Be prepared, work hard, and hope for a little luck
Or so it goes when you are working on your exit strategy. At this week’s Exit Accelerator launch event in Zurich, both entrepreneurs and M&A pros agreed that it is worth minimizing the impact of the unplanned by structuring the deal early, taking advice from those who have exited before and enlisting the help of experts in the field. With just over 50 attendees, entrepreneurs, M&A experts, investors and students rallied around this focus. Check out some photos of the event.
With the aim of lifting the veil of obscurity that surrounds Exits, one of the most important milestones in the life of a business, the organisers invited two interactive panels, featuring founders and M&A professionals, who shared their views on what makes an exit successful.
The founders panel, moderated by Sunnie Groeneveld from DigitalZH2025 and with Marco Boella (exit to Intel), Mehdi Aminian (exit to Dailymotion), Philipp Bolliger (exit to Husquarna), Joshua Krammes (exit to IBM) shared how they “lived” their exits. In a very interactive session and with hindsight ranging from months to several years, their message was clear: ‘There is always a surprise along the road. It is worth minimizing the impact of the unplanned by structuring the deal early, taking advice from those who have exited before and enlisting the help of external advisers. What really makes the deal happen is hard work, flexibility, endurance and, above all, preparedness’. All of the founders would start a business again: their entrepreneurial spirit is definitely alive and kicking. Meanwhile, they are a source of a good advice and an inspiration to those who are growing and nurturing their own business.
Colin Turner, from Rising Star Ventures, moderated the M&A professionals’ panel, featuring Marco Superina of Credit Suisse, Balthasar Wicki of Wicki Partners, Thomas Wittig of Wittigonia and Gregoire Michaux from Redwood Capital. Their emphasis was also on preparedness: thinking of the exit early, often well before there is a clear intent to sell; structuring the company well, to ensure no skeletons remain in the closet that later break the potential deal; and identifying the best-fit strategic buyer. Once the exit process has begun, their advice was to focus on a good fit for the visions of the founders with an effective post-closing phase to ensure the longevity of the business within the new organization. With so many challenging phases in an exit process, it was felt that a solid network of advisers is essential: the question is ultimately not ‘Can you afford the professional advice?’ but ‘Can you afford not to have it?’
When asked what actions would ensure a more dynamic Swiss entrepreneurial ecosystem, panelists pointed to:
- a simpler tax treatment
- easier access to investors and finance
- removing barriers to the cross border flow of talent
- a strong advisory community of entrepreneurs, professionals and mentors
Exit Accelerator is pleased to be part of these efforts, helping entrepreneurs to lead their businesses to successful exits and sharing their stories, from which others may learn.
About Exit Accelerator
Exit Accelerator is a Swiss grass roots initiative with the aim of boosting the Swiss start-up and SME ecosystem by promoting conversations about exits.
The three founders of Exit Accelerator are Sanja Fabrio, David Butler and Rodney Reis: entrepreneurs who have ‘lived’ large multi-national and startup lives, gaining considerable ‘Exit’ experience from both the Buyer’s and the Seller’s perspective.
Passionate about making a difference, they have tapped into the Swiss business community: founders, multi-nationals, M&A advisors and government representatives, to harness the collective knowhow and to help accelerate the growth of the entrepreneurial movement across Switzerland by addressing the crucial but underserved phase of the investment process, the Exit.
They have taken a lean approach and are shaping this initiative based on feedback from the community. Over the next few months, Exit Accelerator will organize a number of events with a focus on the key issues that founders face when preparing for an exit. By facilitating the exchange of key learnings from the exit process, Exit Accelerator expects to lift the veil of obscurity from this important milestone and help create more exits where entrepreneurs chose the best path for their business.