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Building a Better Mousetrap: Tools and Processes for Selling A Company

It is a fact of life for many start-ups that they must sell part of their company (i.e., fund raising) in order to have enough capital to grow the company to one day successfully exit the market. The unfortunate side effect of this necessity is that it places a large burden on start-ups to respond to information requests from potential buyers which then forces employees to step away from their day jobs to formulate responses. While it has been the norm to respond to such requests using manual review of contracts and other information sources, the increasingly competitive funding market has resulted in growing time pressure for all participants of start-up purchasing endeavours. Furthermore, current technological offerings often fall short of providing optimal support to the start-up and the buyer which continues to reinforce a process that is often cumbersome and chaotic.

In this work, we present an analysis of 19 interviews of regular participants on both sides of the sales process finding that the main pain points revolve around document management, request tracking, internal and external collaboration. Based upon this analysis, we describe an early-stage prototype to investigate a possible solution for efficient handling of buyers’ information requests. We recruited 12 participants to test this prototype and found that the main issue was misalignment between language in the tool and participants’ mental models. From these two sets of analyses, we present potential implications and considerations for building tools for infrequent but high-risk and high-reward information tasks.

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