How can private equity firms benefit from accessibility, interactivity, and visualization of their data?
To explore current trends around data and information solutions in the private equity marketplace, we interviewed Jeff Williams, VP of Products at Altvia. The discussion will be presented in a series of blog posts in order to capture a more inclusive view of this trending subject. Thanks for joining us to discuss what private equity firms need to know about data. Let’s start with a quick introduction: tell us a little about what you do at Altvia.
I lead the team that attempts to discover and find problems that we believe are worth solving with technology for private equity firms. Specifically, we’re interested in solving problems or issues that help private equity firms differentiate themselves and become more operationally efficient, and solutions that provide better services within private equity firms’ ecosystems.
What is currently trending around technology in the private equity marketplace? What are people talking about, and which solutions do they need?
As it specifically relates to problems people are having pertaining to technology, or problems that technology can help to solve, the big trends center around data. On a strategic level, how to store, accumulate, and analyze data is a big topic right now. And there’s a bigger conversation about relationships with limited partners regarding the ability to service them and be good partners, which manifests itself in buzz words like transparency. But at a relationship level, it’s more about how these partners interact with each other.
The importance for firms to improve their service interactions with stakeholders is top of mind?
Yes–at the end of the day, private equity is a market that provides financial services. A lot of conversations lately are about the service itself; more specifically, what service is actually being provided. When you look at service industries, they are traditionally driven by incremental steps of differentiation: How can they provide something better or different than their competitors?
Altvia recently launched a new data solution: Altvia Answers. From the perspective of a private equity firm, what exactly does Altvia Answers do?
Altvia Answers is very much a solution for the data problems we’re hearing about. For the better part of the past 10-20 years, this industry has been active in using technology to generate data, and more recently, to consume additional sources of data. We’re at a point where older firms have accumulated data much less methodically than firms that are starting out today, and this reveals several important considerations:
- Firms that have been in business longer have ended up with multiple systems along the way, and there are often no integration points between those systems.
- Those systems, on their own, are often times not capable of doing much with the data within them, nor are they capable of performing the complex analyses that are now needed.
- The capabilities of modern technology within the realm of data (what’s possible to query, management of large volumes of data, and making sense of all the data) are not things that have been built into systems that firms have accumulated.
In a nutshell, people have systems that don’t interact, even though they’re relevant to each other. Firms would like to look at the data within them together, but there are tremendous inefficiencies with trying to bring those systems together, showing a lack of capabilities of these tools on their own. Altvia Answers is a solution that solves the entire chain of these issues by bringing data together from disparate sources into one place, then modelling the information together to establish a single source of truth for all of your data across all of your systems. Even better, Altvia Answers connects to the data systems already in place, with no need to export or upload information, simplifying the process. It facilitates very powerful and very modern data capabilities in terms of analysis on a large scale, and it does that in the cloud in an automated fashion so there is no need to embark on manual, time consuming, and error prone processes. And, most importantly, Altvia Answers provides the ability for business users to interact with their data across systems in very intuitive ways, and on any device, eliminating the need for highly skilled, IT-centric resources that would historically have spent weeks at a time developing an analysis. Altvia Answers is right at the fingertips of business users and executives at any point, ready for them to ask their own questions and get their own answers in an engaging and intuitive way.As you’ve been instrumental in developing and launching this new product, we’re guessing you have some great stories about how Altvia Answers works specifically to help private equity firms. Could you share some examples?
One particular organization had spent nearly two years assessing vendors in an attempt to find a solution that could deliver on the vision they had, which they felt was not only compelling, but also very different from their competition. They were looking for a solution that would allow them to really provide a service that was highly differentiated, unique, and superior to their competition. After assessing dozens of vendors, they found a few that came very close to their criteria, but there was always something missing from the bigger picture. As we got to talking with them and understanding their vision, what we were able to do with Altvia Answers was allow them to identify the best of breed, best in class solutions across the entire chain of systems involved in executing their vision. This allowed them to use the best CRM solution, then put Altvia Answers on top to connect their entire system. Now entirely connected, this system provides that firm with a single place for business users to go in order to find and understand data across their organization and system. After a lengthy assessment of many different vendors, Altvia Answers provided them with a revolutionary concept that confirmed it is a complete solution to these problems.
Altvia Answers helps firms position themselves as industry leaders?
Correct, and a big part of it is not only the ability to consume data across their system internally, but also to begin to allow their clients themselves to access important, real-time data that is relevant to them. It went from a matter of “we’ll send you a statement in the mail every so often” to “you don’t even need to pick up the phone to ask us, you can just access the info that’s relevant to you in real time, at anytime“ in an intuitive, efficient, interactive and engaging way.
It’s having a snowball effect on their whole business structure?
Yes, Altvia Answers is helping to provide more efficient internal operations that are more organized and more systematic. This snowballs all the way through to providing new capabilities to their investors, which in turn strengthens their relationships and positions them as industry leaders.
Jeff joined Altvia in 2011 and leads Product Management and Marketing. Prior to joining Altvia, Jeff spent nearly four years as an Analyst and Associate sourcing and evaluating investment opportunities in venture capital funds and late-stage venture financings in private companies. He was also actively involved in the fundraising process and used AIM extensively to manage both the fundraising and investing processes. Outside of work, Jeff enjoys skiing and playing golf.