Selling your mISV (the PeopleWords.com case)
Anthea has just acquired
PeopleWords.com. PeopleWords was my first mISV project. My efforts being invested in a more ambitious project (namely lokad.com), I was not able to push PeopleWords any further. Thus, selling was a natural option.
This post is a modest attempt to gather the few noticeable elements about this experience.
Auction websites do not work
There are places (ex: eBay, SitePoint) where you can sell websites through auctions. I tried, and in the end, it was pure waste of time. Basically, those auction websites are overwhelmed by people trying to sell turnkey websites (ex: web forums about some random topic). As a result, the only thing that comes into the price equation is your traffic; no matter if your website is driving Venture Capitalists or Paris Hilton fans. Unless, you are trying to sell some social networking web application, I would really suggest NOT to go for auction websites.
Contacting the right people might have work
Making direct proposals to the “right” people to buy your business might be a good option, especially if you are doing B2B. For PeopleWords, the task was looking time consuming (there are too many big translation agencies out there). Thus, I did not even tried that one. Although, I think this approach could have been effective nonetheless (but I can’t tell for sure).
Putting a “For Sale” sign on your website does work
I have been hesitating one month about putting a “For Sale” sign on the front page of PeopleWords. I was wrong to hesitate, the sign proved to be very effective. I was wondering if the sign could negatively impact the business that I was precisely trying to sale. It turned out that the sign had no tangible effect on the business operations. Yet, within a few weeks, I had received half-a-dozen of offers from people that seemed to be genuinely interested.
You do not sell a mISV, you sell a business plan
Being the sole author of PeopleWords, the main concern of the potential buyers was to know whether PeopleWords had any value without its founder (i.e. myself). At this point, I was no more selling a website, but I was selling a business plan tailored to the profile of the potential buyer. Basically, two points that had to be detailed were: PeopleWords can be maintained and extended without me - PeopleWords can leveraged through the buyer business (and vice-versa).