Internet companies present fast growth opportunities for innovative entrepreneurs.
With low overhead requirements and a rapidly expanding customer base, online businesses have few barriers to entry, and that makes them a perfect target for a startup or acquisition.
But online businesses also present unique challenges. Although it's easier to get into the market, it's harder to achieve robust profitability. Internet companies have historically struggled to generate enough revenue to attract investors and demonstrate value at the time of sale.
Selling an online business isn't impossible. In fact, hundreds of online businesses are sold every day. But to maximize your company's worth in the marketplace, you'll need to pay attention to typical business sale requirements as well as a few requirements that are unique to web-based businesses.
- Develop a proven revenue model. The first step toward a successful online business sale may also prove to be the most difficult – developing a proven revenue model. The dot com bubble happened largely because investors bought into the Internet's profit potential without paying adequate attention to revenue models. They won't make that mistake again. Online business buyers and acquirers usually want to a track record of revenue before they even think about making an offer.
- Position the business for acquisition. Like any other business model, online businesses are well advised to position themselves for an acquisition or purchase. For most companies, this means targeting a specific niche in the marketplace rather than trying to be all things to all consumers. If you haven't identified a market niche yet, assess your company's key strengths and leverage them to carve out (and dominate) a corner of the market.
- Let buyers find you. The most lucrative online business sales occur when the seller waits for prospective buyers to find them. If you have to search high and low for prospective buyers, the assumption is that your company isn't attractive and your perceived value will suffer. But if you've done everything else right, it's only a matter of time before qualified buyers start inquiring about the possibility of an acquisition or purchase.
- Be patient. Patience is the operative word when selling an online business. It may take months or even years for your company to become a legitimate acquisition target, not to mention the fact that the technology sector goes through the same ebbs and flows as any other industry. Once you've done everything you can possibly do to prepare your business for a sale or acquisition, sit tight and wait – for both the right buyer and the right market conditions.