Alicia Navarro has wanted to be an entrepreneur even before she knew the name for it. Taking a more traditional path only worked for Alicia for so long before she had to find her place in the startup world. Falling in love with building an idea from the ground up, Alicia would make several attempts before her first successful company, Skimlinks. Spending 11 years at the company, Alicia stepped aside to let someone else bring it to an exit. She shares the full story here.
Building From The Ground Up
At the young age of 8, Alicia can vividly remember watching a commercial profiling a business owner. She remembers the individual creating great things, and she decided right then that’s what she wanted to do. Alicia went on to study computer science because there were so many things you could do with it. After college, she went into product management, working for large companies. She can recall trying and failing to start some companies throughout her 20s. She felt like a product manager was like being a founder, as they’re often the hub that connects everyone else. She was determined to have that experience and joined her first startup. Alicia fell in love with building something from the ground up.
Inspiration From Unlikely Places
Vowing to never work for a large company again, Alicia almost broke that rule when she decided to interview for a Google product management position. She made it a long way into the interview process when she was asked to suggest a product and explain how she would monetize it. Scrambling for something to say, she remembered a thought she had been toying with. It was a tool that helped to make group decisions, like where to eat. Alicia got excited as she began to explain the concept. She didn’t end up getting the job, but she had inspired herself to actually build that very tool.
An Unsuspected Beginning
Alicia put time and money into building up this business, and ended up selling it to one client and making it available for website use. She would then spend another year trying to raise money and get a second client. She wanted to automate the creation of affiliate links, as it seemed the easiest path to revenue. She pitched this idea to potential clients of the group decision-making tool, and found that they were much more interested in the affiliate link automation. So, Alicia dropped everything she had built for the last two years and started working on that. That was the birth of Skimlinks.
Beginning With The End In Mind
Skimlinks grew very quickly in its first year as they had already built relationships with potential customers. A few years in, Alicia decided to bring in a co-founder. Together they turned the back end technology into a beloved brand. With a strong brand and incredible culture, they were well known in the start-up industry. Knowing they wanted to be acquired at some stage, Alicia made it her mission to build relationships that she thought could one day convert into an acquisition. She says it must have worked as they had a lot of people interested in buying them over the years. They got very close to an exit, but couldn’t come to an agreement. Alicia says in hindsight, they should’ve taken the deal.
Setting Aside Ego For The Win
With the industry changing, Alicia felt she was no longer the best person for the company’s growth. She decided the best chance to succeed was to have someone better at operational discipline take over. Alicia chose her successor and handed off the reins. She says too many people get sucked into an ego game and convince themselves they should be good at something, or obsess over what happens when someone sees they’re not good at something. Alicia says to take the ego out of the picture and focus more on what you love doing. For Alicia, she loved being the builder. With a new CEO in place, the company grew and eventually was acquired.
Knowing What You Know Now, What Would You Tell Yourself Ten Years Ago?
While Alicia wasn’t the architect of the final acquisition, she knows she helped in a big way. Selling a company isn’t just a numbers game, a lot of value is from the brand halo of a company. She recognizes now that the storytelling aspect gets you a really high exit. She would tell herself to stick to your guns on the value you can bring.
What Alicia Is Working On Now
Alicia’s newest endeavor is Flown, a platform that helps develop deep focus as you work. If you’d like to learn more about what Alicia is up to, visit her blog at www.navarland.com. All of her social media accounts are linked there as well.
The Exit—Presented By Flippa: A 30-minute podcast featuring expert entrepreneurs who have been there and done it. The Exit talks to operators who have bought and sold a business. You’ll learn how they did it, why they did it, and get exposure to the world of exits, a world occupied by a small few, but accessible to many. To listen to the podcast or get daily listing updates, click on flippa.com/the-exit-podcast/