Swiss Exit Accelerator Just Launched & Is Here To Stay

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The Swiss non-profit initiative Exit Accelerator aims to lift the veil of obscurity from startup exits, providing founders with the relevant information on exits & preparing them better to make the right decision as to when and to whom to sell their company to. Read more:

Exit Accelerator is a non-profit association with a focus on improving the – initially Swiss – exit ecosystem. Different from usual accelerators, it doesn’t focus on a 3-4 month program, but rather sees its contribution as an ongoing initiative to boost the number of exists, increase awareness among founders of the available exit alternatives and connect them to the Mergers & Aquisition (M&A) professionals and the investor scene.

Who’s behind Exit Accelerator?

Sanja Fabrio, David Butler and Rodney Reis are the three founders behind the accelerator. All three of them know both: the large multi-national and startup life, and have been involved in corporate or startup “exits” before. They came up with the grass roots initiative Exit Accelerator after diving deep into the know-how of Swiss founders, multi-nationals, M&A advisors and government representatives of that crucial but undeserved phase of the investment process, the “exit”. Through such specific focus they aim to help further accelerate the growth of the entrepreneurial movement across Switzerland.

Another main purpose of Exit Accelerator is to boost the startup & SME ecosystem by triggering conversations about exits. The lean approach they have taken on becomes even more clear when knowing the initiative is based on feedback from the community itself.

Why focus on exits?

Startup companies need investment and the main reason that investors invest is to secure a financial return: this requires the company to secure an exit for its investors. An exit can take many forms: a listing on a stock exchange, a merger with another company, a sale to another company, the founders buying the investors’ shares.

Recognizing early that an exit will be necessary if the company is successful means that the business leaders can prepare in time and ensure that the company is acquired on its own terms, rather than having to sell on someone else’s terms: it also often means that the exit price is likely to be higher.

Often entrepreneurs execute the exit for one company and then return to start building a new business, they mentor other startups and they generally strengthen the ecosystem. The acquisition proceeds tend to be recycled into other startups, creating new jobs, and the acquired technologies tend to reach a larger market through the acquiring companies’ sales channels. This ‘virtuous spiral’ generates economic growth among new, more sustainable industries.

So far, so good. But how can you advise founders on their exit taking into account different industries, stages, needs? As co-founder David Butler explains: “So far, I’ve seen there have been quite a few short term or one off initiatives with the focus on exits. But none that are fully focused and ongoing. We are still developing the program and are initially focused on building the core network, identifying companies who are potentially in line for an exit, and taking up feedback from the community through exit-focused events and workshops”.

The program of Exit Accelerator has yet to be finalized – nevertheless the mission is clear: let startups, founders or SMEs develop and learn on an ongoing basis, allowing them to make the best out of their exit strategy. The aim here is to shed more light into what a “good preparation for exits” consists of, and turn it into a more comprehensible feature.

The benefits of exits for the startup ecosystem

As mentioned before founders who exit one company often found another one. At Exit Accelerator’s launch event on June 21st, panelists agreed that all of them would start a business again: their entrepreneurial spirit is definitely alive and kicking. Meanwhile, experienced founders are a source of a good advice and an inspiration to those who are growing and nurturing their own business.

In order to get to this point, however, preparedness plays a major role: thinking of the exit early, often well before there is a clear intent to sell; structuring the company well, to ensure no skeletons remain in the closet that later break the potential deal; and identifying the best-fit strategic buyer. “With so many challenging phases in an exit process, it was felt that a solid network of advisers is essential: the question is ultimately not ‘Can you afford the professional advice?’ but ‘Can you afford not to have it?’”, mentions David Butler.

Over the next few months, Exit Accelerator will organize a number of events with a focus on the key issues that founders face when preparing for an exit. By facilitating the exchange of key learnings from the exit process, Exit Accelerator expects to lift the veil of obscurity from this important milestone and help create more successful exits where entrepreneurs choose the best path for their businesses.



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Featured Photo Credit: Maxime Guilbot via Visual Hunt / CC BY