July 10, 2017 John Tough 0Comment

As I wrote about last week, Choose Energy was sold earlier this year. Beginning in 2015, Choose Energy had multiple casual M&A discussions. But, we did not formally engage until we knew we were ready as a company.

With a few months delay giving me a bit of clarity, I wanted to share some advice / insights that stand out to me about the process and how to prepare for our own deal:

  1. M&A is hard. Very, very hard. Finding the right buyer, at the right price at the perfect time in their strategic initiative game plan is rare. Choose was lucky in that the company had inbound interest. And even then, not easy. (Jason Lemkin at SAASTR has documented just how hard this can be for companies with ARR type revenue and how they should aim to sell at local maximums.)
  2. A clear internal deal champion at the acquirer is required. And you need that individual and their team to have a clear path to continued success after the deal.
  3. Deal fatigue is real. – for both sides. I have raised Series B & Series C capital from a combination of strategic and VCs. Those processes are time consuming. M&A is double or triple that. Have a great team in place, hire great advisors and have an experienced CFO. (We were lucky to have David Yi, a serial KPCB CFO) The amount of work is unexpected, even for someone like me that expected it. To get through it you really do need to create a bond with the acquiring team and “gang up” on the advisers. Part of their job is to be fall guy so the buyer & seller can rally around a common enemy 🙂
  4. Be prepared for regulatory requirements. For companies in the energy & industrials space that capture proprietary data and engage with federal and state level regulatory bodies, be prepared! Good process as you grow the company saves you from some major headaches down the line as lawyers dig through diligence and process documentation. Again, hire a great CFO, even part-time.
  5. Enjoy the ride. There is something very odd about the completion of a sale. You go from being independent and controlling the asset to suddenly having a disbanded board and an entirely new organization structure, reporting structure and incentive structure. Even if your acquirer provides barely any oversight post acquisition, there is still a mental change. For me, this was one of the oddest feelings… and I liked our acquiring team! Enjoy those last few months of corporate independence.

Once a deal is complete there is an entirely new set of issues to address around corporate communications for employees, customers, service providers, and regulatory agencies. I will write about that experience in the coming weeks.

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