An Open Letter: Why I Sold the Business

eLearning, OMI, popexpert

March 10, 2015 by

From Aaron Kahlow, CEO and Founder, Online Marketing Institute:

The age old story of swinging big vs. living easy.

By now, most of you have heard the news that OMI was acquired by popexpert. If not, I’ve added the press release to the bottom of this post.

As a result of this change, I’ve been asked a lot, “Why sell when so successful, at this stage?”. Here’s why:

The first question I hear is… “Was it the money?”

Answer: No. There is a very nice upside on both the short-term cash and long-term equity basis, but after selling OMS 3 years ago, this was not the primary motivator. Although OMI is nicely profitable and making very good money, cashing out was not what created the deal. Let me tell you what was.

Help the Expert, Help the World

Personally, I have spent the past decade educating and helping others through my own personal means in the areas of digital marketing. But it was just me, my personal time and effort, and the Institute’s platform to do this. And while a noble cause, I could see its limitations on two fronts. First, there are thousands of people that have the knowledge to help others, and their impact would be exponentially bigger if I could help those knowledgeable folks make a difference, rather than just working on my own. So really it was popexpert’s platform, built to enable the experts to unlock their knowledge to help the world live (and work) better, that was so appealing. The B2BC model alone gets my juices flowing - a model a la Uber, Amazon, eBay. This platform has the ability to help power the collaborative economy, a business that greatly usurps publishing great eLearning content alone, though that will still be a part of the big picture going forward.

The second limitation was that digital, a deep place of personal knowledge, is not where life begins and ends for me. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of creating the world’s largest eLearning library dedicated to digital and social media marketing, and I’ll always love how we help businesses of all types, sizes and geographies (91 countries!) see great gains from digital marketing. But that alone is only a part of the puzzle of life - which takes me right to my #2 reason.

Mindful, Entrepreneur Passion

Even if you are a long-time friend, you may not know how deep my belief system goes concerning the concept of mindfulness and related practices of Zen Buddhism. It is deeply ingrained into my being, and has helped me immensely in getting perspective, purpose and meaning in my life. I have felt a deep need to share this practice with others, to help them understand what is possible when truly taking control of one’s mind (or letting go of control would be the Zen way of saying it), and allowing for deep peace and enjoyment in one’s life.

And then there is the passion for building a business, more commonly referred to as being an entrepreneur. With this being business #4, I have learned some very hard lessons about what makes for success and what does not. Although I too still have a lot to learn, I know that I can help a plenty of folks just starting out to better understand the reality of creating a valuable, sustainable business.

And therein lies the connection: popexpert’s platform and brand goes wide and deep in these and other important areas. So, we go from helping the world make the digital transformation at OMI, to now helping the world address all of life’s BIG challenges - it really makes getting out of bed in the morning a true joy.

Already, I see the results of how we are helping people live more balanced and meaningful lives: helping entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and of course continuing to help thousands to learn digital through the even greater proliferation of the combined OMI/popexpert entity. Check out the platform and you’ll see why.

Resource to Change the World

Finally, the one reason that was actually the most challenging to reconcile, but the easiest to understand.  Changing the world takes resources. It takes many people, partners and plenty of capital to finance it. I was used to running my own business, and although I will be taking over as CEO for popexpert, I have a great partner in Ingrid Sanders, founder and President. The passionate investors she brings to the table, and the team needed to really catalyze this much bigger effort, together create a shared effort that’s really a big leap from running your own show - and one I embrace wholeheartedly.

I have found that 1 plus 1 can equal a billion with the right combination. By pooling resources, knowledge and complementary skills, the speed and potential for success is exponentially greater than going it alone.

And that doesn’t even take into account the absolutely wonderful, smart-minded, compassionate partner I now have in Ingrid herself. The trust, shared values and friendship this acquisition has culminated in go beyond words.

In summary, one of my advisors once asked me, “Why would you risk a sure bet on putting millions in your own pocket to do this deal?”. My answer is simple: money is not what motivates - it’s the “chance to positively impact the world in a deep and meaningful way that makes life worth living.”

I hope, one day, we can make a positive impact on you.

Aaron Kahlow

CEO, popexpert


SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--popexpert, an online marketplace that makes it easy to learn from experts, today announced the acquisition of the Online Marketing Institute, a leader in eLearning for individuals, SMBs and corporations that need to keep up with the accelerating pace of digital transformation.

“Joining forces with popexpert allows us to combine the personalization of live coaching with the scalability of eLearning to deliver high quality experiences that address the ever increasing need to ‘keep up’,” says Aaron Kahlow, founder of the Online Marketing Institute.

popexpert is backed by top Silicon Valley investors including Jeff Skoll, Ken Howery and Learn Capital. Together the companies offer live video coaching with thousands of experts and high quality original classes designed to help anyone excel at life and work.

The acquisition will accelerate growth for popexpert in delivering corporate training programs, a $200B industry where the Online Marketing Institute has a strong foothold. Employee development is quickly moving online and encompassing newer categories of learning like stress reduction and performance acceleration where popexpert already features many of the leading experts.

“popexpert identified a number of important emerging trends early on and has leveraged that insight to build a two year lead on other companies that are just beginning to think about offering better access to experts and expertise in key categories of personal and professional development,” says Ken Howery, PayPal co-founder and Chairman of popexpert.

As part of the acquisition Kahlow will take the reins as CEO, bringing his proven experience operating and scaling multiple companies to profitability and exit. Sanders will remain President.

“Aaron Kahlow is a 3x successful entrepreneur with a passion for creating transformative learning experiences. I look forward to having him as a partner as we continue to scale popexpert and unlock access to experts from around the world,” says Ingrid Sanders, founder of popexpert.

The acquisition was made under a cash and equity deal with exact terms undisclosed.

About popexpert:

popexpert is the leading destination to access and offer expertise for life, work & play. Headquartered in San Francisco, popexpert has raised $2M+ in seed financing from top investors including Learn Capital, Jeff Skoll, and Ken Howery.


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