Stanford BUS 73 — Exit Strategies: Maximizing the Value of Your Company
June 18th - July 19th, Live Online Class
What happens when you have a revolutionary idea but potential investors, partners, and big players can’t quite see the value in what you have to offer? It doesn’t mean you have to give up on changing the world just yet — all it takes is a little reframing.
In the most recent episode of Outcome by Design, Paul speaks with Jim Marrgraff, a legendary edtech visionary who has invented game-changing educational products like the LeapFrog LeapPad. Jim was also the founder of virtual reality startup Eyefluence, later acquired by Google, and is now the CEO of Kinoo, another edtech company with its vision set to improve how kids learn to read. With a history of pushing the boundaries of human perception, Jim offers unique perspectives on entrepreneurship, mergers, and acquisitions — and changing the world.
Join us as we discuss:
Jim has long been a visionary with big ideas on how to improve and increase human cognition and development. From his LeapPad invention that kick-started an entirely new learning-play industry through today, he’s consistently transformed the industry in every market he’s touched.
But having great ideas doesn’t immediately translate to innovation. You’ve got to have the mindset, ability, and drive to push past ideation and truly innovate.
Like most creative entrepreneurs, Jim had a vision for his eye-tracking company: use your eyes as a breakthrough way to navigate through virtual reality. With futuristic possibilities of glyphs and multi-modal exchanges using only eye tracking, Jim’s idea would change virtual reality and far beyond.
But that vision didn’t immediately translate to investors and potential buyers.
“We had to start with something people understand and could apply to an immediate problem,” Jim says. “We have to start with something simple.”
In addition to drive and knowledge, you have to have the awareness to assess audience connection. In Jim’s case, this required him to step back, assess where his vision applied to immediate problems and take steps in that direction, even though it meant loosening the reins on the long-term goal.
Finding alignment between your vision and the market can feel like an internal negotiation — navigating it is easier said than done. Jim found success by returning to the creative problem-solving strategies he’s used across each of his ventures.
“Solve in triplicate,” he says. “First, define the problem you're solving. Then, when the team returns with one solution, ask them for a second and a third solution orthogonal to the first two. Each needs to be completely different, not incremental.”
When different solutions are offered, it’s easier to understand alternative applications while holding true to the underlying value. So, while Jim would approach partnerships and potential acquisitions by sharing his solution and how it solved their business problems, he’d also finish with remarks on how the product could ultimately fulfill his original vision.
Likewise, alternative options can help you assess business opportunities within your company. While succeeding independently might seem like the ideal solution, sometimes partnering better serves your business and ultimately guides you to achieving your visions.
Rather than locking yourself into a singular viewpoint, approach every creative challenge with a triplicate mindset.
An acquisition is typically not top of mind for entrepreneurs — and it’s certainly not the usual goal when starting a company. For many, deciding to hand off something they’ve put their heart and soul into is emotionally trying.
Ultimately, deciding to sell his products and his company was personal for Jim. After a few questions and exercises, he knew that acquisition was the way to go.
“Always ask yourself, month to month: What are the business options? How long will it take me? How much money? Where will it take me? What's my growth opportunity here? What happens if I partner?” Jim says.
Be honest with yourself on whether you may be better off plugging into another company that could amplify your growth and sales much more quickly, ultimately bringing you closer to your vision. If your business is not enabled with the proper talent, capital, technology, or resources, it may be time to consider alternative options — and this isn’t giving up.
“Acquisition doesn’t mean you’ve failed. You can still realize your dream,” Jim says. “You’ve just got to find the right home.”
Want to learn more details about how Jim was so successful? Listen to the full episode of Outcome By Design to learn more.