Getting Acquired: How I Built and Sold My SaaS Startup - Summary and review

Updated: April 7th, 2024
Published: January 13th, 2024


Some main takeaways

Before jumping into the three big takeaways from this book - here are some initial thoughts that stood out:

  • The ideas on friendly and personal leadership

  • Using storytelling as your (main) lever of growth

  • Most ideas are already occupied with solutions - don’t wait for the perfect novel idea, instead build something better, find holes in competing solutions, and use competition as a means to scale and differentiate. Double down on the things your competitors miss or do not do well.

  • Treat competition nicely

  • Customer success and making customers happy are everything

  • Bootstrapping and having customers as your investor can force you into making the right decisions and priorities

1. How to tell a story - using storytelling as a competitive edge 💫

Compete on price and you have successfully failed and entered the race to the bottom 📉 - something the book $100M Offers warns about as well. Instead, compete on brand and you’re in a race to the top.Companies like Apple  have used storytelling to be perceived as vastly different and stand out - remember the famous “1,000 songs in your pocket” vs. “An MP3 player with 5GB storage”. Which is most memorable? Which makes the benefit feel most real?

How Gazdecki used storytelling as an early customer acquisition strategy

However, storytelling is not just for the big players. Andrew Gazdecki used storytelling as an early customer acquisition strategy for Bizness Apps, which came to be their most powerful tool for sales.

“Stories are more than just bedtime entertainment.” 💤

Gazdecki talked about simplifying mobile app development and making it affordable and easy for small businesses, no matter their size or budget.

What they did

  • Asked people to pick a side - hard and expensive way VS easy and affordable

  • Created an irresistible story for Techcrunch, Forbes, etc. - a complex and expensive process was made faster, cheaper, and easier

  • Avoided generic messages like “we do it better” that don’t cut it for news outlets and PR attention

  • Stopped thinking about what they did, but rather why they did it - “helping small businesses compete with big businesses”

Why did it work?

Bizness Apps wasn’t the first app builder. BUT it did make it super easy to build one. A prerequisite was a clear alignment between what they did and WHY. But the WHY was something people got inspired by, spread, and wanted to be a part of.

A David-and-Goliath story ⚔️

“Bizness Apps gave local businesses a chance to fight against the global megabrands stealing their market share. Something that democratized entrepreneurship and put every local business in the pockets of its customers.”

The impact 💥

Suddenly, people were hearing about this story all over the world, even though Bizness Apps were not the first, and maybe not even the best product out there. But they had a clear and honorable WHY, which people bought into emotionally.

According to Harvard researcher Gerald Zaltman, 95% of purchase decisions are emotional ones.

Just like Start with Why talks about, it both inspires the customers in order to close more deals and aligns the internal team who feels they were doing something meaningful.

The framework - how do you tell a good brand story?

Brand + story = brand story. You should keep your story simple. Maintain a sharp and clear message that is easy to understand. Use your customers’ language. Use visuals to reinforce your messaging. Know your audience, be consistent and be personal. Your story needn’t be unique - but it must have a NEW ANGLE. Here are 4 steps to tell a good brand story:

  1. Identify a shift

  2. Create a new category

  3. Reinforce a theme

  4. Start a movement

Pitch your story often. Publish many variants and see which ones people love. When you hit upon that one inspiring narrative, tell it in a 100 different ways and share with all journalists and publications in your field.Repurpose and produce tons of content: blogs, videos, emails, podcast, whitepapers, case studies, webinars, TikToks, LinkedIn posts.

Work with brand across your offering - identify your best customers

Who are they and what are their qualities? The better you know them, the more you can tailor the message and the user experience inside of your product. Personalize ads, emails, and the design of your UI.

2. Approaching and embracing competition 🏁

Sell your vision, NOT your products. The vision and WHY are what make people listen. People that listen and trust will also buy.The modern buyer journey involves checking out the competing alternatives. 88% of customers shop around, with 94% reading online reviews before making a purchase. Thus, today competition is completely natural.Instead of fearing competition, you should start embracing it and find ways to use it to your advantage. These are some ways you can use competition to your advantage:

  • Competition helps define your business - it forces you to be different, and helps you build a story regarding what you are not.

  • Zero in on these differentiators. Shout them from the rooftops! 📢

  • Acknowledge competitors in your sales negotiations. Recommend that customers speak to them, or research their offerings. This might sound counterintuitive, but it creates trust and authenticity.

The Transparency Sale talks about this as well - both the value of being able to reference transparent reviews for your product. Also, in how you approach competitors and the sales process itself. Be open and focus on providing unexpectedly transparent expert advice to your prospect, and they will reward you in

3. Optimizing outcomes for the founder - the exit 👈

Maximize your own goals of a successful exit rather than get caught up in endless fundraising.Think strategically: “You’re sixteen times more likely to be bought than reaching an IPO.”Keep an open and sound mind in terms of preparing for the right acquisition. Build for scalability and be informed.

Some notable statistics on fundraising and exits

From a study referenced in the book:

  1. Only 8-9% of startups ever got acquired at pre-series A.

  2. 60% don’t ever make it to the next stage.

  3. Most startups are acquired at series E, but few make it that far.

  4. The more funding you raise, the more likely you are to be acquired. Fundraising is tougher in the early stages and can interfere with running your business - it’s thus a risky strategy, if an exit is the goal.

  5. An offer at pre-series A is uncommon yet highly desirable. If it’s offered at that stage, statistically, you should take it.