How entrepreneur Ben Yoskovitz worked his way to two successful startup exits

The following is a guest post from Erin Bury and was published earlier today on the Sprouter Blog.Toronto-based Sprouter facilitates networking and collaboration between entrepreneurs globally. _______________________________________________________________________________________

Ben Yoskovitz is an entrepreneur who is familiar with the acquisition process. He started his first company, a software development service business, in 1996 between his 2nd and 3rd years in university. “We focused most of our energy on providing U.S.-based clients with software and Web development services,” he says. “That company was acquired and then morphed into a product company in 2000.”

He left that company in 2006 to work on a new venture which was a collaboration between Ben and fellow Montreal-based entrepreneurs Fred Ngo and Austin Hill. They were discussing the challenges of finding good people and startup opportunities in Canada. “I had similar frustrations with how companies were recruiting – especially with the success of social technologies in other areas of business and our personal lives.” So they started Standout Jobs, a social recruiting company. Originally their focus was on video since it’s a great medium for storytelling. “In many ways it beats text,” Ben says. “And we found that videos were a great way for companies to tell their stories – and attract talent.” They scaled their vision and plans to look at other social technologies including blogging and social networks, and found ways for companies to leverage those technologies and the importance of storytelling for recruitment.

Recruitment was one of many challenges the team faced while building the business. “We made a lot of noise in the local market (which was helpful), and leveraged our own networks to try and find talent,” he says. “We even produced our own recruitment video.” Looking back, he says he wishes he had a better understanding specifically of the HR market. “It’s a tough nut to crack,” he says. “We made some assumptions early on about our ability to break into that market that were simply wrong, and it took a lot of time to adjust.”

Despite their challenges the company raised $2 million of funding in early 2008, and evolved to the point that there was interest from potential acquirers. Ben says the acquisition process was a roller coaster, full of ups and downs. “We saw lots of opportunity with a number of potential acquirers, got very excited, and then those opportunities faded. Others emerged.” The company was acquired in May 2010 (they haven’t named the company or the purchase amount), and Ben says it was important and rewarding to have gone through the process. “I’m glad I was able to see Standout Jobs to an exit, and shepherd it through the process,” he says. And while the company exited successfully he’s quick to note that he won’t be relaxing on a beach for the next year. “I still have to work for a living, so when I sell a company for a hundred million dollars, I’ll let you know!”

He’s learned a thing or two about exits through his experience with Standout Jobs and his first company. “What’s clear (at least for me with this experience) is that you have to run a very organized, diligent process,” he says. “That’s very similar to raising capital. If you’re not organized, focused on the task at hand, have all the proverbial ducks lined up and ready to go, you’re going to fall on your face pretty quickly.” He says he learned a ton throughout his time with Standout Jobs that will be of huge value going forward – about raising capital, customer acquisition, product/market fit, etc.

He’s now trying to share that knowledge with other entrepreneurs through his popular Instigator Blog. “Hopefully I can share some of that experience and knowledge — not just of the exit, but of the whole experience of running Standout Jobs — with others,” he says. Recent blog posts have discussed sourcing startup talent, the importance of domain knowledge, questions to ask when interviewing at a startup, and the stigma around early exits. Many of his posts outline what he feels are the most important tenets of entrepreneurship, but he acknowledges that not all entrepreneurs are built the same. “Entrepreneurs come in many shapes and sizes. Some are loud and obnoxious. Others are quiet and calm. Universally I think entrepreneurs need to be passionate, aggressive, and capable of ‘getting things done.’ They need to be motivators and attractors of talent. And they need to be willing to step out of their comfort zone for the benefit of the startup.”

Along with blogging his experiences thus far, Ben is also looking to the next opportunity. He’s working on a startup in the mobile space which he recently announced, and another project that he’s keeping under wraps.