As a 19-year-old, Andrej Ilisin loved sports gambling and the competition that basketball offered.
But when he injured his shoulder in 2007, his professional basketball aspirations were dashed and he pondered what was next. He educated himself on how to tie together his affinity for gambling and entrepreneurship, and launched a short-lived gambling website as a side hustle that earned him some cash via monthly subscriptions.
“I finally had my ‘A-ha!’ moment. I learned that you could make websites and sell something on them,” Ilisin wrote on his personal site. “I instantly started researching on how to make money online, how to create a website, etc. I was hooked immediately.”
That experience ultimately led him on a path to start Sharp Capital, a holding company for three businesses focused on online business growth and acquisitions. The company was acquired for 7 figures in 2022 by entrepreneur Daniel Buetler.
Ilisin’s journey to launching Sharp Capital
Before launching Sharp Capital — and in the early days of the Internet — Ilisin invested time into learning search engine optimization (SEO) and conversion rate optimization (CRO). Ilisin applied his learnings to his father’s hardwood flooring business, which he worked for between 2010 and 2012.
“Two months later and my dad was getting 5-10 calls per day and managed to close 50% of them,” he wrote. “The business started booming, so money wasn’t an issue anymore. Yet, I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy because I hated the physical work and I wasn’t my own boss.”
In 2012, he moved on to apply his SEO and CRO skills toward his own businesses. Over the next seven years, he acquired and sold several sites and began a few affiliate marketing businesses before starting Sharp Capital in 2019.
The businesses catered to a similar audience but each targeted entrepreneurs at different stages of their journey.
“I started very focused and niched down to a level where my productized service had the best value proposition and we were able to overdeliver for every client,” Ilisin told They Got Acquired. “That led to us expanding to other niches within our category — hence other companies.”
He first started with Alpha, a content site (it’s no longer live) that helped people who are interested in starting an online business. Alpha’s readers frequently reached out about resources for buying and selling businesses, which prompted the launch of the Investors Club marketplace, which allows entrepreneurs to sell or acquire online companies. BuzzLogic was the final piece in Sharp Capital and offered companies SEO and CRO tools to grow their businesses.
Ilisin’s extensive experience in SEO and content helped him quickly establish the brands. Sharp Capital’s companies also benefited from the audience that Ilisin cultivated with a previous business — BrandBuilders — he built and sold.
I’ve been heavily involved with content sites since 2008, so creating all the systems and making sure that the execution of the service itself was relatively ‘easy,’” he said. “When it comes to marketing and growth, I was lucky enough to have a solid base audience from my previous exit (brandbuilders.io) so I leveraged that into giving Alpha that initial marketing push.”
How Ilisin sold Sharp Capital for 7figures
In 2021, Sharp Capital pulled in $1.5 million in annual revenue by serving entrepreneurs at different stages of growth, which included about $400,000 in seller’s discretionary earnings, Ilison said. By 2022, the company had 12 full-time employees, about 20 contractors and 23,000 people on its email list.
As the companies grew, Ilisin encountered a common conundrum founders face: how to scale a team. Fortunately, that’s where his business partner, Jason Burnworth, shined.
“He was the operations guy and was able to hire slow and fire fast,” Ilisin said. “It was really challenging to scale from five to 10 employees, but the biggest jump was from 15 to 30 FTE [equivalent]s. We had to incorporate a level of middle management to avoid being spread too thin.”
Asked how he balanced the operation of three companies at once, Ilisin conceded it was overwhelming at times but that his partner helped him stay “sane.”
“I’m an entrepreneur. I like to move fast, have lots of ideas, love to sell and set up sales funnels,” Ilisin said. “I hate creating SOPs, managing people, and paperwork. My business partner loves all of that but doesn’t really care about the stuff I’m good at, so it was a perfect match. Looking back at it, we made lots of hiring mistakes that turned out to be very expensive not just monetarily. The main takeaway from all of that would be to hire slow, fire very fast and/or partner up with someone who has a complementary skillset to yours — because it’s very rare to be good at everything that’s required to start, organize, run, and then scale your business.”
In 2022, Ilisin was feeling burned out with operating a large team and several growing brands. He’d been involved in the online business industry for 13 years and needed a change.
“I just wanted to pivot to something completely different — no clients, no reports, no employees,” he said.
He began tapping his network to find a buyer for Sharp Capital, and connected with Swiss entrepreneur Daniel Buetler. Buetler made a low- to mid-7 figure offer for Sharp Capital, and the deal was closed within a month, Ilisin said.
The sale freed Ilisin to spend time with family and take on a new challenge, reviving an e-commerce brand, MMAWarehouse.com.
Ilisin recommends that prospective sellers not exit their business too soon. Ensure that your firm is at its prime, and then seek out buyers, he said.
“Don’t sell before you hit a plateau,” he said. “Try everything you can to maximize your numbers before you decide to sell. First go to your network and only then give brokers a call.”