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Why I Sold My Multi-Million Dollar Business While It Was Still Growing

For today’s episode, Steve Mcgarry talks to Judd Armstrong, founder of the Unlisted Project and former CEO and founder of Jaybird. He recently sold his company Jaybird for $95 million to Logitech. They will discuss the process of how Judd was able to sell and why he decided to let go of his former company to start a new one. 

The story of Jaybird

In 2006, Judd Armstrong sold his first business and dived into amateur trading by paying $20,000 for a course with Investools. In 2008, a financial crisis hit him, which shifted his attention to his side hustle, Jaybird, which is a little wireless headphone project destined to start a revolution.

Armstrong recalls that he was inspired to create and produce wireless headphones while he was out on the run using standard wired earphones. When he arrived home, he noticed his keyboards and mouse were already wireless, so Armstrong figured why he couldn’t do that with his headphones. 

When his company started getting bigger, they decided to try to sell it to interested buyers. They put out a 100-page proposal and sent it out to strategic and private equity investors. Logitech was one of the companies that responded, and the rest was history. 

Tips on handling 100 employees 

He said that it was easier for him to create different departments with a few people per team. Small groups help the company run smoothly and hassle-free. Judd also mentioned he loves small teams composed of about fifteen people each. He added that with a big team, many people come to disagreements, so he had to form a way to keep things in order.

He made a small group of leaders in the company for specific fields such as brands, sales, engineering, etc. and appointed them to be the “CEO” of their groups to keep things in order. He gave the leaders the liberty to run their small groups with the condition of having an end of the week reporting to him. This method keeps the groups compact, empowered, and, most of all, engaged since most workers want to have an impact and meaning to their field.

What will you tell yourself ten years ago? 

It is easy to start and get things done, but it is harder to believe that you can create and become successful. Always believe in yourself and keep going. Judd mentioned that one of the easiest things to do is to pioneer that shift to the world, while the hardest was to believe in him that he could do it.

He said most people are held back by their past, what they have done before, and their lack of confidence in themselves. He also said that our history does not define us, but rather a vision of our future. He believes that if we can get to that place, you can do many great things. It is natural to battle against one’s uncertainties, but you must push through to become your best self. Moreover, he advised his old self to “just get at it” and believe in himself.

What kind of drive do you need to succeed? 

Many people can relate to the feeling of just having to make progress and complete a specific mission, no matter how many times you get shoved down. He believes that there is something extraordinary and unique in every person. There is so much yet to discover who we are. The desire is one’s heart to do something or fulfill a purpose is the driving force you need to succeed and use as an inspiration.

Entrepreneurs are like students who are always expanding their craft and looking for ways to improve their abilities. It is the drive to be better that makes us passionate about everything that we do. Always keep learning and be passionate about everything that you do. Tap into that level of inspiration and fulfill that purpose and meaning in your life. 

What’s next, and what is the Unlisted Project? 

The Unlisted Project is a systematic way of trading. This method has worked well over time, so Judd and his team decided to share it with others to help people become financially independent. Judd has always been passionate about helping people to become financially free.

He believes that most people fail in trading or end up losing money because fears drive them. He wanted to think of a way to cut down to only twelve trades a year or something more low-maintenance and customer friendly. With this, he came up with this innovative creation that doubles money every six months.

According to the founder, Judd Armstrong, the process of naming the business was a funny one. The company had great trading results as it compounds over time that it gave them the problem to be believable. Many people commented that the offers were too good to be true.

Initially, the business began with the name “Cryptonite,” which the founder loved, but had trademark battles with DC. Eventually, Judd realized that it was essential to let the numbers speak for themselves no matter what the name will be. He wanted to emphasize transparency without overwhelming people with data. Judd pointed out that he also wanted the people to see that they are not trying to twist their clients’ arms to join the business.

In the process of coming up with a non-sales name, Judd pictured the business at an unlisted address, which means that he imagined it to not be in any directory or Google search result. He thought of its location in an old warehouse district running a small secret project so lucrative that it’s as if it was printing money. This imagination brought the name Unlisted Project.

At present, the company already has an app with forty people using it. Judd said they are still working their way to reach a thousand people, while simultaneously ensuring a good signal along the way. The company will add automated trading in October, which is perfect for clients who love trading cryptocurrency.

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Steve McGarry:

Hello, and welcome to The Exit presented by Flippa. I am your host here, Steve McGary. The Exit is a 30 minute podcast featuring amazing entrepreneurs who have been there and they have done it. They have started businesses with their bare hands from scratch. They’ve bought businesses and sold businesses, and some of the most exciting guests on the show that we have have gone through the process of bootstrapping businesses, which is bringing us to this episode here. Before we dive into today’s episode, I wanted to remind everybody that the previous episode with Cody Sanchez around the unconventional acquisition conversation is definitely worth a listen. I will be leaving a link to that in the description, wherever you’re listening, whether it’s on Spotify, iTunes, or SoundCloud. Definitely check out that episode so that you guys can get some context for the launch episode of The Exit here.

For this episode, I sit down with Judd Armstrong. He’s an incredible entrepreneur that sold his previous wireless headphone company, Jaybird, for $95 million to Logitech. Now, this is one of the bigger exits that’s very exciting to have this in our initial launch series here. Judd goes through some really powerful topics. He talks about the mindset required. Bootstrapping a business is very inspirational to listen to, and very educational to hear some of the different processes that he set up. While he was hiring, finding a business partner, all of these different, really important concepts around building a business from scratch. He’s working on a new project now called The Unlisted Project. That’s very exciting. He’ll touch on that towards the end. Without further ado, let’s dive right into my interview with Judd Armstrong of The Unlisted Project now and former founder and CEO of Jaybird.

What is up guys? I’m here with Judd Armstrong, the founder of Unlisted. How you doing Judd?

Judd Armstrong:

Good day, Steve, mate. We have so much to talk about. This is going to be a great chat.

Steve McGarry:

Yeah. Yeah. I’m excited. I’ve done a lot of research on your background, but for everybody that’s tuning in, I’d love for you to just kind of share your story. Like what’s led you up till now? There’s some really big gems that I wanted to touch on. You exited a company called Jaybird for $95 million. I think that that would be where I’d love to start. Like when did you start Jaybird and how did that transpire?

Judd Armstrong:

Yeah. Well, I’m Australian born. I grew up down there in Australia and I had nothing to my name except this beautiful restored Holden Monaro, which for anyone in America, it’s like the Chevy SS. It’s like the old muscle car from the ’70s. This Monaro was like a baby blue color and it had hounds tooth seats. It was like just gorgeous. You could smell the ’70s in it. It was just had that beautiful old ’70s leather smell. Then I loved that car, but I loved my wife Marianne more than that. I ended up selling that car so I could afford a wedding ring. I went over to America because she was American and ended up putting that muscle power on her finger. We got married and we’ve been married for 20 years. It’s been a great run, but she’s been so supportive of everything that I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always been a bit of a rogue, kind of a entrepreneur. Like a lot of us are. I love your t-shirts, Steve. Bootstrapped. That’s that’s my life to a tee. Yeah, Steve.

We had nothing to at nine when we started. Like Jaybird back in 2005, I was actually trading stocks and options at the time. I went for a run one night with my silly iPod cable flopping left and right as you’re running. I went back to my desk to look at the charts. Of course I have this wireless keyboard and mouse, even back then. 15 years ago. Yet, we didn’t even have wireless headphones. So to me, I’m like, “Let’s make this really cool side project Jaybird and make wild headphones go wireless. Surely the technology is there to do it.” Of course, massive long journey. Anyone who’s bootstrapped knows the sacrifices that you have to make like we sold our house, we had no furniture. We had one car between us with four kids. It was wild.

Les Brown says if you want to get ahead, you got to be able to make the sacrifices today that other people won’t make so that you can have the things tomorrow that other people won’t have. Anyone who’s in crypto, you kind of feel that, right? Like this is supposed to be the coin for the people, but it seems like a lot of people really struggled with trading and that’s where I came full circle back to trading after having done Jaybird and we led that wireless headphone revolution and we focused on really changing people’s lives up and taking that very special moment of their day, that sacred moment, where they get away from all of the noise and the hustle and bustle and go in and they’ll run or their gym workout and get liberated with wireless music for the first time.

Of course now it’s everywhere, but that was a really exciting run, got to sell to Logitech a few years ago. Since then Steve, I’ve been farming, man. I’ve been, I had to decompress so much work, bootstrapping a business like that. I went and sat in a tractor for a few years and was trading Bitcoin at night. That’s how I came up with Unlisted.

Steve McGarry:

That’s awesome. Literally farming. That’s incredible. That’s incredible. How did the acquisition happens? Personally, I sold my previous company to one of the founders of PayPal. And it was because we were raising a round and it just was the logical next step. It was like, “We can raise a round and go for another two or three years or just exit.” What was the process like for you when you were going through with Logitech, with the acquisition?

Judd Armstrong:

Yeah. We had grown, we’ve been profitable for 10 years straight every single year. Even though we were bootstrapped, we were somehow able to make it work. Because if you’re not making money without an investor, you’re out of business. You’re forced to get very creative. Then you know what’s really fascinating is there’s so many times where I thought I needed an investor, but there was actually a creative way through it. I had to get that to that precipice. I had to get to that stressful point where there was no way ahead unless I came up with something crazy and it’s amazing, the partnerships you can create, how you can get by and bootstrap things. It’s amazing. Anyone who’s in business for themselves. Really, really encourage you to look for those creative avenues, take yourself to the precipice, to that turning point, that critical point where you can find that avenue and out of necessity. When you become unstoppable and you have to get through out of necessity, it’s amazing what you can do.

And you won’t discover that part of yourself until you put yourself in that situation. Getting through those 10 years, making profits every year, and then growing 50% to 100% year over year, we got up to be the third top premium headphone brand in the States alongside Beats and Bose, which was remarkable. First of the little guys, but it was cool. To get to that point and people saying, “Hey, why do you want to sell right now? Cause everything’s firing and everything’s going so well.” We had this incredible movement of customers who really got behind us and that’s how we were able to succeed because we had a killer product and we didn’t have a lot of marketing money, but the people spread the word because they loved it so much. We had this really great roadmap as well, a lot of R&D that we were doing at the time.

When everyone’s saying, why would you want to sell now? That’s the time to sell because you’re the most attractive. Also it was to a point where I had a hundred employees and it was a lot of, lot of work. That’s just beyond where I wanted to be. To answer your question, Steve. I went out to an investment banking firm, Stiefel and a great couple of people that helped us put together like a hundred page proposal. They sent it out to strategic investors and also to private equity investors. Strategic, we’re talking about, “Hey, since we’re a headphone company.” We went to Bose, Skullcandy, a whole bunch of like Plantronics, Jabra, Logitech, and also even Apple and Samsung. We were going all over the place and then also private equity who really want to buy businesses.

Then flip them later on, of course, so that a hundred page document goes out and this is what they told me. They said, I was totally blown away by this. They said, “No matter how many people you send that document out to, and no matter how good you are, you will only ever get a handful of offers back.” That’s what happened. We got about five offers back. Jabra actually came back with a huge offer, but they were just … Turns out they were just fishing. They weren’t actually even serious. They were trying to get some information out of us, which was, it was pretty crazy to see those kind of games being played, but Logitech. Straight shooters, Bracken Darrell, he’s the CEO of Logitech. He’s amazing and a really, really great company and ended up partnering with them and doing the deal with them.

It was crazy because at the time of that deal, I was actually trying to catch up on some taxes because when you bootstrapped, you have those struggles, right? The IRS and the state were really trying to collect on some taxes. It was really threatening to shut us down, actually. Cause we were struggling for cash. When you’re growing at that pace, the business needs so much money. We had these crazy convulsionary struggles as we were trying to do this deal. It happened and it worked so that was pretty remarkable.

Steve McGarry:

That’s incredible. All of these pieces, kind of people trying to collect, you’re talking to investment bankers who were putting you in front of like these massive brands. All whirling around. That is just, it’s such a testament to mindset of being able to like zone certain things out and stay focused on what’s in front of you. Bravo on that. Not your average person could really focus after all those distractions and all those things jumping in your way.

Judd Armstrong:

Yeah. Well said. Well said. It was like every day, through those six months. Every day, I’d meet with my controller and it’d be like, all right, we’d both be saying, “Okay, rolling up our sleeves. Okay. Give it to us. What’s next? What’s the next big fire of the day?”

Steve McGarry:

What’s the next fire? What’s the next fire to put out? You touched on team. A hundred people when the acquisition went through. What was it like growing to a hundred people from yourself having that moment, that aha moment. What was it like scaling to a hundred people that led up to the acquisition?

Judd Armstrong:

Yeah. I really love teams of about 15. That’s where you can really be kind of like a SWAT team. Small teams get a lot done. When you get to be a big team, lots of people kind of just cruise. Right? I think smaller teams are the best teams. The way that we ran the company was I had a small group of leaders. Like operations leader, brand, sales, R&D or engineering, things like that. I would tell them, “You are the CEO of your group and you run it the way that you want to run it. Every week, we’ll have a chat or between that at any time you want to chat, let’s chat.” That was the way I was able to keep myself sane, and it’s also good because it keeps the groups small. It keeps them empowered and it keeps them really engaged.

Like everyone wants to be able to have impact and have meaning to their day. To have some reason to get up in the morning, and when they finished their day, feel like they actually accomplished really great. They were actually actually able to put their own fingerprint on that and with an organization run that way, I think that ran pretty well.

Steve McGarry:

Nice. Nice. When you were just getting started out, were you doing any sort of … Were you fulfilling on your own, where you drop shipping? How was, how was the process working for that?

Judd Armstrong:

Yeah, well, we outsourced our call center right up front. We outsourced our fulfillment right upfront, but eventually all those things came back inside as we could afford to. That actually became a big wheel for us for really driving that customer satisfaction. We had a situation where we actually had a fulfillment right next door to our customer experience team. You could knock on the wall and they could knock back. Right? If someone didn’t get a shipment, all they have to do is say, “Hey, just let me put you on hold.” Now just go next door, find out what’s going on, and then their replacement would be already on the way, like that kind of service really blows people away in today’s environment. Also our customer experience. People who live the lifestyle. They ran, they went to the gym. Outdoor adventure, mountain biking, et cetera, things like that.

Steve McGarry:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Nice, nice. Shifting gears, what, it’s perfect that you did the venture for Jaybird for 10 years, because I ask everybody this. Knowing what you know now, what would you tell yourself 10 years ago? What would you tell yourself to either do differently or just give, is it in terms of advice? Think back. It’s a wide open question, but always up to you.

Judd Armstrong:

Yeah. Well it takes belief to start, but it also takes belief to get it done. I’d say one of the actually surprisingly one of the easiest things to do was to actually pioneer that shift in the world. One of the hardest things for me to do was to actually believe that I could do it, that I could actually do it now. So many of us, are held back the definition of what we’ve done in the past. That’s how I was.

I just kind of, I was kind of like shy. I was very unsure of myself. I was unpolished. I had no experience. I had no credentials. I was battling through as uncertainties, still trying to forge ahead with this. Just there’s something in my heart that I felt like I had to do, but I still had to push through all of those belief sets that I was carrying and that I just had to wash them all away for myself to really come into who I really was and let that be discovered. There is a lot to us that that is yet to be discovered. We’re not defined by our past, but rather a vision of our future. If we can get to that place, that we can do a lot of great things and if I could go back in time, I would tell myself to just get at it and believe even more.

Steve McGarry:

Yeah. I watched your interview. It was a really great video on your website, on the Unlisted website. You talk about that kind of, that drive, that feeling. Where I can relate, I know a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs that are listening and watching this. They can relate to that feeling of, you just have to have progress. You have to complete that mission. No matter how many times you get kind of shoved down and whatnot, you just constantly feel the need to do it. That really hit home with me. If you could just kind of give us from a high level, just that snippet again, from that interview that you have, where you talk about that drive that entrepreneurs like yourself have?

Judd Armstrong:

Yeah, yeah. The great Les Brown, he says that there’s something special in all of us and there’s greatness in all of us. He says that there’s so much yet to be discovered about who we really are. It’s evolving and Denzel Washington, this quote really hit me hard when I heard it a while back. He said that, “That itch that you have in your heart, that desire that just won’t go away.” He says that “That’s God’s promise sent to you beforehand that it’s already yours.” It just hit my heart. I’m like, “You’re kidding me? That’s what I’ve been feeling.” He defined that so well. There’s just things that an entrepreneur feels that are it’s your place in the universe to do this. When you lock into that, when it becomes a point of necessity in your life, not just because of survival, that’s definitely a fact which we talked about before, but also to fulfill that purpose and meaning in your life, we’re here to do great things.

As an entrepreneur, we typically find those things more often. You tap into that level of inspiration. So many things in life are done by uninspired people in big corporations or whatever, just putting out whatever thing will turn money. An entrepreneur is different. Where rather than an expert, we’re a student, we’re always studying our craft. Always looking to expand our abilities and what’s right and what’s going to be good for people and making a difference in their lives. When you can tap into all that, and you’re constantly focusing on it and you’re passionate about it, you’re going to tap into something very special, that inspiration that connects you to some intangible unseen thing in the universe that actually delivers something to you. That the universe has a way of setting a price for its goods.

When you can make that sacrifice and make that work and put forward that price and pay the price, some great things will come your way and it’ll connect you to some, I guess, destinies. Destinies that most other people won’t put the effort into to achieve. That’s reserved only for you if you’re willing to put the work in.

Steve McGarry:

Yeah. Love that. Love that. It’s such a powerful, powerful statement. It definitely, I can see how that north star kind of idea and mindset can really … Because just, it’s so simple to say, believe in yourself, but in reality, a lot of people very much struggled with that. I think that as long as you can have that drive and that kind of motivation it’ll really, really help in the long term, especially when you have, let’s say the IRS coming after you, you’re doing almost a $100 million acquisition. You kind of need that driver to persevere.

Judd Armstrong:

That is so true.

Steve McGarry:

Right now you are starting a company called Unlisted. Let’s dive into that a little bit. What is Unlisted?

Judd Armstrong:

Well, so I’ve always been passionate about helping people to become more free and that manifested in Jaybird. Liberating that music experience. Any time I’ve had employees or team working with me, I’m like, “Hey, you can also be an entrepreneur. Or you can also like, why don’t you like …” When the housing market was really great for flipping, turning houses and improving them and selling them, I’m like, “You should look into that or stock market or do your own business, whatever it is.” I’ve always been driven to help people get financially free, like the journey that I’ve been on. Sitting in a tractor, decompressing from having … I’d done this big consumer electronics brand and exited and just thinking about what I could do next. Of course, trading Bitcoin and really finding some really special ways of trading Bitcoin.

Here’s the problem with trading is that most people are failing, right? Like 90% of people end up losing money because they’re driven by the theory of greed and excitement or whatever it might be. It’s treated a bit like Vegas. What I wanted to do is really cut down the trading to 12 trades a year. Can I do that? Where I have a method for people to use where it’s just 12 trades a year or something like that, that’s really low maintenance, more lifestyle friendly, and somehow identify where the bottoms are and where the tops are. For the most part, we have really … I’ve developed this method that really works. It’s the average win is 56%. The average loss is 6%. It’s doubling money every six months in historical track record. We can’t project the future or anything.

But that’s our track record, both in back testing and actual trading. If you double money every six months, you take $5,000 and you double it every six months, you’re going to get to a million dollars in four years. It’s insane the way that that compounding growth works. Myself and Morty, we got together a couple of years ago and started to work on this, and we’ve got an app now. The app is great. We have just over 400 people using the app now. We’re only going to a thousand. We’re about halfway there. We want to keep our lifestyle. As these account balances grow, we’re going to be growing a fair bit of volume.

We want to make sure that the signals are still manageable down the road. We’re also adding automated trading in October of this year. If you love trading crypto, then, and you just start hands-on, then you could just say, take, say like $5,000, put it on this platform and see how it compares to how you go. I almost guarantee that you’ll see how easy it is. You’ll be like, “Man, I need to throw more money at that.” It’ll probably out perform what you’re doing yourself.

Steve McGarry:

Yeah. Yeah. I think trading’s very, very difficult to time. Part of the reason why it’s a lot of people on Twitter and things like that are always claiming these huge returns. They’re only doing a couple of trades, but a lot of people just think that they’re just day trading and like rapidly trading these things. It’s often kind of misconstrued, especially when newcomers are coming into the space and seeing that’s what everybody’s doing. There’s a lot of unfortunate losses that come right out of the gate there, but-

Judd Armstrong:

I’ve been through it myself, like 2017 was exciting. I paid the price just like a lot of other people in 2018. Through that pain and through that … I mean when you, you see the incredible growth that you have, and then you see a lot of that disappear, you either give up which a lot of people do. You either HODL, which is another form of giving up, or you double down and you work out what’s going on. What I found was that there’s the big players, the market makers, they’re the ones who are winning because they know the game plan that most traders follow. They know the symmetrical triangles. They know the wedges, they know the price patterns, they know that whatever it is indicated that you’re using. They play that against you. It’s really important that you can see through that and you have a game plan beyond that.

Steve McGarry:

Nice. Nice. Well, that’s all the questions I have for you. Rolling out the red carpet, where do you want people to go and learn more about Unlisted?

Judd Armstrong:

Yeah. Unlisted.io, go check out that that website has got so much there. You can also Google some interviews that we’ve done like this one, which is great. Thanks for having me on Steve. It’s excellent. Really love it. I think interviews are the greatest way to come across something like this, because you get to really see the person behind what’s being offered. Right? That’s so important in crypto because there’s a lot of crazy things out there that you got to be careful of. Hopefully everyone got a feel for my sincere intent and my credentials. It’s good.

Steve McGarry:

Once again. Thank you so much Judd for coming on the show.

Judd Armstrong:

Thanks, Steve.

Steve McGarry:

Thank you so much for tuning into The Exit presented by Flippa today. If you guys are brand new here, definitely leave us a like and a comment on someone that you’d love to see on the show. Somebody that’s bought or sold a business in the past. Somebody you really respect as an operator. We’d love to talk to them. We’d love to put them in the highlighted section of our series, where people get a chance to really get inspired and learn from these expert operators.

Definitely leave us a comment, leave us a like, and let us know what you really liked about this show. If you guys are wanting to learn more about, for example, what we talked about with Judd Armstrong, there will be a lot of information in the show notes on the Flippa blog, which will be linked to wherever you’re listening to this. Whether it’s on Spotify, iTunes, or SoundCloud, even on YouTube, you can definitely check those links out wherever you’re listening to this, and definitely learn more about Judd Armstrong and his venture as well as The Exit presented by Flippa. We hope to see you guys on the next episode.

Steve McGarry

Steve McGarry

Steve McGarry is an entrepreneur, content creator, and investor based in sunny Tampa, Florida. In 2015, while living in San Francisco, Steve sold his first fintech startup LendLayer to Max Levchin’s (founder of PayPal) consumer finance company Affirm. In the last 5 years, Steve has both built an online community that reaches 1.4 million people every month on social media and a portfolio of over a dozen web properties. Currently, he’s the co-founder of a next-generation fintech startup called GrowYourBase while managing his portfolio of online businesses.