ExitGuide Profile

ExitGuide logo.

ExitGuide is a B2B startup helping small- to medium-sized businesses exit through assistance finding buyers or completing the sale of their company.

Founder(s): Eric Grafstrom

Industry: Tech

Founded in: 2020

Location: Austin, Texas

Interview With Eric Grafstrom

Describe your product or service:

“ExitGuide helps small business owners plan and exit their business by finding a buyer, selling to family, business partner or employee.”

Describe your company values and mission:

“Our mission is to transform how small business owners plan and manage the transition of their business by making it easy and affordable no matter what path they choose for exiting their business.”

How are you funded? I.e. venture capital, angel investors, etc.

“Raised pre-seed from VC firms and angels”

How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)

“Two full-time employees and fractional contractors”

How did you come up with and validate your startup idea? Tell us the story!

“I spent 17 years in venture-backed startups in Silicon Valley and worked with over 20 startups. The last few years I was a ‘fixer,’ which means VCs hired me to engineer a turnaround or wind down and sell the assets to recover some money. Lots of stories there but I grew tired of cleaning up messes for millionaires and heard a story on the radio one day about baby boomers that are struggling to find an exit for their small business as they age out. I learned that about 95% of small businesses are simply too small to attract the help they need to exit their business, and many are not looking for help finding a buyer because they plan to sell to an employee, family [member], or business partner. What they wanted (but did not exist) was an online service to learn their options and then get help navigating exiting their small business. While the same people have dozens of options to form a business entity online (LegalZoom, ZenBusiness, etc.) — there is nothing like that for exiting a small business, so I created ExitGuide.”

How did you come up with your startup’s name? Did you have other names you considered?

“I had a bunch of bad names! I was able to get the ‘exit.guide’ domain, and the .com domain was not in use and had some legacy SEO issues because someone used it for assisted end of life. I wanted to test the concept out before acquiring the .com domain because I believed if acquired I could work my way out of the legacy SEO issues. I spent a year on the old domain and then bought the .com domain, and we now have a Domain Authority (SEMRush) of 38 and improving.”

Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?

“I started as an entrepreneur in 1994, took a job in 1996 at what became broadcast.com, and a few corporate stints but have worked in startups for most of my career. Not sure I can do anything else!”

What was the biggest obstacle you encountered while launching your company? How did you overcome it?

“I know we are solving a big problem for main street businesses (we are not tech/startup-focused) and we can acquire small business owners seeking help. Productizing that help has been the biggest challenge — they want help but narrowing the scope of that help into a feature set that is a SaaS product is hard.”

Who is your target market? How did you establish the right market for your startup?

“Main street businesses with less than $3 million in revenue. This is the long tail of small businesses and accounts for 96% of small businesses. The only way to help them plan and exit their business is through technology.”

What’s your primary marketing strategy?

“SEM and SEO have been very effective for us.”

How did you acquire your first 100 customers?

“SEM”

What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?

“CAC for a user to create an account, form completion rate and we just released a paid offering so will track conversion rates free to paid.”

Is there a tool, app, or resource that you swear by to help run your startup?

“Slack and ClickUp are vital as we are a distributed team.”

What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?

“The isolation is even more than I expected and the hardest part.”

How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?

“Not sure I ever achieve it but I schedule my day, even if working by myself so I know what I am doing when and add social/personal commitments to my calendar and treat them as priorities too.”

When did you know it was time to quit your day job to focus on your startup?

“I set a goal to have a prototype to engage small business owners to talk to and get some validation on the problem (needing help coming up with an exit plan) and wanted to see if I could acquire these owners for less than $30.”

What was your first job and what did it teach you?

“First relevant job was selling webcasting when most PCs did not have a soundcard or speakers. I learned to grind away but along the way, changing my approach so that I could iterate and learn what does not work to eventually find what does work. Later I learned that this was the same approach (sort of) Thomas Edison took — find 1,000 ways something does not work to eventually get the way it does work.”

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