How did you end up in your line of business?
I grew up in Burlington, VT where professionals from investment banking and private equity did not seem to exist in our relatively small business community. My father was a lawyer, my mother ran an NBC television affiliate, and I thought I wanted to be a doctor when I went off to college. However, while in college I had read Barbarians at the Gate, which chronicled the private equity takeover of RJR Nabisco, and it opened up my eyes to the world of finance as an interesting and challenging career path. After graduating with an English degree (and minor in Economics) from Amherst College in 1993, I was lucky enough to talk my way into an Analyst job at an investment bank in Boston called Advest. Working around the clock for two and one-half years in an intense environment, I developed a strong corporate finance foundation and wanted to apply my skill set to the buyside. I joined Dillon Read & Company’s venture capital arm in 1997, and our group spun out the following year after Dillon Read was sold to SBC Warburg. In 1998 I was fortunate to find myself as a founder of a growth equity firm we named Ticonderoga Capital. I spent 14 years at Ticonderoga Capital, and left Ticonderoga to join ABRY Partners in 2011.
How did you first get involved with ACG Boston?
I first became involved with ACG Boston around 2003. As a newly established growth equity firm, it was especially important to be proactive in order to create deal flow. Interesting companies don’t necessarily knock on your door- you have to go out and work hard to find them. I decided to concentrate my efforts on ACG Boston since ACG presents a highly efficient way to develop relationships that are relevant for the growth end of the lower middle market. There are few venues where one can simultaneously interact with senior lenders, lawyers, recruiters, investment bankers and other private equity professionals in such a collaborative setting.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Get your money’s worth out of every repetition”. I had a tough-love football coach my sophomore year in high school. He emphasized that there is a direct relationship between the effort you put into something, and the return you get in exchange for that effort. While that lesson might sound trite, it resonated with me and I often think about that advice. In our business, a great deal of time elapses between “wins and losses”: a good year might be defined as making one or two new investments, or having a single profitable exit. With over 250 working days in a year, you spend the majority of your time developing and maintaining relationships, pursuing leads, and courting management teams, all with the goal of closing just one or two new investments. Thus almost all of your “reps” do not bear immediate fruit. However, if you make the most out of every interaction, follow up on every lead, and be mindful of ways you can add value to your firm or the efforts of others, you will have a more satisfying and productive career, and the results will take care of themselves.
What is something people don’t know about you?
After college graduation I chose between two job offers: 1. Move to Jackson Hole, WY to apprentice as a trout fishing guide, and 2. Move to Boston to start a career in investment banking. As a 23 year old, the idea of living in Jackson and working outdoors had almost irresistible appeal. However, I realized that the cost to actually live in a resort town would require me to work nearly the same hours as an investment banker, and would not leave much, if any, time to actually fish on my own. I am certain I made the right decision to pursue a career in finance. I have been fortunate to not only build a career in finance, but also to find just enough time to indulge in my fishing passion. I have fished in Brazil, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand and other beautiful locales, and have found that fishing has enabled me to find common ground with people in business. I still have many goals as related to my fishing career, so don’t be surprised if our paths cross on a trout stream in the future.
What is your most satisfying professional accomplishment?
In private equity our customers are our limited partners whom we rely on for their “repeat business” by committing their capital to our successive investment partnerships. However, our portfolio company investments are often “one and done” relationships – after we sell a portfolio company, we typically will not have another opportunity to invest in that same company again. I am most proud of having successfully invested in the same company at two different firms. At my prior firm, we invested in a software company called AFS Technologies, which was sold in 2011 to another private equity firm for a handsome profit. In 2012, my first full year at ABRY Partners, the CEO of AFS called to ask if ABRY would be interested in providing him with capital for two acquisitions. Given the proprietary nature of the opportunity and my previous success with this company, ABRY moved quickly to provide AFS with $25M in growth capital. Within 15 months of our investment in AFS, the company was sold again to another private equity firm, resulting in yet another profitable experience with AFS. While the CEO and the management team deserve all of the credit for creating substantial value, I am proud that I had the opportunity to work with such a talented team not once, but twice.