TechExit
Credit: TechExit on Twitter

Mergers and acquisitions are a part of life in the tech industry, say the brains behind new Vancouver conference

The idea of selling a company that you built yourself from scratch, relying mostly on your own blood, sweat and tears, can seem counterintuitive to some. But for those in the technology sector, it’s a fact of life.

“It’s really not about putting your company on the auction block; it’s about understanding how to make your company more valuable and how to adapt to the market as it changes,” says David Tyldesley, producer and co-founder of TechExit.io, the first conference in Canada built on the premise of educating tech entrepreneurs and companies on how to sell their businesses.

TechExit.io is a spinoff of the Business Transitions Forum, a conference Tyldesley co-founded in 2015 that seeks to teach business owners of all kinds how to shift out of what they built. That event is still going strong in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto, but Tyldesley thought the tech biz ripe for a similar gathering of its own.

“We realized when we were putting the event on that there was a segment of the market—namely the technology crowd—whose concerns weren’t being addressed at the Business Transitions Forum,” Tyldesley explains. “As everyone knows, technology companies are valued differently. In many cases, they’re built to sell.”

The inaugural event will take place over half a day at the Fairmont Waterfront hotel in downtown Vancouver, with plans to expand to Toronto next year. The list of 21 speakers is dotted with well-known Vancouver executives, among them Manny Padda and Neil McDonnell.

“Half our speakers are tech founders who have exited or sold some or all of their companies,” Tyldesley says. “That’s a pretty important fact, so they’re going to hear from not only the people who have exited, but also the people who have made those deals happen as far as the advisory community.”

One of those people is David Raffa, who has been working in the tech venture space in Vancouver for more than 30 years. Raffa, chair of TechExit.io, is emceeing the event. His opening remarks will centre on the idea that tech companies can’t put off preparing for their exit, he says. 

“There’s a feeling among lots of people that, ‘This is something I don’t need to worry about until down the road,’ and that just isn’t true,” Raffa warns. “They need to be prepared from day one, because companies often end up selling or having to sell before they ever thought they were going to.”

Raffa says Vancouver is the ideal place to host such an event, given that this province sees “at least a couple dozen major exits a year,” in his estimation.

In the past year alone, he points out, B.C. companies like mobile game publisher Kabam (acquired for $800 million by Netmarble Games), Tio Networks Corp. (purchased for $304 million by PayPal Holdings Inc.), and NuData Security and AppBridge Software Inc. (acquired by Mastercard Inc. and Alphabet Inc., respectively, for undisclosed sums) have made their exits.

“Not everyone hears about them because they’re not all public companies, Raffa says. “But not only are there large deals, there are very recognizable buyers out there purchasing companies.”

TechExit.io takes place on February 15 at the Fairmont Waterfront hotel.

David Raffa’s seven pieces of advice for tech entrepreneurs looking to exit

  1. Be prepared so you’re not back on your heels if a buyer comes calling.
  2. Have a process and a plan; remember, you have to run your business and the sale at the same time.
  3. Understand the landscape of prospective buyers and who the top candidates are.
  4. Understand your value to each of the top candidates.
  5. Have a team of experts to guide you.
  6. Never forget that this is the single biggest decision you will make with your company.
  7. Prepare for the ride—it will be an emotional roller coaster.