Rextar, an internet platform that brings buyers and sellers of residential real estate together to transact directly with one another on the internet, is not Bill Fox's first business. The company's chairman and CEO launched GoIndustry.com, a company designed to sell machinery and equipment online, in the early 2000s. That company would grow to 47 offices in 27 countries and some 600 employees, and go public. Fox says he learned a great deal from that experience.
"What it taught me was the old adage, Always expect the unexpected — whatever you think you may be doing or you may want to do or you may anticipate happening, many times will not."
Having grown up in the traditional auction business, Fox says he foresaw the transitioning of that business to the internet. GoIndustry was his attempt to anticipate that, get involved in it and help facilitate that transition. It became a public company in 1999 through what was then known in London as a reverse merger into a corporate shell. That process today in the U.S. is called a SPAC. It hit the London Stock Exchange and was ultimately acquired by Liquidity Services, a U.S. company, and operated as its wholly owned subsidiary.
The company was created just before the dot com bubble burst and the company suffered through what Fox calls the threat of disappearance because of it.
"Ultimately, we not only survived but we thrived," he says. "People at that time, and today, they want to know, number one, that they're dealing — and I'm talking about investors now — they want to know that they're dealing with honest, ethical, moral people. Reputation is very significant. They want to know that they're dealing with qualified, capable people."
That lesson translated to Rextar, where he worked to assemble a group of founding partners, each with solid expertise, track record, history and reputation in their respective field that he says was either initially, or ultimately, necessary to the company's success. Bringing in talent was central to his previous company's acquisition strategy, and an experience that informs how he's building Rextar.
"The areas of expertise that one needs when creating a new company, (it's) extremely important to have certain things like technology, like sales ability, like knowing one's way around the financial world," Fox says. "And if you can find that expertise in the form of individuals, or what have you, and you bring them in at various points in your development, that's great. Sometimes you have to acquire the expertise. Sometimes you can grow by acquiring what you need or even acquiring a competitor that may be knowledgeable in areas that you're not."
As an example, GoIndustry was created essentially through a merger of two dot coms that were startups at the time. Fox's company was AssetTrade.com, which sold machinery and equipment on the internet for companies selling off their excess or unneeded equipment. GoIndustry, based in Germany, was the other company. It was selling particular machinery and equipment on the internet but for particular sellers who no longer had use for that piece of machinery, selling it to specific companies that needed that equipment.
"So, while we did the same thing — i.e., we were auctioning machinery and equipment online and online auctions — their model of how they were doing that, from whence and to whom they were doing it, was different from ours," he says. "And as we merged, we merged those two directions, if you will, and it broadened out our ability to grow the business dramatically."
Fox spoke on the Smart Business Dealmakers Podcast about how his earlier experience forming, growing and exiting GoIndustry is informing how he's building and growing Rextar. Hit play to catch the full interview.