Allison Strouse: How to negotiate a successful exit

Allison Strouse built Yarly as the only photo management platform sold via local, certified photo experts. Rocket-speed growth made elbow-room imperative. Enter Legacy Republic. Boom. Magic. Legacy + Yarly is the perfect solution. Hear Allison Strouse tell her exit story...

colorful logoWhat led you to sell your business?

Selling was our way to get Yarly to the next level. It grew quickly, and we rapidly outgrew the resource and support that Yarly Corporate could provide our nationwide sales force. At the same time, we could see very clearly our growth plan, which included diversifying our product offering and growing internationally. Legacy Republic and its parent company, YesVideo, have raised substantial capital and a solid social selling program, which gives them the resources to fulfill these plans.Yarly Legacy logo

What did you learn from the process that you wish you’d known in advance—things other women entrepreneurs can learn from?

I’ve learned the importance of having the guts to put yourself and your ideas out into the public. There will be both naysayers and those who provide unproductive guidance, and I’ve learned that the easiest and best way to combat this is by having a deep love and passion for what you do. Love what you are doing, and you will see how that feeling is infectious to the people around you.

Also, I learned to lean on other women who have gone through the startup process before. There are lots of awesome support networks out there. Columbia University Startup Lab at WeWork hosts women-only events; Girls Raising, Dreamers & Doers, and WoFo are all great support networks. These are women who will just ‘get’ what you are going through. That’s important.

You need an outstanding team who is as committed as you are, too. I had the best team I could ever imagine. My three technical co-founders, Joseph Rall, Kevin Prudente and Joshua Quintus—they’re family now. Be generous with your team. Regularly remind yourself that success flows from the team’s effort.

And just never give up. There will be lots of opportunities to hang it up. Push through all of that. If you really listen to the most successful people out there, you will hear many stories that talk about failure and perseverance. Success doesn’t come easily to anyone. You have to take risks, work hard and put yourself out there. As Thomas Edison said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” Never. Give. Up.

Allison Strouse YarlyWhat excites you about this transaction?

Knowing that my team and I built something of real value. This was our first entrepreneurial venture, so to create a company and have a successful exit on our first go is something we are very proud of.

As an advisor, I am also now able to watch my sales team flourish within a larger organization. Every day, I am reminded about what we have built and the value we have created.

It is so exciting to see our growth plans become a reality. Legacy Republic, through its parent, has a corporate history dating back to 1999. They are clearly the gold standard within this business segment, with 30,000 retail partners and a robust infrastructure in the US. With such a strong foundation, our opportunities are simply endless. I’m excited that our dreams for Yarly will become a reality through this acquisition.

How did Legacy Republic find you?

We were actually connected more than a year ago by Nihal Mehta, Founding General Partner at Eniac Ventures. I met Nihal at a Columbia Business School event, and I followed up afterward to tell him more about my venture. Nihal also happens to be a Penn alum, so connecting with him felt very natural.

How did you know you had the right “number”?

AS: I viewed the sales process as not just about getting to the right number but also about finding the best home for my team, given that took a risk on me. Through the sales process I got meaningfully down the road with three potential acquirers but it became quite evident that, with their financial scale and established infrastructure, Legacy Republic was the best option for satisfying both those goals.

Allison Strouse Yarly interfaceHow long did the negotiation take?

It was very important that we found an acquirer who shared our values and our mission and would allow us to serve our mission in a stronger way. Yarly took a good amount of time doing our due diligence and speaking with potential acquirers. Once it became clear that Legacy Republic was the right fit, we had already communicated to each other what was important to us, so negotiations on final terms were fairly quick.

Who advised you—who did you turn to?

I have had many advisors while growing Yarly. One is Chantel Waterbury, founder and CEO of Chloe + Isabel. Chantel has built probably the most engaged direct sales force that exists today. Another advisor was Crystal Ciancutti, a partner at The Valley Fund, a Menlo Park-based venture fund. Crystal has excellent product management experience, from Shutterfly to Netflix. I am incredibly grateful that both of these women took the time to mentor and guide me, and I will pay it forward.

Who gave you the best advice as you were negotiating?

I took a negotiations class at Columbia Business School taught by Professor Malia Mason. She had an entire class dedicated to “expanding the pie.” This is a metaphor where people are negotiating about a single pie, such that where one person gets more of the pie, it is clear that the other person gets less. If both parties work together to get a bigger pie, then both can have more with the same percentage division. We did a great job of adding issues to the discussion that expanded the benefits to both of us.

Allison Strouse Yarly logoDo you think you’ll start another company some day, possibly in the same industry ?

The startup life is simply addictive, and I have already jumped into my next venture. I am Chief Operating Officer of an exciting startup called SamyRoad, and we are disrupting the traditional ad agency model. The company was founded in Madrid, and they approached me to start their NYC office and launch US operations. Since starting operations a year ago, our founder, Juan Sánchez-Herrera, and our amazing team have built a fabulous product and already closed more than 25 deals with Fortune 100 brands. This opportunity was just too exciting to delay, so I guess my beach vacation will have to wait!

As far as doing something in the photo space again, who knows? For me, it is less about the precise product vertical, and more about the opportunity and the people. I try to make few plans. As long as I am always pushing myself and learning, I can’t go wrong.

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