ABOUT THE EPISODE

 

We’re thrilled to be joined in this episode by Conor Smyth (Founder & CEO) and Melissa Maleri (CMO) of TritonLake, a boutique placement agent that partners with private fund managers and deal sponsors to raise capital from its network of investors. Founded by a team of former software executives, TritonLake is a forward-thinking, technology-driven placement agent, and naturally we have a lively discussion on technology’s role in the future of matchmaking between GPs and LPs in private markets. There’s been some buzz in the market about “Tinder for PE”, but TritonLake is confident that private market matchmaking will always be made up of a healthy balance of human-based relationships supplemented with technology, and few placements agents have embraced technology’s role like TritonLake has.

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TRANSCRIPT

Jeff Williams: [00:00:00] Let’s jump in first.

[00:00:57] Tell us about TritonLake. We’ve been working with you guys for a couple of years now and I unfortunately haven’t had a chance to work with you super closely.

[00:01:04] I hear a lot about you guys. So tell us a little bit about what you’re up to and how you came to be. 

[00:01:11] Conor Smyth: Ya, sure. So my background pre TritonLake, and I founded TritonLake in 2015. My background prior to that was as a partner in a global software business. So I was a software entrepreneur for a bunch of years.

[00:01:25] I joined that company in 1997 and started heading up technology, but moved over to the dark side of sales in 2000. Eventually we sold that business to a private equity firm in New York, in the mid 2000s, as I was on the way at that door, I started for the mid 2010s. I should say if that’s even the right phrase, but as we were exiting that, I was thinking about what I want to do next.

[00:01:49] And that business has provided technology and managed services to global investment managers and wealth managers. I had gained an in-depth understanding of the data points. The actual structures that were at play in terms of the investment industry built quite a foundation, both sides of the Atlantic in terms of senior executives and those global organizations.

[00:02:13] So clearly, when I was thinking about what Conor 2.0 looked like, I wanted it to stay in the investment management world. I wanted it to be able to leverage some of that network that I’ve built, but not exclusively dependent. I was pretty clear. I didn’t want to do another software startup. Right. So I had a bunch of conversations and I think that’s always the best way to grow any business idea, is to talk to as many people as you come that are even directly or adjacently connected to the space you’re considering.

[00:02:43] And gradually the embryo that was TritonLake was formed, at the start I tapped onto a trend in terms of teams leaving. The big wire is a private bank with multi-billion dollar portfolios of assets under management and forming their own independent entities to service the ultra high net worth individuals and families that they had been serving in those bigger entities.

[00:03:06] But now everything from an investment perspective was being decided at head office or home office. And it was what they wanted to get in control of their own economic destiny. They found restrictions in terms of what they could bring those investors. So in seeing that trend, my initial thinking was that it could be a good way of raising capital from those newer type entities.

[00:03:28] And, I did a lot of research and probably spoke to a few hundred RIAs that focused on the ultra high net worth space to end up with a network of 70 or 80 of those firms, I would say. And this is going back to probably 2017/2018 kind of time, because there were a couple of years of hard yards in terms of building the network and speaking to those folks and trying to relay the value proposition in terms of what we would bring to them, which was then as it is now.

[00:03:56] And we’re going to bring them differentiated investment opportunities that they’re not going to hear about. So we have that as the shop window on my, if I go back to my thinking, then in terms of how we were going to proceed, I felt that the opportunity was to bring international funds. And at the time I thought it was from the hedge funds, right.

[00:04:16] To, to that network as a shop window that they wouldn’t speed speaking to directly, but, as the conversations continued with those investor entities, it became clear that their appetite was much more on the private market side, which actually suited me better because I was far more interested in that space.

[00:04:34] And also as I got speaking to some of the GPs in the U S it became clear that the segment of the market that I had carved out from an investor perspective was not something that they covered well themselves. And it wasn’t something that was an area of focus for some of the larger placement agents either.

[00:04:54] So that is about raising a few funds from the network. And if we fast forward to where we are today, the network that was north of 200 entities in the U S. Over $4 trillion in combined assets under management, not just those multi-family office RIAs, we also cover fund of funds, outsource chief investment officers.

[00:05:15]Some of the university endowments, particularly when they have emerging manager programs, because a lot of what we do, we make relevance to the check size from our investor network, which tends to be in the $10-30 million range in terms of a primary fund commitment. And that leads them to want to work with funds that are sub billion-dollar in terms of raise size.

[00:05:37] So, and it feeds into their value proposition as well. So if I’m a, if I’m managing the portfolios for an ultra high net worth individual in her fund, I’m not adding much value and justify my own fees by bringing them KKR as late as f***. But if I believe them something that’s much nichier and more differentiated and has a story behind it and a team that can really articulate that story and you can get behind, then, that’s adding value to their business and it’s adding value to what their client expects to see.

[00:06:06] So obviously off the back of that, Our job really is to go out and find the most interesting opportunities we can to bring to the network. And we probably look at, I think we looked at this recently and I think we screened over 1500 opportunities a year. We probably speak to two or three hundred, and that boils down to 20 or 30 that we might bring to the network.

[00:06:28] And some of them will be focused, very targeted efforts over a short period of time. And some of them will be across the fundraise to a broad list of names.

[00:06:37]Jeff Williams: [00:06:37] I was gonna say there’s something really interesting in there and I want to actually come back to it. So I’ve jotted it down.

[00:06:43] I want to hear a little bit Connor, you and Melissa had a chance to work together previously. Is that right?

[00:06:49] Conor Smyth: [00:06:49] We did work it. So as part of that ultra business, right. I mentioned that got sold to a private equity firm. That was part of a roll-up on the entity that Melissa worked for rose world into the same kind of platform available and regulatory and compliance platform.

[00:07:02] So that’s where our paths crossed. And we got on well from that capacity in terms of the business together. And it made sense when I was looking for someone to fulfill a senior marketing role in TritonLake, that Melissa and I reconnected. And that’s what happens today, Melissa drives marketing for us.

[00:07:20] Jeff Williams: [00:07:20] Yeah. Well, tell us a little bit more, Melissa. I mean, don’t you just love when you come across people that you’re like I’ll work with that person again. Right. So clearly something going on. Tell us a little bit about your perspective. Maybe you’re like, I didn’t really like working with Connor all that much, but imagine that you could say that Melissa, maybe we brought her onto the podcasts, so she can say that, now can tell us a little bit about yourself, Melissa.

[00:07:46] Melissa Maleri: [00:07:46] Yeah. So, as Connor mentioned, we met and when our companies came together and it was one of those things where you knew that we were going to be friends, no matter what, at least from my perspective anyway. And we really just hit it off. And so when Connor left, we stayed in touch and then it just worked out.

[00:08:04]Jeff Williams: [00:08:04] Love it. Got to love bumping into people that yeah. That you will work with. Again, I’ll say it many more times. All right.

[00:08:11] Conor Smyth: [00:08:11] I would put that in context, our team now is up to 8 people. And from the 8 people, as well as Melissa our COO Jeff Willems, who is the one we joke about in terms of your name, Jeff. He was actually in that ultra business as well, working with me for many years. So that was a no-brainer for me when I heard that Jeff was open to new opportunities and I was looking for a COO he joined on the 1st of January last year, right.

[00:08:38] Just a few months before the pandemic hit. I knew it was the right decision before any of that happened, but I can tell you one thing, having someone that I could rely on, I haven’t had much time to spend face-to-face with through the last 15 months has been phenomenally beneficial and also Malachy O’Neill who is in Luxembourg for us since last October is someone that I worked with way back when in 1990 to 2001. So there’s a lot to be said for that.Getting the band back together. Exactly. Right. It’s not like I can play lead guitar. I’ll get anybody back together.

[00:09:16] Jeff Williams: [00:09:16] I’m going to say this because we talked about music on the podcast.

[00:09:18] I record the podcast music and I became randomly obsessed with country music one day. It was a couple years back. And so I’ve been now that we’re opening back up. I’ve been trying to find country bands to play with. And it’s funny because my wife, I drove all the way down to about an hour away from here.

[00:09:37] Kind of middle of nowhere, Southern part of Denver, my wife thought like, are these guys any good? And here’s what I said, which is relevant. You just never know who you’re going to bump into. And it’s a little bit like companies, right? You get bought, you get combined with some and the story going into these things, oftentimes I’d be like, ah, I don’t know.

[00:09:55] You’ll see that company is a mess. Right. But you do find people that you are glad you bumped into and which we’ll work with again. At the country jam that I went to, an 83 year old pedals, guitar, harp player, like which makes country music. And so I was curious as to how I was going to ask this 83 year old legend by, Hey, would you want to play music?

[00:10:21] And he asked me before I even had to decide. So I was extremely flattered. So that was my story about bumping into the soulmate.

[00:10:31] Conor Smyth: [00:10:31] The relevant point of that, that you make there, that’s disguised in some of the words is that when you work with people, you get a firsthand experience of where their skills are.

[00:10:41] And I think that companies oftentimes see somebody doing a good job in ABC and say, why don’t we get Melissa to try DEF as well, because she did such a good job of ABC, right? As we all know that things don’t work like that. And if you’re good at the steel string guitar, and an opportunity comes up to play steel string guitar somewhere else.

[00:11:02] Why would you look elsewhere when you know somebody that is a good guitarist, right? And that’s what I’ve tried to do. And, in scaling any business, people are the single most important thing, whatever event strategy, and anything else. Still, that’s a fundamental part of our plan as we continue to grow and scale from where we are today.

[00:11:19] Jeff Williams: [00:11:19] Well, and it’s a perfect segue cause it takes us back to that point that I’m interested in talking about. So we have held the belief at Altvia, that technology, well, to put it in a punchy way, that technology is starting to emerge that might be considered or interpreted perhaps even as a threat to the placement agent model right.

[00:11:41] In the sense that. I don’t ever see GPs and LPs being very transactional, but you know, there’s a lot of talk I’ve heard. This idea that, okay, well maybe technology could start to match people, which is an implied threat perhaps to you, but like, what you were saying is that Conor is that, you guys are doing really well at helping LPs find differentiated GPs with an interesting story. 

And like, that’s super interesting, right? Because in this same theory of kind of Tinder for PE, there is a, at least a fantasy world where maybe those LPs could be finding these GPs directly, but they’re not, you guys are doing a tremendous job of doing it.

[00:12:21] And I know that I happen to know because you’re a customer of ours that you’re technology focused. You guys are doing some really cool stuff with technology, but I’m interested in, what is it that is like it’s is it still just a storytelling business? I mean, technology can present stories, but it can’t really tell stories right?

[00:12:38] Much like the dating headline on Tinder can say who you are, but when you actually are dating the person, in person and hearing the stories from them and hearing how they describe it is totally different thing. 

[00:12:50] Conor Smyth: [00:12:50] Yeah. I think that’s exactly right.  I hate using it, but the dating analogy isn’t a bad one in this instance, because the technology can help to provide that initial qualification. 

Is this a potential interest, or not? Then the storytelling comes back next, right? I think it’s unlikely that if it doesn’t tick the initial boxes that the storytelling is ever going to change that, particularly from an institutional investment perspective, whatever that is. I think in some instances, the personality might have a chance in the dating world.

[00:13:19] I think if someone isn’t loving credit and they hear a story, a great private credit story, it’s not going to make them invest in private credit right? That’s the difference as I would see it, but from our perspective, and fundamental to the strategy and my belief in what will make us succeed is that no matter how strong the relationships we have with these investors is, we still don’t even get a sliver of their attention.

[00:13:43] Right? These folks are inundated with emails, phone calls, everything all day long, every day with people competing for their money and their attention. So maximizing the impact of that stuff. Is how you succeed or fail. And you invite them to do that. You make every communication as relevant as value-add and as interesting as possible.

[00:14:04] And that’s how you succeed. And, the day you stopped doing that, the next time you have a sliver, it doesn’t get quite as much attention. So how do you do that? You do it by keeping the information very focused. You do it by keeping the opportunities you work with. Interesting. Right? So you build a reputation for TritonLake to work with interesting opportunities.

[00:14:24] It’s worth the look. That’s that, but I mean, to facilitate technology is a key part of that.

[00:14:29] Jeff Williams: [00:14:29] Tell us more about that. I mean, because like the thing I was thinking when you were talking about your background is like, I’m a software executive myself. And it’s hard now to ever go anywhere, do anything, talk to anyone really, and not be seeing software in some capacity.

[00:14:50] And so in this case, I’m like sometimes I never want to work in software again. I just want to, I don’t know something totally. Still just want to be a rockstar, man.

[00:14:59] Conor Smyth: [00:14:59] it’s never too old to be a rockstar. I look at all the old looks of the rockstars we followed in the eighties. There’s their rockstars, right?

[00:15:04] Jeff Williams: [00:15:04] Thank you for saying that. I couldn’t say that myself.

[00:15:07] Conor Smyth: [00:15:07] Yeah. I think my mindset, Jeff, was more, I don’t want to build a software startup and start writing code that we own and have to maintain.

[00:15:15] But from day one, it was always, we would leverage technology where, and when it makes sense and we have quite a powerful stack of technology at our disposal today. And if we touch on the various aspects of it, obviously Altvia is a core part when it comes to CRM fundraising, all of that aspect of it is captured there along with investor preferences, so that we can carefully target where we send it opportunities and attract to that.

[00:15:44] And we also have an online portal where our investors have one secure website they can go to, to see any of the opportunities that were in the market with, at any point in time. That’s a third-party piece as well. That’s white labeled, fully branded TritonLake. I never think that you would expect mobile devices and so forth.

[00:16:03]Alongside that since last year. We’ve been using Hubspot to do very personalized and targeted communications. So we use that to any new mandate launch. Look here we have our dating attributes, if you like, so it can have the fund size, the asset class and description, the return profile, a brief description, some highlights about the opportunity and, in talking to our LPs.

[00:16:28] What would they like to see that’s enabled us to to give them enough to make at least a yes, no, maybe decision, right? Which saves them having to open a deck. It’s making it more efficient for them. So we’d use it for those. They also get a monthly highlights email where they can see the five most relevant opportunities to them.

[00:16:48] And at that point, in order to ascertain what the most relevant opportunities are, we just got a third-party to build a piece of recommendation software that takes that base intelligence we have about the investor preferences of each individual, not even each firm, each individual within each firm.

[00:17:06] Takes that and old men sit with their interactions with us on the phone, on the portal, through the emails to give a match rating score for any of those opportunities. So we can show folks the opportunities that should be the best fit based on their interactions and what we know about them at the top of the list and keep them front and center.

[00:17:26] And if there’s opportunities that are highly unlikely to be a fit. We’ll hide them somewhere in the back of the room and they can find them if they want to, if they go digging, but we shouldn’t be wasting time pressuring them with, ‘have you had to look at this’ or, having that be the first thing on the list when they get an email, it doesn’t make sense to do that.

[00:17:41] Jeff Williams: [00:17:41] Yeah. I can’t help since we’ve already gotten into the subject, but I’m imagining a lot of similarities now. And there are a lot of parallels between dating apps. So in many ways, I mean, you’re saving people from like LPs, from not having to like,  go to every bar.

[00:17:58] Ever and try to meet every GP, the recommendations, for example, like you’re saying, Hey, swipe, right. Swipe left. You’ve already swiped by telling us what you’re interested in. And now you’re just making it very efficient for them to get in there.

[00:18:12] That’s how you  build a matchmaking business, right? I mean, it’s like you’re in the business of finding and matching LPs and GPs and , I can’t imagine you’d be too effective and successful at it.

[00:18:26] If you weren’t making it, like, if you weren’t finding matches, right. Or if you weren’t saying at least. How do these five look, and yeah I’ll go on dates with them. And so you’re very focused on that. How, like, just more generally, I mean, how different is that? I mean, there’s levels of complexity as we’re talking about the technology you guys seem to have made it very simple, perhaps a complex problem that you’re solving, but made it very simple on the sort of matches.

[00:18:54] I’m curious, like, Bigger placement agents and stuff. Maybe people you compete with. I mean, is there still a lot of old school?

[00:19:01]Conor Smyth: [00:19:01] very much so, that combined with an old school sales. Chasing people on the phone. Did you look at this? Did you look at this? Even if they told them two days ago, they don’t like that kind of thing.

[00:19:10] Right? So that seems to be the case. The other, the feedback we get in terms of the portal is that it’s phenomenally institutional quality. They’ve no idea why the bigger placement agents don’t have something similar, which is always a, it’s nice to hear that we’re a little bit different as well, because we tried to be, And yeah, I think it’s just, it’s still, the larger ones are more based on the bigger institutional allocators, which they operate differently than the folks that we speak to.

[00:19:36] Jeff Williams: [00:19:36] Yeah. I want to come back to that because I’m interested in getting your take on where this market is headed in the future, but I want to ask a few questions. So Melissa, marketing role, marketing background I know enough to be dangerous with our marketing efforts.

[00:19:53]So Kjael, who I love to death, he’s our CRO. He’s new to the company as of about a year ago. And he was our first podcast episode guest. And he said something. He used the phrase, like if you’re finding out that you’re really successful with bikers that wear leather jackets. Then, what you need to do is keep finding more bikers with leather jackets.

[00:20:18] And so like that has become this very simple phrase that describes marketing efforts generally. Right. If it’s interestingly complex, right? Like how do you measure and how do you find out even that you’re good at working with bikers with leather jackets. So I’m curious, just to hear a little bit about your role and how technology plays.

[00:20:36] I mean, a marketing sort of focused role is a lot of like, segmentation and things like that. And so I’m curious just to get your take on technology’s role for you.

[00:20:48] Melissa Maleri: [00:20:48] I think one, yes. That’s a very intelligent way of describing marketing. Yes, you want to go find all of the bikers and leather jackets and then maybe a spin off of that and look at what other equipment they might be looking for, if they are bikers with leather jackets, maybe they need some chaps too, or something along those lines.

[00:21:10] But yes, technology, I think you basically, you can’t market without technology in this day and age, and the analysis of data is probably the biggest role in what we’re doing. You’re just constantly looking at the data points and trying to synthesize them into something meaningful, something, that you can do something with.

[00:21:33] Conor Smyth: [00:21:33] Yeah. Not just, weren’t going to find more bikers with leather jackets, but bikers with leather jackets tend to like AC and F . What are their peers that also like AC and F, but how do we find more of that? Right. Because that’s something that’s oftentimes missed from a segmentation perspective as you think, oh, this is our sweet spot, but you miss that. 

I mean, the fact, if you think about our investor network it’s yes, the multi-family office entities that we identified as the core, the sweet spot at the start, but it’s only through not trial and error, but, through conversations and everything along the way that we learned that fund of funds, like the same thing as the CIOs like the same kind of things as well.

[00:22:12] Right. So if you take it that the multi-family offices are the bikers with leather jackets, The versions of the CIOs and the fund of funds can probably offend people. So I’m not going to go there, but you got the point, right?

[00:22:28] So there’s a couple of different ways. It’s how do we get more bikers and how do we get more of the peers that like the same things, that bikers like, and also where you look for bikers in the US is different than where you have providers in Canada or Australia, or the UK. So you need to nuance your marketing and your go to market as you look to expand and global. 

We have ambitions to be a global entity. We operate internationally today I would say, across Europe, Canada in the US but I would like to think that by the time January 2022 comes along, we’re going to have active investors in Asia Pacific as well. So that’s our direction of travel.

[00:23:07]Melissa Maleri: [00:23:07] I would just also say, I think without making this a marketing podcast, but, creating communities for people. So again, back to your analogy of the bikers, they’re more likely to want to hang out with other bikers that wear leather jackets and talk about what they have in common and problems that they’re having and get advice and recommendations from others like them.

[00:23:28] So creating those communities where they can do that. And you’re a trusted advisor in that space is just common sense.

[00:23:37]Jeff Williams: [00:23:37] I love that. So it turns out that biker rallies aren’t just somebody who was smart enough to know. We got to bring these people together. Yeah.

[00:23:45] I get a chance to work very closely with many of our customers. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to work with you guys, but just tell us a little bit about what brought us together. I mean, what was it that like, cause here, and here’s the question it’s not as Hey, let’s talk about Altvia now, what I’m really interested in is we’re so similarly minded, like, this is like what we’re trying to do.

[00:24:06] We oftentimes hear from people out it’s not out of the box and, For one, it is out of the box as much as, I think anybody  wants things to be that way, but the fact that people don’t appreciate that, like, being out of the box for certain things, when it comes to software or technology, misses an opportunity to be about, what you’re differentiated upon, right?

[00:24:28] Like this is what we want to use. We have a few customers that we refuse to let us publicize that we work with them. Right. And I’m convinced that many of those believe it. We have a secret weapon. We’re not necessarily trying to talk too much about it, but we’re so similar minded in that, that like, we want to enable technology for you that starts to get into where you can be differentiated.

[00:24:53] Conor Smyth: [00:24:53] Everyone should have their own core value proposition, and shouldn’t be trying to reinvent the wheel. It’s the way I view it and leverage someone else that has a focus area that solves a problem well for you. And not only that, that they’re going to continue investing in and you’re going to benefit from that over time.

[00:25:10] Why would you try and do it yourself? Yeah.

[00:25:13] Jeff Williams: [00:25:13] I didn’t tell you to say that, right.

[00:25:16] Conor Smyth: [00:25:16] You didn’t tell me to say that, but it’s true of not just a relationship with Altvia, but our relationship with the company that provides the portal with HubSpot, that  just makes total sense and, oftentimes it makes good economic sense as well because.

[00:25:32] Well, if you try and build something yourself, not only do you have to have a higher cost to build it day one, and then you’re more open to all kinds of problems that come with that. But if you ever want to tweak anything with it, it’s a pain. 

[00:25:46]Jeff Williams: [00:25:46] In our case,  we work for listeners that are unaware.

[00:25:49] We do work within the context of salesforce.com as a platform, but we are a software company, we aren’t a Salesforce consultant. And so I think there is and understandably, so there does tend to be this connotation with people that work around Salesforce is ah, it’s just a consultant thing and it’s really not.

[00:26:06] Conor Smyth: [00:26:06] I think that’s a key part, right? And if we go back to the original question in terms of where did the relationship come from? I think it probably goes back to 2018, late 2018. I think I just got an email at the time. Right? One of the standard marketing emails. I had a standard instance of Salesforce at that point that we were using for tracking.

[00:26:28] Just to LPs and GPs, but of course their own structure. And my thinking at the time had been, I’m going to have to get one of those third-parties Salesforce consultants, that doesn’t know how to spell private equity. To come in and listen to me telling them about it for two weeks, then they’re going to go off.

[00:26:45] I’m going to have to pay them a fortune to do it. They’re going to build it based on exactly what I said. I wanted it as my requirement, only for me to realize after the fact that my requirement was flawed and the whole thing is going to be a pain in the ass, and why I was tossing this idea around in my head.

[00:26:58] I think I got a marketing email and said, okay, I need to learn more about this. I had a couple of calls, met with Kevin in New York, and it became clear very quickly that this was quite different and that, not only was it something that could be leveraged. In terms of what I was looking to achieve at the fast track and get me there much quicker than I ever would have been able to try to build my own skin on top of it, but it was Altvia knew what they were talking about.

[00:27:23]There wasn’t going to be that education thing. They were going to be suggesting ideas to me, and that’s what happened. And yes the instance today is not exactly what was implemented when we first implemented it, like two years ago, it must be nearly two years ago because we’ve added to it as we’ve gone and everything else, but you know, it does an awesome job  in terms of what we need to accomplish.

[00:27:43] And there’s no way we would’ve been able to get where we are today with trying to build things ourselves on top of standard Salesforce.

[00:27:50] Jeff Williams: [00:27:50] Well, I appreciate that. Thank you for saying that. The thing I will add, cause I actually went through this myself. I happened to be a buyer myself of Altvia software in a previous life.

[00:27:59]And I also happened to have, prior to that, paid a Salesforce consultant. And my experience was basically that those people have burners. Like not, all of what you said, Connor, but then also like, six months after you’ve paid them. And you’re like, Ooh, I have this question that we never resolved.

[00:28:17] I really like, this is actual real life. The phone number that I had for these people no longer worked, and we can’t really hide from you cause you have to pay us, not necessarily Salesforce. So, we actually do. Our customers, because we can’t really hide from them. And that’s one of the big differences and we see this a lot and we’ve been doing this for 15 years and that’s, there’s a lot of people like you that are struggling, and we’ve done quite well with it.

[00:28:39] So I appreciate you saying that. I want to go back now and talk a little bit about just the future of this market. Right? So from your perspective you kinda mentioned there’s some big institutional placement agents that don’t necessarily seem to get it. So I’m interested in hearing about that, but I’m also interested just generally, like where do we go from here?

[00:28:58] We’re coming off of a pretty significant event, right? It’s pretty cliche now, but this whole COVID thing turns out is, was a big deal. And so whether or not it’s going to have all the effects that the whole world thinks it will. I think this market’s changed a little bit, as a result, I think there are LPs that are now looking at annual meetings and saying like, we can do annual meetings, three in a day.

[00:29:22] If the GPs are efficient, it doesn’t mean that people don’t want to travel again. Right. Like face to face is always great. 

[00:29:28] Conor Smyth: [00:29:28] Interestingly, on that point, I spoke to someone the other day, a GP that has decided to do an in-person. They’re going to do both. So they’re going to give people the option to travel.

[00:29:38] That’d be there and meet their peers, or you can join remotely. Right? So I would guess the direction of travel I would have said that, I think there’s a few things, Jeff. I mean, there’s that, we’re talking about a few dynamics here, right? So I think the first thing I’d say, if he, if you break it down in-person meetings in general. 

[00:29:55] I think that people have been starved of face-to-face interaction. They’ll take a lot of that if they can get it and if they’re allowed, right. So there may be some companies that provide guidance that don’t want it, unless it’s absolutely essential, but you would argue if vaccination has happened and everything else, why would you not allow it?

[00:30:12] So that’s one. Two, travel. I think there will be less travel because I think all of this has shown people that we don’t need to put five people on a flight to the west coast because look at time we lose in terms of travel and everything else. It doesn’t make sense whenever about the environment, which is another consideration as well.

[00:30:30] Right. So it’s definitely going to curb travel a little bit. I think I read something recently that airline companies are aiming for 50% of what business travel was, recovery by 23 or something like that. But I could be pulling those stats from anywhere.

[00:30:49] That would make sense. Right. On the, you would ask them, what does that mean in terms of annual meetings and conferences? And it probably means the same thing. Right. So, if you had previously sent 4 people to conferences, you probably don’t send 4 now. Same for annual meetings.

[00:31:04]Same for onsite due diligences. Interesting major talking to LPs. I had this conversation with one in New York last week. They were actually saying they’re probably going to keep zooming for the first meeting with the GP. Prior to that, they probably bought it probably would have been one of the GP.

[00:31:18] One of the general partners was traveling through New York, coming in and doing an introduction. With zoom, they got the opportunity to meet all of the general partners with the monitoring part. It gives them more of a sense of the team from an introductory. So it’s interesting.

[00:31:32] And then maybe they have a follow up in person. And so everyone’s going to be a little bit different, but I think the bottom line is that we’re not going to live in a technology only world. Technology will remain as the enabler. And I think there’s all of these conversations out there about what I used the phrase earlier on demonetization of private equity. 

[00:31:52] There’s New York and there’s all of these types of entities in the US that serve a purpose. Right. But they predominantly position themselves at the more mass affluent end of the markets, which is probably a slow burner in terms of uptake, and in terms of regulatory permissions for folks to be able to put private equity in their 401k, for example.

[00:32:14] Right. So there’s a way to go with that. So it feels to me they’re more longer-term plays. I think the middle piece of the market where we’re positioned are sophisticated institutional allocators, and they’re always going to need the relationship piece. We could probably serve as a broader number of investors with technology and handle them then when they need to have an interaction. 

[00:32:36] But there’s a percentage of them that are going to be 50/50 technology and phone or person interaction.

[00:32:44] Jeff Williams: [00:32:44] Yeah. Well, it’s super interesting just as you were saying, that Conor, the thought that I had in my head is what I used to think, and I mentioned earlier that, one might interpret, some of the technology stuff is at least some small implied threat to placement business. 

But what I was just thinking, as you were saying that is that the place you would have to get, there was always the big question. Right? And it was like almost effectively an open exchange where all of this information was shared. And so, you’d always think about that and be like, well, I don’t see people doing.

[00:33:21] All right. So like, how are we going to get there without that? But what you’re saying there, it makes me think that what has become comfortable and convenient for everybody, which is like the, in some ways now an LP dynamic that’s being driven, which is like, and I had this great thing that I heard early in the pandemic, which is like, well, one of the things that’s changed is like in Silicon valley for venture, for example, right.

[00:33:50] Somebody came to Silicon Valley specifically, like Sandhill road, for an annual meeting. Then there were like 15 other GPs. Right, right. And so it’s like, oh, this has changed. It’s like, well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but you could talk to those same people on Zoom in less time.

[00:34:09] Yeah. So it turns out that we’re still okay. But one of the things I’ve noticed  in LPs doing that and saying, Hey, well, we can like, meet on zoom and all these things in annual meetings is that it seems as though maybe the technology is starting to enable. We talked about this earlier, but like the sort of sharing of information ahead of time.

[00:34:27] Right. Which is making that face-to-face far more effective in the sense that if you came to Silicon valley to meet with me and I sat down and showed you a story, and you were like, this is not even remotely close to what we’re looking for. Right. It’s like that can now be prevented. And maybe that is starting to draw a little bit out of the info of the information out from the GPs that otherwise they would have been reluctant to share.

[00:34:52] And perhaps what it is that they get a little anxious about somebody. In that case, not telling the story, here you guys are using the information, making it efficient on LPs to swipe right and left. But you’re also like, do you understand the story? And you’re actually telling it for them them. And so maybe that’s like the sort of perfect storm and perfect combination of things.

[00:35:18] Yeah. That is gonna not take us from zero to a hundred, right? Where like GPs that won’t share anything or all of a sudden sharing, but it’s this sort of, small steps to where, Hey, we trust you.

[00:35:31] Conor Smyth: [00:35:31] I think that to use the analogy you touched on a minute ago, Interconnected network has opportunities on one side and a million investors on the other, and everyone seeing everything just doesn’t work.

[00:35:44] Right. Because there’s too much noise there for the investor and the GPs don’t want their information in front of all these people that either right. If you could be targeted and you have the intelligence and the technology piece, in the middle of, if a new GP comes to us and says, here’s our strategy, it’s real estate, private equity.

[00:36:02] It’s 150 million, it’s a fund three that’s focused on combining this is the target return. We can plug it into our end and say, okay, what out of our 500 investors, these 128 could potentially be interested. And then for those 128, we can rank it for them versus the other opportunities they have.

[00:36:22] And that makes it much more effective, right? Because I’m not sure, thankfully, I haven’t had to spend much time on dating apps, but I’m not sure, but I presume that theory is you still have to swipe left anyone that fits within these broad parameters you’re talking about. There’s no target positioning within that.

[00:36:39] Right. Which is where the value add is. And that’s where a lot of the time is wasted if people think, oh, there’s a hundred things that I need to go through here and see if they’re a fish, it’s just, they just won’t do the first two. It’s like, sometimes we get a pitchbook from GPS and it’s 48 slides long.

[00:36:56] And I’d say to them, you have a 48 slide pitchbook and they might say, well, you have this important information. Right? All of those slides, I’d say, I’m sure there is, but I can assure you. A potential investor is not going to read two slides because as soon as they see it’s 48, they’ll go.

[00:37:13] I don’t have time for this. It’s like, when you get a big, long email, people just don’t do that today. They just don’t have time. So everything has to make it easy and efficient.

[00:37:22] Jeff Williams: [00:37:22] Yeah. My parents are relocating and they are in a house they’ve been in for a long time. There’s this situation where it’s like, well, like your stuff’s everywhere, you’re they want to sell this house, like clean it up.

[00:37:36]And in one case it was like, well, but the thought somebody had was like, well, look at this, having some stuff in this room, like shows you how much room there is to put stuff in there. And it’s like, but it’s not the buyer’s stuff. Right? Like, let them imagine. So you gotta have to tell the story their way, not how you think you want it.

[00:37:56] And when 48 slides is like, Nobody’s looking for a 48 slides story.

[00:38:02] Conor Smyth: [00:38:02] That’s not an exaggeration either. Yeah. That’s it.

[00:38:05] Jeff Williams: [00:38:05] Get rid of the clutter and get punchy with what they want to hear. And then maybe there’s a point in time where you can cover the what’s in the 48 slides, but don’t send them 48

[00:38:17]Conor Smyth: [00:38:17] As your first introduction. That’s for sure.

[00:38:19] Jeff Williams: [00:38:19] Well, so what’s going to happen with these big placement agents? I’m curious.

[00:38:27] Conor Smyth: [00:38:27] No, I still think there’s a role. I mean, they’re not going to go away. I think you can see many of them have broadened their offerings to be that they would call themselves investment banks at this point, as opposed to placement agents.

[00:38:41] Right. And they’re doing secondary transactions and all kinds of other advisory work as well. And I think, yeah. That sits alongside big exclusive mandates. So I think that’s the other differentiator. A lot of those bigger firms, they won’t, they had only been working on exclusive basis. They’ll be looking to work with funds that are raising 2, 3, 4, $5 billion.

[00:39:01] They want to get paid on all of it to some extent, right? Our approach is much more that we work to a discrete list of names and we get paid finally raised capital and that’s, keep it simple that way. And it’s aligned. And it’s not open to any misinterpretation or mismanagement of expectation.

[00:39:18] We’re not interested in building a business where we get paid for not adding value, but I do expect us to get paid well when we do a significant value, then, that’s the way we do it. 

[00:39:32] Jeff Williams: [00:39:32] Well, I’m so glad we got a chance to talk about this because I’ve heard a lot about you guys.

[00:39:40]Conor Smyth: [00:39:40] We’re excited with this partnership it’s gone well so far, it’s obviously going to continue, and we should check in and have another one of these podcasts down the road and see where the where the world has taken us both at that point.

[00:39:51]Jeff Williams: [00:39:51] Cool. Well, listen I’m very appreciative, very grateful that you guys come in and share your thoughts and I’m really excited that we get to work with you and get a little bit of a purview into what’s going on.

[00:40:03] And I have to say, I feel proud of you too, that we get to work with you. And like what you guys are doing is super cool and thoughtful and technology driven, so I’m stoked that we got a chance to do this.

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