“We can help companies well before they are ready to sell,” I told Kyle after a few cocktails at a holiday party in 2010.
I had just committed our firm to do something we had never done before, but we were not signing a lot of clients then, so I figured we’d give it a shot. It may have been the IPA talking…
Kyle and Jennifer Hansen founded their dog products company (originally named Kyjen, and then subsequently renamed Outward Hound) in California, and then moved the business to Colorado. Kyle and I had previously met, and he asked what I did. Not having anything more interesting to say, I explained that I ran an investment bank with my business partner.
Based on where his business was and his overall timeline, he said it was too early for him to hire an investment bank. He knew his company needed some work first.
This is where I got a little over the tips of my skis.
I told him we could help him identify different issues in his business that would help or hurt his overall valuation, and then help him work on those before we actually took his company to market.
Kyle interviewed every other investment bank in town, and ultimately gave us a shot.
We had never done this, of course, but given my partner and I were both ex-operating guys and we knew from doing transactions what buyers wanted, I figured we could add value.
I know very few CEO’s who have effectively managed from start-up through two private equity investments. It was fun to watch.
Yet, the most compelling part of this story is what Kyle and Jennifer did after realizing substantial liquidity. They went to work giving back to their communities.
A graduate of Colorado State University, Kyle helped fund their entrepreneurs’ program. As part of our firm’s give-back program, we donated as well in his honor.
Kyle acts as a mentor to four individuals, and I can tell from the discussions we have how much he enjoys supporting entrepreneurs who otherwise would have little help or support. As part of this project he is working to help the executive director to scale Remerg for much bigger impact, to help even more formerly incarcerated individuals start companies, create jobs and to contribute positively to their communities.
“We spent the next three years working with Kyle, who is the epitome of a disciplined entrepreneur. Kyle not only comes up with next-generation product ideas with fluency and frequency, he is an avid student of business. To counterbalance Kyle, Jennifer is rigorous, tough minded, and a great read on people. They were really fun to work with.
By Chris Younger
Chris co-founded Class VI in 2005 with a mission to Enable the Entrepreneurial Spirit. Prior to Class VI, Chris spent more than 20 years gaining experience in executive management, marketing, sales, law, and mergers and acquisitions. He has managed over 100 acquisitions and has led organizations from 10 people to over 4,000 people. He is also the co-author of Harvest: The Definitive Guide to Selling Your Company.