Founder Julius Solaris grew discouraged after two deals fell through to sell EventMB, his events-focused content company.

“It was essentially a family business; all our eggs in one basket,” he said, explaining that his wife was also working for the company. Plus, he felt the additional burden of the families of his seven freelancers relying on the company for a paycheck.

“Negotiation-wise, that makes it hard to do poker face.”

But he persevered and succeeded on his third try. Looking back, Solaris said he’s happy with that 2019 sale to travel industry news provider Skift. But he also learned an important lesson for future acquisitions: Maintain confidence in negotiations, despite failed deals.

Building EventMB into a media platform – and immigrating to the U.S.

Solaris started his company as an event management blog in southern Italy in 2007 as a side project, tracking innovation in event technology and sharing tips for managing successful large-scale events.

He kept writing through a move to London, and his voice and expertise stood out in the blogosphere. Readership grew.

In 2011, advertisers took an interest in EventMB, and the blog started making money.

Solaris’s wife, Carmen Boscolo, became employee number 2, running operations and building the business. Solaris said she was instrumental in the blog’s success. “When you’re a creator,” he said, “creativity doesn’t go well with growing a business in many cases.”

Through “constant hustle,” Solaris and Boscolo evolved the blog into a media platform, with most readers and advertisers in the United States. The pair lived in London at the time, and the exchange rate was not in their favor. “We were earning in dollars and spending in pounds, which is not ideal.”

Betting on his niche expertise in events technology, Solaris aimed high: He applied for the EB1 visa, for “a noncitizen of extraordinary ability,” a difficult method of entry into the U.S. since that type of visa goes to the best of the best in any given field.

His bet paid off. Solaris moved operations in 2016 to Las Vegas, with its plethora of events, where EventMB continued to grow.

He also created ShowThemes, a WordPress theme plugin for creating event websites, which he said he sold in 2017 for 6 figures to WordPress products provider Imagely. He said that sale funded a down payment on his first mortgage in Las Vegas. It also gave Solaris confidence to consider finding a buyer for EventMB as well.

In 2019, eight years after converting his event management blog into a business, Solaris was ready to sell EventMB. He was hoping to focus on his writing within the financial security of a larger entity, and with fewer worries about competing with bigger media companies.

Succeeding on the third try with Skift

Solaris said selling his smaller ShowThemes business felt more straightforward and transactional. Selling EventMB, with its 50,000+ newsletter subscribers and 300,000 unique visits to the website each month within the niche community of event planners, turned out to be far more complex.

After the painful experience of watching two deals fall through, Solaris was not sure how things would go when Skift reached out through their own events writer, who knew Solaris from events they both covered. By then, Solaris had started to lose sight of his company’s value. “Especially when you’re a solo founder, there’s a lot of imposter syndrome,” he told us.

But the deal went through in September 2019. The sale price was not disclosed.

Solaris said he was happy with the deal, and it also taught him to go into any future acquisition negotiations with a new motto: “Know your worth.”

EventMB’s worth became even more apparent after the acquisition, when the pandemic hit six months later. As editor-in-chief under Skift’s umbrella, Solaris watched EventMB have its best year ever.

In 2020, the platform beat its pre-pandemic revenue goals, according to Solaris. “Having talked about event tech for so many years, as soon as virtual events exploded, we were very well positioned,” he said.

But even with all that success under Skift, Solaris said responding to so much bad news in the events space during the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll, and he was ready to move on and try his hand working directly for event tech companies.

As it turned out, selling his business was not a point of arrival but another step in his entrepreneurship journey. Now Solaris is building a third business, events consulting company and newsletter Boldpush, which he said earned 9,000 subscribers in its first year and  consults on events marketing for Fortune 500 companies.

“Getting acquired doesn’t allow you to retire if you have that urgency to do great things,” he said. “You may feel like you’ve arrived, but you haven’t. It’s going to catch up with you really soon – the fact that you want to do great things.”