At Onfolio, we love founder success stories.
The entrepreneurs we buy from have big ideas and bigger dreams. And we help make those dreams a reality.
Our Director of Communications, Kyri Theos, recently talked to Joel Sacks, founder of MightyDeals, one of the world’s most successful daily-deals websites for creative professionals.
Onfolio acquired MightyDeals from Joel in 2021. Since then, we’ve continued to pursue his vision and deliver exceptional products to customers.
Below, Joel tells us his side of the story.
But first, we know you’re curious about why Onfolio purchased this particular business so we asked Dom Wells, CEO of Onfolio, to explain the reasons behind the acquisition.
Here’s what he had to say:
“MightyDeals was an exciting acquisition for us.
It is a strong brand with a 15+ year history, a great domain name, and a good footprint. Not only that, it’s been run passionately for many years, and has a massive audience of people who have used its services.
Additionally, it offered good opportunities for improvement.
MightyDeals came on our radar at a time when we were moving away from acquiring anonymous affiliate/content websites and wanting to buy more legitimate brands.
It fit that bill.
We also liked the space and believe that many aspects of the industry are accelerating, such as the creator economy and the growth of small business owners.
Not only that, but there is an opportunity to create more content for the audience, not just sell them products.
We love finding businesses that have been built and scaled by founders through hard work and passion.
At Onfolio, these are the types of businesses we want to take on.
Our aim is to protect the founder’s legacy, improve the business, and ensure every loyal customer is excited about the new ownership.”
Now, let’s check out what Joel told Kyri about starting MightyDeals, his decision to exit his business, and why he sold to Onfolio.
Q&A with Joel Sacks
Hey, Joel, and welcome! What can you tell everyone about yourself and your journey?
I was born and raised in South Africa. After high school, I studied architecture but I was always more interested in the computer side of it so I moved into computer-aided drafting (CAD) and relocated to Israel to pursue that.
I initially got a job in computer sales — selling computers and CAD software to architects and engineers. From there, I became a computer and CAD manager in an architectural firm. I also studied software development in the evenings.
After about eight years, I decided to move to Canada where I got a job as a Java programmer while building fonts for Flash. Remember Flash?
Whenever you input text into Flash, it was blurry and you couldn’t read it properly. My business partner and I figured out the technology to create pixel fonts that showed up more clearly.
We started selling these fonts and quickly realized there was a bigger opportunity in the Flash market — for components, widgets, and so on.
We started to see increased interest from customers. And then it hit me; I realized the only way I was going to do this and really grow the business was to quit my programming job and go at it full-time.
So in 2003, I left my job and entered entrepreneurship full-time.
That was a big step. It was the first time I hadn’t worked for someone else or had a backup job.
Off the back of the Flash business, we launched a blog for web designers. Then iPhone 3G came out and it became clear that Flash wasn’t going to feature on the iPhone.
We saw this was the beginning of the end for Flash. So we had to pivot our business pretty quickly.
At this stage, you already had a strong community of people in the design space that were part of your customer base — reading your blog and so on, right?
Yes, exactly. People started to read our web design blog and we became pretty well known in the design community.
Then, in 2010, we realized there were numerous deal sites like Groupon, which was huge back then. These sites all focused on physical products, but there were zero digital downloadables and certainly nothing for the design market.
We put two and two together and thought “why don’t we make a deal site for digital design assets?”
Essentially, it was a marketplace. Designers listed assets on our site and they got paid when there was a purchase (and so did we).
So we were basically doing the marketing for them – something designers are not generally great at.
How were you marketing the products listed on the site? What channels were you using at that point?
In the early days, products were promoted through various newsletters — mainly via email.
We also gave away freebies and asked other designers to promote our freebies for us. These freebies became like a lead magnet among the design community.
So you were building a community and an audience of engaged designers and people that you knew were interested in the digital assets you sold?
Right. And people hadn’t been able to access these kinds of things before. They would contact us and ask “how can I get more assets like these?”
And remember, it’s a digital product. You can make multiple copies, and that costs virtually nothing.
How was your work-life balance at the time? How did you juggle work and family as you went through this rapid growth phase?
Well, I have no kids!
We managed to lead a really good lifestyle with this business and we did a lot of traveling during the year. The beauty of the business was that we were never tied down to anything. All I needed to work was my laptop.
I wasn’t a digital nomad per se because I did have my home base, but there were some years I traveled up to six times a year.
How did you deal with customer service while you were away?
I was very particular about how we handled customer service.
Customers were always treated with the utmost respect and, even if a customer bought a $20 product and it took us two hours and hundreds of dollars to solve their problem, it didn’t matter because they were our customer!
Our records showed that customers came back again and again. We had great retention rates.
Did you seek finance once you saw the growth potential for your business?
We actually never wanted any kind of funding or to be beholden to investors.
We used money from our revenues to fund our growth. We didn’t take loans and were purely self-funding.
Of course, we didn’t have overheads like office space. The team was entirely remote. Our main expenses were staff, contractors, and freelancers – everything was virtual.
What were the biggest challenges you faced with a remote working model? How did you implement the systems and processes you needed to work across countries, time zones, and cultures?
I remember pulling some all-nighters.
Customer support was the hardest thing.
I constantly monitored all the support tickets and read each of them myself. I wanted to make sure that we replied accurately every time, and it kept me in touch with our customers and close to my business. I couldn’t let that go easily.
Eventually, I put in place a support system and trained my CS team. That was great, especially for cutting down my workload and allowing me to travel more freely. I didn’t need to be in front of the computer all day. At that point, I was basically just managing staff.
Like many entrepreneurs, you had an emotional connection with your business. You’d built it from day one. When did you decide it was time to sell and move on? Was that a difficult decision?
It’s true that the business always felt like my baby.
But it wasn’t my true passion. I wanted to move on to other stuff.
We put feelers out and started getting interest from buyers. After some time, I connected with Yury (Byalik) from Onfolio.
How do you rate your experience dealing with Onfolio?
Onfolio was a great, great, great decision.
It seemed like Onfolio was our perfect buyer.
Other people we encountered along the way kept saying, “well, we don’t know exactly how a remote business works and it doesn’t feel like a good fit.”
They really didn’t understand how to run our business.
Others would say, “we just want to absorb everything into our own business” and get rid of the team.
We didn’t want that either. We had good people working for us. They were dedicated to the company and we wanted them to stay on.
Was it important to keep the business running with the same team and the same vision you had built for your brand?
Yes, yes. We cared a lot about our people and our customers.
The process with Onfolio was really simple. A lot less hassle and less steps.
The Onfolio team looked over our numbers and reviewed our asking price. The offer we received was very fair.
I was impressed with the speed of the due diligence process because that can take weeks of preparation. But they made the process easy. We handled everything by email or on Zoom.
Dom (Dominic Wells, CEO) was also super easygoing.
He was very understanding of my involvement and the team’s need for a clear transition. I knew that he was going to take care of the brand and the staff.
How did you feel once the deal was done? Were you sad to see it go?
Yes, I was a little sad to be honest because I’d been working on it for more than 10 years.
But thanks to the sale, I could take a nice break without worrying about my earnings. I also had big plans that I could finally pursue.
Now I’ve started coaching others which is something really important to me. I’ve realized this is my true passion!
I see how all my life experience plays a part in this as well: helping businesses, helping entrepreneurs, helping people to achieve their goals and to lead the life they want. I did a certification course to become a full-time Life Coach!
Joel, congratulations on that and also on your successful exit. Finally, what advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are thinking about selling their business?
The advice I have is simple: don’t wait.”
Don’t wait when the business is going well and on an upward trend. Consider selling then.
Some people wait until their business takes a downturn, but this affects the valuation and the payout you get in the end.
More importantly, never lose sight of the purpose of the business.
Yes it’s your baby, but it’s also a vehicle you use to create an outcome — for example, financial security, lifestyle or a positive impact on the world.
Sometimes the best thing you can do for the business and yourself is to pass it on.