Nexternal Founder & CEO Alex Gile kicked off our first Fireside Chat as our featured guest. Alex received a degree in Industrial Engineering from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and in 1999, founded Nexternal – a cloud-based eCommerce platform company. In May of 2015, SEG advised on the sale of Nexternal to Accel-KKR backed HighJump / TrueCommerce. Alex is now a Senior Vice President at TrueCommerce and helps manage the Nexternal team.
The goal of SEG Fireside Chats is to foster a strong local software community where CEOs and founders can come together (beside our fireplace, of course!) to engage in highly relevant and interesting discussions, network, and to obtain meaningful and unique insights. For our first discussion, Alex shared his experience founding, growing, exiting, and integrating his software company. Here are a few highlights from the discussion:
Q: As you know, all of us founders live and breathe for our companies… we are basically are married to our companies. How has this process personally impacted you, and what is it like on the exit side, psychologically? Do you miss being in control?
Alex: There’s good things and bad things. Interestingly, when we were acquired, the HR benefits people were in Canada, so they gave great benefits. They grandfathered my tenure as if I was working for the parent company for that long. The medical benefits are also better when you work for a bigger company. The thing I’ve appreciated most is that our production environment is managed by a much bigger group of people. When I ran my own company, if there was a problem, which could happen at any given time, I felt like I was always on call. I was at my daughter’s first piano recital four years ago, and all of a sudden, my phone started lighting up. It’s moments like that where I am glad that there are other people help out. It is a psychological difference- you go from making very quick decisions to having a lot more meetings to get approval from a lot more people, and it moves a bit slower than you’re used to moving. At times, that can be frustrating, but at the end of the day, I can’t complain. There is greater peace of mind and overall, I am happier now. I have 3 daughters and I get to spend more time with my family.
Q: What was it like going through the due diligence and what advice do you have for post exit?
Alex: The due diligence process is tough because you are basically living parallel lives. There’s a lot of information they want when you’re going through the process. You’re not supposed to disclose to your employees what’s going on, but you still have to run your company. I remember going into the office on Saturdays and it would be torn apart – I was pulling out file cabinets, turbo scanning all sorts of stuff, getting material ready to go- and by Monday morning I had to have it all put away to make it look like I didn’t even work that weekend. So it can be challenging, but after you close, stick around for three to four weeks because there are going to be a lot of employees that will be very nervous about what this means to them, and you should be there to talk them through it. Tell the buyer when you are negotiating, that in four weeks, you want to take time off and celebrate with your family and do something awesome, rather than getting sucked into it right off the bat. If you are working the weekends and working the nights, it can be tough and you should do something fun to celebrate.
Thank you, Alex, for being our first featured guest. We look forward to another insightful discussion at our next Fireside Chat!