“Jim Estell started a business called ShipperBee in 2018. It is an innovative business to business courier service. He shares his story of how he decided to sell mainly due to his rising costs as a result of the pandemic,” shares Sam Thompson a Minneapolis business broker and the president of M&A firm Transitions In Business. “A key to his story is how he sought out a strategic buyer that offered a nice synergistic fit.”

Jim Estill is one of the most successful entrepreneurs you’ve probably never heard of.

In 1975, Estill started EMJ Data, a technology distribution company, from the trunk of his car and grew it to $350 million in sales before taking it public.

In 1997, Estill joined the board of Blackberry and stayed through the company’s heyday that ushered in the era of the iPhone.

He then became a partner at CanRock Ventures, a venture capital firm.

In 2015, Estill bought Danby Appliances, the company he currently runs, and has grown it to $400 million in annual sales.

Estill has invested in more than 100 start-ups, and his latest side hustle was an innovative company called ShipperBee.

The best way to think about ShipperBee is to imagine an Uber for your packages. Instead of calling a courier company, a business schedules a pickup with ShipperBee, and it dispatches someone from its network of independent drivers to pick up your package. Those drivers use a chain of lockers ShipperBee calls “hives” to get your package to its destination with a lower carbon footprint than the traditional courier companies.

Estill started the company in 2018. He invested $5 million of his own money and quickly raised another $25 million from friends and family. Over three years, he grew ShipperBee to 150 full-time employees before he sold it in January 2021.

Despite his incredible resume, Estill approached this interview with surprising candor and humility — even sharing a couple of his mistakes in negotiating his exit from ShipperBee. In this episode you’ll discover:

  • How Estill built ShipperBee from the ground up to sell it.
  • Why Estill raised money for ShipperBee despite being able to finance it personally.
  • The critical role patents can play in the value of your business.
  • The choke point in a three-sided market.
  • A nasty trick some acquirers play to attempt to gain leverage over you.
  • A simple strategy to ensure your company is ready to sell at a moment’s notice.
  • The difference between a financial and strategic buyer.
  • The biggest mistake Estill made in selling ShipperBee.
  • The ever-so-fine line between running an assertive process to market your company and overplaying your hand.
  • Why it’s almost always a mistake to name a price for your business (and when it might make sense).

Listen Now