Trevor Ewen, Southport Ventures
Southport Ventures, Current Searcher, Self-Funded
Survey completed September 21, 2020.
Why did you choose your model? Would you make the same choice again?
I have a partner, we have the ability to self-fund and it increases our optionality. Also opens us up to better terms with the investors. Finally, we are targeting a slightly smaller acquisition size, so it works well given the constraints.
Are you searching with a partner? If so, why did you choose them? How did you find them? If not, why did you choose to search solo?
Yes. My partner is a long-time friend and collaborator from my undergraduate years (I graduated 11 years ago!). He is an amazing counterbalance, and not someone I had thought of originally. He called me in December and asked me out of the blue: “Have you ever thought about buying a company?” We’ve been working together since.
When is the right time to start speaking with investors? How did you select your search and/or acquisition investors?
Still finding out. We are talking to some of our earliest institutional investors right now. For individual investors we have been getting in front of them when convenient. Our timeline is long since neither of us will leave our jobs until April. We are in stealth mode, but getting a lot done in the lead up.
Did you get an MBA before searching? If so, where and why?
Yes. Joint program with Columbia Business School and London Business School. The why is rounding out my initial experience, which is more technical (I am a software engineer). Raising money, building connections, improving my profile were all goals. I learned about search during my MBA, so that was another unanticipated benefit.
What is your work experience prior to searching?
Software Engineering. I have run a firm as well as worked for much larger institutional players (Banks, Media, Big Tech).
What industries and sizes of companies are you pursuing?
B2B SaaS, B2B SaaS APIs.
Are you doing a geographically focused search? If so, where?
How long have you been searching?
What systems do you use? (CRM, Email Manager, etc)
Copper CRM, Voila Norbert, Debounce.io, Custom Software (Built by myself)
How do you organize your day?
Stealth mode still, but I work on the search every day after dinner and over the weekends. It’s all email marketing at the moment. I spend a lot of my time building our sourcing, data scraping process.
How do you identify prospects to acquire? Do you use only brokers, only direct outreach, or both?
Brokers, Data scraping process we developed (This is my primary focus).
Approximately how many direct outreach calls and emails have you made to owners?
How do you find company lists?
Proprietary data scraping and analysis.
Do you subscribe to broker deal lists? Which ones?
Microacquire, Empire Flippers, FE International, Quiet Light Brokerage, Interexeo
Do you use interns? If so, how many? What do you have them do?
Approximately how many deals have you reviewed?
How many companies have you gotten to the LOI stage with? How long before your first one?
What has been the most challenging part of your search? What was harder/easier than you expected?
Getting responses for tech businesses is harder than we thought, only likely to get harder as search becomes more competitive.
What articles, books, and resources were most helpful to you in preparing to search?
Jim Sharpe, All the MBA Studies, Here’s the Deal (Book), Harvard ETA (Book)
What do you wish you knew prior to searching?
More investors and family offices. I’ve met many over the years, and should’ve stayed in touch.
What single piece of advice would you share with prospective searchers?
Find a niche, it’s getting competitive. Going with a partner makes it much less lonely.