How do you sell your company when you have no money?

Chris Seline

February 4th, 2014

I have a startup (picture search and discovery) with significant user traction (>8 million unique visitors per month) but very little revenue and not much in resources. I think that acquisition makes sense for me right now because a larger company can lend the required resources, ad sales team, and partnerships to take the site to the next level. I have talked to a few m&a firms but they want big retainers to take on the case.

How do you sell your company without those m&a firms? Are there smaller, hungrier m&a firms or individuals that take cases like this on a performance basis? How do I find those people? Should I put together an info packet and just blast it out to companies I think might be a fit?

C Anderson VP of Product at Academia.edu

February 4th, 2014

I ran this by two of my friends who have recently done some deals in the UGC category for a second opinion. There are three things that are going to make selling this to a traditional large co either impossible or very difficult. 

1) Only 15% of your traffic is from the U.S. with India & Indonesia following. 
2) You have decent amount of spam and NSFW content being uploaded. 
3) Lack of mainstream hype. 

Those three things combined with an overall erosion of the consumer advertising market put you in a tough spot. I'd estimate that to the right buyer you are only looking at low to *maybe* mid 6 figures despite your high traffic numbers. 

That said, just like with the domain market you are worth what someone else is willing to pay. That estimate is just based on recent deals I have seen. 

Jeff Whelpley CTO at GetHuman.com

February 4th, 2014

Wow, first of all congratulations on building a product that so many people love. Regardless of anything else, over 8 million unique visitors a month is significant.

As far as how to sell your company, I don't have an direct experience with your situation, but one thing I would suggest from seeing other companies like yours is not to just blast out an email. You would likely be better served trying to connect with partners/buyers yourself (without any other firm at first).

Ahmad Zahran Non-Linear Thinker | Strategist | Entrepreneur

February 4th, 2014

Have you thought about bringing in a seasoned entrepreneur as CEO? Someone who has a track record of monetising startups and also has strong contacts in the VC world and has raised money? You may have to give up a considerable chunk of equity but if they can grow the business and bring in funding may be better off than selling now. Its probably easier said than done but it may be an interesting alternative to consider. Ive seen it done before with great results.

Dave Lemley Consulting Technologist

February 4th, 2014

have to second Ahmad.  If your story is compelling enough to pitch well, the VC will help you round out your egg-shaped team.  They typically have EIR at the ready.  Actually, I would think that the VC will find it refreshing that you yourself do not especially want to be CEO, because that's a super common friction point.  Just make sure you like whoever it is.  Getting money but with a partner with whom you are unhappy is not worth it, just go fishing again.

Russ Value creator and deal maker

February 6th, 2014


Have you thought of bringing in an advisory team to help you find and implement immediate monetization methods?

This way, you don't have to:
1.  Give up significant (if any) equity
2.  Bring in another CEO
3.  Align yourself with people who sense your defensive position (per the title of your post)

Once you get profitable which can happen in short order with your level of traffic and if you keep expenses in check, you can drive profitable growth.  This will lead to investors coming to you on your terms.

One final thought is that if you replace the time and effort you would spend going through the investment getting cycle and put that focus and energy into monetizing your asset, you can drive your company valuation by exponential multiples.

Kate Hiscox

February 4th, 2014

Hi Chris - I might can help you with this. Feel free to message me if you'd like to discuss further and congrats! Per Jeff, that is no easy thing to do. If you sell the business, great but if you are unable to, never lose sight of the value of the wealth of experience you have learned from building and growing your site. Great job!

Chris Seline

February 5th, 2014

Hey Joel, I assume you meant to address me?

Mobile traffic is up near 50% for us now, but our mobile ads make about as much as our desktop ads (but that's not saying much!). We are using Adstract.

I talked to BuySellAds, they didn't want to work with Twicsy.

We should be launching a new design next month that is mobile friendly.

I would rather take Twicsy to the grave than sell it for 5 figures!

Never heard of ShareThrough, and I don't really understand what they do, but I have signed up so hopefully they will tell me!

Chris Seline

February 4th, 2014

Ahmad/Dave, I have been talking to many people over the past year, looking for a CEO or biz dev guy at the same time as money, and I just never found anyone that made sense that wasn't doing their own thing. Part of the problem is that I am in Washington DC, which doesn't have as much media folks to network with. Getting out and networking in other parts of the country is expensive and time consuming. Doing it by phone is not as effective. I have not talked to a VC that is interested in placing a CEO, but I have heard they exist...

Bernard Desarnauts Entrepreneur, Advisor & Mentor

February 8th, 2014

Hi Chris

First of congrats to take your site to these levels. Agreed with others here that you should be able to significantly improve your ad revenue based on this level of traffic. Can you share more of the details on the traffic composition etc? 


Mona Sabet

February 4th, 2014

Hi Chris

First you identify who the companies are that might benefit from acquiring your business.  Ideally, you can come up with about 4-5.  Then you write a short pitch about what value you think you would add to their business.  Then you troll LinkedIn or other networks to try to get a warm intro into someone senior there.   Happy to talk off line.  I used to run M&A at a large software company.