Episode 186

From Bootstrapped Beginnings to Strategic Exit to Brandwatch: The Story of Paladin with James Creech

This week on The Exit: Before the days of YouTube and TikTok, James Creech was creating videos. Little did he know this interest would lead him to one day launch a company focused on content creation which they would eventually sell to Brandwatch six years later. In 2016 when the creator economy was still finding its feet, James and his partners saw a need for tracking and reporting on the impact of influencer marketing, and the opportunity to turn this into a business.

Together they launched Paladin, an influencer marketing platform for brands and agencies to work with, manage, and track influencer partnerships. Entirely bootstrapped, the three founders each invested their life’s savings to get the business started, including James using the downpayment he had saved for a house. They were first-time founders figuring it out as they went, but always focused on revenue, customer count, and retention rates. And when it came time to sell the business, these were the same metrics buyers were interested in. 

After six years, the business had grown to 25 people when the world was hit by Covid. For the influencer industry and Paladin, the impact of Covid only meant increased investment from brands who were looking to connect with people while they were stuck at home on their phones. The business hit an inflection point and James and his partners saw their opportunity to exit. They realized they either needed to raise funding to acquire smaller operations in order to grow in what was now a crowded market or find a strategic partner who could help them grow. They met over 30 potential buyers as they tried to narrow down the list to those who had similar values and shared their vision to take the business to the next level. Buyers were primarily interested in topline revenue, the potential for the business, the strength of customer contracts, customer retention, and how sticky the technology is – everything James was focused on as they built the business. Ultimately Brandwatch was the best fit, as they believed in the business they had built and what they were trying to achieve. 

For more details and insights from his entrepreneurial journey, listen to the latest episode of The Exit.

Personal Bio: 

James Creech is a 3x entrepreneur who helps founders sell their businesses. James offers advisory services for entrepreneurs and operators looking to navigate the M&A process and maximize their outcome. He built and sold his first startup, currently is working on 2 more, and “has had countless failures along the way.” James Founded Creator Economy Jobs in October of 2023, which operates as the premier job board for creator economy companies and candidates. He is also the Co-Founder and Board Member of Measure Studio, which provides AI-powered social media insights for brands, agencies, and publishers.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jlcreech/

Website: https://www.measure.studio/

Website: https://creatoreconomyjobs.co/

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The Exit—Presented By Flippa: A 30-minute podcast featuring expert entrepreneurs who have been there and done it. The Exit talks to operators who have bought and sold a business. You’ll learn how they did it, why they did it, and get exposure to the world of exits, a world occupied by a small few, but accessible to many. To listen to the podcast or get daily listing updates, click on flippa.com/the-exit-podcast/


Steve McGarry

An entrepreneur, content creator, and investor based in sunny Tampa, Florida. In 2015, while living in San Francisco, Steve sold his first fintech startup LendLayer to Max Levchin’s (founder of PayPal) consumer finance company Affirm.

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