For many creatives, the first foray into running a business is through freelancing. Whether you’re a writer, illustrator or developer, you can set up shop quickly and make a solid living selling services directly to clients.
Not many service providers take that kind of business to an exit — but that’s what DJ-turned-web developer Mischa Sigtermans did.
After five years as an accidental founder of his web design agency, Pixelstart, Sigtermans sold for six figures and started his second company at 27 years old.
This DJ sold his web agency to focus on SaaS
Sigtermans stumbled into web design, development and hosting out of necessity. He’d been performing as a DJ since he was a teenager at school events and birthday parties.
When he started playing in clubs around his home in Haarlem, North Holland, in the Netherlands, he needed a website to be more discoverable online.
“I searched the internet on building a website and stumbled upon WordPress like many of us did,” Sigtermans wrote in a post about the acquisition. “That same evening I was working on my first website, and I enjoyed it a lot.”
Soon after, a friend asked Sigtermans to build a website for him. “I remember how excited I was, taking my first steps as an entrepreneur by publishing a website meant for someone else,” he wrote.
In January 2016, he officially launched Pixelstart, offering web design to music and entertainment industry clients on the side of his full-time job as a marketing and sales agent for a Dutch web-hosting company. By August 2017, he was earning enough through client work to leave his job and go full time with Pixelstart.
“But,” Sigtermans wrote, “it didn’t take long until I realized I was fooling myself. I needed help.”
Pixelstart grew fast — up to an average $10,000 monthly revenue and more than 100 hosted sites through his partner, Presslabs. Sigtermans was often mired in web hosting issues and 24/7 customer service. He considered hiring and tried a few contractors, but wasn’t happy with their work.
“I quickly realized that I’m a control freak when handing out work that I tend to do myself,” he wrote in his post.
So Sigtermans stuck to his company-of-one approach — and realized the agency wasn’t his future. ”Working for clients wasn’t scalable enough,” he told They Got Acquired. “I wanted to switch to SaaS.”
Sigternmans saw SaaS, or software as a service, as more scalable than a typical services business because he would no longer be limited by the amount of work he can complete in a day. A SaaS model allows him to build a single product that simultaneously serves hundreds or thousands of customers.
Eager to sell Pixelstart, he sought out buyers looking to expand their client base. He spoke with about a dozen interested companies and narrowed it down to two potential buyers.
Sigtermans then spent four months negotiating. Once he landed on a buyer, it took two more months to finalize the sale before all clients migrated to the buyer on Jan. 1, 2021.
To ensure a smooth transition, Sigtermans made himself available for a few months after the sale to address client concerns, but he was no longer hands-on in the day-to-day work.
The exit gave Sigtermans the time and resources he needed to make the move into SaaS. He’s now building Stagent, an artist management software, and sharing his method for working via The Five Projects Rule.