About Our Guest
JL Needham is a deal-maker and advocate for businesses pursuing growth on technology platforms. JL is also a bridge-builder, and can conceive and run a scrappy startup or operate within a global organisation.
JL has spent more than 10 years launching ventures and helping brands win in Amazon’s marketplace ecosystem, after spending many years at Google during its hyper-innovative Camelot period.
JL has launched or contributed to building many businesses, but produced lasting value with only a handful. Rather than improve his average, he is looking to pursue bolder ideas and take bigger risks. He is at his best when advising companies on embracing disruption and getting competitively positioned on tech platforms.
About this Episode
How to Sell a Business then Buy 5 More (in 2 Years)
JL Needham has been around each stage of the Buy, Grow, Sell business cycle.
After spending much of his career employed by, or in partnership with big tech like Adobe, Google, and Amazon, helping them grow early-stage businesses, he started his own company Valence, that inspects shipments for Amazon sellers and catches mistakes. While not the first in his field, his point of difference caught the eye of a private equity firm, and he sold within three years.
Now, he finds himself on the other side of the negotiation table, having acquired five businesses in the last few years with more on the way. His focus is buying, flipping, and selling. Along the way, JL has gathered multiple perspectives on the transaction process on everything from negotiations and discussions, as well as how to catch the eye (and keep it) of a strategic acquirer.
What you will learn in this episode
- The advantage of being clear on your ideal acquirer from the get-go
- What attracts acquirers? You might be surprised
- Buy versus Build: Which one is right for your strategy and how can you grow, then exit?
- How to switch gears from selling a business to being an acquirer
Connect with JL Needham
(8:51) JL and a grad student built a business that audited Amazon to catch logistics errors. While not an original idea, they found their differentiator by focusing on Amazon brands vs retainers and within three years was approached by a private equity firm.
(18:01) Every business has certain unfair advantages over competition, whether it is unique connections or traits, etc. Here’s how Valence played to its unfair advantages to make the acquisition more appealing.
(34:59) JL switched gears from selling businesses to buying them. What he looks for in potential acquisitions is frank transparency on what is not working in the business. More importantly, he notices when others don’t, and it tends to impact the deal.
(39:23) When you take a business to market, do you name the price, or do you let your buyer value the business? JL brings his perspective from both sides of the negotiation table.
(44:04) Here’s JL’s recipe for finding and acquiring the right businesses to grow, then exit. Rather than flipping houses, he renovates businesses, then hands off to a buyer that will appreciate it and care for it in the next phase of its growth.
The ultimate freedom is to own a company that is valuable, scalable, and saleable.
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