About this episode
Cheryl Contee co-founded Attentive.ly along with Rosalyn Lemieux. Together, the partners offered a Software as a Service (SaaS) app that helped non-for-profit organizations perform “social listening”. Their offering was used by organizations to identify and drive engagement among their influencers.
The business was a success from the start, but thirsty for cash, so when social media companies started to tighten down their privacy settings, Contee and Lemieux decided it was probably best that Attentive.ly find a new home inside a large organization.
The partners ran a process to find a buyer and ultimately sold to Blackbaud, a NASDAQ traded software and services business specializing in the non-profit world.
There’s lots to learn from Contee including how to:
- Lower churn in your SaaS app.
- Evaluate an M&A professional to sell your company.
- Leverage the power of relationships to find an acquirer.
- Get an acquirer to reveal their product roadmap.
- Ensure an acquirer doesn’t decide to compete with you.
- Think about the four types of financial outcomes from selling your business.
- Avoid the biggest regret Contee has about her exit.
Show Notes & Links
(28:37) Cheryl Contee: “it takes us about seven introductions to angels to get a white female startup founder funded. It takes on average 50, five-zero introductions to get a similar black or brown female funded. And that definitely rang true for me. I probably had to knock on at least that many doors to get our initial funding in”
(36:19) Cheryl Contee: “one of the things that they observed in working with us was that about a third of our clients and customers were actually also Blackbaud customers. And so they’re like there’s something here, they’re like our customers seem to want this. We have an even stronger sales engine than these guys do. We think we can actually do pretty well if we just kind of bring this in.”
(43:00) Cheryl Contee: “I will say, things are much, much better than they used to be. But the fact that my tech startup Attentive.ly was the first, as far as we know, with a black female founder on board in the US to be acquired by a NASDAQ traded company and that happened in 2016, that’s not great folks. We’re not doing great in terms of making sure that the cream is rising to the top and getting the support that it needs to really perform. Because here’s what we know now, John, every study out there and I challenge you to find one that doesn’t say this, every study says that diverse led firms are more innovative, they are more productive, they are more profitable. So if all you care about is money, the only thing you want to do is make the most money, if you want an ROI, you need DEI – diversity, equity and inclusion.”
(53:47) Cheryl Contee: “CrowdTangle is a software. It’s actually now part of Facebook’s Journalism Project, but basically it is software that analyzes social media activity and figures out who are the biggest influencers within and how is that moving over time”
(1:12:10) Cheryl Contee: “Mechanical Bull, it’s all about how you can achieve startup success. So that’s the tagline. And the reason I wrote it was because I was actually sitting with a friend not long after the acquisition who said, “Look, Cheryl, 17 more people have been to the moon than have done what you have done in America.” 17 Americans have been to the moon, one person has done what you have done in your body, right?”
(1:13:54) Cheryl Contee: “Do Big Things focuses on helping the world’s leading causes, campaigns, candidates, and corporations with mission driven initiatives to create change in this crazy world we’re living in today.”
(1:15:05) Cheryl Contee: “in my spare time I’m also the Chief Innovation Officer at The Impact Seat and The Impact Seat is a venture firm that is looking for and invest in the startups that are creating innovative solutions that solve the problems that the world is facing today. So we do that through of course investments in diverse led startups because diverse companies win, but we also do that through philanthropy and advocacy.”
About Our Guest
Cheryl Contee is The Impact Seat’s Chief Innovation Officer and award-winning Founder & Chair of the mission-driven digital agency Do Big Things. Cheryl is the Amazon bestselling author of Mechanical Bull: How You Can Achieve Startup Success. Passionate about creating new tech and new narrative for a new era, Cheryl uses her vast experience in startup entrepreneurship and community engagement to lead our portfolio companies and fund investments to success.
Previously, Cheryl was CEO of Fission Strategy, which brought Silicon Valley startup culture to the world’s leading causes and campaigns. She’s the co-founder of Attentive.ly, the first tech startup with a black female founder to be acquired by a NASDAQ company, the National Board Chair for Netroots Nation, a Senior Advisor for Astia, and the first portfolio company board member of New Media Ventures.