When Alexis Grant ’03 sold her first two companies, there were no New York Times or Wall Street Journal headlines.
When you hear about mergers and acquisitions, big numbers get thrown around. Communication giants AOL and Time Warner merged in 2000 in a huge $182-billion deal. Food conglomerates Heinz and Kraft merged in 2015 for $100 billion. Salesforce acquired messaging app Slack in a “smaller deal” for $27 billion, while Facebook purchased text-messaging service WhatsApp for $19 billion.
Yes, that’s a billion with a B.
But these gigantic deals aren’t what most entrepreneurs experience. A former journalist, Grant founded They Got Acquired, an entrepreneur-focused website covering startups, to change that narrative.
“We’re a media company covering founders who have sold their company for between $100,000 and $50 million, which is on the small side of acquisitions. Rather than these magical, unicorn success stories, a far more realistic outcome is a six- or seven-figure exit, and that’s still a huge win. It’s crazy we don’t celebrate them,” said Grant. “That’s a life-changing amount of money for a lot of founders. My goal is to give people examples to look toward.”
Mainstream media and Silicon Valley hustle-harder culture paint a one-dimensional picture of what “success” looks like, but Grant wants to highlight the many twists and turns that lead to a successful exit.
“When I was selling my company, I felt like there weren’t a lot of examples of people who look like me or had stories like mine,” she said. “I love stories where people build differently than how Silicon Valley tells us how we have to do it.”
Leading with curiosity
At Colby, she studied human development, an independent, multi-disciplinary major pulling coursework from education, sociology, and other subjects in the humanities to give students a grounded view of how societies and people grow and change. “One thing I learned at Colby is to follow a curiosity to learn something new,” said Grant. “I could just get into topics I didn’t know anything about, which also gave me the confidence to build something from scratch that relies entirely on me.”
She channeled that curiosity into a thriving journalism career, with posts at the Houston Chronicle and U.S. News & World Report, before pivoting into her own content marketing agency.
“I never thought I would leave journalism because I loved how it gave me license to be curious about everything and ask questions,” said Grant, who lives in the greater D.C. area. “But I ended up surprising myself with how much I loved business. When I started running my own content agency, I realized I could do everything on my own terms, and I loved that.”
That led to her first acquisition in 2015 by the Penny Hoarder, a personal finance site and one of her former clients. In true entrepreneurial fashion, though, Grant kept other side projects going, like a writer-focused website called the Write Life, which she ran for seven years before selling in March 2021.
“I knew I wanted to do something else immediately because building a media company is my strength,” she said. “But I also wanted to learn something new. I’m not an expert in M&A. I’m kind of the target market, because I’ve gone through these types of deals myself, and I know what the pain points are, but I’m not an expert. Starting They Got Acquired really came out of that curiosity and my own experience.”
They Got Acquired launched officially in February 2022 with a team of 10 writers, podcasters, and designers. Said Grant, “This is my fourth media company, but there’s always something more to learn.”
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