"...anyone who is looking to sell their business to request a right of refusal in your agreement." By Nellie Akalp (Co-Founder & CEO, CorpNet)
My husband and I started thinking about starting MyCorporation when we were in law school. This was 1997 and not many companies were on the Internet yet. This was the time of Netscape and Lycos. Yet we saw an opportunity to help people incorporate their businesses over the Internet.
So we registered a domain name for MyCorporation.com (we actually had to send a check for $100 to Earthlink to register the domain name) and started publishing a website. I still remember our first call; it was Tom from Oregon. He was looking to form an Oregon Corporation. We actually had no idea how to incorporate in Oregon, but had to learn fast. Then came the next call, and the next…
Things moved incredibly quickly. My husband Phil left for two months to take the bar exam while I ran the business. He returned to find four workstations in our living room instead of our couches and television. In fact, I hired three of my fellow law school friends to help answer phone calls and process orders.
It was then that I really grasped the potential of the Internet. In our case, small business owners were looking for simpler, more affordable ways to incorporate their business – and the Internet was breaking down geographic barriers.
Many entrepreneurs have their exit strategy mapped out before they begin. But in all honesty, I didn’t have an exit strategy for MyCorporation. In March 2005, Intuit approached us on what seemed to be a simple strategic partnership arrangement. The discussions quickly turned into an acquisition offer. Even at this point, I wasn’t thinking ‘sell’. However, when the Intuit team walked up to a whiteboard in our conference room and wrote the number on the board, the offer was too good to resist.
I loved my job and assumed I’d be staying on to manage the business as part of Intuit. But, acquisitions can be tricky things and as I stayed, things became different post acquisition. My job lost that entrepreneurial spirit, which has always driven me to look forward to Monday morning. And I knew that it was time to leave.
So, there my husband and I were. We finally had the freedom to travel, spend time with our children, and dream up other business ideas. Never in a million years did I think we would ever get back into the same business as MyCorporation. Yet my husband and I are both entrepreneurs by nature. I love helping other entrepreneurs. I love the concept of the small business. And I love giving small business owners access to resources they might not be able to afford otherwise. So, in 2009, we started all over again with CorpNet, our latest (and last?) filing service.
There are a few things I learned in the process of building and selling MyCorporation.com.
First, I’d advise anyone who is looking to sell their business to request a right of refusal in your agreement. That’s not to imply that I regret selling MyCorporation, but you never know what will happen. Things can move pretty quickly once the process starts, so make sure you take a step back, run a gut check, and reflect on what’s happening.
And always, trust your instincts.
Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Nellie Akalp is the Co-Founder and CEO of CorpNet, an online legal document filing service that assists entrepreneurs in incorporating their new business ventures. She founded her MyCorporation.com with her husband in 1997 (sold to Intuit in 2005). She is a passionate entrepreneur, small business advocate and mother of four. Through their various business ventures together, Nellie has formed more than 100,000 corporations and LLCs across the U.S. Follow her on Twitter at @corpnetnellie.