Startup Acquisition Stories w/ Harry Henien, Serial Founder

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Transcription –

Andrew Gazdecki:
All right. I am here with Harry Henien, who recently Acquired a startup off of Acquire. How you doing, Harry?

Harry Henien:
Good. Good. Thank you. Thank you for building this.

Andrew Gazdecki:
My pleasure. Thanks for joining the podcast. And so for those that may not know you, do you want to maybe give a little bit of background on yourself?

Harry Henien:
Yeah, sure. So I’m born and raised in the UK, Egyptian, a little Armenian heritage. I moved to LA about six years ago. And I’ve been working in finance for the past 14 years, in different departments such as private wealth, and funds, and trading. And I would say during the middle of COVID, I worked in a family office for one family. And we bought a technology company. And through this partnership I envisioned that we need to Acquire technology companies that are either operating, or could be operated, and help it complement our existing portfolio of business. And two years forward, I came across your platform, which is, to be honest, very helpful. Because at times there’s things that I have time to build, I have my own developers offshore. And if I see something that’s interesting, such as little technology websites or platforms on your website that could be interesting, I could buy it and then plug it in to our business.

Andrew Gazdecki:
That’s awesome.

Harry Henien:
That’s kind of a small backstory.

Andrew Gazdecki:
I like it. Congrats.

Harry Henien:
Thank you. Thank you.

Andrew Gazdecki:
So what did you Acquire, if you’re comfortable sharing?

Harry Henien:
Yeah, yeah. There was a website. It’s a job portal called on onboarder.app. And actually, what’s really funny is this seller previously listed a different platform before that I wanted to buy. And I kept messaging him and I was like, I want this platform. And he wasn’t answering for a while. And then I realized he was in Belgium so the time difference was a little bit off, and he was doing an internship at Microsoft. So anyways, that sold and he said, I apologize, someone literally bought it after a few hours.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Oh wow.

Harry Henien:
So I told him, I said, listen, if you build anything in the future, because I liked the tech stack that he was using. And by the way, I’m not a technical guy. I just started really learning in the past few years about different languages. So I was really interested in the way he was designing and putting together products. And he said, yeah, sure. He says, I’m not sure because I’m at Microsoft so I don’t have time. And funny enough, a few months later he posted something new and I actually wanted something like this for one of our businesses. It’s a good way to tap into a market for our business, if that makes sense.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Yeah.

Harry Henien:
That’s kind of the concept we’re doing.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Yeah. We see that pretty frequently, where we’ll see larger buyers buying smaller startups, as Boltons, where they can either add the technology or the people or whatever it may be as a benefit to the larger entity. So that’s awesome. Congrats.

Harry Henien:
Thank you. So it was a nice process. He was very helpful and I mean, I didn’t realize it would be this seamless. So yeah, I would definitely do it again.

Andrew Gazdecki:
That’s good to hear. So I guess, can you walk me through just how did you go through due diligence, in terms of maybe reviewing application, transferring the applications, any sort of how you did it and maybe tips for other potential buyers?

Harry Henien:
So to be honest, I would make a list on your platform of all the relevant platforms that I had an interest in. And then I would speak with our partner at the software company. And I would just run him through, hey, I saw this, do our developers have experience within this segment? If you would say no, but I do, then it’s something that I want. I think it could be something that we could use in the future to try to develop more of. So I would do kind of a filter. I would write and ask for more information, I would create some rapport with the seller, and I would try to see, is this something that we could use now? Or do I have to put it on the shelf later? So it’s kind of figuring out internally, within our business, is this something that we could use? Then I just create rapport and we talk about, what’s the tech stack? Is there any customers? Because sometimes they’ll say, I have between this number of customers and this, but how many are paying? So we kind of go through that together during our chat.
And then I would say the next step was figuring out the price. Is it negotiable? Is there anything proprietary? Is there any API? So I have to really understand, what am I buying? And how would I do the transfer and how long will the transfer take? And given I’m not a technical guy, to be honest, with this one, it was rather unique because the guy was hand holding me during the whole process. We went on Zoom and it took about four hours. And yeah, so we figure out all these functions and then once everything was agreed, we would open the escrow and then I would make the payment. And I think it’s important to really understand, as I said, what are you getting? And then are they going to help with the transition, unless you have a migration team. I think that could be a really cool service or in the future, for the non-technical guys to be not afraid of what’s going to happen next.
So once that all goes through, we just set up a time and we just went through the transition, and he was nice enough to say, here’s my phone number and email. You can contact me anytime if you have any issues in the future. So it was a nice gesture and nice, nice transition. Nice transition to that. The only thing for me with this one was the way he set it up was actually very complex. And I asked my developer, I said, why are we using Versel here? AWS, Heroku. There’s bits and pieces everywhere. And at first, to be honest, I was scared. I was like, oh my god, it’s just scattered everywhere. And he said, usually it’s to save on money, so to save on subscriptions and try to use something that’s maybe free, or to mitigate any future hacks of the database. So he says he’s a smart guy for spreading it around. And at the end I migrated it to my own standalone server and whatnot. But regardless, overall it was a good experience to do something like that over the internet.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Yeah.

Harry Henien:
So that’s in a nutshell, my process, if that makes sense.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Yeah, no, that was great. I guess now I’m thinking, I assume you’re looking at multiple businesses at any given time. What are maybe some yellow flags that you’ve seen from sellers or maybe just advice you would give to sellers looking to potentially get Acquired?

Harry Henien:
So like red flags of a seller?

Andrew Gazdecki:
Yeah, just maybe top three tips you could give to a seller looking to sell their business, just so they have…

Harry Henien:
Oh, for a seller. Yeah.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Yeah. The transaction you went through sounded very smooth, you built great rapport with the founder, you understood, you had a due diligence checklist. But if you had any advice for new founders selling a business for their first time, maybe the top three pieces of advice you’d give.

Harry Henien:
I think I would say first try to, depending on who they’re talking to, don’t maybe assume that everyone is technical. Maybe just try to tone it down to this is what it is, this is the potential, these are all the ongoing costs that you could incur. But potentially if you had X, Y, Z, this could be what you’re facing moving forward. I think also, definitely create a conversation. Because I have noticed with some sellers, they’re very, this is what it is, and then they don’t really want to engage into explaining maybe why this was used or whatnot. It’s more of, I just want to exit. So I think definitely create a conversation with who you’re speaking with. It’s hard to obviously qualify whether the buyer is serious or not, but I think that could be something good. And then I would say try to ensure to the buyer that you will be there during the transitions, I think that one is not really highlighted most, I think. Yeah.

Andrew Gazdecki:
That’s some really good advice. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I’d probably distill it down to just, the more a seller can de-risk the acquisition for the buyer.

Harry Henien:
Exactly. Exactly.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Everything from building personal rapport, just being a good, honest person. Number two, pointing out things that could be… In a sense, you’re almost kind of selling the applications, both the good and bad parts, which is that trust and transparency aspect. And then the transition as well. Having a transition plan laid out in advance is a huge advantage, comparative to other founders that may not have that. Because if you’re interested in that application, you’re wondering what do we do next sometimes. And instead of figuring it out on the go, if you have a plan as a founder ready…

Harry Henien:
Absolutely.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Available for buyers to review, I think you build that confidence and you get a lot more interest from buyers. At least that’s what I’ve seen across the board.

Harry Henien:
Absolutely. And I have Acquired other platforms before, like a very old Spanish microfinance loan blog that’s been around for many years, but to be honest, it wasn’t from your platform, it was from Flippa, and the transition was terrible. So maybe it was the experience of Acquire, it was good. So it kind of embedded into me that, moving forward, now I know what to ask, I know how to communicate, and if I receive the same communication, then I know that I’m on the right kind of path. Definitely.

Andrew Gazdecki:
That’s some great advice. I guess I’d love to know, I mean, what’s next for you? You’ve Acquired multiple companies. What are you currently working on, what’s next for you, Harry?

Harry Henien:
So I have this process. If there’s time, I’ll get my guide or get my developers to build something, invest in the time, all that stuff. And then deploy it within the business, use it, and then if it’s good, try to commercialize it. I think that’s kind of my thought process. So if, let’s say as an example, you have a wealth management business, it’s not enough to just run Google ads and Facebook ads and all that stuff. I think, really, the future is to have your own maybe tech company or ventures company and go to Acquire and just have some time to see, okay, there’s an influencer marketing platform. What if I bought it and I consolidated it into its own separate business? But then it’s a way for you to tap into the customers of those influencers.
So I think that’s the way that I’m viewing this as an opportunity, versus just going out into the private markets and buying your traditional type of business. That takes a long time, is expensive, and is potentially not scalable. So tech is definitely a very easy, potentially inexpensive way to Acquire different types of platforms and integrate into your own. So now what we’re working on is an RSI standalone platform, which is like, so you can have a conference with anyone in the world and do remote, simultaneous interpretation of voice, and that’s kind of a very big barrier in cross border wealth management, speaking to different people in different countries. So that is in the works.
And then a standalone live video into your platform. So again, people come to your website, let’s say wealth managers, a lot of them don’t want to call, they don’t want to give their information, but there’s always that element of, let me chat for info or let me see someone video wise. So that’s kind of the direction that we’re going in at the moment. But I look at Acquire kind of as a sell side tech platform where, if I see something that is already built, maybe it doesn’t make any money, which is fine. I’m trying to treat Acquire acquisitions as more on the freemium side. So I’m not trying to monetize it, I just want people who are accustomed to wanting to post a job, someone to use it for whatever media related services, and then tap into that sector with our business. So that’s really what I’m using Acquire for and what I intend to keep using it for.

Andrew Gazdecki:
So to clarify, it sounds like you’re acquiring assets to support your main businesses, but more as lead generation services. Is that correct?

Harry Henien:
Exactly.

Andrew Gazdecki:
And that’s a great strategy, because companies, like HubSpot has the free website grader, but they capture your email address.

Harry Henien:
Absolutely.

Andrew Gazdecki:
So potentially sell you other products on the line.

Harry Henien:
Without it being invasive or spammy and whatnot.

Andrew Gazdecki:
I love it. You’re giving it free value and you’re bringing them into your ecosystem early, building trust. And then over time, those customers could potentially convert into paying customers, or users into paying customers.

Harry Henien:
Absolutely. I mean there’s no, as I said, you could do it with blogs, I’m doing it with blogs. And I’m always just thinking, how can I integrate this? What’s the value now? What type of emails are there? The microfinance blog came with 300,000 emails of all kinds of information, which gives us an opportunity to understand, okay, maybe 10% could be potentially for wealth management business. You can’t Acquire that in today’s age, but you can through other platforms. So it’s kind of figuring out what makes sense and whatnot. So to be honest, I haven’t seen a lot of people from our industry kind of take that view or that leap, but I think if they are properly educated and there is a form of a hand holding, it can work. But you need to be able to figure out does this work for you also. That’s more and more the idea and the vision.

Andrew Gazdecki:
I like it.

Harry Henien:
Thank you.

Andrew Gazdecki:
I like how you have a main business and then, again, you’re acquiring assets that provide that value to convert into paying customers for the main business. That’s awesome.

Harry Henien:
And you can do it with any industry as well.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Yeah.

Harry Henien:
And I just noticed that you have now 2,058 startups, which is way more than when I first Acquired the Onboarded app. So obviously more and more creators are coming into the picture to see who can really use the assets or not.https://www.youtube.com/Acquire?sub_confirmation=1

Andrew Gazdecki:
Believe it or not, at this point we’re seeing, typically on average, usually two or three acquisitions per day.

Harry Henien:
Wow.

Andrew Gazdecki:
So it’s definitely an exciting market.

Harry Henien:
Nice.

Andrew Gazdecki:
So I’m happy the acquisition worked out for you, and I hope maybe I’ll see again on another podcast with another acquisition.

Harry Henien:
Yeah.

Andrew Gazdecki:
But I do have just two final questions before I let you go. What’s one book you would maybe recommend to an entrepreneur that’s looking to… I guess, just your favorite book in general related to building businesses?

Harry Henien:
To be honest, it’s bad. I don’t read that much. But what I will say, there’s two things. I love Twitter. I treat Twitter in the mornings as my newspaper. And obviously you’re one of the main accounts that I follow. And it is a really good, your tweets are quite empowering. I would say I like to read what other people are experiencing through their Twitter posts. And I would say the second is just do it. Practical experience. There’s YouTube, there’s so many videos. You can learn how to create your own Chrome extension, which I did one time. Learn Node, some JavaScript, PHP.
I really truly believe that if you just go to YouTube and search for anything, you can learn. And then practice yourself. And it took me a few years to learn how to build a WordPress site through trial and error, and now I could do html and I know how to connect the database. So I don’t really read the self-help books to motivate me and whatnot. So I’m very visual. I need to see, I need it to be presented, and then I do it myself. So that’s my only two pieces of advice to any entrepreneur.

Andrew Gazdecki:
I love the learning aspect in terms of just how accessible information is today. You can really, you’re correct in saying…

Harry Henien:
And GitHub, even.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Yeah. Reddit, YouTube, GitHub, Twitter, obviously I’m on there a lot. So I guess my final question you kind of answered, but I’m just going to say it again.

Harry Henien:
Sure.

Andrew Gazdecki:
If you just had to give one piece of advice to an entrepreneur starting out, what would it be?

Harry Henien:
Can I say two?

Andrew Gazdecki:
You can say three, as many as you want.

Harry Henien:
I would say the first one is just do it. And the second is don’t be afraid, because that’s something that I see among a lot of people. Afraid it won’t work, rejection, or whatever. I think you just have to, if you just take those two in mind, you can go far. But if you don’t, you’re always just held back, and life is moving on, and new technologies are being built. So I would those two as my pieces of advice.

Andrew Gazdecki:
I couldn’t be in more agreement. I think the number one thing that holds a lot of entrepreneurs back is just fear of failure.

Harry Henien:
Yeah.

Andrew Gazdecki:
But I always say it’s much better to say, oh well, I tried, than just what if.

Harry Henien:
And keep trying until something works because something will hit.

Andrew Gazdecki:
And you also learn from your failures too.

Harry Henien:
And you also learn. Absolutely. Absolutely.

Andrew Gazdecki:
That’s sage advice, Harry.

Harry Henien:
Thank you.

Andrew Gazdecki:
All right, Harry, well it’s been a pleasure having you on this podcast.

Harry Henien:
Thank you for having me.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Of course. If people want to learn more about you or just what you’re building, where can they find you?

Harry Henien:
I could put your Twitter account in the show notes.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Yeah, sure. If you would. I don’t, to be honest, I don’t post. I really go to just read. But I think I comment on yours the most because I really do appreciate all your posts. As I said, it’s very empowering. But I mean, my Twitter, it’s available. And feel free to ask any questions, if anyone has a question.

Harry Henien:
Sounds good.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Thanks so much.

Harry Henien:
Well, Harry, I’m definitely rooting for you. And congrats on all your success.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Thank you. Thank you. Have a good day, man.

Harry Henien:
You too. Cheers.