I remember when Kevin Taweel pitched me on a small business he wanted to buy.
We worked across the hallway from each other at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.
He was a case writer, working with professors to research and produce the cases that drive discussions in many classrooms. I was a professor who used many of those cases to drive discussions in my own classroom.
Kevin and Jim Ellis, another recent student of mine, told me about their idea: a Texas-based company called Mr. Rescue.
It was AAA, but less well-known with fewer customers, and much less attractive to a potential investor (i.e. ME).
After all, roadside assistance is a labor-intensive service industry that would be hard to scale, and having AAA as a competitor seemed like a pretty big obstacle to success.
There were a lot of factors to consider… the basic business, the competitive landscape, the limited growth potential.
I asked Kevin to let me think it over.
The more I reflected, the more unimpressed I was with the whole deal, but I saw two compelling reasons to invest: Kevin and Jim.
Kevin played semi pro soccer in Canada. He knew how to collaborate and work towards a goal.
Jim was one of three students in a class of 56 that I gave a grade of H, meaning “honors” to during his MBA program.
So even though I wasn’t enamored with the roadside repair business, I decided to write a check to support Kevin and Jim.
Has your friend ever planned a vacation to your city after you haven’t seen them in 5 years? You know that feeling of anticipation, the potential stored inside of connection?
I knew Kevin and Jim well enough to expect a certain degree of success from this deal.
I wanted to see how this played out...
They didn’t disappoint.
- They lined up financing and paid $8.4 million to buy the company.
- They more than doubled its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) in the first year.
- They expanded, contracting with automotive, insurance, credit card, and wireless companies which could then offer roadside assistance services as add-ons to their clients.
- They realized the potential in an emerging market, mobile phones, and made a $7.6 million acquisition in the cell phone insurance space, growing the company’s revenues by more than tenfold within three years.
Twenty-five years after my initial investment with them, Kevin still runs the company, now called Asurion.