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Published in Small Business

Grand Apps owners sell company to pair of employees

BY Friday, October 23, 2020 04:16pm

A Grand Rapids-based mobile application, software and web development firm has changed ownership after company leaders sold to a pair of employees.

Grand Apps founder and former managing partner Chris Ake recently told MiBiz that he and the three other company owners have sold to employees Tyler Kutt and Brandon Ross.

Before buying the company, Kutt was serving as its head of marketing while Ross was also a long-time employee. The two have played a big role in managing day-to-day operations for the company, which made for a fairly seamless transition.

“It kind of fell into place,” said Kutt, who has an extensive background in digital marketing. “What I’ve liked about this transaction is that it's been such a peaceful, easy-going transaction. There haven’t been any ‘F yous’ or ‘screw its’ or anything like that. It just goes back to the fact it was the right time and the right people to do it.”

Kutt and Ross leveraged a U.S. Small Business Administration 7a loan to purchase the company, and Kutt said day-to-day operations — at least for now — would not change for Grand Apps and its four employees.

“As we’re transitioning and doing all of this, it’s just about stability right now and making it through the rest of the year,” Kutt said. “Come the first of next year, we might start putting out some new product offerings and some internal, structural changes as well.”

Grand Apps was founded in 2011 and previously owned by Ake, Jon Butler, Jacob Canfield and Johnny Brann Jr. The company has made a name for itself by working with local businesses in a variety of industries, with names like Van Andel Arena, Haworth Inc. and Brann’s Steakhouse & Grille in its portfolio.

Within the last three years, Ake said the original ownership group was offered a deal to buy the company and another offer for a potential merger. The team ultimately passed on both. Ake said the deals weren’t the right fit and came before the owners had even thought about an appropriate exit strategy.

Handing the company off to a couple of guys inside the office brought peace of mind for Ake.

“It's about legacy and a smooth transition,” he said. “We had been working on this brand for almost a decade and it has a pretty good reputation locally. So, they’re going to keep things running how it is and it will be a good fit for them.”

While Ake said each owner had their own motivation for selling, his personal motivation was to move forward with new ventures.

One such venture for Ake is developing smart scheduling software that utilizes artificial intelligence to help professionals schedule meetings. Ake is CEO of that business, called Sidekick Ai, joined by Butler and an additional founder/partner in Nathan Jean.

“For me, (Grand Apps) was one of my first companies that was actually successful — we had employees,” Ake said. “I’ll put it this way: I’m not the kind of human being that has the vision of building a company and running it for 30 years. I like to try new things and do different things. I like the start-up scene — I like Sidekick and starting something new and building that.”

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