’t publish the post until September 2022.

In February 2022, I launched a media brand called They Got Acquired.

Posts I’ve written about the brand so far:

In previous posts, I’ve shared that I think about building this brand using five buckets:

  • Audience
  • Product
  • People
  • Monetization
  • Workflow 

Here’s a quick check-in on where we are with each of these buckets six months after launch.

1. Audience

I expected audience growth to be the biggest challenge in building this brand, and that has proven true.

We’re growing consistently – we now have 2,700 subscribers on our email list – but more slowly than I’d like. 

The upside of that slow growth? Our list is top-notch, maintaining a 53% open rate.

Our Q4 plan includes several initiatives for continuing to add new subscribers, including a Product Hunt launch.

While a bigger audience is always better, I’ve changed my thinking slightly on this over the last six months. This is a niche brand; we help a specific type of entrepreneur who’s at a specific place in their business journey. And because of that focus, our audience is valuable to our sponsors and our partners.

As we develop our revenue streams (more on that below), I’m coming around to the idea that we don’t need a huge audience for this to work. The quality of our audience matters far more than the size.

With that in mind, we’ll continue to grow the audience brick by brick, leaning into the indie hacker mentality to add new subscribers while keeping our open rate high.

2. Product

It’s crazy to think how far we’ve come on the product front. A year ago, I was figuring out what our content would look like; now we’re in a good groove.

Our product — content — exists in three forms:

  • Written content: We publish on the website three times a week, then repurpose those stories for the newsletter twice a week, as well as Twitter and LinkedIn
  • Podcast: We finished our first season and are looking ahead to Season 2
  • Database & Reports: We have thousands of acquisitions in our database that meet our criteria (online business, sold since 2017, deal size of $100K-$50M), and we’re releasing slices of that through our reports

In an ideal world, the content part of the company would run without me, and we’re slowly inching our way toward that goal. I’m still integral as both an editor and content planner; my plan is to hire to replace myself in those roles once we have enough revenue to cover it.

I’m really proud of the content we create. It’s high quality, with a journalistic bent and a strong SEO layer. And the beautiful design brings credibility, too.

3. People 

Just a few months ago, this piece was taking a lot of my energy. Despite my background in hiring writers, it was more challenging than I expected to find reporters who can write authoritatively about business acquisitions. It’s been more expensive than I’d expected, too.

A few of the reporters I was excited about left us for various reasons that were out of my control (one got a new full-time job that doesn’t allow freelancing, for example). And as anyone who has run a small team knows, it’s interruptive to lose even one good person.

We’re in a good place now. I’d love to have another great writer or two, but given the time it takes to find and train them, we are cruising with the team we have. 

Almost all of our contractors work on content. We have a handful of writers, an editor, a designer, a researcher, an operations manager, and a podcast producer. You can see the team here.

They are a rockstar bunch! Working alongside good people who do great work has made this build really enjoyable.

4. Monetization

Our revenue comes from three main sources. Here’s what they are and how each is going.

Sponsorships: I wasn’t planning to lean heavily into advertising when we first launched, but I quickly realized it could be lucrative — sponsors want to reach this niche audience — and fund the growth of the brand. 

Sponsorships sold easily in the early days, but now I’m having to branch out beyond my network and naturally that takes time. I’m thinking through how to make this less effort-intensive, including possibly bringing on some longer-term sponsors.

Referrals: This revenue opportunity wasn’t even on my radar when we first launched the brand, and now I think it has the potential to be our biggest money-maker. 

So many of the entrepreneurs we hear from don’t know who to turn to for support in selling their business, so we’ve built a list of trusted M&A advisors. When we talk with an entrepreneur who’s at the right stage for a referral, we connect them to an advisor or broker who specializes in selling their type of company. 

The most exciting part about this is a lot of the business owners we refer are women. We help them take the next step toward a successful sale, and our advisor partners get to tap into a demographic that’s typically underrepresented in this space. This is a long-term play because we only get paid if and when the transactions go through, but it has so much potential both in terms of revenue and for making an impact that’s aligned with our vision. 

Reports: My plan for this brand has always been to sell our data and insights. We’re slowly but consistently growing our database of acquisitions, and the long-term vision is to offer direct access to that database via a log-in. 

In the meantime, we’re compiling reports from that data. We launched our first free one this summer: 21 companies that sold in 2021. And our first paid report will launch this fall, covering 25 content and media companies that have sold.

Originally, we’d planned to charge for all our reports. But my thinking here has progressed, and we’re offering both a free, truncated version of each report, plus a paid version with more companies. We’re including a sponsor within both versions to offset the cost of the free version. 

In addition to getting our work into the hands of more entrepreneurs, this approach helps us gain more email subscribers, since readers have to share their email with us to access the free reports. I’m pretty excited about the opportunities here. 

5. Workflow

We’ve come so far on workflow that I no longer consider it a piece of the puzzle that needs my attention. Now, when I think through what needs to be done, I consider four buckets instead of five.

Of course, we’ll always be tweaking our systems, but we’re in a good place with how we get things done. 

Our toolstack includes:

It was good to write out this list, I can see a few opportunities for cutting costs. It all adds up!

If you want to go deeper, here’s a video that walks through how we set up our editorial process in ClickUp: 

 

Moving toward profitability

We’re a bootstrapped company. I’m using some of the proceeds from the sale of my content site last year to fund the build. So I’m keeping a close eye on how much we’re spending. 

💰 Here’s what our finances looked like over the last year, ending in July 2022:

Spent so far: $115,000
Revenue so far: $42,000 (reinvested into the brand)
My investment: $73,000

Our timeline: 

September 2021: Began building (pre-launch)
January 2022: First revenue (we pre-sold sponsorships)
February 2022: Launch

💸 Monthly burn: We spent $13,000/month this summer. To help us reach profitability faster, I recently made some changes to reduce our monthly spend to $10,500/month.

To some bootstrapped founders, this might seem like a lot to spend each month. Yet there are days when I wish we could invest more to grow faster! Our biggest cost is content creation. 

🏆 End-of-year goal: Bring in enough revenue to consistently cover our expenses, $10,500/month. That doesn’t include paying myself; that will be a 2023 goal.

Even though I planned from the beginning to invest money from my previous business sale into They Got Acquired, it still feels scary to put that much of my own money into this company. 

While conventional business wisdom might say to focus only on business performance to make decisions, the truth is, how I feel affects how I move forward. So I prefer to acknowledge that scary feeling rather than pretend it’s not there.

On some days, the investment feels scarier than it did months ago, because we’re at an inflection point where we need to begin to consistently cover costs. We’re moving in the right direction, but I wish we could get there faster.

On other days, the investment feels less scary than it used to, because we have traction. Our revenue is increasing and, especially with the new revenue streams we’re rolling out, our projections for next year look good. Our audience reach continues to grow, and the brand truly resonates; in fact, I’d be willing to bet the brand equity at this point is worth more than what I’ve invested.

Building a startup is full of ups and downs, and I experience moments of self-doubt like any other entrepreneur. 

Yet even when little things don’t go as planned, the big picture still looks bright. When I step back and look at what we’ve built, then layer on top the potential for where we’re going, I’m full of confidence about our future. 

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