Dealmaking for the Next Decade and Creating a New Asset Class with Tom Shipley

There’s a new version of entrepreneurship out there that’s gaining steam and is going to change the way we do business over the next few years.

In today’s episode, host Roland Frasier chats with Tom Shipley, President and Co-Founder of Foundry. Much like Roland, Tom is a serial entrepreneur who prefers to stay off the org charts. In the past, Tom has always been the entrepreneurial operator, building a number of 8-figure businesses and developing brands that have become household names. But, over the past couple years, Roland has helped open his mind to the concept of being an entrepreneurial investor, and that has changed everything.

Listen in as these two brilliant minds discuss all things entrepreneurship, aggregation, and asset classes.

Different Types of Entrepreneurship

Obviously, entrepreneurship isn’t one-size-fits-all. But there are common/traditional ways of being an entrepreneur, and then there are people like Roland who are pioneering new entrepreneurial territory. 

Traditionally, you get into one business where you follow that and try to create a liquidity event or dynastic wealth. Then there’s serial entrepreneurship, where you’re doing this over and over again. Then there’s this new version of entrepreneurship which Roland is an evangelist for—the entrepreneurial investor. An entrepreneurial investor doesn’t have to control, operate, and manage everything on their own. They just make their money and move on. That’s the beauty of it—and the opportunity to create exponential wealth.

Tom sees Roland playing both of these roles—entrepreneurial operator and investor—in tandem and doing it remarkably well. (Roland jokingly suggests the term “acqui-preneur. We’ll see if it gains traction.) As Tom has moved into the entrepreneurial investor space, it’s been an incredible transition for him. He sees the way Roland has been able to impact thousands of entrepreneurs’ lives and change the game. And he wants that for himself.

The Deal that (Thankfully) Never Happened

Once upon a time, Roland and Tom had an equity deal that didn’t work out, and it didn’t work out in the very best way. Tom and his partner were working toward selling their business. Roland happened to be offering his EPIC challenge around that same time. Tom watched the challenge and started changing how he did things. He started focusing on what impact the sale of the business could have. And he asked the big question: what’s next?

As they were trying to identify a big opportunity, he looked into aggregating platforms, something he loves to do. There’s acquisition, but he really loves aggregating platforms. They decided to do a small aggregation play in e-commerce, then flipped to Amazon. There were only five players in the space back then, so it was difficult to get funding to acquire an Amazon business. It was considered risky, because you don’t control the marketplace, but brilliant because it was so cutting-edge. 

Tom knew institutional funding would eventually become available, so they decided to pivot. Tom spent a day with Roland talking through ideas. What will this look like? What needs to happen? How can we scale this?

He made seven calls to private equity firms and talked about the idea. Without a Power Point or a business plan, he got six offers out of seven meetings. They’d go out and buy Amazon businesses, build them to a 2-6 multiple, and pull them together as an aggregator. When you do that, you can have a multiple of up to 20, and that’s really the play.

They fleshed out a business model and assembled a team. The private equity traditional structure tries to pigeonhole you, but Tom and his partners didn’t follow that. They created their own unique structure. Then they picked one firm, got all the way up to the last minute of the deal, but then it didn’t work out. When that fell through, the firm introduced them to another fund, and that’s how the deal finally happened.

Tom’s Transition to Entrepreneurial Investor

As they did some pivots in the deal structure, Tom transitioned to being an entrepreneurial investor. He brought in the right CEO, and his job was done a few months later. And he immediately started looking for the next transformational opportunities. He knew right away that he was cut out for this.

Roland asks Tom if he’s willing to share what’s on the horizon or if he’d rather keep it under wraps. Tom is happy to share. “It’s not that tight of a niche from that perspective,” he says. “If you want your business to succeed, it’s really about the talent of the team around you and the core fundamentals of the business. I’m really not that worried. It’s a massive universe. In my view of the world, I choose to collaborate with people, even competitors, rather than view them as competition.”

From here on out, Tom wants to spend two-thirds of his time on one business and the other one-third on partnerships with people like Roland who have so many brilliant ideas and unique ways of looking at the world. Tom believes the next decade is about aggregations, pulling businesses together to accelerate growth and create big platforms. 

In entrepreneurship, he says, it’s less about resources, more about your resourcefulness. Put Tom in a situation and give him a couple of creative minds, and he’ll find a way around any problem. 

There are so many beautiful niches out there and so many opportunities, he says. He sees a great opportunity to aggregate marketing agencies. He’s also looking at the NFT space. Big picture, he’s looking for 2-3 opportunities to scale businesses, create liquidity events, and make it its own asset class. And he’d like to give back to the world while he’s at it.



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