Exit Stories: Stay in Your Lane, But Don’t Stay There Alone

This week on Exit Stories, host Kevin Mosley welcomes Paolo DiVincenzo, an ecommerce and adtech entrepreneur from ventures including Exactly, Arcametrics, and Windsor Circle. Most recently, DiVincenzo has co-founded Basis State, a Triangle-based company that helps sub-scale software startups find exits. (We profiled Basis State in 2019.)

He brings his vast experience from both his own exits and his recent advising days to the Exit Stories table.

Here are three key takeaways from this episode:

  1. While it may be tempting when you’re trying to stay lean, don’t go at the startup game alone. Even though Exactly was a profitable business, DiVincenzo struggled to see a good exit strategy because as the sole executive he was dealing with all of the big-picture business decisions himself. A complementary but still-able-to-compromise leadership perspective from someone else, he said, is crucial to finding successful paths in unclear times, and has been an important concern for him since that exit. “Ever since then I’ve always said, ‘Whatever I do, I need somebody to partner with—even when it’s advisors—just somebody to sort of get me out of my own head,” DiVincenzo said. “If you’re running it all yourself, you sort of get trapped in your own flaws.” (9:35)
  2. Staying in your lane helps you finish the course when it comes to comparing yourself with competitors. When you’re a small startup in a big industry pond, don’t play the comparison game—it will only drag you down. This is a piece of advice that Mosely said he gives to Jurassic’s own businesses. “If you can execute, if you have a good market strategy, it doesn’t have to be in comparison to anyone else,” Mosley said. “If you do things right, and treat people right, and you have a good product that people find value in, it almost doesn’t matter what your competitor has.” (15:31)
  3. Often on Exit Stories, we hear founders talk about how important it is to get legal advice involved as early as possible in the acquisition process, Well, DiVincenzo offers a different opinion. He said for his exit with ServerBid, being able to talk out business terms like retained equity, price and path forward for employees before any paperwork was set in motion made the entire exit process smoother. “We didn’t involve the lawyers until the very final steps, which is something I always advise,” DiVincenzo said. “Because when you’re talking business terms, get those settled first between the CEOs before you start working on the paperwork. We knew to do that, and it was one of the most efficient processes I’ve ever been through.” (28:20)

Thank you again to Vaco for sponsoring this season of Exit Stories. You can listen (and subscribe!) to the episode below, and we’ll see you next week!