Startup Acquisition Stories w/ Connor Skelly, Founder of Fission Agency

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Transcription –

Andrew Gazdecki:
All right, I’m here with Connor Skelly, the founder of Fission Agency. Connor, how you doing today?

Connor Skelly:
Hey Andrew. Good, good. Great to meet you.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Well thanks taking for the time to speak with me today. I’m definitely excited to hear about the company that you recently micro Acquired. But before we get into that, do you maybe want to give a short introduction of yourself for those listening?

Connor Skelly:
Sure, yeah. So I’m Connor. I’ve been working in B2B marketing for seven, eight years or so. I recently started up a new agency called Fission, which is a marketing and sales ops agency for HubSpot businesses.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Nice. So you Acquired a business. What was it and what does it do? Let’s start there.

Connor Skelly:
Yeah. Yeah. So towards the end of last year I really wanted to, I learned about Acquire, loved the marketing. I was following them on social and I wanted to find a micro SaaS tool to really, to kind of treat this kind of a side project I guess. And so I came across UTM link manager and which is a short link builder and UTM link builder and really well built product. But I really just wanted to find a company that had terrible marketing or really no marketing at all and take my marketing expertise and help grow it.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Nice. I love that. In terms of, okay, so there’s a lot of startups on Acquire as I’m sure you’re aware. What about this specific business stood out to you?

Connor Skelly:
Yeah, so I had eight or nine different criteria that I was looking for. So one was obviously the marketing industry in general, a tool geared towards marketers. I wanted to work with a single person business. I wanted things to be really simple and easy, so I found just one founder team. Few other things like lower revenue, micro SaaS lower revenue and let’s see, what else? I think that’s probably about it. I mean one of the huge things that I found just as I was digging into it was there was this 9,000 word or so email course that was the main lead gen tool for the platform. So that was great to just have this huge content asset on hand. Because my focus was, the marketing plan was re-engaging the existing and past customers to try to get them to convert again as well as just using the product more as well as just SEO content, like low and slow kind of growth to build up that inbound foundation. So having that course and updating it and posting it publicly as well really just helped ignite the initial plans that I had.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Nice. That’s awesome. And are you using this product to support your main business?

Connor Skelly:
Yeah, so I was using it for, I write a newsletter as well for startup marketers called Catchall. And so I would use that. I had one area where I was using all links for that. So I would post on LinkedIn or Twitter or something like that. I was able to see very specifically what was driving new subscribers. I used it for, when I had my older consulting site, I use it for that as well to track just specific conversions on the site, things like that. And then I used it for one or two clients as well. That’s really been the sweet spot from a customer standpoint is finding small agencies, performance agencies or paid ad agencies because they live and breathe in UTM data and really specific marketing analytics. So, yeah.

Andrew Gazdecki:
That’s awesome. So in essence, you basically bought a product to support your existing business, maybe added a new service, is that correct?

Connor Skelly:
Yeah. It was a nice to have kind of thing. The main goal if it wasn’t for me to get really deep on my own content analytics, but as I was just writing more and trying to build up more of a social audience, it was definitely a nice thing to have so I could know exactly what was gaining traction down to the specific post level. And things publish automatically to Google Analytics once it starts getting traffic. So it was really easy to just build a dashboard, check in once a week, twice a week to see what was going.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Nice. Yeah, I’m looking at the product. The product looks great, so nice pickup there.

Connor Skelly:
Yeah, thanks.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Or I should say a acquisition. So you come across this business, you decided it’s one you want to pursue. Can you walk me through just like kind of the initial process with the seller that made you feel comfortable making this acquisition?

Connor Skelly:
Yeah, so one of the fields on the listing is the reason for selling and the guy had said his full-time job was picking up and he wanted to just get rid of this. He had built a few products like this before in the past. And so once I got in touch with him, it was nice to know that he had, he’s built other Micro SaaS tools before and had a couple other things in the pipeline, but just his full-time job, which is very similar to what he did as a side project was just picking up. And so I’ve definitely felt that before, shiny object syndrome, picking up projects left and right and then you have to buckle down on what actually matters. So it was nice to connect on that and big product marketing guy too. So we had a lot of conversations, just talk and shop.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Nice. So it sounds like you guys built some good rapport and that built kind of trust to move forward. That’s great to hear. I always recommend. It’s really hard to do, there’s a good quote, “It’s hard to do a good deal with a bad person.” So just the fact that you were able to connect with them on a personal level I think probably built a lot of trust. But in terms of due diligence, how did that go? Can you walk me through just kind of like the steps that you went, just making sure that everything was up to what you expected it to be? Did you come across any hiccups? What was kind of like the transfer due diligence process?

Connor Skelly:
Yeah, so I took it in a few different stages. So I asked and before I submitted the letter of intent, I asked all the questions that I felt comfortable asking. Right. So everything just around marketing, product growth, any other growth tactic or growth ideas or other things in the pipeline that he wanted to do but never did. All that kind of stuff. And once I was happy with looking at the business metrics and the website analytics and all that kind of stuff, submitted letter intent.
And then we moved forward into more of the technical due diligence side, which is where I worked with a friend of mine who has a small developer agency and then he ran through the product and then delivered a pretty thorough due diligence checklist of everything. And he pretty much was just like, yeah, this is good to go. Just if you want to scale you’ll need to do X, Y, and Z. You’ll probably hit these walls once you scale. And even the seller was really open about that stuff too and was really transparent just around here’s why things are structured this way. I never hit this point, but if you hit X, Y, Z, then you’re going to want to pay for more or use another tool or hire someone or whatever it was.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Nice. And how did you structure the deal? If I can,

Connor Skelly:
It was still a 100% asset ownership, asset transfer. It was under his LLC, just moved it to mine.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Simple. Nice.

Connor Skelly:
Yeah, it honestly couldn’t have been more simple.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Yeah, I really like how you, because there are a lot of non-technical buyers on Acquire. The recommendation I always make if they’re looking to do technical due diligence is to have a agency or some individual that is technical that can help with that side. So that’s awesome. You had a friend or agency available to do the technical due diligence just in case there’s bugs or something like that.

Connor Skelly:
Totally. Yeah. And all of that stuff is way over my head. Right. And one of the other things too that reminds me is another bit of criteria of when I was looking to buy something was less than, I forget what it was like 30K or something like that or whatever. And because I was comfortable with that or something and then that was pretty much their criteria of do I get a lawyer or not, right, on something like this. And talk to a lawyer who was basically like, you don’t need a lawyer, like If I was comfortable taking that risk on for it. The deal again, couldn’t have been simpler. So he was like as long as you’re comfortable with it and you’re likely good to go.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Nice. How fast from initial reach out to the seller to actual close? How long did it take you?

Connor Skelly:
It was probably about two months I think. Because we had started the initial conversation right around December or beginning of December. So the holidays and stuff kind of threw things off and we officially closed yeah, it was like early February of this year.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Nice.

Connor Skelly:
Yeah.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Congrats.

Connor Skelly:
Thank you.

Andrew Gazdecki:
I guess my next question would be, I love how, and this is your first acquisition, is that correct? Based off of that, what are some maybe the biggest pieces of learnings that you got from just going through your first acquisition that you would maybe tell a buyer that has never Acquired a company before?

Connor Skelly:
Yeah, I mean absolutely this is probably what everyone says, but absolutely do your due diligence on it. Because there were several other options that I talked through on Acquire, great looking products. Definitely had some good things about them but then you ask one or two other questions and that’s just like, oh no, that doesn’t align with my personal buyer goals. So definitely ask everyone the same full set of questions even if the tools are a little bit different because that way you’re just establishing that baseline. You’re able to compare offers or compare companies more of a fair way.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Nice. And one thing I really liked that you did is asking questions up front before sending an LOI. I see all the time where people rush to send an LOI to kind of lock up the startup and then you have an exclusivity clause and then they ask the questions and maybe they find something they don’t like and it just kind of wastes everybody’s time. So that was a good move on your part.

Connor Skelly:
Yeah. And that’s been my experience too, just talking with other people that are familiar with Acquire, have wanted to look at a deal or something. They like that it’s really, it’s very easy and stuff to ask those questions up front and generally sellers seem to be really communicative too.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Nice. So flipping the table a little bit, a lot of founders are looking to sell their business. If you had to give them any advice, given that you’ve gone through the process, it sounds like the experience went really smooth. What are maybe two, three tips you give sellers just to ensure that they can increase solid of them getting Acquired?

Connor Skelly:
The first thing that sticks out is the more information you share, the better. Obviously there’s information that every company will have that you can’t put front and center, but anything just around product analytics or marketing analytics or anything like that is, in my experience, seems to be just a good starting point for this. And the more upfront you are with sharing that information less you’re going to waste everyone’s time. And definitely just be transparent around the stuff that you wanted to do but never got around to, right? Because you don’t always know what the experience of the buyer is on the other side. They could have all these ideas for a product in their head and you could say one thing like, oh we tried this but it didn’t work and that could really accelerate the deal because the buyer is like, oh that’s my expertise, I want to focus on that or something like that or. So just understanding in more granular way, like what was the seller’s growth experience and how the buyer could be involved in that moving forward.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Nice. I love that. And I completely agree, just bringing forth just growth opportunities because that’s what they’re doing is obviously, I assume you Acquired this to potentially grow it. And the seller is the best source of information of what have they tried, did it work, what did work, and then just being able to double down on what works and then obviously maybe reignite what didn’t work is a great strategy. So I love that. And then I guess in terms of your current agency, tell me a little bit more about that. What is your current agency focused on?

Connor Skelly:
Yeah, so we do marketing and sales ops for HubSpot businesses or manage CRM services is another keyword it falls under. So my last full time role was building out marketing team from the ground up at a startup and it was all facilitated through HubSpot. So I got really, after being there for a few years and scaling the revenue, I just got really interested in marketing and sales systems and what levers you really need to pull depending on the business goals and things like that. So I had been using the HubSpot product for a long time, big fan of the company. And after I left the full-time role I wanted to take some time off, but organic kind of consulting opportunities just happened to come up and they were all really around HubSpot implementations or the operations side of HubSpot, so like reporting automations, that kind of stuff. So I got more interested in it and then as of last July is when I really started and inch down and formally launched that agency.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Nice. Congrats. We pretty much run Acquire entirely off HubSpot, everything.

Connor Skelly:
Nice.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Yeah, it’s a great product. So we’ll give it two sort of shout outs.

Connor Skelly:
Yeah, yeah.

Andrew Gazdecki:
I guess for final questions, given I’m a huge marketer myself, maybe not as good as you, but I’d love to know if you were going to recommend two books on marketing, what would they be?

Connor Skelly:
Two books.

Andrew Gazdecki:
It could be podcast too. Where do you stay fresh in marketing? I’m interested in hearing that.

Connor Skelly:
One of the, I don’t know if this is strictly marketing, but one of the shorter books I’ve gotten into is Alex Hormozi, a $100 Million Dollar Offers just, it’s a great book because it’s just a very simple way of just structuring an offer. And I think especially more modern B2B marketers that have been in the game for a while tend to over complicate things and try to get fancy. So I really like that book because it’s super simple. I’m a big fan of Story Brand as well, so any of the Story Brand books, just the way that they think about marketing and telling the hero narrative for a brand, it’s really simple and it is, especially if you’re new to marketing, it’s a fun way to learn about marketing because it’s so tangible.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Yeah, I love that book. I love both those books.

Connor Skelly:
Yeah.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Nice. One book I’d recommend, if you haven’t checked it out is Play Bigger.

Connor Skelly:
Okay.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Is around branding and storytelling and kind of category creation. It has some interesting stories around, I believe HubSpot might be mentioned in there in terms of category creation, gain site, and some other companies. So,

Connor Skelly:
Cool.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Might be a good read for you.

Connor Skelly:
Thanks.

Andrew Gazdecki:
But that’s kind of all I got man. I appreciate you coming on here and sharing your story and congrats again on the acquisition.

Connor Skelly:
Yeah, this was fun. Thanks for reaching out and I’ll continue to lurk Acquire.

Andrew Gazdecki:
I appreciate that. So if people want to get ahold of you, where’s the best place to contact you?

Connor Skelly:
Yeah, follow me on Twitter.

Andrew Gazdecki:
I’ll put it in the show notes so you don’t have to say your Twitter handle.

Connor Skelly:
I’m on Twitter too much. So Twitter’s probably the best place to do it.

Andrew Gazdecki:
Sounds good. All right, Connor, appreciate you coming on here and looking forward to hearing about your next acquisition.

Connor Skelly:
All right, thanks man. Enjoy the rest of your week.

Andrew Gazdecki:
You too. Cheers.

Connor Skelly:
Bye.