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March 28, 2022

Top 50 Marketer Prantik Mazumdar On Strategies That Increase Enterprise Value (#111)

Top 50 Marketer Prantik Mazumdar On Strategies That Increase Enterprise Value (#111)

Prantik Mazumdar is an entrepreneur and venture investor and acts as a digital transformation catalyst in organizations to drive sustainable change and impact. He started his entrepreneurial journey with Happy Marketer in 2011 where he spent a decade building and scaling up one of the best and most awarded independent digital marketing services firm in the region that served brands like Standard Chartered Bank, Coffee, Bean and Tea Leaf, Starbucks. Kimberly Clark. Property Guru, StarHub, Kaplan, and INSEAD amongst many of his prestigious clients.

In February 2019, Prantik had a successful exit when Happy Marketer was sold to an American digital enterprise called Merkle which is part of Dentsu international the largest Japanese advertising conglomerate. He is currently serving as the managing director of the CXM Group at Dentsu Singapore.

He is a regular columnist for Marketing Magazine, Campaign Asia. Economic Times and Business Times on all things digital transformation and marketing, and has trained over 500 entrepreneurs in the region on this subject in 2015, Prantik was recognized as one of the top 50 most influential marketers in the world.

 Apart from his corporate role he is an active angel and venture investor, mentor advisor, and speaker through organizations like Quest Ventures, Thai Singapore. Health X Capital, NUS Angel Ventures and is an entrepreneur in residence at INSEAD.

Outside of work Prantik is an avid cricketer, enjoys political discourse is intrigued by behavioral economics, and is enjoying parenting a four-year-old toddler.


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This podcast is brought to you by Deep Wealth. 

Your liquidity event is the most important financial transaction of your life. You have one chance to get it right, and you better make it count. 

But unfortunately, up to 90% of liquidity events fail. Think about all that time, money and effort wasted. Of the "successful" liquidity events, most business owners leave 50% to over 100% of their deal value in the buyer's pocket and don't even know it.

Our founders said "no" to a 7-figure offer and "yes" to a 9-figure offer less than two years later. 

Don't become a statistic and make the fatal mistake of believing that the skills that built your business are the same ones for your liquidity event. 

After all, how can you master something you've never done before? 

Are you leaving millions on the table? 

Learn how the 90-day Deep Wealth Experience and our 9-step roadmap helps you capture the maximum value for your liquidity event.  

Click here to book your free exploratory strategy session.

Enjoy the interview!

Deep Wealth LINKS FOR THIS EPISODE

The Deep Wealth Experience

FREE Deep Wealth eBook on Why You Suck At Selling Your Business And What You Can Do About It (Today)

Book Your FREE Deep Wealth Strategy Call

 

Did you enjoy this episode of The Sell My Business Podcast? 

Please leave a review. Reviews help me reach new listeners, grow the show, and continue to create content that you'll enjoy.

Please click here to leave a review on The Sell My Business Podcast.

 

This podcast is brought to you by Deep Wealth. 

Your liquidity event is the most important financial transaction of your life. You have one chance to get it right, and you better make it count. 

But unfortunately, up to 90% of liquidity events fail. Think about all that time, money and effort wasted. Of the "successful" liquidity events, most business owners leave 50% to over 100% of their deal value in the buyer's pocket and don't even know it.

Our founders said "no" to a 7-figure offer and "yes" to a 9-figure offer less than two years later. 

Don't become a statistic and make the fatal mistake of believing that the skills that built your business are the same ones for your liquidity event. 

After all, how can you master something you've never done before? 

Are you leaving millions on the table? 

Learn how the 90-day Deep Wealth Experience and our 9-step roadmap helps you capture the maximum value for your liquidity event.  

Click here to book your free exploratory strategy session.

Enjoy the interview!

Transcript

[00:00] Introduction Welcome to the Sell My Business Podcast. I'm your host Jeffrey Feldberg. 

This podcast is brought to you by Deep Wealth and the 90-day Deep Wealth Experience. 

Your liquidity event is the largest and most important financial transaction of your life. 

But unfortunately, up to 90% of liquidity events fail. Think about all that time, money and effort wasted. Of the "successful" liquidity events, most business owners leave anywhere from 50% to over 100% of their deal value in the buyer's pocket and don't even know it.

I should know. I said no to a seven-figure offer and yes, to mastering the art and science of a liquidity event. Two years later, I said yes to a different buyer with a nine-figure offer. 

Are you thinking about an exit or liquidity event? 

If you believe that you either don't have the time or you'll prepare closer to your liquidity event, think again. 

Don't become a statistic and make the fatal mistake of believing that the skills that built your business are the same ones for your liquidity event. 

After all, how can you master something you've never done before? 

Let the 90-day Deep Wealth Experience and our nine-step roadmap of preparation help you capture the maximum value for your liquidity event. 

At the end of this episode, take a moment to hear from business owners, just like you, who went through the Deep Wealth Experience. 

[00:01:44] Jeffrey Feldberg: Prantik Mazumdar is an entrepreneur and venture investor and acts as a digital transformation catalyst in organizations to drive sustainable change and impact. After pursuing a major in computer engineering and a minor in technopreneurship from the National University of Singapore, he kicked started his career with the Singapore government to drive international trade promotion for the island state. He started his entrepreneurial journey with Happy Marketer in 2011. where he spent a decade building and scaling up one of the best and most awarded independent digital marketing services firm in the region that served brands like Standard Chartered Bank, Income. Great Eastern Life, Royal Brunei Airlines, Coffee, Bean and Tea Leaf, Starbucks. Ping An Grab, Kimberly Clark. Property Guru, StarHub, Singtel, Nanyang business school, Kaplan, and INSEAD amongst many of his prestigious clients.

In February 2019, Prantik had a successful exit when Happy Marketer was sold to an American digital enterprise called Merkle which is part of Dentsu international the largest Japanese advertising conglomerate. He is currently serving as the managing director of the CXM Group at Dentsu Singapore.

He is a regular columnist for Marketing Magazine, Campaign Asia. Economic Times and Business Times on all things digital transformation and marketing, and has trained over 500 entrepreneurs in the region on this subject in 2015, Prantik was recognized as one of the top 50 most influential marketers in the world.

 Apart from his corporate role he is an active angel and venture investor, mentor advisor, and speaker through organizations like Quest Ventures, Thai Singapore. Health X Capital, NUS Angel Ventures and is an entrepreneur in residence at INSEAD.

Outside of work Prantik is an avid cricketer, enjoys political discourse is intrigued by behavioral economics, and is enjoying parenting a four-year-old toddler.

Welcome to The Sell My Business Podcast. And as always, I have a terrific guest lined up for you. And this is a story of stories that you're going to want to hear, but I'm not going to get ahead of myself. Prantik, so delighted to have you here. You know, there's always a story behind the story. What's your story? What got you to where you are today?

[00:04:25] Prantik Mazumdar: Firstly, Thank you, Jeffrey, and hello to everyone else. Indeed, a pleasure to be on this wonderful podcast. I'll probably give you a quick story of my journey so far, an overview of where it started. What kind of got me here and where I'm today. I've been in Singapore for 20 years, came to study here.

It's a beautiful little island. They call it the little red dot because it's hardly visible on a political map. It's a fantastic country. We can speak about it, but I originally come from India. Spend the first 13 years of my life in India, then my family moved to Indonesia.

My dad is a mechanical engineer is an automotive engineer. So he moved to set up an automotive plant in Indonesia. And then came to Singapore to study. My childhood and including my adult life has been pretty much in Asia, but in different contexts, because Asia is very large.

Nothing homogeneous even within India or Indonesia. So it's very fragmented, but you can probably put it as India, Indonesia being emerging markets probably just gotten some sort of importance and love from the world in terms of commerce. In terms of business. Singapore is a fascinating case study of a tiny little country.

That's gone from the third world to the first world in less than three or four decades, perhaps. And in Singapore post my computer engineering degree at the National University of Singapore, my career of 16 years probably can be broken into four chunks of four broad pieces, but the common thread is technology and startups. And you probably figured out why. So the first three and a half years I've worked for the Singapore government.

So despite being trained as a computer engineer, I didn't really practice much of that. But what was significant was I realized that I have a passion for technology, not in terms of branding, but marketing and business development.

So my first three and a half years was to work for the government to help local enterprises, internationalized. So that was an eye-opening experience for two things. It taught me how proactive a government body can be in terms of helping its local industries. Because growing up in India, Indonesia, there's a saying that, you succeed despite the government, but in Singapore is just the other way around. So that was fascinating to be thrown in the deep, take a couple of industries and help them scale up in the US, in Europe, in North Asia and Japan, Korea. Fascinating. And then a couple of private sector stints with small-medium businesses in the brand consulting and marketing as head of the region in terms of driving business development, sales, and partnership.

And then one of my best friends from college, my best buddies from NUS. He's the original founder of Happy Marketer. He invited me to co-found the company with him and that long story short was a nice 12-year journey before we decided to look at exit options again, to be honest, that was part plan part a happy coincidence. An American entity called Merkle out of Baltimore which is part of a Japanese group called Dentsu.

They were looking at an acquisition and, you know, we seem to fit the bill. It was a long-drawn two-year process, but finally, in Feb 2019 we sold the business. And now I'm part of Dentsu. I lead one of the three service lines in the Singapore market called the customer experience management, a very exciting space, a lot of work in data tech analytics. So that's the fourth part.

So in summary in Singapore two small, medium enterprises, my own startup that I co-founded and scaled up to $10 million. And now as part of a larger conglomerate. But the common thread has been tech data but very much around working with entrepreneurs and startups.

[00:07:53] Jeffrey Feldberg: So I suppose we can say that you were an overnight, a 12 years success in the making. And so I'm wondering when it came time to sell Happy Marketer, as you look back to your transaction, to your liquidity event. For our audience, we're always eager to hear what worked for you. So why don't we start there? What were some strategies that you would, if you're doing another liquidity event, you would do all over again because they were so powerful and they made all the difference for you?

[00:08:22] Prantik Mazumdar: Yeah, like I said, let me start at the fact that when we started the company, it's a pure services business, there's no venture-backed. We never took a single cent of the debt alone. I think we didn't have the option to be honest, I think we always wanted to build a prudent business where the customer's revenue was the best source of funding because I think if a customer is willing to open their wallets for your product or services on a regular basis perhaps an indication that you're doing something right.

So I think it began there. It probably sounds a bit philosophical, but we wanted to build a profitable, scalable services venture. I think what's important to bear in mind is when we started in 2009, just after the global financial crisis, to be honest, we were two young naive boys who said, you know what, let's do something that we're going to have fun with because it's, I mean, maybe today it's different.

I don't know, but at least back then we did not start with the exit in mind. And maybe product companies are different because you're raising venture capital. There's an exit kind of plan by the VCs but for us, to be brutally honest, our goal was to mirror what Accenture, Cap Geminis, Infosys has done is to ideally get to a billion-dollar stage in 30, 40 years, or 50 years.

But to build a rock-solid consultative sales services business, and scale it as much as we could. But I think as we started scaling the business, there were three parts to it. There was an implementation agency part, a consulting part, and a training part. And a lot of the business was piggybacking on the back of large MNC partners, such as Google, Boston Consulting Group, Salesforce, Adobe. What that did was two or three things, A, it reduced our cost to sales and marketing. B. it gave us a lot of credibility and C, which is to your question. And I'll come to that is it gave us a lot of credibility and visibility. A lot of large agencies, large consulting firms were like, hey, these guys seem to be doing something interesting. Let's keep them on our radar.

And I think that led to the quote-unquote accidental event in 2017 when one of our close buddies from University he connected us with Ted Ray, who is from Merkle in the US and he was sent to APAC to acquire companies. And we had a chance meeting, but I always believe that the chance meeting had that backstory, it led to that chance.

And when he approached us to be honest, the first six months we were either naive or pricey and we said, look, we're not sure that we are ready for this. We don't even know what this means, but I think they play the part, they play their cards. We did a few joint projects. We dated, you know, we kind of got comfortable and maybe after nine or 10 months, we said, let's go down this process.

Because they've made a pretty significant offer, not just commercially, but to ensure that our people would be on board. And I think the pitch was very much around. Tell us your objective, your scaling-up plan. Allow us to come back to you with a plan that will help you accelerate. So I think that was very critical.

The cultural fit, the solution products with, and this alignment of your business plan. I think when those things fell in place, we hired a boutique iBanking firm called SI Partners. We hired a well-known law firm, Gibson Dunn because we realized we couldn't do this ourselves because when you're going through a liquidity process you still have to grow your business by the day.

You're focusing whatever little time you have left in the evening to think about this. And it's a tough emotional roller coaster ride. So it happened thanks to a lot of good advisory work from SI Partners and Gibson Dunn, and yes, it took a year plus, you know, to your question, I think when the liquidity event happened, I think there were three core lessons for us, you know, and we're happy to go deeper into that.

One is it's important to be, or at least believe that you are in a strong position. And one thing we learned is you don't have to sell, you need to be in a position where you believe that you're not, you know, unless it's a fire sale, you don't have to sell. And that's critical because you need to be able to walk away if the terms are not, you know, commercial, legal, NDAs, et cetera, are not in your favor.

Number two, I think you've got to have the right narrative. And this is where SI Partners and our team came in and said, look, if you're really selling to Dentsu or Merkle or whoever else, we've got to understand their objective and their motivations. And we need to shape our narrative because eventually we learned that hopefully, this is useful to the audience is the very first offer versus maybe landed within a year, time was a difference of three X. And a lot of that was viewed to be narrative. And the way we pivoted our business in that one year because we figured out what does the buyer wants? So we wanted to strengthen up and the last lesson was the legalese.

 Obviously, we understand the commercial's aspects, but you need to have a good, strong lawyer. And by that, someone who not only understands law but also has the brand perception or the credibility, because what we learned was beyond the certain stage, it was not the legalese.

It was really who's the bigger boy, who's going to blink last. So it's important to have that pedigree as well beyond the substance. Of course. It was a massive moment in our professional and personal lives, but to sum it up, we started, we didn't stock with the exit in mind, like you said, at the beginning of our show, when we were discussing it's important to have fun. It's important to solve a problem that you are passionate about because exit may or may not happen, but you live every day and you want to make the most of it.

But when you build a brand, when you build a solid business and when that accidental chance happens, hopefully, those three lessons of getting the right kind of financial and commercial advice, being in a strong position to be able to say no, and negotiating basis, the narrative that you build up. And finally, the legalese I think this piece could all make a huge world of difference.

[00:13:59] Jeffrey Feldberg: Wow, and for our listeners, I really hope that you listening and Prantik, you are taking a page right out of our playbook here at Deep Wealth with what you did. But you know, let's go back to something that you said. It's one of my personal favorite topics for business. You ran your business as to what I like to call a cockroach startup.

You had no outside financing, your culture was everything, and you really bootstrapped it and you made it work. And many people don't realize if you look around today, some of the Titans of business, they started as cockroach startups. Some of them are now public and their unicorns are their multi-gazillion dollars worth of value, but they started as a cockroach startup.

But what I really like about what you're saying is you did everything right on the preparation side and with our 9-step roadmap, that's what we're all about. And all you business owners out there. I hope you're listening Prantik said, hey, I got an incredible investment banker. I got an incredible M&A lawyer.

I'm getting all these right professionals behind me so that I can look to do things right and get the best possible value. And you also went on to say, and one of my own personal favorites is the one who wins the negotiation is the one who cares the least, hey, I can sell my company, but I don't have to sell my company.

So you better make it worth my while. And it sounds like you had the clarity to know what you want, which we call deal points, what you didn't want, which we call no-fly zones and it all came together, but let's flip it. So I know as an example, I put myself under the microscope. When I look at my liquidity event as successful as it was, there were some areas quite openly I failed.

I didn't do as well as I could have. When you're looking back, would there be two or three things that you did that you would go back in time and tell yourself not to do that? What would those be?

[00:15:47] Prantik Mazumdar: Yeah. Of course, hindsight is 2020. With that vision, I think a couple of things that I would probably maybe have done differently or could have done earlier is I think we are a pure services business and every two or three years, we've pivoted our business based on what's on-demand, what's hot in the market and where we had our strengths.

One thing that I think we could have done probably a bit earlier was to focus on what we call the software reselling business or the fast business. And the reason I say this is because when we went to market, we realized that at the point of sale, the part of our business that was valued the most was our Google software reselling business. Why is that? Because A, you know, it's in partnership with a large credible company called Google. Everyone loves Google. B, the margins are pretty good and it's sustainable and scalable because we selling a pretty solid piece of enterprise software, which, companies are paying for.

We get a margin for reselling and the pricing and our revenue scale as their users scale. So it's a pretty scalable model. It's a high margin. It's backed by a product from a credible company. Had we done more of that I suspect our valuation could have, you know, we could have focused more of our energy into that than some of the lower margin businesses. That could be one.

The other is and this is something I think about quite often is could there have been an opportunity for us as Happy Marketer to have acquired a few other complementary businesses as a collective and then made a bigger product pitch. I have seen a couple of similar stories in Southeast Asia where two or three businesses banded together, or one of the slightly larger ones acquired the other two.

They became a bigger story. One of them listed, the other one exited to a larger market. So that's the second one that kind of comes to mind that could have been an interesting play to make it larger than where we landed. No regrets of course.

The third is I think when we were going through the MNA process, what was very eye-opening was we had some decent offers from the agency world, which is where eventually we sold to.

But we also had interesting offers from family offices, from China, Indonesia, India. We also had interesting offers from some businesses that are not in the digital marketing space, they are in the consulting space or they were in the tech space. So that's something I would never know. But, I do wonder what would that sort of a sale having paid because sometimes, and this is just a hypothesis, sometimes selling to someone outside your industry where the information asymmetries higher could have its own advantage speed in terms of value, in terms of one's role so on, so forth, because you are completely different than what the parent company is, and hence your position could be even stronger. You could be seen as a special gem. But yeah, these are some recommendations that I would have over time, but I think among the three, the first two probably could have had a higher commercial bearing.

[00:18:40] Jeffrey Feldberg: Well hindsight's always 2020, but you also said something interesting. We make at that time, the best decision with the information that we have and to look back and beat ourselves up over that really doesn't help the situation. And in fact, it makes it worse. Let's talk about market disruption because you said that one of the things perhaps you would have looked at earlier was to begin the process of going into other industries to help them market. And with your background, in 2015, you were recognized as one of the top 50 most influential marketers in the world.

So congratulations on that. So when you're looking at how you can take a situation from a marketing standpoint and make it better, what would be some tips that you can pass along to the listeners who are the best-kept secret in the world? How do they change that?

[00:19:29] Prantik Mazumdar: Number one, I think it starts with mindset and one's own perception of marketing. You know, a lot of these founders that you've rightfully classified, who are hidden gems. And when I speak to them I found them to be in two buckets. Some of them genuinely are very focused on building the product and just don't have the bandwidth or the knowledge or the expertise.

But the bigger bucket happens to be people who genuinely believe that look, I am that gem hidden or not hidden. I want to be the gem and I want to be discovered. I just want to build, let people come to me. But to them and to the other group as well. In my view, it's very simple that as far as I'm concerned, perception is reality.

Now whether you want to practice push marketing, or whether you want to be discovered, that's marketing as well. In fact, that's probably even better marketing. You have various kinds of options, whether to push through ads and email and social media or you want to practice or figured out a systematic practice to be discovered through word of mouth or to be discovered via search engine optimization.

I know there are plenty of options, but fundamentally you've got to believe that marketing is critical to your top-line and bottom-line growth. You've got to also believe that marketing is not just all about packaging and there are a lot of people who are just thinking, folks who market are just all about smokes and mirrors. Not true, there are such practices, but I think it stems from that. Once you believe that marketing is important, you got to understand and prioritize for your own self as to what does marketing really means? How much time, effort, money are you willing to invest, and what is your ambition or expectation?

Because I found some founders for whom, nothing wrong. I'm not judging, but for whom marketing is about their own personality, it's about their individual brand and that would have a bearing on the company. But they're all companies or founders were like, look, it's not about me, It's about my team.

It's about my brand, my corporate brand. And what I expect is, you know, I don't want to be seen, I want to be at the backend, but I want to create a systematic engine that drives awareness consideration leads and eventually sales and hopefully, some advocacy, loyalty so that you have a flywheel, a marketing flywheel as HubSpot rightfully calls it.

So I think that's the mindset bit. And the reason I mentioned this is if the founding team or the management can't cross this barrier, if they can't have alignment around this, I think it's a hard one because unless you are clear why you want marketing. Unless you're clear what does marketing mean for you and how much time, effort, money are you willing to invest?

And what's your expectation to me, that's absolutely paramount. Once that's done, I think to me, for small, medium businesses or any sort of early-stage businesses from our experience, again, going back to Happy Market of 2009, 2010, when we hardly had any sort of funds, we focused on two things.

We focused on content, regular, fresh, opinionated content on a regular, when I say regular, twice a week because that's something in our control. To your point, Jeffrey you made earlier is what's really in our control is the preparation, the things that we control and expressing yourself, expressing your opinion, your point of view on the industry you're serving I think that's very much in your control. And I believe it's your responsibility to put it out there because when you have that, it has a few things. If done well, it could create a very good brand perception with the audience that you want to reach, and that content could be dished out via email.

Doesn't take too much money. You can start with your small list of hundred people in your database. It could start with organic social media posts. You don't have to go Blitzkrieg on Facebook, LinkedIn ads. The third, which is what I'm a big believer of is the whole process of discovery and inbound marketing is search engine optimization.

To me, it is near criminal for a business, not to be discovered on the first page of a search engine, if someone's looking for you, because that's the cleanest, non-smoking way of marketing. Someone's looking for you. I think it's only fair to say you must show up. So if you have good regular, fresh content, if you can use email and social to put it out there.

And if you can engineer the search engine optimization process to get discovered to me, these are sustainable processes in your control that are not very expensive in terms of money, but they do take time. So to me, you're going to make the choice of time, versus is money. If you have big marketing dollars, of course, by all means beyond this figure out a media amplification plan, either through ads, influences what have you, but if you have the money, but you're not sure, start small, start with the organic stuff.

And I can safely say for Happy Marketer we've hardly done any paid work. We relied only on content through email, social, webinars and did a lot of search engine optimization. And I can tell you, these things are done well, you create a solid marketing funnel, which will serve you for a decade because it's a marketing muscle that it just builds upon.

[00:24:19] Jeffrey Feldberg: I like that a marketing muscle is a terrific way to think about that. And circling back to what you said when you have the right marketing mindset. And you're very specific. And again, this is a page right out of our book in step number two of the 9-step roadmap. It's all about the future buyer and the future buyer wants to see a company, not a one-person show.

So to have the marketing talking about the founder, hey, maybe it makes you feel great from an Eagle side. But that's really going to hurt you down the road with a liquidity event because of buyers, as we all know, or maybe you don't know, they want to minimize risk. So to buy a company, that's all about the founder.

Guess what? One of two things is going to happen. Congratulations either you've killed the deal or the enterprise value is going to take a huge hit because the buyer doesn't want the risk. Is there going to be a business when the founder's no longer around? Now Prantik, speaking about marketing and I looked at today's environment and we've had this pandemic, how has particularly in the digital space, how has marketing changed because of the pandemic? What's different today than say two years ago?

[00:25:30] Prantik Mazumdar: Two things. I think fundamentally, especially for B2B businesses, services businesses, things like face-to-face meetings have obviously shrunk, trade shows probably not happening in most parts of the world. So I think the question that was, how do you replicate that? And I'm amazed that every time there's a crisis of this sort, obviously a very devastating crisis.

It's amazing, the kind of innovation that comes up. There are dime a dozen startups, some unicorns who have basically built very interactive, useful online event platforms. Of course Zoom. If you just look at a company like Zoom and it stopped and it's gone through the roof it allows us to do these podcasts.

These events simply through a platform like Zoom, but if you want to hold sophisticated trade shows like there's a particular event run by a Sequoia investee company called Insider. Their annual trade show was a massive fanfare, but they had to quickly replicate that on digital. And I dare say when I attended the first one in 2020.

It was phenomenal. You had these 3d rooms, you had breakout sessions. Of course, you couldn't drink with someone there. It was very different from the actual experience, but close second in that sense. So I think the whole element of digitizing the trade show, the one-on-one meetings, I think that's completely on digital and the huge, a massive use case, even when we get back post-pandemic, I think this will still have its place because it's efficient.

You are carbon neutral. You're not really flying day in, day out just to meet someone. Yes. You would probably prioritize and condense all your important meetings when you travel. But I think just random travel for a meeting or two I think that will probably not happen.

The other is digitally consumption, be it digitally newsletters, digital social media, digital e-commerce. You look at any metric in terms of digital consumption by individuals or businesses that skyrocket right from entertainment, OTT platforms like Disney, HeartStart, Amazon to newsletters.

You've had the emergence of the whole world of the newsletter has become an economy in itself the metaverse is coming up. So I think that's a massive trend. People are very used to content and information consumption and interaction via digital. And I think this is another fascinating marketing opportunity for businesses to figure out, hey, how can I leverage these tools like Facebook, LinkedIn, Amazon, metaverse, what have you? The third is not marketing-related, but I think it's indirect to relate it is I think there's also been a massive surge in the acceptance of digital payments.

Even for marketing services now, a lot of our payments are actually happening digitally. It's all, non-cash, it's digitized. Some of it is on the blockchain. Some of our designers today, independently, many people have heard of obviously the crypto world, there's an option for them to get a better price or rate from buyers around the world.

So to your point, I think you know, digital democratize the marketing element, digital help us, provide us with potentially global reach. And I think fundamentally a mindset set status, you're supposed to shift your mindset, that look, we can't be traveling and meeting people. So today, what was it earlier acceptable in terms of all pitches today? for example, we did a couple of pitches to 30 people from 8 countries all happened from the same seat which logistically perhaps would have been possible two years ago but it wouldn't have been mentally accepted.

You know, they would have expected us to come and do a song and dance in person. So I think, yeah, those parameters of digital consumption, digital payments, digital events, digital content creation, I think these are massive wins when it comes to the potential for businesses to use digital as a platform for marketing.

[00:29:09] Jeffrey Feldberg: Some terrific insights there. And when you're talking about pitches, marketing pitches, let's go back to your liquidity event for just a moment, because you really touched upon what I would call the art side of a liquidity event. So you had your marketer's hat on, you looked at who the prospective buyers were.

You figured out what their problems are. So you put yourself into the shoes of the buyer, and then you created a narrative for that specific buyer. Now, most business owners, they just don't realize how important a narrative, the right kind of narrative is because the right narrative it can reduce the sense of risk that a buyer feels.

It can make them feel more comfortable. It can help increase deal certainty, enterprise value, all those wonderful things that come with that. So Prantik, what were you doing with your narrative? Generally speaking from a strategic side of things that had you craft a narrative that had a future buyer walk away saying, wow, I really want to buy this company. This company has my name written all over it. I've got to be the winner of this. What went into that?

[00:30:12] Prantik Mazumdar: Very, very, very good question because you know, from my two-year experience in the liquidity event, the lesson was and maybe I'm biased because I come from the brand marketing world. But to me, we were heavily indexed on the narrative, on the brand positioning and our differentiation, because we've got to be honest at the end of the day what we're doing as a digital marketing and transformation consulting services firm, it isn't rocket science.

I am not doing something that others can't.

in Singapore alone in a country of just five and a half million, there are, I think 150 to 200 similar companies, who perhaps have similar skillsets. So you've got to be honest and acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses. Then the question begs that why, as you rightly said, why would company X want to buy you? Are they buying you for your clients? Are they buying you for your capability or they're buying you for revenue, or are they buying you for all of that plus something.

And even in financial accounting terms, there is something called brand value. There is something called goodwill. So again the mindset element is, could have been because a lot of fire founders run their businesses purely from an Excel sheet and they believe it's just that P&L that matters.

That's the substance absolutely critical during the due diligence process, you know, the big four, the KPMGs, and the Deloittes of the world, we'll go through that in depth. But I think what I've learned is if you want to have a premium, there's got to be a massive differentiator and by differentiate I'm talking about a perceptual differentiator. So let me tell you from our perspective, what are some of those two or three things that we kind of built over the last nine or ten years that made us different. And again, I wouldn't say hearsay, but this is our gut feeling.

The buyer just gave us an anecdotal narrative. One was culture, when we built our company, we were just about 60 people at the point of acquisition and we call ourselves the happy tribe from Happy Marketer. A lot of our marketing was actually maybe a third of our marketing was around our own people because I'm a big believer that you know, at the end of the day, I'm a services business, which is a function of people.

So you have to build a good employer brand. So when you are alone and independent, that helps you not just hire, but also retain good talent. But eventually, when a large buyer wants to buy you, as you rightly said, they want to de-risk. So they want to look at, is this company, does it have a good beam strength?

Do they have good redundancies? Do they have good retention rates? It's not just about hiring, but it's also about, are you able to retain them? Are you able to upskill them? And culture is such a fuzzy thing that hence if done it could give you disproportionate value. So apart from building a good culture and I could talk for hours about it, we also ensure that our culture was visible.

Our employees had the incentive to talk about Happy Marketer, wear it on their sleeves with pride. We also won awards and our culture. So I think our culture, however, we defined it, helped us get a premium. The other was in the economic value chain in our space there were a dozen marketing agencies.

But when we looked at the competitive landscape, the gaps were around marketing consulting folks because consulting typically is high value. You're not just implementing, you are strategizing, you're drawing roadmaps and training. In Singapore, training is massive, paid training. When we started training back in the day, 10 years ago, it was purely for lead gen.

We just wanted to create lead gen for eventually what we learned that training in Singapore was massive business. It opened a completely different posting in a P&L because marketing budgets were coming from the CMOs, but training was coming from the HR department. So we unlocked value.

So this structure and positioning of we are not just a marketing services agency. We build it advisory and we can train your people suddenly became an interesting narrative. And the total was a narrative around our partnerships, which I mentioned earlier, this was a core part of our business. And the partnership did two things provided credibility that, hey, if Google, BCG, Salesforce, HubSpot, Adobe are working with these guys for the last 10 years, there must be something interesting.

And so they would speak to them. They would find out. And obviously, there has to be substantially below this and which there was, but the idea is you've got to build your narrative and perception around, you know, a few blocks. Second is our tripartite approach of execution, consulting, training.

And the third is our partnership ecosystem, which it helped us build a good credible brand. What it also did in the P&L is reduced our sales and marketing costs because now all our good leads were coming from Google, Salesforce, BCG, etc. So there's a commercial benefit. So these are three examples that come to mind that in terms of building narrative, beyond the P&L, beyond the excel sheet, and this has to be visible by the way, this has to be proactive. Because again, going back to the mindset, something that a lot of founders don't realize is whether you take a marketing action or you don't, you're still building a brand in action is still helping you build a brand just that it's not a conscious activity.

You're just letting chance shape your brand. So whether you like it or not, by existing as an individual or a company or brand gets built, the question for you is what can you do consciously and proactively to give it a shape that would help you.

And that's where the narrative comes in. And I think people need to put their heads down collectively, internally, and with advisors. And take proactive steps around what should your narrative be built around that helps create a perceptual difference based on your brand positioning and differentiation.

[00:35:33] Jeffrey Feldberg: Well said a lot of not gold nuggets, but platinum nuggets that you're sharing with us. And what's interesting is you talk about culture and I couldn't agree more because culture it's really like a fingerprint. It's unique to every company, your competition, they can use their capital, they can hire away your employees.

Although if you have a good culture, they probably won't, but they can use their capital. They could copy your technology. What money does not buy, is culture. So the fact that you had this rich and thriving culture, must've been very attractive to the buyer added to your enterprise value, and just made you that much more unique.

Now, speaking of culture, let me ask you this because you're both an active angel and venture investor. You're out there looking at companies you're saying yes to deals, no to deals. When you're looking at an opportunity because now you've been on both sides of the table. You've been a business owner who sold and now you're a buyer.

What are you when you're looking at a company, what is an attractor when you have a company that's doing it right that you're saying, yes, I'm going to invest in this company because of these two or three things?

[00:36:43] Prantik Mazumdar: Four things, typically I look at investment opportunities at the early stage and at the early stage, it's either an idea, it's a PowerPoint or maybe a few early customers. So I think one needs to invest time to decipher and understand, analyze, and evaluate three or four things.

One is clarity of the problem that the founding team wants to solve because defining the problem is actually a very hard problem. So I think when I spend time with the founders, I really want to get deep as to what's that why? What are you trying to solve? Once I get clarity on that, then I do some due diligence on how large is that problem, because if it's not large enough in, terms of the total addressable market.

I think that's a red flag, again, nothing wrong. You could build businesses on the very small niches, but for it to be angel or venture investible for your money to scale up 5X, 10X, potentially, hypothetically, it's gotta be a potentially large problem. So that's the next thing.

The third is what I like to call The Founder Idea Fit. There's a lot of chatter about product-market fit. But I think at the early stage, you've got to be able to assess that if the founder or the founding team, the right people for this problem because I could be a great founder.

I could have a great experience. I could be a serial entrepreneur, but am I suited for biotech? Am I suited for space tech? Am I suited for enterprise software? You've got to make that judgment. And I think that judgment comes from conversation. You know, how passionate are they? how long can they hold a conversation about that particular topic?

Who do they know in that field? How curious are they? So you can't judge that from a PowerPoint. It could probably take a few meals or a coffee just to get to know that. And once that's done, the other thing I like to evaluate about founders, I prefer companies which have at least two or three founders, not solo again from a de-risking perspective, no matter how great the idea is, you still want to de-risk it.

And I want to judge the dynamic about in that founding team again, something very hard it's subjective, but I think two things that can help you get some sort of perspective is how is the equity structure? You know, If you find a company where a founder has, 95% or 90% and the others are the remaining five or ten, that's a red flag because you need to keep some good equity aside to attract good talent.

So not only do you, should you keep some significant equity for your two co-founders, but maybe another 5, 10% for ESOPs. I'm a big believer in ESOPs, but if the founder is very selfish and you know, he, or she wants to be controlled again, that would work but maybe not for me. I would like to have a good rock-solid team at the top.

And the other subject of things I try and judge is you know, I've always believed that I've been lucky, really I've lucked out in terms of the three partners I have. And the more I think about it in retrospect, what binds us is common values, but different skill sets. I know it's easier said than done, but I think it's massively important because if you're not bound by certain common values, your broader values of life. What do you trust? What you don't like? How do you react to situations? Your opinions, your feelings. For example, something that we realize and we test it in our employees is comfortable silence.

So when we hire people going back to culture, we basically want to hire people irrespective of skillset. Is can I be comfortably silent with this person? If I'm logged done at an airport for 40 hours, Can I do my thing, I don't have to be awkward. I don't have to make fake conversations.

It's important that at least for me, it's a very small thing, but you know, if we're going to be giving the next 10, 20 years of your life, you want to be at peace, So judging that founder idea fit, judging the dynamics between co-founders. I think it's critical. And the last bit is if they do have the revenue to me, the size of the revenue doesn't matter because it's going to be small anyway.

But the quality of the revenue and what do I mean, I would rather look at a company which has just one or two customers, but who are repeat customers, than someone who has the same revenue or more, but from 10 customers, but no repeat business. So repeatability of revenue from well-known clients to me that's a good start. That means again, they're doing something, they're building something good. The customers are coming back again and again. That's a healthy sign. Now having said all of this, I must put the caveat that angel investment as an asset class is obviously one of the most extremely risky. It's obviously prevalent. It's getting very popular. So you've got to spend time at a broader asset class level probably nothing more than 15, 20% maybe 10% is a good start. If you're doing this build a portfolio, whatever money you want to keep aside spread it across 8, 10, 12 companies.

Because again, no matter how great the founder, how great the idea chances are someone's already built this somewhere. Chances are something's more piece going to strike at some point in time. So odds are against you. So do look at the macro picture of how much are you willing to risk? What's your conviction thesis?

Where do you want to invest? How are you going to build your portfolio? But once you want to get it, I think, three or four things to kind of think about.

[00:41:31] Jeffrey Feldberg: Wow, a really solid approach, thesis, and formula of what to look for in a company. And on the flip side as business owners, we can reverse engineer what you're sharing and apply that to ourselves. So as an example, what kind of problem are we solving? Do we understand the, why? What's the clarity around that, as you're saying, and how big is the addressable market?

And then you're talking about the fit amongst the founders and the quality and the culture of how all that's going to be working and even how the revenue is going? Are you having one-time customers or are they coming back for more? All terrific elements and thank you for sharing that. So Prantik we're at the point in the episode where we're going to begin to wrap up.

And my favorite question that we ask every single guest is the following. I want you to think of Back to the Future, the movie. And in the movie, you have this magical DeLorean car that can take you to any point in time. So imagine now is tomorrow morning, you look out your window, the DeLorean car is there. The door is open and you hop on in and you can go to any point in time in your life.

Maybe it's when you're a young child or a teenager, adult, whatever it would be. What are you telling your younger self in terms of, hey, do this or don't do that, or here's some life wisdom that I want you to know

[00:42:48] Prantik Mazumdar: That's a good one. I think something I think all of us should practice and reflect on often, I think is probably a couple of things I would do. One is in terms of, as I said, entrepreneurship happened to me and I'm extremely grateful to my close buddy and partner for pulling me in.

I think if there's one thing I would have probably told my younger self at the age of maybe 16 or 18 that you know, I should have started earlier. I should have given this a shot much earlier. I think a point in time, I remember where at least I was aware of the potential opportunity was when I read Rich Dad Poor Dad and I saw the ESBI quadrant, but of course, there was good theoretical knowledge.

And I wish around that 18, 20 when I was college, I wish I could have taken that plunger that bet. The other is maybe a bit younger, I mean and that's probably wishful thinking is when I was growing up in India, Indonesia, even in college in NUS. I'm a big cricket fan. And if you had asked me at that age, what did I want to pursue?

I would advise me wanting to play cricket for India, for a club. Of course, I've been very fortunate to kind of continue to play at an amateur level.

I think if I'd gotten into a sporting bracket system, chances are I could have tested my talent a bit more. So the personal front yeah, maybe that or the age of 11. or 12.

[00:43:56] Jeffrey Feldberg: Well, regardless, cricketer or not, it sounds like things turned out incredibly well. And we can always dream. That's always the nice thing with that. Well, Prantik, I know it's really the wee hours in the morning, your time, and thank you so much for staying up and taking part of your early morning now and sharing it with us on The Sell My Business Podcast.

I'm going to put this in the show notes. It will be easy. Anyone can point and click. If somebody would like to find you online, where it would be the best place?

[00:44:23] Prantik Mazumdar: Easiest would be LinkedIn suggest if you can see my name Prantik Mazumdar it's even for an Indian, it's fairly unique. Just type it on LinkedIn. You'll find my profile send me an invite, follow me, or just drop me a message. That's the easiest way to reach me.

[00:44:37] Jeffrey Feldberg: Terrific. And again, for our listeners, we'll put that all in the show notes. It will be a point and click and you're done. Well as we wrap this up again, a big thank you, a heartfelt thank you. And as always, please stay healthy and safe.

[00:44:48] Prantik Mazumdar: Thank you so much, Jeffrey, it's been a pleasure. I just want to thank you for doing this because I think hopefully even if it's one soul listening to this conversation hopefully it inspires them to think differently or try something different. So thank you for doing this and it's been a pleasure. Stay safe.

[00:45:13] Sharon S.: The Deep Wealth Experience was definitely a game-changer for me.

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Jeffrey Feldberg: Are you leaving millions on the table?

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