They ended up using an appropriate growth hack: a newsletter.
Through that move and others, the duo grew the company and then sold it to focus on their core – for double what they’d paid for the business just 16 months earlier.
This is the winding story of Duuce, and how its various owners have grown and sold the marketplace in quick pivoting.
A short history of newsletter marketplace Duuce
Here’s a timeline showing who owned Duuce when, and how this business intersects with others.
- In 2019, Jonas Sluijs founded Duuce as a newsletter marketplace.
- That same year, Jourdan and Guez launched DotMarket, a France-based online marketplace for buying, selling and trading websites.
- Then in 2022, Jourdan and Guez rolled out Below50, focused on selling websites priced under 50,000 euros.
- Also in 2022, DotMarket expanded into the U.S. by acquiring Duuce.
- And 16 months later, in June 2023, DotMarket pivoted and sold Duuce to The Wisdom Group, deciding to refocus on France and the European Union.
Talk about a whirlwind of activity. That’s the rapidly shifting world of marketplaces and newsletters these days.
How marketplace businesses DotMarket and Duuce connected
As you can see, Jourdan and Guez are used to moving fast.
After launching DotMarket and Below50, they began looking for opportunities with email newsletters.
That’s how Jourdan connected with Sluijs, Duuce’s founder. Jourdan shared on Medium that they originally intended a collaboration. But when Slujis expressed interest in selling, Jourdan jumped at the chance.
“Acquiring Duuce was a great way for [DotMarket] to step into the U.S. market, focusing on a very specific asset,” Jourdan told Newsletter Circle.
They closed the deal in January 2022.
Jourdan told us DotMarket operated Duuce independently with one full-time contractor who did everything from handling due diligence to writing the newsletter to seller outreach.
His big priority was to transition Duuce from an open marketplace to a vetted one. Previously, anyone could list a newsletter for sale. With the vetted model, newsletters had to undergo a thorough one- to three-week due diligence process before being listed, the site states.
“As we learnt with DotMarket, we believe it’s better to focus on quality than quantity,” Jourdan said. “There are enough platforms out there doing the opposite not to try and play that game.”
He continued: “Our goal is to make sure that you only find on Duuce newsletters that our team would personally consider buying. That means refusing many listings in the future.”
According to the Duuce website, newsletters needed to:
- Have a minimum of 500 subscribers.
- Be at least 8 to 12 months old.
- Have an open rate no lower than 30%.
- Publish consistent, quality content.
Revenue generation wasn’t required — but helps to increase the sale price, of course.
Jourdan also restructured Duuce’s revenue model. Previously, buyers needed to opt into a premium subscription, he shared. But in Jourdan’s opinion, paying members weren’t getting enough bang for their buck.
“I believe paying to simply access listings in advance does not make sense,” he said. “It works at first, when you have a good number of listings and a few dozen buyers. But once you reach 500 or 1,000 buyers, it loses its main benefit. Why pay X dollars to get access to something at the same time that hundreds or thousands of other people do?”
Instead, Ducce got rid of member fees and began charging a 10% success fee when a newsletter sold.
Duuce continued to grow mostly through word of mouth and SEO, thanks to Sluijs’s work, and Jourdan also launched a newsletter.
“It’s a fairly obvious hack, but running a weekly or bi-monthly newsletter WILL build your authority,” he shared on Newsletter Circle. “We saw that happening in France for DotMarket’s newsletter and we were fairly confident we could get the same impact for Duuce. And we did.”
By leveraging the existing buyer database of more than 1,500, the newsletter quickly grew to more than 1,500 subscribers. They also had 2,000 website visitors per month.
The biggest challenge, Jourdan told us, was maintaining enough quality newsletters on the marketplace.
At the time of sale, he shared that Duuce received an average of four to five requests to list newsletters per month. Only a couple passed due diligence and hit the market, and an average of one sale went through each month.
He couldn’t disclose how much revenue Duuce was generating at sale, “but I can tell you we were close to becoming break-even on our running costs.”
Saying deuces to Duuce: doubling the purchase price
After a year of growing Duuce, it became clear that the marketplace needed more time and money to fully mature. DotMarket and Below50 were growing much more quickly. So, the founders made a tough financial decision.
“We decided to refocus our effort on growing our France and EU businesses,” Jourdan told us. “We figured out we had more chances to succeed in our native market.”
Closing the deal took a couple of months. Jourdan connected with Scott Oldford, CEO of The Wisdom Group, who had previously purchased newsletters through Duuce. Oldford was interested in adding Duuce to The Wisdom Group’s portfolio of more than 30 businesses it actively owns, invests and advises, according to its website.
“Once we started talking to Scott, I had a feeling it was our best option and bet,” Jourdan told us. “I loved the vision from Wisdom Media, and it matched what we hoped for Duuce.”
Jourdan’s experience as a broker paired with Oldford’s experience purchasing dozens of companies made the process smooth and efficient.
“We face more challenges selling other people’s businesses than we did with ours,” Jourdan told us.
The deal closed in June 2023. Jourdan could not disclose the price but shared it was based less on revenue and more on the value of the database, position and potential growth within The Wisdom Media. They sold for twice what they’d paid for Duuce when they bought it 16 months earlier, he told the Newsletter Circle.
The deal was a mix of cash and shares, Jourdan told They Got Acquired, “with an already negotiated future exit at 6 figures.”
After the sale, Jourdan refocused on growing DotMarket and Below50.
As for his time with Duuce… “It was a very exciting adventure,” he shared. “It allowed us to connect to awesome individuals we may or may not have met while working only on the French market. [It] will always be a great success in my eyes.”