LR: So I just Googled and found these kinds of businesses that their whole thing is they buy, relatively small, usually profitable SaaS businesses. I made a list of all of them and I pitched myself to all of them.
Laura Roeder didn’t use a broker or an M&A advisor or even a marketplace to sell her business, MeetEdgar. She found her buyer the same way she’d found success throughout her career: with a gutsy cold pitch.
Just two months later, Laura and her husband, who was also her co-founder, were celebrating a 7-figure deal. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll see that the magic of this sale came from seeds Laura planted long before MeetEdgar was even on her radar
I’m Lexi Grant and you’re listening to, They Got Acquired. A show about life-changing business acquisitions, and founders, who don’t follow the Silicon Valley narrative.
Today, you’ll hear from Laura Roeder, an entrepreneur who has built several successful businesses, including MeetEdgar, a social media scheduling tool. You’ll learn how she and her husband, Chris Williams, built and sold the platform. And how they did it without sacrificing all their time to the business.
L: You sold your company for seven figures. Can you share any other terms of the day?
LR: It was a cash deal.
I don’t have any kind of like period where I stayed on, so I got most of the cash on closing day and then a small percentage, six months later. So that was kind of an incentive for me to just be there, to answer any questions that needed to be answered, which turned out to be very little.
L: Did you have any advocates when you were negotiating that like a good lawyer, for example,
LR: So I had a good lawyer, but he was not part of the negotiation process. So yeah, I really negotiated on my own, which actually ended up being really fun. I was kinda nervous about that part, but I ended up really enjoying it.
L: how was it for Chris?
LR: He was like, really glad that I was doing it.
If you’ve been around the online marketing world for a while, then you’re probably familiar with Laura Roeder. She’s had a prominent presence in the space since the mid-to-late 2000’s. But you probably haven’t heard of her co-founder and husband, Chris. Which is exactly how they like it.
L: I noticed that you have a public persona. Does he have one? Cause I don’t kind of feel like he’s like this mythical person that Laura says she married and says she co-founded with, but where is he?
LR: I know. And it’s funny because his name is Chris Williams, so he’s impossible to Google, which he absolutely loves. He loves it.
L: That’s cool.
LR: I loved finding clients and, you know, learning about bookkeeping and all that stuff like that. That’s not him. This is part of the reason why we get along well as co founders is he wants to write code. So he did have a background in startups.
He had also run an agency for a while, like building apps for other people. So he’s definitely an entrepreneur, but he would rather someone else do it.
From the time that Laura and Chris launched MeetEdgar in 2014, to selling it seven years later, the business grew to an annual recurring revenue of a few million dollars, including an email list of 150,000 people.
LR: We met at a party in Buenos Aires.
L: Tell me more.
LR: It’s a very romantic place to meet your life partner.
Laura was staying there with a friend, who had an invite to this party. And Chris, who’s originally from the UK, had just finished a program at a startup incubator in Chile.
LR: So he had been kind of traveling around South America. He had rented a house with a few friends, in Buenos Aires and it turned out to be Chris’s house that the party was at. So that’s how we met.
L: Did you connect over your love for businesses?
LR: No, because he doesn’t love business.
When Laura walked through the door of Chris’s party that night, she’d already built three different businesses in under five years. She really enjoyed entrepreneurship, largely because of the opportunities she was able to create. Chris shared this passion — but for different reasons.
LR: He was very ahead of the time in his, he had been living four hour workweek, like since before the four hour workweek. So he was always a big traveler. He would work a job for a year and then like travel for a year and not work, or like do a bit of freelancing on the road, you know, way before that was a thing. So he did bring to me a kind of traditional way of. You know, doing business, doing life where I hadn’t traveled very much. I had always kind of, you know, worked full time on my business. I had never taken like sabbaticals or anything like that. So that was definitely something that he taught me.
Laura could relate to Chris’s love of time freedom. After all, it’s partly why she’d started freelancing as a graphic designer at the age of 21. That and the fact that she was kind of bored with her first job.
LR: I graduated college a year early, so I was like 20 years old. I’m like, it’s going to take forever until anyone lets me do anything interesting. It’s gonna take like 10 years before I get to the top of the ranks. And I kind of realized, okay, but if I quit my job and I freelance, I’m the boss, right? Like I get to do everything my way. I get to make all my own decisions. I’m the one that does everything from, you know, working with clients to like working on the strategy of what I’m going to design for them to doing actual designing. It just sounded like way more fun
L: And did it turn out to be way more fun?
LR: Yeah. Yeah.
But when Laura quit that graphic design job to freelance, she didn’t have any customers. So she learned quickly how to cold pitch to strangers, which we all know is NOT easy.
LR: I literally didn’t know a single business owner when I first quit. I didn’t know a single one. So I’m like, I need to meet some business owners.
L: Were you nervous? You sound like you’re excited about the opportunity, but what you were nervous, you didn’t have, you know, an on-ramp into getting work.
LR: I mean, I was, I was excited about it. I’ve always looked young for my age. So I’m sure people were like, why is this 15 year old here? I just stood out like a sore thumb because I was way younger than everybody else.
Laura built a thriving freelance business in just two years. But to get more flexibility and a higher income, Laura knew she needed a different business model. So, she decided to create some online courses. Now keep in mind, this was back in the late 2000s, before everyone under the sun had an online course.
L: What’d you teach? What were your courses?
LR: So my first course was called your backstage pass to Twitter. Because when social media started to become a thing,
The big business one at the time was Twitter. I would make people’s websites. And then they would ask me how to drive traffic to their site. So that’s how I kind of got the specialty in social media marketing.
Laura knew entrepreneurs tended to hang out on sites like Copyblogger and Problogger, those were the hot ones back then. So she pitched guest posts, which drove thousands of readers to her site — and to her online courses.
LR: I just kind of realized you could pitch yourself for all this stuff, which is a core concept that I ended up teaching others how to kind of pitch yourself and create your own opportunities.
L: I saw that you were named one of the top a hundred entrepreneurs under 30 in several years, like 2011, 2013, 2014 by an organization called Impact showcase. And I even remember that you spoke at the white house runs once write about entrepreneurship. What were you doing that stood out from everyone else at this time?
LR: Applying for awards. So, you know, I just want to point that out because almost all awards organizations you have to apply to. They don’t just go out and choose you. You have to apply for them.
I don’t know how many people applied and because I applied for that, I got to speak about entrepreneurship at the White House, which was a legit, amazing opportunity. So, I mean, I had a successful business, but I do just want to point out. It’s not like I was doing something so groundbreaking that no human had ever done.
Between the online presence Laura built and her course business that brought in multiple six figures each year, Laura had a lot of options. But it wasn’t until her next business that she realized what she REALLY wanted.
LR: It got really big, really fast. So when we started it, we both had our own businesses and it was like the side project for us to do together. And then the side project was making a million dollars per launch, like instantly.
This million dollar side project was an online business course called B-School. Laura started it with another entrepreneur named Marie Forleo in 2009 in the hopes that they could teach online marketing to women around the world. And it did well. REALLY well.
L: Why’d you decide to leave?
LR: I think part of it is that we were both the face of it. And I didn’t love that public facing element, but I really wanted to have, you know, I didn’t have kids then, but I knew that I wanted to, and I really wanted to have a business that I could sell.
I really wanted to have a business that I could, you know, take a maternity leave for months and the business would be unaffected. And when you are like the teacher or the face of a business, you can’t do those things or you do them in a different way.
So Laura sold her half of the business. And it was shortly after this pivotal decision, that Laura met an app builder in Buenos Aires who was passionate about time freedom.
Chris and Laura hit it off and they got married that same year. From day one, they talked about creating a business together — something that would allow them to work on a flexible schedule and live wherever they wanted.
And then they landed on a project that they jokingly called, Edgar.
LR: Before you launch something, you have to talk about it. And so, we had a few kind of ideas and for some reason we just always would call our ideas kind of like old people names, like one was Harriet, you know, one was Edgar.
So we would call it Edgar and Turley. And then I noticed that people would always remember that. So when it came time to name it, we had come up with some, you know, like social distributor, you know, spin, social, like blah, blah, blah, kind of generic startup names. But if I had told a friend when I was working on, they’d be like, how’s Edgard, how’s Andre.
And I’m like, why does everyone remember Edgar?
L: That’s so good.
LR: Yeah. So I just realized like, okay, wait, this seems to be kind of a catchy, catchy name that people will remember.
What was Edgar exactly? A social media scheduling software that made it easy to reuse and recycle social media content.
LR: People were, and still are creating multiple pieces of unique content every day, ad infinitum. You know, that, that was an amazingly to me still is kind of the standard way to do social media is okay, we gotta post eight times a day. Let’s write the copy for eight different things. And then create that every day forever.
Buffer, and Hootsuite both already existed when Edgar launched, but neither one of them did or still does what Uyghur does, where you can build a library of content and then you can repurpose it.
And so I was just kind of complaining to Chris and he’s like, well, I could build a tool that does it. So I’m like, well, great. Do it, do it, go do it.
L: Wow. So what were your first steps in building that business?
LR: He worked on the code, you know, for about six months before I had much to do so that was kind of the first step was just like building it, you know, us working together.
I mean, it was one of those scratches, an itch types of thing. So I knew what I wanted. I also had an audience of small business owners, you know, wanting to improve their social media marketing.
And this was a software product for entrepreneurs to do social media marketing.
Laura’s course business gave them a huge leg up when they launched MeetEdgar in 2014. Not only were they able to self-fund the launch, but they also had an email list of around 75,000 people to pitch their new product to. And it paid off. In their first year alone, MeetEdgar generated more than $100k in monthly revenue and nearly 3,000 customers.
With growth like that, you’d think Laura and Chris were running themselves into the ground trying to keep up. But, that’s NOT what happened.
LR: sometimes I joke that like everyone should be pregnant when they start a business, because it really forced me to not make the business dependent on me,
After the break you’ll learn how Laura and Chris structured MeetEdgar to run without them, why competition worked in their favor, and how they negotiated a 7-figure deal that gave them their ultimate goal: time freedom.
Hey, I’m Bobby Burch. I’m a reporter with They Got Acquired, and I’ve been covering startups and entrepreneurship for the last decade.
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LR: I’ve always been a person who really values just a very like chill stress-free life.
So I’ve almost never worked full time since I started at GRE, you know, which is, like I said, synonymous with having kids. There was like a year where I worked full-time ish. And then besides that it’s been about 20 hours a week.
L: Does your husband do this?
LR: Yes, he does the same. So we, I think he does a little more childcare than I do. We divided up pretty evenly. So he does about the same.
From MeetEdgar’s infancy, Laura and Chris set out to build a team that could take over every aspect of the business. And because Laura gave birth to their first child only six months after the company’s launch, they had to figure this out within that first year of business.
LR: Being pregnant was a forcing function. When you have a limited work schedule, I think it makes you more efficient with like delegating things, setting up systems, not doing a bunch of busy work, not doing a bunch of stuff that doesn’t contribute to the results in your business.
L: A lot of leaders struggle with that with delegating you, you actually seem to thrive off of it. Putting systems in place that help lift a load off of your own shoulders. What are some of the first things that you think about when you’re delegating for a new company or just delegating generally?
LR: So, you know, the way I always think of it is like lots of stuff has to be done for any business, any business in the world, lots of things have to be done, but the variables that can be changed is who does those things. And over what time period.
I’m not denying that things need to be done. But why would all these things need to be done by one person, right? Like you can distribute those things among one person, two people, 20 people, all of the options.
So I don’t understand this idea that it has to be the founder doing everything.
Even with this philosophy driving them along, finding the right team structure at different points of the business was difficult.
LR: I think running a business is. Running a team of people at, at the end of the day. Right. That’s how stuff happens and finding that balance of like, how to keep your workplace, like a happy place while still having a great pace while still like achieving everything you want to achieve. Obviously firing people really sucks and it’s something you know, that you have to do as a business owner and know like whole issue of how long does someone stick around, can their work be changed? How do you figure it out? Can you find something else for them to do dealing with? All that stuff has been the biggest challenge.
L: Did you have any hesitation about launching in a space that already had competitors? Like, were you worried that. they would take this feature that made your software socially so special and work it into their own?
LR: Yes and no. I mean, I have always known that people worry way too much about that. I mean, especially in the SAS world, I see this all the time where people will be like, oh no, like someone someone’s already done that. And I always tell people, look around the room right now. Like, do you see any object around you that does not have literally hundreds of competitors that sell the same thing, you know?
Right. Like I’m looking at like my monitor and my laptop and my keyboard and my cup and my candle and my chair. Right. There’s just like huge amount of people that make all those things. And yet we think if one other person has done our software idea, like, oh, maybe, maybe we should just forget about it. So I didn’t mind.
I was worried about them just copying us. It turned out that it’s such a different workflow, that they really couldn’t just sort of pop it on the top. You really have to change the whole workflow of how the tool works and that’s why they never did it.
One of the things I really appreciate about Laura, is that she’s not afraid of competition. Because in her mind, the more your competitor expands the market, the more exposure your business will get. And that’s exactly what happened.
But as social media popularity grew, so did the apps’ algorithms, the integrations, and – the rules. If your business is tied to ever-evolving social media apps, it can be difficult to stay relevant.
LR: So in 2018, Twitter changed its rules and said that you cannot repeat any content. Like, so if you write good morning, five years apart on Twitter, you are technically in violation of their terms of service. Obviously they don’t actually, you know, have any like algorithm that bands you or in practice really shot anyone down.
Of course, the idea is that they don’t want people spamming the exact same message over and over again, but that’s not what they wrote, their terms of service they wrote. You can never repeat the exact same message. On the same account, or even on multiple accounts that you own, you can’t repeat the exact same message.
So it’s really important for us at Edgar to do everything white hat, because if we do any gray area, then we’re putting our customers in danger of their accounts, getting shut down on the social platforms, which is like not what we’re all about. And there have been many, many gray hat, black hat, social media tools over the years that have been shut down.
So in 2018, Twitter made that change and, you know, repeating content has always been a huge part of our USP and Twitter had been a huge network for us because when we launched in 2014, they were one of the bigger social networks.
So a lot of our customers were big on Twitter. And honestly, when the change happened, I didn’t think it was going to affect us that much because I thought well, but the supplies to all the tools, but I was totally wrong about that. So we did lose a good chunk of revenue, much more than we expected.
The MeetEdgar team compensated by creating new features. But it was a tough year. Because in addition to the unexpected loss in revenue, Laura and Chris had also recently recovered from a disappointing failure. It was for a different startup, a project they had launched on the side of MeetEdgar, with the hope that it would eventually become their next successful company.
In the previous year, they had raised $300,000 for a dev ops tool – a deviation from Laura’s bootstrapper tendencies – but it hadn’t worked out.
LR: We launched and then we’re like, okay, what have we launched? Like the launch was a failure. We need to put way more money into this in order to have like any hope of product market fit. And so we had. We had put our own money into, you know, do most of it.
So we hadn’t really spent that money that we’d raised. And so I made the call. We had only spent a tiny amount of money. I was able to return 75% of people’s money back.
L: I’m curious how that felt, because I think a lot of people think of Laura Roeder as someone who’s had success after success, after success. And it’s easy to miss the hard parts. So how did It feel when you had to give that money. back? How did you approach it?
LR: I mean, I was the reason it was such a hard decision is because I really felt like I had to really let my investors down. And all of my investors were friends of mine.
So I was incredibly nervous about the reaction I was going to get, and I felt so. Like such a failure to have to go back and say, no, we’re just folding. And every single investor was incredibly kind about it. Every single investor was like, I think this was a brave decision, you know, let me know when you’re doing your next thing.
Laura and Chris put this experience behind them, and looked forward to a different kind of adventure: They decided to move to Chris’s hometown in the UK when their second child was born.
With their US-based MeetEdgar team working in a different time zone, this meant that Laura and Chris moved even more out of the business than they had been. / were forced to shift themselves even more out of the business.
LR: Once I moved to the UK, I could not work US business hours, because US business hours, are evening in the UK, which, you know, parents know that’s like that’s dinner time, bath, time bedtime. It’s like the worst time to try to get any work done.
It’s like prime kid time is that, you know, kind of four to eight o’clock window, which is exactly when like west coast working hours are. So when I moved to the UK, I really had to totally remove myself from the business.
And in retrospect, like maybe I should have just sold right then. But I kind of wanted to be able to hang onto it and keep, you know, have it around and earn the money from it while still owning it and not selling it entirely. So by the time I did sell, I was like very mentally prepared to let go of it.
L: How did you, how did you come to the conclusion then that 2021 was the right year?
LR: I just like, I wanted a big change. You know, the business hadn’t really had much growth for a few years and I was like, feeling very frustrated by that. So I was kind of looking at a lot of different changes. Like I explored restructuring the team. I’m like, maybe I want to build a new team in Europe. Like, do I want to dive back in?
Do I want to sell it? Like I was just, for whatever reason, I kind of woke up in 2021 saying I’m like, this feels stagnant and that’s not okay with me anymore. So I kind of explored some different avenues and then it became clear that selling the business was the one that was really the right fit for me.
Apart from selling her share of the B-School business course to her partner all those years ago, Laura had never been through a traditional acquisition. So she educated herself on her options.
LR: I knew it was gonna be a cash deal. I knew it was going to be a deal where they were going to, you know, take the product. And I wasn’t going to go along because that was a, a non-negotiable for me. I knew I needed to work with a company like that already had the cash sitting in the bank. So, and I knew these companies existed. Right? So like I knew that the right match for me was someone who’d be able to make this deal happen relatively quickly.
So she made a list of all the micro private equity firms that had bought SaaS companies similar to MeetEdgar, cold-emailed them, and pitched her way to multiple options.
LR: I had a few people interested, so I was able to like leverage that to move the LOI along. So basically, the company that gave me the LOI, which is of course the company that ended up acquiring me, I kind of told them, okay, I have some other interests, but if you guys will make an offer that I’m happy with, I’m willing to just stick with you instead.
And then that gave also me, it kind of point of negotiation where it’s like, okay, if I’m going to close off these other avenues, I need to make sure that I’m happy with your number.
The company that sent Laura and Chris the LOI, and ended up acquiring MeetEdgar, was Sureswift Capital, a private equity firm that specializes in Saas businesses.
L: How did you structure the deal so that you weren’t required to stay on for a transition period afterwards?
LR: So Sureswift does a mix. I think a lot of people do stay on but then a good amount of people don’t because they own a lot of companies. So they have their own team and lot of resources. For me, it was easier than for a lot of people because I had been out of the business for a long time. I had had a leadership team that was running the business without me. So I would think about — even if you’re still involved in your business, it’s important to get really clear on the jobs that you are doing. So like do you have primarily a sales role? Do you have a head of product role? Kind of thinking about what kind of talent that you’re’ filling in so can at least be clear about who will be needed to replace you. So you can say to your acquirer my role is head of product so to replace me that’s the role you’ll need to hire for or you can help them source that role. Or of course you can do that yourself. You know you can recognize that’s what I’m doing so if I want to get myself out of the business I need to find someone who’s really great at that.
L: What was due diligence like?
LR: Super easy. So, the thing about a company like MeetEdgar is all of our money is in Stripe all of our codes and get hub. You know what I mean? Like if you look at those two things, you are good to go. And even before official due diligence, we had given them a read only access to our Stripe account and some like read only access to get hub. So due diligence was easy.
L: And does having that financial windfall affects how you think about the future?
LR: So the big change for me is that I, I didn’t have to work for money anymore, which is, which is a pretty big change. And that was a goal that I had, like, I did have a specific number in mind that I’m like, okay, if we have this much in investments, like we can live a pretty, you know, excellent lifestyle, just off our earnings from investments.
What’s next for Laura and Chris? Well, they’ve already been working on their next project for years now. It’s a software tool for coaches and consultants called Paperbell.
And just like Laura and Chris did with MeetEdgar, they’re building it on their terms.
LR: So I don’t look back at Edgar and think, oh, I was so stressed. It was so hard. I sacrificed everything. Like I look back at Edgar and I’m like, I enjoy that. You know, certainly we had ups and downs. Certainly there were hard times, certainly everything wasn’t perfect.
But like, I liked the people that I worked with. I liked the product that we built. Like, you know, I still use it. I use it for Paperbell. I think it’s really good. I didn’t sacrifice myself.
LR: I remember reading on Twitter the other day, someone was like, entrepreneurship is like a knife fight and you know, a bunch of people retweet it. Like, yeah. Yes. And I was thinking I’m like, I literally cannot think of a time that felt like a knife fight, like yes, at times, but I would not say it was ever a knife fight.
Laura was anti-hustle BEFORE it was trendy. And yet she still found ways to create all sorts of opportunities.
Her story – and others we’ll tell here on this podcast – is proof that you CAN build a business sustainably, abiding by your own rules, parameters that make sense for YOUR life – and still find your way to a life-changing acquisition.
Be sure to join us next week, because we’ve got lots more inspiring stories of entrepreneurs who value doing things just a little bit differently.
Thanks for listening to They Got Acquired. I’m Lexi Grant, and if you want to learn about more business acquisitions like Laura’s, go to TheyGotAcquired.com and sign up for our email newsletter. We’re building all kinds of resources for founders, professionals in the M&A space, and anyone who’s interested in building and selling online businesses.
If you’d like to learn more about Laura, look to the show notes for all the ways you can connect.
This episode was produced, written and sound designed by Laura Boach. If you liked this story, please share it with a friend, and leave us a review on Spotify or Apple podcasts. We put a lot of time and effort into making this podcast, and every single share and review helps us get the word out.
Thanks again, and we’ll see you next time.