Patrick Campbell founded ProfitWell, an advisory platform for SaaS companies, in 2012 after stints at the U.S. Department of Defense and Google. He sold the business last year for $200 million.
ProfitWell had no outside investors. Campbell paid himself a $74,000 annual salary. He had $20,000 in the bank when the deal closed.
How does a founder, or anyone, adjust to $200 million from $20,000? Campbell addressed that question and more in our recent interview.
The entire audio of that conversation is embedded below. The transcript is condensed and edited for clarity.
Eric Bandholz: What do you do?
Patrick Campbell: I founded a company in 2012 called ProfitWell. We help subscription businesses understand their metrics with a free tool plugged into payment platforms such as Stripe, Recharge, and Braintree. We have a couple of products that help with retention and with pricing and monetization.
I sold that business to Paddle, a billing and payment company, in early 2022 for roughly $200 million. We had about 45,000 brands signed up at the time. I’m now Paddle’s chief strategy officer.
When we sold, I had just under $20,000 in my bank account. We were doing over $10 million in recurring revenue. My average salary over the 10 years was $74,000. We were needing to raise money to continue our growth. We had self-funded the business — entirely bootstrapped. We weren’t thinking of selling.
When you sell a company for $200 million, everyone treats you like a god. Former employees and ex-girlfriends reach out. Everyone thinks it’s amazing.
Imposter syndrome starts to kick in. You wonder if it was a fluke and if you could do it again. I never feared death before, but now I do because there’s this pile of money in my savings account. Am I going to be “rich” correctly? There are many weird emotions.
Bandholz: You went public with how much you made.
Campbell: The idea was this is a big win for a bootstrap company. I never considered the advantages and disadvantages of publicizing it because my persona has been public in building ProfitWell. There are downsides for sure.
For instance, folks hit me up for money. I’m a target for scammers. It’s a new set of worries. Six people hit me up for funds on the day of the announcement. There were very few congratulations or offers to catch up. I’ve had to adjust how I interface with certain folks.
Bandholz: Last year you had $20,000 in the bank. Now it’s many millions.
Campbell: That’s the second part of the journey. Suddenly, I want to be more knowledgeable about wealth management. I had no money in the market. I had a paid-off house and $19,000 in cash. That’s about it.
After the deal closed, the first interest payment came into my savings account. I thought, “This is a different world. That’s years of my prior mortgage.” I started talking to wealth managers and insurance agents. I thought, “I can do anything, so let’s do everything.” I hired 17 employees. I learned more about taxes. I even bought 19 gas stations as an investment.
I then started considering what my wife and I wanted. I never wanted to go into business. This wasn’t the thing that I wanted to do with my life. But I like building. I enjoy having a wall to punch through, go around, or climb over.
Bandholz: You bought a residence in Puerto Rico.
Campbell: Paddle’s a remote company, so we could live anywhere. My wife and I started looking at a bunch of places. Puerto Rico wasn’t on the list until someone told me about the tax advantages. But you have to live there. It’s not just 183 days. Your doctor’s got to be there. You have to own your primary residence in Puerto Rico.
We love it. And what’s the point of having money if you can’t live anywhere?
Bandholz: Where can listeners follow you?