Forging a Powerful Industry Niche, London Based Ismael Wrixen and Thomas Smale Have Brokered Over 130 Transactions since 2010 – And Recently Expanded to San Diego
In 2012, Ismael Wrixen, seeking fresh opportunities to engage his entrepreneurial spirit and empower his own financial and career success, joined forces with Thomas Smale, his old friend from the University of Bath, in an upstart business providing brokerage services for mid-market online businesses.
Now rebranded as FE International, the company has emerged as the pre-eminent advisor within the industry, bringing due diligence, integrity and creativity to the process of matching sellers and buyers/investors. Like many companies that ultimately changed the world, it was started out of Smale’s home with a very small upfront investment.
It launched with a range of products and services in the buying and selling websites space, but has since evolved to focus almost exclusively on sell-side brokerage. FE International’s success is partly rooted in the principles Smale expounded upon in “Killer Flipping Secrets,” a book about how to run and optimize one’s business for eventual sale that Smale wrote while still a student.
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Having now completed over 130 transactions, ranging from several thousand dollars to major seven figure deals, Wrixen and Smale – who had long had sales reps in the U.S. – officially opened an office in San Diego in 2013 to offer 24 hour worldwide service to their clients. Hiring Ryan Sorensen to run that office was a move made in deference to the fact that while the principals are based in London, Wrixen estimates that 90 percent of their buyers and 50 percent of their sellers are in the U.S. Incredibly, to this point, FE International has been predominantly a referral only business, building its stellar industry standards setting reputation one transaction at a time.
The web-based enterprises that FE International has negotiated transactions for are in many different industries; the most prominent are ecommerce (particularly drop ship ecommerce businesses), advertising and lead generation in the areas of employment, healthcare and insurance.
While studying finance and business at Bath, he got his feet wet in the financial world with a brief stint in portfolio risk management with Morgan Stanley. He graduated with 1st class Bsc (Hons) in Business, gaining the Accenture prize for excellence in the process. Immediately after graduating, he landed a plum job with Citigroup, working as part of a brokerage team that brought IPOs to market. During his 2.5 years there, he managed relationships with senior ranking individuals in FTSE 100 listed firms – including Vodafone, a part owner of Verizon.
In the months prior to leaving his job, Wrixen was following Smale’s progress and discussing strategies on various transactions that Smale was working on. Certain larger hedge fund groups were among those interested in buying websites. Wrixen realized that the business process of FE – then called Flipping Enterprises – was not too much different from what he was already doing on the institutional level. In August 2012, Smale discussed with Wrixen bringing him on to help grow the company more formally. Wrixen bought out Smale’s original founding partner and became a full partner in the company.
Wrixen’s years at Citigroup gave him a wealth of experience, expertise and business acumen that have played an integral part in his role as a partner in FE International’s exponential growth. He worked with financial tools to help him analyze companies from a formal perspective – something that is part of FE’s thorough vetting process with each prospective seller now.
Wrixen devised The FE International Indicative Transaction Timetable, which delineates for each transaction the Process Overview and Client Responsibilities at each stage, from Assessment and Sales Preparation to Marketing and Negotiation, Due Diligence and Closing.
“There are many reasons for people to buy into these alternative investments,” he adds. “We’ve found over the last few years that the potential Return on Investment is huge. While average real estate investments generate a 10-15 percent return, these sites often have up to a 50 percent ROI. It gives us great satisfaction to help people achieve their financial objectives with complete transparency in the process. FE International has the unique opportunity to help shape how the niche and industry will evolve over the next five to ten years.”