10 Rising Stars of Private Equity tell their tales

Looking for a glimpse of the future of private equity? Meet the 10 dealmakers named by Mergers & Acquisitions as the 2019 Rising Stars of Private Equity:

Austin Collier, senior associate, Branford Castle Partners
Kevin Cunningham, managing director, LNC Partners
Shawn Domanic, vice president, Sterling Partners
Stephen Jeschke, principal, GTCR
Danielle Lalli, vice president, Huron Capital
Jason Mironov, director, TA Associates
James Oh, partner, Transom Capital Group
Sophia Popova, vice president, Summit Partners
Pavan Tripathi, principal, Bregal Sagemount
Christine Wang, principal, Francisco Partners

To find out how they're shaping the industry's future, read our Q&As with them, below.

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Austin Collier, Branford Castle Partners

ULTIMATE ANALYST


What drew you to the private equity industry. What do you like about it?


I find fascinating the idea that you can gravitate toward what you find most interesting. Creating a situation where ultimately, in a way, you are able to affect your own outcomes, both on a personal and professional level. As you find yourself naturally working more and more on companies that have some level of personal meaningfulness. This dynamic caters well to the entrepreneurial spirit, cultivating an environment of perennial learning. You gain free, unfettered access to the most experienced professionals/founders/CEOs in a particular field. I can’t think of a more ideal platform from which to learn.

Additionally, things rarely seem to get boring in this field, especially as an industry-agnostic investor. No two businesses are identical, and if they are, you can always just sell it!

What types of deals are you working on? What are the best parts of your job?


We continue to see strong deal flow with a number of interesting deals that we hope to close in the near-term. To describe a few: one is a leader in the UV-free tanning industry, one is a mission-critical service provider to steel stills and another is a business that manufactures products for the equestrian market. I think those examples provide an indication of just how wide we cast a net in terms the verticals we invest across. As an industry-agnostic investor, we see everything. But, more importantly, each of these businesses has what we consider to be the most important - they are all leaders in a niche market with proprietary capabilities.

My favorite part has to be meeting CEOs and their teams. Unlike working with large-cap public companies, where executives might be expected to act a certain way or perhaps fit into a certain type of box, the middle-market can be much different. Working with folks from all different types of backgrounds, some with incredible stories who also happen to know the industry better than anyone in the world, is just plain fun.

In terms of the deal process itself, as a PE professional, you are in a unique position. Your job is to constantly keep the big picture top of mind. At any given point in the process, there could be up to ten advisors involved - each of whom is focused on completing their individual work stream. It’s up to the PE professional to make sure all of these pieces come together. Almost like trying to solve a puzzle, except that some pieces might not fit, or may be missing altogether, and your job is to find ways in which it is as close to being solved as possible.

What deal-related accomplishments are you proud of?


To start, getting a deal closed always feels nice! I’ve been the sole junior professional on the majority of the deals I’ve closed with Branford.

One area where I’ve found myself in a position to add value is by taking on growth initiatives for current investments. To describe one, I undertook an initiative that ultimately provided an international growth plan and path forward for one of our portfolio companies. The company executed upon the recommendation and proceeded to establish a sales team in the recommended country.

Additionally, I’m on the road frequently, oftentimes solo, representing Branford at various conferences and deal making events across the country. I’ve been lucky enough to bring in a number of interesting deals from these events, which helps me feel like I’m doing a good a job. I also look to be proactive on the fundraising front by cultivating relationships, wherever possible, with prospective investors for the next Branford fund.

How are you contributing to your firm and the PE industry?


With a new inaugural fund comes a lot of work. I instituted a number of new systems at Branford with the close of this first fund. Some examples include implementing a method for conducting portfolio company valuations for monthly internal purposes and for the annual audit, overhauling the firm’s CRM system to streamline tasks and create efficiencies across the firm and creating and leading Branford’s first summer analyst program.

I'm also active in several community dealmaking organizations on a volunteer basis, helping to develop strong relationships and potential partnerships for Branford across a variety of different types of firms within the middle market M&A community – both locally in NYC and across the country. I've been involved with the ACG organization in a number of roles since joining in 2016 - Committee Member on the ACG NY Forward Committee; Committee Member on the ACG NY Membership Committee; Ambassador to the ACG New York chapter. These positions have helped to stimulate deal flow and create awareness in the middle market for our new fund.

How has your current PE firm nurtured your career?


First and foremost, I am given a ton of responsibility - and a high degree of autonomy to execute upon this responsibility. From managing all aspects of a deal process - from origination, valuation, negotiation and close to being the sole representative for Branford on the road. I think these elements combined are really helpful to cultivate an environment where your opinion is not only expected, but truly valued. At the end of the day, your opinion might be the make or break on getting a deal signed up, and ultimately has the ability to drive the direction of the firm.

Additionally, the Branford organization is a tight-knit team of extraordinary folks. Each senior member has incredibly impressive backgrounds, yet each is incredibly humble. Branford operates in a very low-ego environment, which helps with better decision-making at all levels. John S. Castle (President & CEO), Laurence Lederer (managing director) and Eric Korsten (managing director) have been absolutely instrumental in the development of my career and have served as valuable mentors.


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Kevin Cunningham, LNC Partners

CHANGE AGENT



What drew you to the private equity industry. What do you like about it?


I was fortunate to have taken a class about private equity and LBOs while at the University of Virginia; the class was taught by John Kirtley, a successful middle-market PE investor who co-founded both Florida Capital Partners and KLH Capital. During the course of the semester John enthusiastically walked us through all aspects of the industry, and brought in numerous executives to describe actual case studies. I found the industry compelling as it seemed that it would offer me the ability to make significant contributions to the success of portfolio companies across many functional areas, from finance and strategy to marketing and technology/IT. These initial inclinations have certainly proven out in my career.

What types of deals are you working on? What are the best parts of your job?


I work closely with three portfolio companies in business services sectors (insurance brokerage, HR compliance, and healthcare compliance) that are particularly acquisitive, so we always have an active pipeline of add-on acquisitions.

I spend most of my sourcing efforts looking for businesses in standards management sectors such as compliance, certification, inspection, and testing. These sectors are becoming more important as purchasers of goods and services require more transparency with regards to how a product or service is created. I am searching for third-party providers that are used to verify that a company is operating within market or government-mandated standards. A clear example on the consumer side is the long-term trend towards organic certification of food products. I am focused on B2B markets that are seeing similar demands, such as for companies to demonstrate fair treatment of their workforce through “equal pay”,or for healthcare providers to meet rigorous standards for the operation of their facilities and equipment.

I definitely enjoy the opportunity to work alongside of, and learn from, the successful executives and entrepreneurs at our portfolio companies. I also appreciate that the job allows me to tap into my natural curiosity, as I really enjoy discovering and researching new industries. For example, I spotted an inspection sticker on a gas pump last fall and took a deep dive into the gas station compliance and testing market, which has led to an opportunity for us. With two young children and aging parents, I have also spent my fair share of time in various medical facilities, which provide opportunities to spot new service providers and tools first hand. My kids are now at an age where they understand that snooping around the offices at their medical appointments is part of my job.

What deal-related accomplishments are proud of?


The most rewarding part of the job is certainly seeing the result of my work drive positive changes at our portfolio companies. A career highlight involved attending the 20th anniversary dinner last fall for a portfolio company, OutSolve. We initially invested in the company at a time when it was maturing and several founders were nearing retirement. During the last several years we have worked with OutSolve to complete four acquisitions, expand the service offering, and upgrade the office, among other changes. The anniversary dinner brought together all of the company’s employees from across the country at a fun restaurant near its headquarters in New Orleans. The night was full of enthusiastic speeches and toasts from employees that conveyed a genuine excitement to be a part of the organization. I met numerous employees from the acquired companies who were grateful for the stable environment that OutSolve provides them. The dinner really helped me appreciate how significant of an impact we can have on our portfolio companies and their employees’ lives.

How are you contributing to your firm and the PE industry?


As a small firm, my role in helping develop junior colleagues is important to our continued growth; it is particularly rewarding to see them grow and develop their own investing perspectives. My contributions to the industry have varied over the years, from serving as an officer in Columbia Business School’s private equity and venture capital club, to participating on conference panels.

How has your current PE firm nurtured your career?


I have worked with the three founders of LNC Partners for most of the last twelve years. One aspect of our culture that has been helpful to my career is that we are fairly entrepreneurial and open to trying new approaches to various aspects of our business. The team has been supportive of my work to source transactions through non-traditional channels (conferences, cold-calling, warm leads, etc.) despite the more uncertain outcomes from those channels; ultimately those efforts have been successful with several closed transactions.
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Shawn Domanic, Sterling Partners

OPTIMIZER



What drew you to the private equity industry. What do you like about it?


After college, I did a three-year program at Robert Baird & Co. in Chicago on the investment banking side. About halfway through that work experience, I realized I wanted to make a change and wanted to find something more in line with my interests.

As you go through banking processes, you tend to gravitate toward the things that you like. I really liked the people side of the equation: interacting with management team members; thinking more strategically about company positioning. And I admired the strategic process of researching an industry vertical, identifying interesting companies that are in that space and crafting the investment thesis, versus sitting on the other side of the fence and just preparing materials. I really admired and grew to love that strategic process. And that’s part of my job today: working with my team as well as our management teams to fully execute that plan once you develop it. I think that’s one thing about my job and the industry that really intrigued me.

Another thing about private equity and what I like about it is: I’ve always been a builder and an optimizer. Since my childhood years, I’ve had a knack for trying to find a better way to do something. Those interests in my early days have translated and carried over to where I am today, and carried over into my love of working with teams to solve problems, advance the ball and ultimately grow better organizations that we invest in.

What types of deals are you working on? What are the best parts of your job?


The last transaction we closed I think is an interesting asset: Reading Plus. It’s an adaptive and personalized learning platform that helps students to improve their reading efficiency and proficiency. It’s an intervention reading solution, so if you’re in the fifth grade but reading at a third-grade level, this technology platform allows you to get up the reading curve. The ability to invest in a company that is bringing a product like this to market to serve the needs of children of all ages across the United States in a category like reading—it’s just an exciting investment and company to back. It’s something that I’m proud of, and I think our team is proud of.”

What deal-related accomplishments are you proud of?


Another deal that I’m excited about, and one that was probably the most interesting of my career thus far, is our investment in Big Blue Marble Academy, which we acquired as a 21-center preschool business in the Southeast. This investment marked the Education Opportunity Fund’s entrance into the early childhood space. This transaction I had been working on the entire time since I had joined the firm. The transaction and the process leading up to it really showcased EOF’s research-first approach to investing, which means that typically we provide upfront research work to identify specific lanes within the education space that are interesting. We then go out to find potential targets, management team members and executives-in-residence within that vertical, and then hopefully find something to buy or to build. For this transaction, it allowed me to participate in all aspects of the deal-making process, from the early incubation and conception of the idea all the way through the add-on acquisitions that we’ve been completing post-closing.

My role within this process and transaction was extremely broad and comprehensive. I spent a lot of time scoring geographic markets before we even we tried to source targets. I performed boots-on-the-ground sourcing and due diligence activities in various states across the country, which was me flying down with the CEO, doing school tours, driving through neighborhoods, trying to get a sense of: If we were to buy an asset, where’s the ideal place to enter the market? Because at the end of the day, the preschool business is super local, so without knowledge of the dynamics around the school, you could make a bad call.

Since closing that deal in October of 2018, I have been—and we collectively as a team have been—extremely busy assisting the CEO with systems integration, financial reporting and due diligence with the execution of six add-ons to date.

There’s an added layer of excitement and interest working in the education space, not only because it’s so relevant and topical. It’s extremely relevant for me, as I have two young kids, a 2-1/2-year-old and a 3-week-old. Also, I have continued excitement around the early childhood space, with all the research pointing to 0 to 5 being the most important years neurologically in human development, the lack of focus and investment in this space historically, and just the relevance and the implications it has on society.

How are you contributing to your firm and the PE industry?


I started right after EOF’s inception, and I found it particularly rewarding to get in on the ground level not only of our investing activities, but in building out the structure and our overall footprint, whether it be helping with associate and vice president recruiting, trying to identify partners and consultants and folks to bring in house, executive team members, all of that, as well as trying to bring some of the experiences I had at my prior employer to bear here, which is trying to get a private equity vehicle off the ground, which can be exciting and entrepreneurial in its own right.

I’m contributing to my firm and PE through research, which is typically comprised of identifying a subvertical or “lane” in education to identify the market trends, the market players, the size of that particular market, understanding all the intricacies of that subvertical, and trying to identify talent and potential executives who could be helpful to us, going to conferences, getting submerged in that activity set, and then looking to identify any targets or companies that could be interesting assets for us to acquire or partner with, while at the same time spending ample time and resources to craft the strategic thesis around what a good business model or go-to-market strategy could be in that subvertical.

Outside of research, we as a firm and a team all have a responsibility for deal sourcing as we work through thesis work and attend conferences and find ourselves submerged in the education marketplace. I enjoy that part of the job. Being out in the market, having conversations and identifying companies is something that I enjoy doing.

How has your current PE firm nurtured your career?


Our team at EOF is extremely lean: six investment professionals supporting a $250 million mandate. Given our structure, I’ve really been given the opportunity to try anything and run point on deals that my contemporaries at other firms might not have access to. I have plenty of friends in private equity, and a lot of folks at the associate, senior associate and VP level tend to have a pretty dedicated role or set of responsibilities. Having a lean team and a level of trust throughout our organization has allowed me to take on responsibility as I see fit, and overall our culture embodies that. No task is too big or small for anyone on the team.
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Stephen Jeschke, GTCR

VISIONARY



What drew you to the private equity industry. What do you like about it?


It is the closest thing to athletics that there is in the business world. It is very easy to keep score and there are clear winners and losers. In addition, you get to work with very smart people and great business executives who are clear leaders in their fields.

What types of deals are you working on? What are the best parts of your job?


I love working on deals where we have strong partnerships with our executives. The executive partnership provides a huge advantage.

What deal-related accomplishments are you proud of?


I’m very proud of Lytx, a video safety telematics company that we bought in 2016. The company has grown like a rocket ship, has one of the best customer value propositions I have ever seen and a tremendous management team led by a tremendous leader. They also help to make our roads safer and save lives which is pretty awesome. I’m also very proud of the couple of different businesses we have built (are building) in the rural broadband space. I really like the rural broadband industry and we are bringing connectivity to rural America at the same time.

How are you contributing to your firm and the PE industry?


I very much believe this is an apprenticeship business. You start learning the day you arrive and it never stops so my biggest contribution to my firm and the industry is to foster other’s development in the same way that my development has been fostered by others. This starts by helping with recruiting, but is much more about helping our young associates to develop the skills they need to be successful long-term.

How has your current PE firm nurtured your career?


Per what I mentioned above, this is an apprenticeship business. I’ve learned from others in front of me and have tried to take the best of each of the people I have worked with. Phil Canfield has been a great mentor to me. We have worked on many deals together (including both Lytx and the investments we have made in Rural Broadband) and I have learned many things from him…all the way from how to interact with our executives, to identifying the key issues in deals, to learning to take the time to really think through hard problems (and hear others’ opinions) before coming to a decision. I have also learned a lot from each of the GTCR CEOs I have worked with. Each of their leadership styles has been unique, but has provided me with insights into how successful executives build and lead great companies.
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Danielle Lalli, Huron Capital

THE CLOSER



What drew you to the private equity industry. What do you like about it?


Private equity is a dynamic business that is full of variety, which initially attracted me to the space. It is always intellectually interesting to learn about different industries and businesses and build relationships with talented executives and business owners. The challenge of figuring out how to partner with the right managers and subsequently invest in and grow businesses together is an exciting one. In private equity, we as investors can create value for a wide range of stakeholders and enable businesses and people to reach their potential, which never gets old.

What types of deals are you working on? What are the best parts of your job?


I currently spend much of my time on two of Huron’s ExecFactor investments. Over the course of the past 2-3 years, we built these businesses from the ground up, creating investment theses, partnering with accomplished CEOs, and finding businesses to acquire that fit these strategies. It is exciting to develop strategies like these and truly create something where there was nothing before. At Huron, we are empowered to think outside the box, and this enables us to be flexible and create opportunities for both business owners and ourselves as investors, which is easily my favorite part of the job.

What deal-related accomplishments are you proud of?


I am most proud of the work I have completed at Sciens and Pueblo, the deals referenced above. I have executed 10 acquisitions in connection with these platforms, and it has been extremely rewarding to see how these companies have evolved from small businesses at inception to the larger enterprises they are today. We have been able to leverage Huron’s industry knowledge and network to identify a wide range of proprietary deals, enabling us to quickly scale these businesses. We have invested in these companies with a growth mindset, stimulating job creation and positioning them for strong and successful futures.

How are you contributing to your firm and the PE industry?


Within Huron, I developed a formal program for our associate employees. I now run this program with a colleague, handling everything from recruiting to staffing to ongoing performance management. Outside of work, I volunteer with Belle Impact Fund, a growth fund in Detroit that focuses on female-owned businesses, to help evaluate early stage investment opportunities. It is very important to me to help empower female business leaders across industries, and to be able to leverage my PE background and skillset to enable direct investment in these companies is a privilege.

How has your current PE firm nurtured your career?


Huron has provided many development opportunities that have contributed meaningfully to my professional growth. Huron allows us to invest time in building our industry networks and sponsors our attendance at events and conferences that are personally valuable. Further, we have established mentorship programs, where I am able to spend meaningful time with mentors like Gretchen Perkins and Mike Beauregard, who help me develop my skillset and coach me on key development areas. Our cross-functional organization provides many opportunities to work with our business development and operations teams to become a more well-rounded investor.
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Jason Mironov, TA Associates

STRATEGIST



What drew you to the private equity industry. What do you like about it?


As a high school and college student, I was always drawn to entrepreneurship. Having started and run businesses of my own to help pay for college, I came to really appreciate the American ingenuity and the opportunities that our society provides to those who are aspiring for success.

When I was fortunate enough to be admitted to the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, I stumbled across a formal business education that helped me understand finance and accounting in a much more granular way. The curriculum became an outlet for me to touch thousands of businesses, to become a student of fantastic entrepreneurs and business models and to develop a more global perspective on business.

After a short stint in investment banking, I realized private equity offered me an incredible opportunity to be a part of a company in a very organic and emotional way. I developed a passion for partnering with entrepreneurs, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of growing, profitable companies that were exploring the next frontier of success. While at Harvard Business School, I worked closely with professors to customize my experience in the pursuit of growth equity. This included advising entrepreneurs, working closely on a case study to see how private equity impacts day-to-day operations and immersing myself in the myriad of activities that I had hoped could equip me to be a quality investor.

Frequently, the companies that TA invests in are outside of tier one cities such as New York and San Francisco. The experience of working with people from all walks of life towards a common goal gives me great hope for our democracy. I have the pleasure of working with a wide variety of entrepreneurs - all of whom are “self-made” and have seized on a unique opportunity to create their own success.

In my view, private equity is unique in the fact that it involves much more than simply picking and making quality investments; it’s about creating opportunities and deploying strategic thinking. From the industry research and due diligence, to the financial structuring and value creation, private equity requires a variety of steps and multiple skill sets in order to not only be successful, but also to learn from your mistakes, which all investors inevitably make along the way.

Having the ability to provide and implement both financial and operational resources to truly help drive impactful growth for privately-held companies is extremely rewarding. Importantly, private equity provides unique opportunities to form trust-based relationships with a number of professionals from companies, services providers, the limited partner community and even investors at competing firms. Similar to most of my TA team members, I have been fortunate to develop a network of contacts around the globe.

My career presents fresh challenges and opportunities each and every day that I step foot in the office or somewhere on the road, and the private equity space as a whole is one in which I feel very fortunate and honored to be a part.

What types of deals are you working on? What are the best parts of your job?


I help lead TA’s investments for the North America Business and Financial Services group, where I mainly focus my time on technology-enabled and other services companies in North America. While I cannot disclose any specific potential deals that I am currently working on or companies that we are looking at, I can share some background on the deals that I have been a part of during my tenure at TA.

DiscoverOrg – I originated and co-sponsored TA’s May 2014 investment in DiscoverOrg, a leading provider of B2B sales and marketing data and analytics. TA was the first institutional investor in DiscoverOrg, and the company’s revenues and profits have grown more than 6x since TA’s investment. TA has helped identify, source, finance and execute five acquisitions, including RainKing and Zoom Information, the company’s most recent acquisition in February 2019. I helped assist with the expansion and development of the DiscoverOrg management team, including sourcing and recruiting three independent board members and over five senior executives. Additionally, since TA’s investment, DiscoverOrg has conducted four debt recapitalizations and a debt-financed share repurchase, including a partial recapitalization by the Carlyle Group (Nasdaq :CG) and 22C Capital in March 2018.

Procare Software – I originated and led TA’s May 2015 majority investment in Procare Software, a leading provider of software, integrated payments and solutions to the childcare segment. TA was the first institutional investor in Procare. Since TA’s investment, the company has closed four strategic acquisitions, three of which TA originated, including KidReports in 2017 and SchoolLeader and Cirrus Group in 2018; and in May 2019, announced the signing of its fifth acquisition, Kinderlime. Additionally, I helped assist with the expansion and development of the Procare management team, including the addition of two independent directors and six senior executives. In August 2018, Warburg Pincus completed a strategic investment in Procare, with TA remaining a significant investor in the company.

Conservice – I helped originate and co-sponsored TA’s investment in Conservice, the nation’s largest independent provider of utility expense management software and solutions. I have helped the management team further capitalize on the company’s strong organic growth and business momentum. This year, I assisted with the origination and execution of Conservice’s acquisition of WaterWatch. Additionally, I helped assist with the expansion and development of the Conservice management team, including helping source and recruit two board members and two senior executives.

Working with founders and executives of high-growth, technology-enabled businesses has been extraordinarily rewarding. I endeavor to work alongside our executives, contributing in areas where we have some expertise, but also deeply respecting the independence of our partners. Working with seasoned executives at the board level also is incredibly rewarding, and gives me a new lens through which I can better see and understand business.

My favorite parts of the job all revolve around the people – Whether it’s during origination, execution or our investment hold period, I have been honored to be surrounded by thousands of highly-talented, dedicated and passionate people from all over the world. It’s part of what I believe differentiates TA and all of the amazing companies with which we are lucky enough to partner.

What deal-related accomplishments are you proud of?


Watching four founder-owned businesses, where I helped originate and execute an investment, fundamentally reshape their markets and create countless opportunities around the world has been extraordinarily rewarding. The lives of the employees of these companies (and in many cases, their partners and customers) are often irrevocably changed by the services or products that TA’s portfolio companies provide. Seeing and hearing about these impacts gives me tremendous satisfaction.

How are you contributing to your firm and the PE industry?


I have helped lead key aspects of the associate training program at TA, while also being a contributor to firm-wide global recruiting. I have made contributions to the firm’s marketing efforts, and currently serve on TA’s technology committee. I also have participated in the firm’s charitable activities, including participation on “Team TA” in the Pan-Mass Challenge. I have mentored past associates and provided support to the business school application process. Finally, I have helped coordinate and plan offsites and social events, helping promote the firm’s culture, and have represented TA on sector-specific panel discussions.

Outside of TA, I am a frequent contributor to the Venture Capital & Private Equity Club at the Harvard Business School, and spend time with numerous students at the University of Michigan and the Harvard Business School, providing guidance and mentorship to those looking to enter the industry. I also have hosted countless MBA treks visiting the Bay Area aiming to help inform students about the potential of a role in the industry. Additionally, I have been active with the Peninsula College Fund, which helps provide resources for low-income and first generation college students to graduate and obtain a job that aligns with their career goals.

How has your current PE firm nurtured your career?


I have been the beneficiary of extraordinary mentorship from colleagues and partners from all over the world. TA has made a deep investment in my success from a personal and professional standpoint. In particular, I have benefited from the guidance of many of my partners and colleagues, some of whom are listed below.

Todd Crockett, managing director (Menlo Park); Kurt Jaggers, senior advisor (Menlo Park); Michael Berk, managing director (Boston) Jason Werlin, managing director (Menlo Park); Ethan Liebermann, Director (Boston).

The mentorship and guidance I have received is far reaching. In addition to training on how to be a good investor, board member and partner, I’ve learned a great deal about life outside of the office. I’ve been lucky to obtain advice on parenting and how to take care of one’s family, and the myriad of other issues that spouses and parents face. TA has been my family, and for that I am eternally grateful.
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James Oh, Transom Capital Group

GREAT COMMUNICATOR



What drew you to the private equity industry. What do you like about it?
My interest in the private equity industry started when I saw my parents manage their small dry-cleaning business in South Los Angeles. As a teenager, I would overhear conversations about low revenue for the month or rising costs and HR matters. I realized that businesses, despite the size, were complex and dynamic. I also understood that these businesses were the livelihoods of people working in them, and not just those of the owners. Fast forward to now, I like the PE industry because as a partner of a generalist firm with functional operational expertise, I get to learn about a variety of different businesses and identify ways to improve efficiencies in them. I also understand that the people that work at them, no matter what level or title, have equal importance in making a business successful. I also enjoy hearing from founders on their journey to get the businesses to where they are today.

What types of deals are you working on? What are the best parts of your job? 


At Transom Capital, we purse transactions that operate in a stable or growing industry and have a “reason to exist.” The types of deals that excite me are companies that hit these filters but can also benefit from the functional expertise our firm brings to bear. When you see the marriage of our pattern recognition and functional expertise with a strong management team who are experts in the industry, it provides a good formula for success. My favorite part of my job are the interpersonal relationships that are developed—from the advisor selling the business, management teams and employees, third-party advisors assisting us on our diligence, and financing partners. I truly feel that there is something to be learned in every interaction.

What deal-related accomplishments are you proud of?


I started my career as a CPA and now lead the M&A function at Transom Capital. Being able to utilize the skill sets I learned throughout my career at PwC, Wells Fargo, and The Gores Group in one transaction is rewarding. It also helps me realize the amazing mentors I had along the way who took the time to teach me and invest in me. I am proud of all the deals we have been able to execute at Transom. However, if I were to pick one, HeathCo comes to mind. That is the first deal I led from start to finish at Transom Capital Group.

How are you contributing to your firm and the PE industry?


I like to network with all constituents within the dealmaking space. I also spend time talking with junior bankers and advisors on the next step in their careers and share with them things I learned on my journey.

How has your current PE firm nurtured your career?


I’ve had the privilege to work with great people throughout my career. At every stop in my journey, I can think of one or two impactful people who have helped shape me into the professional I am today. Bill Butier, director, PwC; Rusty Parks, managing sirector, Wells Fargo Capital Finance; Mike Nutting, managing director, The Gores Group are a few who come to mind. But at the end of the day, my partners here at Transom are the ones who support me daily and show me what it means to be part of a true partnership. Ty Schultz, Russ Roenick and Ken Firtel are my partners for whom I am eternally grateful.
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Sophia Popova, Summit Partners

TECH MAVEN



What drew you to the private equity industry. What do you like about it?


There is nothing more exciting than helping category-leading technologies scale. I was drawn to growth equity because it allows me to analyze what makes businesses tick, learn about cutting-edge technologies, and build relationships with entrepreneurs. Early in my career, I had the opportunity to join a tech startup as one of its first employees. This experience opened my eyes to the complexities of product development, sales, and marketing, and it instilled in me a great deal of respect for entrepreneurs. As a growth equity investor at Summit, I have the opportunity to relive the highs and lows of entrepreneurship every day and ultimately help build businesses that have a tangible impact on our economy.

What types of deals are you working on? What are the best parts of your job?


I focus on partnering with high-growth technology companies that have developed a leading product in their sector and have reached scale. These types of companies may not need capital. However, they typically decide to partner with Summit to help them continue on in their next phase of growth and, in many cases, to provide some liquidity for early shareholders.

What deal-related accomplishments are you proud of?


My favorite part of this job is developing our next investment thesis. Most recently, this thesis-driven work led us to invest in Klaviyo and Markforged; each company is a leader in its category offering impressive technologies. Klaviyo is a SaaS data and marketing automation platform that helps more than 15,000 brands reach their customers more intelligently. Markforged is a rapidly growing manufacturer of industrial 3D printers and printing systems that are playing a transformational role in “Industry 4.0,” a new chapter of technologically-driven industrial automation and digitization.

How are you contributing to the PE industry?


I’m passionate about recruiting and training the next generation of investors. At Summit, I help lead our recruiting efforts. Beyond Summit, I have always been fascinated by the academic aspects of investing and the economic impact of new business creation. During business school, I spent a semester researching the impact of venture capital on economic development for Professor Derek van Bever and Clay Christensen for Clay’s next book.

How has your current PE firm nurtured your career?


Summit has nurtured my career in so many different ways. Summit has developed an incredibly strong culture over the last 35 years, both within the firm and throughout its alumni network. I can pick up the phone and call even the most senior members of the firm to learn from their investment experience. Everything we do at Summit is oriented around growth and we apply this lens to growing companies as much as we do to growing careers within the firm. We’re always evolving as an organization and trying to continuously improve.
tripathi
Pavan Tripathi, Bregal Sagemount

CREATIVE THINKER



What drew you to the private equity industry. What do you like about it?


I was drawn to growth stage private equity because I get excited about asking lots of questions. There is always something new to explore – industries, companies, business models, innovations – which keeps the learning curve steep and the work fascinating. There is also a great mix of technical challenges, creative thinking, and relationship building that constantly push me to grow and expand my skillset.

What types of deals are you working on? What are the best parts of your job?


Bregal Sagemount is a unique growth-stage private equity firm with a very flexible mandate. That flexibility allows all of us at Sagemount to look at deals in technology and tech-enabled services with many different lenses. In my time at Sagemount, I have invested across data infrastructure, enterprise software, information services, healthcare technology, tech-enabled business services, and specialty finance. Our ability to be a majority buyout, minority equity, or credit investor has been great as it enables us to work with the company’s stakeholders to develop custom capital solutions that position the company for accelerating growth.

What deal-related accomplishments are you proud of?


One of the most challenging (and rewarding) things to do in private equity is originating a new deal – which encompasses developing a sector thesis, gaining the confidence of company management and investors, and structuring a win-win transaction. At Sagemount, we celebrate the intellectual and human capital that goes into that.

How are you contributing to your firm and the PE industry?


I have had the good fortune of having several brilliant and thoughtful mentors during my career. Likewise, I emphasize spending time with my younger colleagues and college/business school students, providing any guidance, input, or advice I can (and personally learning a lot from them as well). I strongly believe that helping them succeed will play a large part in the continued success of Sagemount and make the private equity industry stronger.

How has your current PE firm nurtured your career?


A big part of Sagemount’s flat culture is intellectual rigor where good ideas and well-researched perspectives are expected from the whole team. As a result, I’ve been able to grow as an investor and a leader at Sagemount, taking on more and more responsibilities, and in turn, encouraging my younger colleagues to do the same.
christinewang
Christine Wang, Francisco Partners

QUARTERBACK



What drew you to the private equity. What do you like about it?


I joined the private equity industry after spending three years in the Financial Institutions Group at J.P. Morgan. It was there that I got exposure to a number of private equity firms and had the opportunity to see different buyers reach very different conclusions on how they could make an investment successful. Firms had varied investing approaches and I found this very dynamic and intriguing.

What types of deals are you working on? What are the best parts of your job?


My favorite part of my job is working with a wide variety of management teams. It is just as exciting to help a founder consider and execute on M&A for the first time as it is fascinating to navigate through the operational complexity of a divisional carve-out and help recruit a new executive team.

What deal-related accomplishments are you proud of?


In late 2016, we acquired Dell Inc.’s software group and in the 2.5 years since, we separated Quest Software from SonicWall. I’m very proud that we were able to return that business to growth and foster an accelerated cadence of new product releases. In a very different profile of deal, FP acquired Prometheus Group and in less than 3 years, I helped lead four add-on acquisitions (the company’s first ever M&A transactions), which broadened the platform and helped the company better serve its customers.

How are you contributing to your firm and the PE industry?


In our industry, our people are our biggest differentiating factor. I am very focused on not only FP’s recruiting efforts but also training our talent and making sure they have the right mentorship. I am also active in a number of different investment professional networks and enjoy organizing events for best practice sharing and relationship building with other women working in private equity in the Bay Area.

How has your current PE firm nurtured your career?


One of the things I really appreciate about Francisco Partners is the firm’s focus on professional development and continuous improvement. This includes exposure to a wide variety of real-life deal experiences, as well as training programs and workshops focused on cultivating things like management skills and executive presence. In the four years that I have been at FP, I have had the opportunity to quarterback several of our platform acquisitions and have led numerous add-on acquisitions for my portfolio companies. Since day one at FP, I have always enjoyed having a seat at the table and on the boards of my portfolio companies.