For this week’s episode of Exit Stories, host Kevin Mosley meets Tyson Nargassans, founder of Saylent Technologies and CEO for over 15 years until the company was acquired by MeridianLink this year for $37 million.
Nargasssans’ path to Saylent, which created data management and visualization software for banks in an SaaS B2B model, began as he led ATM channel management software company eClassicSystems’ sales and marketing from 1999 through its acquisition in 2006. Nargassans is a relative newcomer to the Triangle, having spent most of his career in Boston.
Thanks as always to Vaco, this season’s Exit Stories sponsor.
Here are three key takeaways from this week’s episode:
- Market awareness leads to successful adaptations: Under Nargassans, Saylent weathered two “100-year events”—the 2008 financial crisis and the pandemic—and he said that awareness of both crises allowed him to make the best possible decisions. For example, when Nargassans watched from his living room TV as the housing market plummeted, he knew the effect on banks would be disastrous. Saylent pivoted to a channel-based model that offered its services through partnerships with large payment providers, and quickly its revenue transitioned almost entirely to these partnerships. “The next thing you know, the whole business was a channel business,” Nargassans said. “I mean, 90% of our revenue at exit was basically through large providers.” (10:00)
- Nargassans gives listeners some of the best business advice he ever got: Don’t think of your business as your baby, think of your capital partners as your spouse. “You as a founder need to think of your capital partners like you would your wife or partner,” he said. “At the end of the day, you’re going to be married to them for as long as that business is together, so ask the right questions. ‘How much capital are you going to reserve for the investment? What would cause you to invest more? What is your thesis for this process?’ Make sure you’re aligned.” When you “court” your VC partners and know exactly what you’re getting into, you can be more sure that a deal is right for your company. (19:24)
- Stop worrying about an exit, stop wallowing in what could have been, and keep building your business. 2017 was a hard year for Nargassans. He and his board had gotten excited about a big partnership worth $2 million of annual revenue, but that ultimately fell through under new management at the other company on the same day his mother started chemotherapy. Nargassans found himself thinking about what Saylent could have been, but he had to take a step back and look at what it could be. “You have to be able to find the resilience to go on.,” Nargassans said. “There is no other choice, unless you’re going to fold up shop. I had to realize we still had great customers, we still had good opportunities.” This difficult period ultimately led Nargassans to pivot Saylent once again, from a channel-based business model to a data-centric platform focused on what banks wanted, a move that he said ultimately led to their successful exit. (29:40)
You can listen (and subscribe!) to the episode below: