🏷️ Selling LearnDash

LearnDash is now part of the Liquid Web family of brands, I learned a ton along this journey.

Selling my business was one of the most stressful and challenging things that I have ever done as an entrepreneur. In the end, it took just about a year from start to finish (October 2020 – September 2021).

If you’re interested, you can check out the official announcement on the LearnDash blog, or check out Liquid Web’s press release.

LearnDash started making sales in early 2013. It was meant to be a lifestyle business for me, initially. But slowly over time the company grew into something more than that. With employees and customers from all over the world, LearnDash carved out a unique space in both the WordPress and e-learning industries.

When the pandemic arrived in 2020, LearnDash was very well poised to be found as people scrambled to create online courses – be it for extra income or to augment their entire business model. It was an insane time in more ways than one. The already healthy company grew even more in team size and in revenue. It was clear that the business was bigger than me, and far from the lifestyle business I created.

It didn’t take too long before I started receiving offers for LearnDash from venture capitalists. Truth is, this has been the case for the past few years, but during the pandemic that interest skyrocketed. I would get contacted literally every other day from investment firms looking to get a piece of the e-learning pie.

Now, I have always been one to pursue happiness, and this was the main driver for selling LearnDash. The truth was that I no longer had the same inspiration that I did for the industry, and this meant that I was getting in the way of the company’s true potential. LearnDash is bigger, and more important, than me. It deserved more so that it could reach that next phase of its potential.

The continued growth trajectory for LearnDash is huge, especially since it straddles both the WordPress and e-learning industries so well (which is unlike any other WordPress product, ever). Both the WordPress and e-learning markets will continue to grow in importance, and LearnDash will continue to be a leader in that space. Even more so with the backing and leadership of Liquid Web.

I hired investment bankers to market and sell LearnDash.

Given LearnDash’s unique position across two industries, I felt like professional representation was needed for the sale. In October 2020, I was introduced to the investment banking firm, Angle Advisors. I can say with confidence that had I not done this, LearnDash would have never found its new home with Liquid Web.

These folks are incredibly smart. Much smarter than me. We spent the remainder of 2020 preparing the financials and creating a management presentation. In January of this year, Angle Advisors reached out to hundreds of potential buyers. A large percentage of these companies were interested in learning more. They indicated this by presenting an offer for the company (usually a range). Those that made respectable offers were invited to a management presentation.

Let me tell you something about management presentations: they are stressful, and they are long. Each one that I gave was about two to three hours long, and in it, I discussed everything about the business. Its history, its present status, its position across the markets, the growth opportunities, and so on. It’s an informative presentation and a sales presentation all in one.

When all the presentations were done, the stopwatch began. The companies had to decide if they wanted to make a formal offer. Only three companies decided to drop out of the process. The rest submitted offers.

Moving into the due diligence phase.

With Angle Advisors’ guidance, an offer was accepted and the “one-on-one” relationship with the potential buyer could begin. I know that I said the management presentation is stressful, but honestly the due diligence phase is the most stressful part of it all. Just because you enter into this phase doesn’t mean that you will for sure close the deal. Either party can decide to move on for a variety of reasons.

In this phase, you set an agreed upon closing date for the deal. Leading up to that date, you have to provide the buying company with any piece of information that they request. Information on financials, market, product, legal, and so on — reaching back three to four years (sometimes longer). There are meetings, many meetings. The days are long and tiring for everyone involved.

In the latter stages of this phase is when the lawyers really start to get involved. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to worry about that too much since I was working with Angle Advisors (and they brought in Varnum Law to provide the counsel).

Once all the requested information has been shared, all questions answered, and all contractual agreements made from a legal standpoint, the closing can occur, and the buyer becomes the new owner. You finally can “hand over the keys to the house”.

LearnDash is in the perfect home with Liquid Web, and holy crap are they ready to take it to the next level! I’m especially thrilled that Chris will be taking an active role as General Manager. He is incredibly smart, and has deep roots in the online education space. He gets it.

What is next after you sell a business?

This is probably the most common question people have for a founder after they sell a business (besides curiosity on the sales price, which I am not sharing, sorry).

As I mentioned earlier, I live my life by prioritizing happiness. This has led LearnDash into the Liquid Web portfolio, and in the near term I am still very much part of the LearnDash team. I am in the middle of some exciting initiatives that I’ll be helping to see to the end (LearnDash 4.0 being one that I’m very eager about getting released). I will then be an active advisor to the company.

I get excited about new challenges. WordPress and e-learning have been good to me, but I’m running on fumes at this point. I’ve been involved in these two industries my entire life (e-learning since 2004 and WordPress since 2006).

I have interests outside of software and WordPress that I will have time to pursue. One in particular is starting a fitness brand with my wife, Lorena. I will be documenting this journey, so if you’re interested in hearing about the ups-and-downs of that adventure, check back here often.

I have learned from people sharing, so I plan to do the same.

I have learned a lot over the years about running (and now selling) a business. Things like competing, brand positioning, driving sales, and more. I plan to share these lessons learned on this blog. I’ll share exactly what it takes to build a multi-million dollar WordPress business across two industries.

Think of it like a conversation between friends. I had so many questions when starting out, and while there is no substitute for direct experience, a little guidance from someone who has been there before can be reassuring.

I won’t be selling courses or products, just writing. If you would like these insider tips, then just sign-up below. By doing so, you can also email me at anytime with your questions. All you have to do is click “reply” on a new post, and it’ll land in my inbox.

#WordPress #entrepreneurship

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