After Alexis Grant sold her second media company, she knew she wanted her third business to speak to a gap she discovered through her own recent experience — resources for founders like her to navigate the acquisition process.
She launched They Got Acquired in early 2022. It’s a content company specializing in telling the stories of founders who sell their online businesses for less than $50 million. Alexis planned to generate revenue through some minimal sponsorships and advertising while she built the company toward a larger goal — creating a database to provide sellers with valuable insights on the acquisition market. But instead, she found a bigger-than-expected opportunity for developing sponsorships in this unique niche.
Alexis joined me for an episode of How I Built It where we talked about starting They Got Acquired and the reasons this growing business is well-positioned for sponsorship opportunities. Here are some of the key takeaways from our conversation:
- Alexis defined the mission and developed a streamlined content strategy for They Got Acquired by mining her own pain points in the acquisition process.
- Niche content attracts sponsors who don’t need millions of downloads to reach their potential customers. Be ready to pitch them.
- Successful partnerships are built on trust, which Alexis establishes by hosting the podcast, They Got Acquired, and by publicly sharing the journey of building her previous content companies.
The backstory: Establishing a niche for They Got Acquired
Alexis started her career as a newspaper reporter, but when she started taking on freelance content work, she discovered how much she loved being her own boss. She turned that freelance work into a small content agency that provided blog-management services for business clients.
One of those clients — a personal finance media company called The Penny Hoarder — contracted more and more articles from Alexis’ agency over time. Then one day, the founder of The Penny Hoarder offered to buy Alexis’s company and keep her on as head of the content division.
Like a lot of first-time sellers, Alexis was caught off guard. She had been focusing on building her business, not even considering the possibility of selling. And then she abruptly discovered the world of small business acquisitions. It is a bit of a black box — most deals are private and it’s extremely difficult to find information or advice.
“There’s a huge learning curve,” she says. “And you want to learn a lot because you want to sell [your business] for as much as you can. So I think that’s the point when a lot of people will go looking for resources — when they realize they need it.”
To answer the need for these resources, Alexis focused They Got Acquired on a very specific part of the acquisition market.
“If you follow traditional mainstream publications or tech publications, they will cover the huge acquisitions, the ones we all hear about. But no one was covering the much smaller ones,” she says. “As someone who has sold a business in that range, I want to see other examples of people who are doing that. And I think that the advice I can hear from those types of entrepreneurs is more relevant to building my business.”
With a mission in place, Alexis developed a streamlined, three-pronged content strategy:
- The podcast: highly-produced narrative show that takes a deep dive into the stories of founders who sold their companies
- Seller profiles: Shorter, meticulously researched articles that outline the details of an acquisition
- Resource articles: Longer, actionable articles, such as a step-by-step guide to selling your startup
The written content is published to the website four times a week and appears in a weekly newsletter — which is about to become twice-weekly, thanks to an abundance of sponsors.
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Harnessing niche content to drive sponsorships
When Alexis launched They Got Acquired, she expected advertising and sponsorships to be a minimal part of the monetization strategy, but she quickly realized that the niche she carved out was rife with opportunity.
With more sponsors —and more content— than anticipated, Alexis plans to use sponsorship revenue to cover production costs of the second season of the podcast and to experiment with moving her weekly newsletter to a twice-weekly frequency.
Some of They Got Acquired’s initial sponsors came from Alexis’s network, but now, most are people who are interested in what the business is doing.
When she launched the sponsorship opportunity, the newsletter only had about 1,000 subscribers. So it was the niche — not the size of the audience — that was attractive to businesses.
“The stuff that we’re writing about, there’s not a lot of content shops that focus on this,” Alexis says. “So the people who want to reach this audience, they don’t have a ton of avenues for doing that.”
- Prepare for new sponsors. Alexis created a simple Google Doc that includes, as she words it, “Here’s who we are. Here’s how many subscribers we have. Here’s what we can offer. Here’s what you get. And here’s how much it costs.”
- Ask for what your product is worth, and don’t be afraid that you’re asking for too much — if they say no, you can always negotiate down.
Strengthening your business by building trust
The other key to attracting sponsors — and laying the foundation for the future monetization of the They Got Acquired database — is building trust.
For Alexis, part of that trust comes from her professional journey. She has been very public about launching, growing, and selling two previous companies: the agency that was “acquihired” by personal finance website, The Penny Hoarder, and a side-project-turned-six-figure-deal called The Write Life.
“[The sponsors] knew what I was up to,” she says. “They knew what my approach was when I asked them, and they trusted that we would do a good job.”
The other big contributor to trust is the They Got Acquired podcast, which gives potential sponsors and future customers an opportunity to hear Alexis and get a sense for her and the brand.
Alexis does not have a background in public speaking and was not originally planning to host the podcast, but after talking to her producer, she realized that hosting was an important way to help listeners put a name to the brand.
“We don’t have a great way for readers to interact with us except by replying to the newsletter,” she says. “Eventually, I hope we’ll have some sort of community. But until then, I want them to have another way that they can learn that we’re legit, we have expertise, and they can trust us.”
Alexis’s founder story is an inspiring example of the potential that lies at the intersection of purposeful niche content and the trust that develops over time. I can’t wait to see what new opportunities she and the team at They Got Acquired uncover next.