How I Made Launched a Niche Micro-PE Online Course

Table of Contents



I built and launched my first course on Micro PE: How to Buy A Small Business at

It has been a lot of fun so far and easily worth the time I put in.

I’ve already taught a packed business school classroom worth of folks in the first couple of weeks.

Let’s dive into how I did it.

Why launch an online course?

I've been interested in the online learning space for years. Back when I was a VC, we looked at just about all the new college alternatives. We invested in CourseKey, an operating system for trade schools. Then we launched Avocado for audio courses.

In another timeline, I think I could have done the whole professor thing. Teach a few semesters and pursue other weird interests.

Until recently, I always kind of thought I would go back and teach at a university in the future. Alas the internet lets me teach way more students at a much younger age so that is unlikely to happen. All without disrupting my work life or leaving my home office.

Why a Micro-PE Course?

I stumbled into the Micro-PE space and have been pretty public about it on Twitter and on my podcast. We have really made a point of learning as we go in public. As a result, I've developed a bit of an audience in the space.

This naturally resulted in tons of people asking me for help with everything acquisition related. How did you find a business to buy? How did you settle on a price? What docs did you use? How did you actually transfer everything?

With all the questions, it was clear to me that there would be demand for something like this.

Private Equity has been about the most opaque industry I've ever been a part of. Venture capitalists are great at content marketing. Almost all the big tech twitter personalities are VCs and founders.

PE people are different. It is very much a closed-off game. I wanted to shine the light on it and help others get started.

Why not a cohort-based course?

Cohort-based courses are online courses where groups of students all going through the classes at the same time. They are generally 4-10 weeks long and students participate in several live sessions for a couple of hours at a time.

Cohort-based courses are the hot new thing and I believe they have a bright future. I got requests to teach one and did consider it. But they aren't a great fit for all subjects.

Buying a small business is not something you want to rush. Sure you could find a business to buy over the course of a few weeks, but you would likely sacrifice quality to do so.

Pre-recorded videos let students learn and review the steps as needed. Everyone’s deal process will progress on different timelines so a one-size fits all live class didn’t fit as well to me. Students can always ask questions live in the community to get more specific help.

I'm also actively doing what I'm teaching. Deals come up and I mostly have to drop everything. This isn't really conducive to taking on extra weekly obligations. I love that I can record once and sell forever.

The one piece that really tempted me was that CBCs have very high student completion rates (85%+). Traditional self-paced recorded courses often have fewer than 5% of students complete them. My course is around 20% right now, but I suspect that will go up when people have more time. It is summer and the course has only been live for a couple of weeks. Many people have said they signed up for some specific template or lecture so they got value even if they only went through a small piece of the course.

Validating the Course Idea

Too many entrepreneurs waste time building stuff without any real demand being there. I've been guilty of this in the past as well. I didn't want to make the same mistake again. To check whether I was building something that people wanted I naturally turned to Twitter.

My DMs were probably enough validation to get started, but I wanted to get more feedback so I tweeted out the below:

Thinking of launching a Micro PE course.

Everything on how to buy & grow small companies.

-Sourcing deals
-Valuing companies
-Negotiation walk-through
-Diligence checklist
-Hiring operators
-Financing deals
-Growth tactics
-Legal docs

Would you pay? What else to cover?

— Colin Keeley☀️ (@ColinKeeley) May 10, 2021

The response to this tweet was immediately great. I got tons of people saying they would pay, how much they would pay, and what they wanted me to cover.

Many asked to make pre-orders. I should of set up pre-orders that day. I'm sure I missed out on a ton of orders because I wasn’t ready.

Online Course Pre-orders

I'm sensitive to underpromising and overdelivering. I didn't want to accept pre-orders before I knew I could dedicate the time to actually create the course.

So I waited until I had 60-70% of the course done and then opened up pre-orders with the below tweet.

My new course "Micro PE: How to Buy, Grow, & Sell Small Businesses" is now live.

Get your pre-order in before I raise the price.

— Colin Keeley☀️ (@ColinKeeley) June 30, 2021

Just this tweet was enough to get the ball rolling. The first discounted orders sold out in a few hours.

I DM'd as many folks as I could that said they would buy before Twitter froze my DMs. Apparently, I bumped into some spam limit.

This guaranteed I got enough people in the door so that I could start getting feedback. With v1 of the course out, I’ve collected feedback and have a plan for more lectures to add and what details are missing.

Designing the Course

I had a good idea of the topics I wanted to cover at the start. With a course, you want to think through what kind of transformation you want to see in your students. Mine was obvious.

I want students to be able to buy, grow, and sell a small business at the end of this. So the steps are straightforward: set things up, find a business to buy, diligence and negotiate, finance & close, and finally manage and grow it.

Making the Course

The hardest part of making the course was outlining everything. I used Roam for this.  I already had extensive notes on all these topics so it was mostly organizing everything.

From podcasting, I had most of the gear I needed to make the course.

Gear: I used a Shure MV7 ($250) mic for audio, LG Ultrafine 5k for the camera, M1 Macbook Air and was mostly off to the races.

Recording: I paid for Loom and presented Google slides. Loom is an excellent product.

Editing: I used Descript for video editing which was amazing. Being able to record multiple takes of a slide and then cutting all, but the best one made recording way faster and less stressful.

I also shared many of the templates that we use at Verne with view only from Google Docs & Sheets.

Course Software: I looked at all the options and decided Teachable was the best fit for my course. They handle payments without charging a transaction fee, host your lecture videos, let you send emails, etc. Basically everything I want.

They also have excellent course affiliate features and integrates with other platforms that I wanted to add like community and e-commerce optimization apps. If you are thinking of launching your own course, I recommend going with Teachable.

I also added Circle for community, Proof for social proof, and Zapier to tie everything together and automate my job.

Improving Conversion Rate

The biggest thing to increase the conversion rate is social proof.


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I added Proof to show pop-ups of other people buying. It is a nice little app that took me way too long to set up. But I've heard it can double conversion rates. I'm running an A/B test with traffic right now and we'll see how it goes.

I also started adding testimonials. Perhaps I should of incentivized the pre-orders to complete the course with a refund for the first person or something like that. This would have helped me to get more testimonials faster.

Adding a Micro-PE Community

I had so many amazing people sign up for the course, I thought it would be a shame not to connect everyone. I set up a community in Circle after looking at all the options and gave all early orders lifetime access.


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Most CBCs today seem to go with Circle. A Facebook group may get more engagement, but I didn't want to be tied to Facebook. The $40/month for the piece of mind was worth it.

I think the community will be the most valuable piece of Indie PE in the long run. A community leads to network effects and allows members to learn from each other. The search function will become a gold mine of information as people post about their acquisition stories and issues.

I'm not that concerned about piracy of the course. If you spend hours looking for a free copy of the course then you were likely never going to buy anyway. A community does curb piracy though. You can't pirate a community. Content is a magnet. Community is a moat.

The Future of the Course

Guest Lectures

I have many more guest lectures planned from people that are experts in things that I am not. This is what I am most excited for. I'm more comfortable being a podcast host than an on-stage professor.


I will continue to be active in responding and posing questions to the community.

Perhaps I’ll add live events in the future with guest lecturers. Having everyone with similar interests in one place should make for many more opportunities to build on in the future.


I'm adding more example deals and walking people through my thinking. These can also come from guests so if you have a deal you want to share, I'd love a guest lecture. It can also be in a podcast Q&A style that is easier than teaching.

Everyone has an online course in them. There is something you’ve learned that you can productize and save others from the hassle of trial-and-error of getting there themselves.

If you are interested in buying, growing, and selling small companies, check out my course & community on it.