About Spire Capital
Spire Capital is a private equity firm focused on lead and control investments in middle-market companies in the technology-enabled business services, media, education, and communications sectors. Founded in 2000, the company has had tremendous success in building industry-leading companies and driving outsized returns for its investors. Spire Capital leads buyout investments, providing deep industry experience and a network of business relationships that enable its portfolio companies to grow and create value. The company is investing out of its fourth fund, has managed over $900 million in private equity commitments since its founding, and has invested in 26 platform companies and consummated over 90 add-on acquisitions. Spire Capital was in need of Altvia’s help with portfolio monitoring.
Don Stewart is CFO of Spire Capital. A hands-on executive, he also handles CCO responsibilities. He has extensive leadership and expertise in creating scalable revenue for businesses across a variety of industries, from entrepreneurial startups to Fortune 500 companies. This includes experience in directing all facets of treasury, accounting, investor relations, and operations.
Stewart and the entire Spire Capital team had found that managing information using Excel spreadsheets was “brutal.” They were using spreadsheets to record financials for their portfolio companies, provide information for monthly financial reviews, and produce quarterly and annual reports and related communications, among other things. Handling all of those tasks was extremely labor-intensive and time-consuming.
With Altvia’s help, Spire Capital implemented a portfolio company dashboard in its LP portal, which enables them to easily pull up mark-to-market valuations (cost, fair market value, etc.) at a fund level for each portfolio company. The time savings and increase in transparency have been significant, and the ability to better serve LPs has become a major differentiator for the company.
“I’m on the front line for LP requests, whether it be quarterly, annually, or whenever,” says Stewart. “Two-thirds of the time, those requests are about portfolio company data. That got me thinking about what else I can present to stakeholders to help them make decisions—taking off my financial hat and putting on my marketing hat, so to speak.”
He also noted that with the type of advanced portfolio monitoring functionality provided by Altvia, you have to re-educate contacts who are used to only having access to “stale” data. “The access to data is great,” he says, “It’s a matter of training people on how and where to find that data. But once you do, stakeholders like our more sophisticated institutional partners love it. Used the right way, an LP portal can serve as a key marketing function.”
What advice would Stewart give to his industry peers about how to approach and prioritize technology and the role portfolio monitoring can play in a firm? “I think the attitude ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is pretty prevalent in our industry, with many firms still working in Excel, posting PDFs as a way to provide information, etc.,” he says. “But it’s important to be forward-thinking and not get stuck in your ways. You’ve got to take the time and make the investment in implementing new solutions, and you’ve got to believe it will work. But if you do, it’s totally worth it.”
Stewart goes on to say that good returns are essential, but achieving good returns plus providing an excellent stakeholder experience can set your firm apart from the competition. It can also make your job easier, as he estimates that the greater LP engagement they generated going into their fourth fund allowed them to complete the raise in half the time of their third fund.
“Altvia isn’t a vendor, but a true partner,” he says, summing up the relationship. “Altvia listens and uses creativity to solve problems.”