Corum’s success in helping CEOs achieve an optimal sale of their technology company is based in large part on the experience and acumen of it dealmakers ‒ former CEOs who have built and sold their own tech companies. One of those dealmakers is Corum Vice President Rob Wellman, a highly experienced and accomplished entrepreneur who has acquired eight companies during his career and successfully sold four. His last sale was Social5, a social media management company that Wellman founded in 2012. With Corum's assistance and guidance, Wellman sold the company in 2022 to Pluribus Technologies, a Canadian acquirer of profitable business-to-business software companies. In 2023, Wellman joined Corum’s team of dealmakers.

Wellman was recently interviewed during a Corum event. Here are some of his insights.

Start early

Wellman's experience has taught him the advantages of getting involved early in an M&A process. In particular, entering a disciplined M&A process such as Corum's highly successful eight-step M&A process provides a seller many benefits ‒ even if it doesn't result in a sale. Wellman points out, "Even if you don't sell, one of the great benefits is potential partnerships that you could build through the process." In fact, Wellman sought Corum's assistance in selling Social5, but it did not initially result in a sale. The year was 2019, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and buyers were not very receptive to acquiring small social media companies such as Social5. As a result, Wellman took advantage of Corum's hiatus program, enabling to him to take a break and return to the market when conditions were more favorable for a sale. Those conditions improved in 2021, and Wellman returned to the market and to Corum as a client. That ultimately resulted in a highly attractive sale of the company. Even though that first entry into the process didn’t result in a sale, Wellman says it did generate a number of business partnerships that are still in place for Social5.

Another benefit that can result from an early entry into the process is pinpointing areas that need to improve for a seller to make a strong acquisition case to a buyer. The initial step in Corum's process prepares a seller to make that case by identifying the key questions and requirements that a buyer would have. In essence, Corum puts itself in the shoes of buyers to help sellers ensure that they have the best possible presentation and messaging. Wellman puts it this way: "By starting early, you figure out some of the things that might need to be tweaked, whether it's the cap table for the owners, whether it's the way you do your minutes to make sure you're buttoned up and up to speed, or it simply might be helping you refocus on where the greatest potential is in an exit."

And last, starting early can broaden a seller's perspective. Another element of Corum's M&A process is a global search for potential buyers. Often that global search discovers buyers in various niches and geographies that the seller had not considered. Wellman says the process can open a seller’s eyes to encompass potential buyers in other industries or other countries. For instance, he says, "Think about a company that might be trying to enter into the U.S. market and your company could be the foundation for that entry.  Thinking that way can broaden your possibilities."

Don't be late to the party

Wellman cautions that in today's highly dynamic market, one rife with consolidation, you don't want to be late to the party. He likens it to a high school dance. He says, "When the last slow song starts, you'll look eager if you ask someone to dance too early. But if you wait too long, there may be noone to dance with. And I think it's similar to the exit process." The point is that in a consolidating market, it's important to pursue an exit as early as possible, otherwise consolidation may have progressed too far to find an interested and suitable partner or acquirer.

Get assistance from an experienced advisor

If he had to do it all over again, Wellman wishes he had engaged with Corum in his three exits prior to the Social5 sale. Wellman's first exit was in 1999 when he sold high availability software company Vinca Corporation to storage software product developer Legato Systems, for $94 million. Then as Executive VP of Corporate Development at Altiris, a company that provides service-oriented management software, he was instrumental in selling the company in 2007 to security software company Symantec for $830 million. And as CEO of Printelligent, a provider of managed print services, Wellman sold the company in 2011 to technology giant Hewlett-Packard for an undisclosed amount.

Although Wellman says all three were good exits, he realizes that if he had used Corum as an advisor, the outcomes would have been even better. In particular, he points out that Corum's global search process would have brought more potential buyers to the table. Wellman’s three previous exits involved a minimal number of potential buyers.  “Corum's process would have broadened the search to help us find other potential buyers. And that would have been so valuable to me," Wellman says. He adds, "What Corum is great at is the research to expand the possibilities of the exit and to create a feeding frenzy which will drive up the shareholder value and the exit possibilities. It allows the owner to stay more grounded and stay patient through the process." And that patience enables an owner to reject the first offer because it's likely not going to be an optimal offer, even though it may be very good.

Enjoy the benefits of the sale

Wellman is a good example of enjoying life after the sale of a company. After successfully selling Social5 a few years ago, he's enjoying the freedom and flexibility that sale afforded him. In addition, Wellman and his wife set up a foundation that gives them intrinsic reward and in Wellman’s words, "The opportunity to do some good." Wellman is also enjoying more family time, being a grandpa and watching the last of his children graduate from high school. He says he will still use his knowledge and experience to advise some businesses, but he welcomes the added freedom and the beginning of a good new chapter in his life.