Entrepreneur 2 Entrepreneur: Phil Wilson on the Hyper IQ Acquisition



PhilsonThanks to Split Rock Partners for underwriting the Entrepreneur 2 Entrepreneur series.

Q&A with Minnesota tech entrepreneur Phil Wilson of Hyper IQ, a Minneapolis mobile & web development shop bought by Buzzfeed last week.

When and how Did Hyper IQ start?

Hyper IQ started as the DBA of another firm I was working for as an Operations Manager. I started Hyper IQ, Incorporated in May of this year after closing a deal to purchase the assets of that firm. We started with three full time employees and had a small group of clients.

Based at CoCo Downtown we were bringing in contractors on and off to handle the workload. One of those contractors was Graham Wood and his team at Wood Apps. It was a no brainer to combine our teams. Josh Walker, the Senior developer at HIQ, joined in and we became official partners on August 1st of this year growing to 7 full-timers. Our vision was to grow to 10-15 engineers and continue to offer mobile development services to clients from startups to Fortune 500 companies. We have some great clients and formed some relationships with some great agencies in town that have allowed us to build some really cool stuff. Hyper IQ has a great team if I do say so myself. It’s also something BuzzFeed CEO, Jonah Peretti was kind enough to note in a recent interview with The Verge.


How did the relationship with Buzzfeed form?

We started working with BuzzFeed at the beginning of last year. We were brought in to work on their iOS app and were soon doing Android work as well. In fact, Hyper IQ’s Director of Technology at the time, Ryan Johnson, was working on the BuzzFeed iOS app. In pretty short order, he had the opportunity to join BuzzFeed as their VP of Mobile. In addition, Graham Wood and Wood Apps were also doing some iOS work for them. I guess we all had BuzzFeed in common from the very start.

What did you learn throughout the process?

The actual process was more of a long conversation between friends who have a great deal of respect for each other. BuzzFeed saw an opportunity to tap into the incredible amount of talent in the Twin Cities and doing something with Hyper IQ made sense.

Until that conversation it wasn’t on our radar at all. As a small company we were focused on providing great service and building our client base. Every service business has to be aware of the balance between expanding the amount of work with one client and bringing in new clients. You don’t want to find yourself in a position where, should that large client leave for some reason, you are crippled and can’t replace the revenue quickly enough. We were probably planning more for “What if” BuzzFeed decides to take all of their development in house…something they were working toward and were always quite open to us about.

What did we learn? Plans change. You have to be ready to react to an opportunity you didn’t see coming. While I’m really going to miss building great apps for the clients we have now, going to work for a company growing as quickly, and has such clear focus as BuzzFeed is thrilling. We’re all happy to be in a position to make the move.

What were the terms of the transaction?

The terms of the transaction are private.

What does the future look like for HyperIQ + Buzzfeed in Minneapolis?

BuzzFeed will be looking to grow to 30 employees in the Minneapolis office very quickly. The operation here will be technology focused. We’ll be dedicated to building the technology that allows BuzzFeed to do what they do best as a media company. It’s going to be great, and I’m more than confident that we won’t be stopping at 30 people. BuzzFeed will be an integral part of the tech community here. I think that’s the best part. We hear so much about startups that, for whatever reason, move out of Minnesota. Here’s a phenomenal company that sees what we have to offer and is coming here to invest in its people.

What advice would you have for entrepreneurs considering a sale?

No matter what the agreement entails, like any relationship, if you care about doing great work with great people, make sure you are comfortable with those people involved. We got to work with and know the folks at BuzzFeed and now we get to be part of a growing company made up of smart people and friends. Also, be patient. Our conversations always provided us with more we might consider. And, of course, there’s the obvious…hire a good lawyer and read everything that’s put in front of you. We work with K. Davis Senseman at Davis Business Law and she is great.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

While, I’m the guy that usually does all the talking at our company, Hyper IQ wouldn’t be what it is without partners Josh Walker and Graham Wood, not to mention a dedicated team of talented developers. I’d also like to say thanks to an incredibly supportive tech community. We have great friends here!


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  • Tom ONeill

    Congrats HIQ!