Negotiating with Elon Musk and Strategies to Get Acquired with Chris Bakke

Helen Chong

As a startup founder, you're always thinking about your next move.

But Chris Bakke never imagined his latest venture would lead to an acquisition offer from Elon Musk himself. 

Building Laskie with acquisition in mind  

In 2020, Chris and his co-founder started Laskie, a platform to help companies find and hire top talent around the world. They were capitalizing on a huge opportunity:

  • The shift to remote work made global hiring a top priority for employers
  • Companies were desperate to fill key roles like sales and engineering
  • Traditional job boards weren't innovating fast enough.

Laskie gained traction fast, landing big customers like Reddit and eBay, significantly increasing the value of its assets. Their secret? Focusing on content and community, and making the company acquisition-ready.

Chris strategically designed Laskie for acquisition from the start. Here's how:

1. Early networking: Chris suggests founders adding senior industry leaders to a quarterly newsletter, and keeping their company on their radar in hopes of turning conversations into partnerships.

2. A unique content strategy: Chris focused on what the big players in his space weren’t doing. LinkedIn, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter played it safe while he approached his content on X with humor and authenticity. This resonated with tech founders and massively grew his following.

3. Build in public: Chris didn’t have a direct connection to Musk he could leverage. He strategically built in public, showing how X was leaving billions on the table and how his company could help them tap into that revenue. That’s all it took to catch Musk’s attention - a great product, communicated with acquisition in mind, on the right platform.

4. Structure for acquisition: Chris and his co-founder owned the majority of the company. This allowed them to move much faster compared to a larger company with an external board.

How Chris’ Insights Captured Elon Musk's Attention

In late 2022, as Elon was taking over Twitter, Chris started tweeting about the huge potential in the hiring space. "Here's how Twitter is missing out on $20 billion in revenue that's hiding in plain sight." Chris tweeted.

Elon replied wanting to discuss the opportunity further.  

By simply sharing his thoughts about the industry, Chris had landed on the radar of the most powerful person on the platform.

Laskie's Merger & Acquisition

The actual acquisition talks with Elon were about as far from a typical corporate M&A process as you can get. As Chris describes it, "We met in person and he asked for a number on the spot. No endless diligence or haggling, just fast decisions."

Chris had to weigh the financials with the massive opportunity. "Reporting to Elon and working on products that could reach hundreds of millions? That's a chance you don't pass up."

Looking back, a few key things helped set up Laskie's success. Chris advises: 

  • Stay ready: Have your house in order (clean cap table, IP assignments, etc) before talks begin. Puzzle can help with this - you’ll have your real-time insights, along with cash and accrual accounting, ready to show to potential investors.

  • Identify buyers early: Map out a target list and build those relationships over time.

  • Craft your story: Help potential acquirers see your unique insights and value. Play the long game: The biggest deals come from planting seeds long before an exit.

  • Think Strategically: The price is the least important part of the deal. The real value is in the structure, the equity, the earnout, and most of all, the chance to have real impact at a rocketship company.

Now at X, Chris and his team are building the hiring products that will transform how people find jobs at a massive scale, fueled by strategic investments.

Be acquisition ready with Puzzle

Be ready for any investor with Puzzle. Here’s how:

  • Real-Time Insights: Always know your numbers. Puzzle gives you real-time financial data, so you're never caught off guard.

  • Cash and Accrual Accounting: Switch between cash and accrual accounting within your dashboard. Get a full financial picture, however you need it.

  • Streamlined Management: Manage your startup's finances easily. Track revenue, handle expenses, and keep everything organized.

  • Easy Downloads: When investors ask, be ready. Download clean, professional financial reports instantly.

Listen to the full episode of the Turpentine Finance podcast here and try Puzzle for free today!

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Helen Chong
Growth @ Puzzle

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