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Business Observer Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021 1 month ago

Tech entrepreneur sells firm — without meeting buyer in person

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The do-it-all virtual vibe of the pandmeic now includes whole acquisitions.

The acquisition of Tampa tech entrepreneur Peter Dobler’s 55-employee IT support business came with an unusual twist that could only be found in the pandemic: Dobler didn’t meet his counterpart, the CEO of the company that bought his business, until after the deal closed. It was an entirely virtual sale — down to a Microsoft Teams video call at closing where each side, with attorneys present, clicked through and approved a bevy of papers through DocuSign.

Dobler flew out to Colorado in late September, a few weeks after Denver-based Spinnaker Support acquired his business, Tampa-based Dobler Consulting. “When we sat around that day, we all talked about how this was the first time we actually met in person,” Dobler tells Coffee Talk.

A successful virtual acquisition is another example of getting business done in ways that would have been unheard of prior to the pandemic. That’s a point Dobler and Spinnaker Support CEO Matt Stava both made in Denver, where the executives went over logistics of the transition with their teams.  

Dobler Consulting, with around $5 million in annual revenue, specializes in working with clients on Oracle and Microsoft technologies. A former IT executive with data measurement firm Nielsen in Tampa, Peter Dobler founded the business in 2008. By 2016 it was on the Inc. 5000 list for fast-growing businesses. The company lost a big client in late 2020, Dobler says, and decided to call on some current customers, to see if there was any business it was missing out on. One of those calls was to Spinnaker Support, which at the time was a client. Stava, says Dobler, “essentially took my inquiries and said, ‘how can I acquire you?’”

That January call led to a four-month courtship, says Dobler, which then led to a letter of intent. “I can’t see a better fit with anyone else out there,” he says. Now vice president of data engineering at Spinnaker Support, Dobler declines to disclose financial terms of the deal.

While the total virtual sale was unusual, Dobler says the process itself was smooth. One of the keys to that, he says, was doing every call, no matter how small, over video — no straight up audio calls. “It was important to see each other,” he says. “It was really important to read body language, see each other, look for nuances.”

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