Last Thursday, I started a new gig as VP of Product for Axial. Given that the company is both B2B and has a target market largely outside of tech, I’m guessing that most people have not heard of it. Axial is a 100-person startup that runs an online network for connecting business owners who want to sell or raise equity/debt for their business with both the buyside and advisors who can help them.
My eclectic background has given me a front-row seat to the challenges involved. I’ve sold 3 companies and know the challenges involved in fundraising. I’ve done both buyside and sellside work as an investment banker at Broadview/Jefferies. I saw my father-in-law puzzle over what to do with his company, built on an invention he created as a physics professor, when he wanted to retire and neither of his children were going to take it over.
Most people don’t start a company to flip it. They have an idea and a passion. They take a risk. They build something out of nothing. Maybe they build an auto parts manufacturer. Maybe a solar power installation business. Even a new mop, for those of you who watched the movie Joy. Entrepreneurs spend years fighting headwinds, clawing opportunity from the market.
When they need growth capital, where do they go? When it comes time to take some economic value off the table in the form of a partial or total sale, where do they turn? Often times, their retirement plan *is* their company. They don’t know who might be interested on the buyside. They don’t know how to value their business. They don’t know who can advise them throughout the process. And they are too busy running their business to have time for anyone who isn’t 100% solid and relevant.
There is so much confusion and information inefficiency out there. The opportunity to streamline the space and dramatically help entrepreneurs and the people who want to back them is very real.
As an aside, it is not about disintermediating bankers and advisors. Having been one (and having sold a business where the buyside was represented by an M&A banker), I know the value they offer in terms of negotiating, positioning, and keeping a good deal from falling apart.
You might be able to tell that this opportunity really scratches my itch to help fellow entrepreneurs (which is why I mentor, why I ran the lean startup meetup for 5 years, and why I wrote Talking to Humans and gave it away for free).
The problem space clearly interests me. The other side is that I’ve spent the last 5 years really pushing my understanding of how to run a good product process, how to run cross-functional teams, and how to effectively blend lean, agile, and design thinking. I had the benefit of learning from some incredibly smart people at Neo and our surrounding family. My frustration at Neo was that all of our teams were going in different directions (an inevitability in a consulting organization). It is a pleasure to be back “in house.” I’m looking forward to having teams all going in the same direction.
Axial has accomplished a lot so far with a great founder-CEO and solid backers like First Round, Redpoint and Comcast Capital, but they are still young in terms of what can truly be accomplished.
So there you go. Here’s to an amazing next chapter. I would be remiss if I did not say that I’m looking for PM and UX talent to join me on this ride. You can check out our job openings here.