Case

Online Academy continues as part of BCS group (backed by Main capital)

We spoke with Wim Schuurmans, founder and now former owner of Online Academy, about how he experienced the sales process with Florijnz.

How did Online Academy get started?

Wim: "Online Academy started in 2009 as a pioneer in online learning by offering online courses. This happened at a time when e-learning was still unknown and therefore there was a lot to gain. We were one of the first to use online videos for courses, such as Jos Burgers' on customer focus. We also applied innovation in the form of integrating features such as instant review of tests, and with the rise of blended learning, we developed a platform for booking and taking courses. We then quickly came to the conclusion that the platform itself had much more value than the content it contained."

Why did the sale of Online Academy come up?

Over the years, several companies (including Main Capital, the eventual buyer of our company) have shown interest in Online Academy. But the decision to really start thinking about a sale was made only after we received a concrete offer from another investment company. That gave us the go-ahead for the sales process.

In the end, what was the deciding factor in entering the sales process?

The challenges within the software industry (such as security) and the enormous potential that could not be fully exploited with the existing team made us tie the knot. Joining a larger, strategic party was beneficial for both our existing customers and future growth. In addition, we believe BCS has the right cultural fit and Online Academy is an essential addition to their services. That did make the sale feel right for everyone.

How did the sales process go in your eyes?

Actually very smoothly and quickly. Within five months everything was complete. The first three weeks we mainly had to share a lot of information ourselves. The following weeks were quieter, but then Florijnz was very busy preparing everything. The timing was also (fortunately) good for the accountant. He had time in November/December, but in January/February that could have been a much bigger problem.

I thought it was a very cool process and at the same time it gave me a lot of energy because all our hard work was visibly rewarded by all the interest. Our negotiating position was very good. So good that buyers started selling themselves to us instead of the other way around.

How did you end up working at Florijnz?

The introduction to Florijnz came several years ago when we became FD Gazelle, which led to a first acquaintance. After that, the contact remained good.

How did you experience the cooperation with Florijnz?

We really enjoyed the process with Bart Lips. We really felt that something was being done with our feedback and he was very knowledgeable. Great thought was given to how we could best position the company and a very good information memorandum was created. That definitely helped in the process!

Bart kept the direction, but also gives clients space when asked and is always available. Even in the evenings we could always contact him and we really appreciated that. Florijnz also brought a good network and we were put at the table with the right buyers.

Where do you think the greatest added value lies?

You really can't do this by yourself. The indispensable role of Florijnz became clear to us through their network, professional documentation and during the negotiation process. Speed, thinking along and creating momentum in the market are things Florijnz really helped us with. The aftercare after the process also felt very pleasant. We really got the feeling that we could always turn to Florijnz with any questions.

They also always put our best interests first. In the end, we did not go for the highest offer, but for the offer (and the party) that best suited us. That was not necessarily in Florijnz's favor, but in that respect they always looked first at what was best for us.

What could we do better?

More communication in the early stages. Florijnz was very busy in the beginning preparing all the documentation, but it was not always visible to us. After we provided all the information and we met again after about 3 weeks, we were thankfully positively surprised at how much had already been done.

What do you think was the low point of the journey?

We received an offer that was very disappointing, even before the process began. That the first buyer comes in with such a low offer does something to your confidence. It is then up to an M&A advisor to find the perfect party who knows the company at the right value. There were moments when I lay awake at night because of this, but generally everything went very well and smoothly. Somehow it even gave me a kick.

We were prepared for a heavy due diligence and it was really disappointing. It took a lot of time, but Florijnz had already prepared us for that. You would think that as a buyer you couldn't think of so many questions, but still it worked. All of this did make us realize that you actually have a lot more information about your company than you originally think. Fortunately, the deadlines and pressures are already known to us, considering we come from the events business. That did help us (subconsciously) I think.

What did you remember most about the whole process?

There was a moment when it was make or break. After due diligence came a tough negotiation. I had brought Bossche bollen with me and said to the gentlemen across the street, "I have Bossche bollen with me, but whether we are going to eat them is up to you." In the end, we came out of that well and everyone involved was happy with a fair deal for everyone.

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