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  • Domenic Rinaldi | The Number One Pitfall in M&A Transactions
    POSTED 6.22.21 M&A Masters Podcast

    On this week’s episode of the M&A Masters podcast, we sit down with Domenic Rinaldi, President and Managing Partner of Sun Acquisitions. Sun Acquisitions is an M&A advising firm specializing in both buy-side and sell-side advisory services. Domenic also hosts his own podcast, M&A Unplugged, ranked among the top M&A podcasts of 2021. 

    From a young age, Domenic had an itch to own his own business. In discussing why he chose the details of Sun Acquisitions, Domenic says, “Quite frankly, I love the lower middle market. They have more sophistication, more infrastructure, but they don’t necessarily have the money for the advisory groups…so they need firms like ours.”

    We chat with Domenic about his path to owning Sun Acquisitions, as well as: 

    • The ideal client both on the buy-side and sell-side
    • Encouraging empathy in M&A
    • Experiences with rep and warranty
    • The importance of preparation when it comes to transactions
    • Using podcasts to help spread information
    • And more

    Listen now…

    MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:

    TRANSCRIPT:

    Patrick Stroth: Hello there. I’m Patrick Stroth, President of Rubicon M&A Insurance Services. Welcome to M&A Masters where I speak with the leading experts in mergers and acquisitions. And we’re all about one thing here, and that’s a clean exit for owners, founders and their investors. Today I’m joined by Domenic Rinaldi, President and Managing Partner of Sun Acquisitions. Sun Acquisitions is an M&A advisory firm based in Chicago that specializes in both buy side and sell side advisory services. Dom is also the host of the M&A Unplugged podcast, which was recently ranked among the top M&A podcasts for 2021. So we have both M&A, and podcasting in common. Dom, so great to have you. Thanks for joining me.

    Domenic Rinaldi: Hey, Patrick, thank you so much for having me such a pleasure.

    Patrick: Now, before we get into Sun Acquisitions, and M&A for 2021, let’s give our listeners some context here. Let’s talk about you. How did you get to this point in your career?

    Domenic: Yeah, so you remember that commercial a long time ago doesn’t look like you and I needed it. But the men’s hair club, you know, not only am I the owner, but I was a client. Very similar story. I, many years ago, was in transition and was trying to decide what I was going to do next, I launched a business search, I just I had always wanted to own a business from even a very young age, I was always very entrepreneurial, I had my own paper routes, I was, oh, have my own lawn mowing business. I loved to doing my own thing. And I think from a very young age, I really always wanted to own my own business. 

    But for many reasons we won’t get into, I launched a corporate career. Next thing, you know, you wake up 30 years later, and you’ve got you know, all this, you know, all these things you’ve done, but you’ve always had this itch to own your own business. And so I decided in my early 40s, that I really wanted to own my own business. And I had done the analysis of should I start something or should I buy something. And for me, the safer route was to buy something because I had what I call a train to pull. Meaning I had young kids, college education ahead of me, a mortgage. 

    So I wanted an ongoing concern with you know, ongoing cash flows and clients and, and so I initiated a business search, and I did it on my own. And the long the short story here is in doing all of this, I really got enamored with the M&A business. And lo and behold, as I’m doing my research and opportunity presented itself. It was a small little advisory firm that was for sale, did some diligence actually did a good number of months of diligence, and decided that this really was a path forward for me. And so I bought this business. And here I am, almost 20 years later, we’ve you know, 10, more than 10x, almost 20x the business since then. And it’s been a great ride.

    Patrick: You and I are both right around the same age. But we were just coming out of where everybody’s joining big corporations. And the idea of going out and starting your own little firm out there was daunting, because it was still it was there on the periphery. But if you grew up in a city or in a metropolitan area, you just had all the big companies around, so completely understandable. So now we go on to Sun Acquisitions. And let’s talk about that real quick. You bought it as an existing business. So tell me about you know, where the name came from? Why didn’t you name it Rinaldi and and just give us a description of Sun Acquisitions.

    Domenic: Yeah, so actually, I wound up rebranding the business, but only slightly. And what I thought was important in in talking to our webmasters, and our and our social media people is that our name should be descriptive, that the more descriptive it was, the better we would show up in search engine rankings and things like that. So really, I did it. We named it Sun Acquisitions, because we wanted acquisitions in the name. We wanted people to know that this is what we did. So when they came to us, there’s no mystery and from a search engine perspective, looking back now, it’s really worked out for us.

    Patrick: And then your your focus is more toward the lower middle market as opposed to the larger deals. So give us a context size and why the lower middle market as opposed to other you know, larger size.

    Domenic: Yeah, so when I was going back again to when I first bought the business, actually, it was really focused on the small business market, mom and pops and smaller businesses and, and so over the years, we’ve left that market and we’ve gravitated to lower middle market. Quite frankly, I love the lower middle market. It they have a little more sophistication than the small businesses mom and pops, they have more infrastructure. 

    And but they they don’t necessarily have the budget for the advisory groups that the big, the big boys do, right. And so they really need firms like ours, at at sort of price points that we’re at, that can help them both get their arms around what the value of their businesses are, if they’re if they’re selling or understand what the market’s like if they’re buying and then go out and help them get those acquisitions or those sales done.

    Patrick: Yeah, well, I, what I what I love about the lower middle market is, you know, it’s vast. And it’s established to a point where you know, that these companies, they’re, they’re too big to be small, but they’re too small to the enterprise. And, you know, they’re not aware of all the services that are available to them that are not at that retail higher price. And that’s why I love having having you on here just to spite the spotlight while you’re doing because if if they don’t know about you, and Sun Acquisitions, what happens is a lot of owners and founders that are looking at exit, they default to either a strategic acquire that may not have their best interests at heart. 

    Or they may go to some institution that, you know, they’re going to be overcharged and underserved. And really, there’s great value that you’re going to bring because you’re doing not only, you know, sell side advisory you’re doing buy side. So distinguish the two types of services for us, because you can bring, you know, a prospective seller buyers to the table or attract them and, and vice versa. So talk about one side of the table and the other side.

    Domenic: Yeah, so the sell side, we are representing owners of privately held companies who want to understand the value and the market timing and whether or not now is the right time. And if they are ready, we’ll represent them and take them out to the market confidentially and represent them throughout the entire process. On the buy side, there are buyers who want professional representation. They want firms like ours that will go out and essentially make a market. And on the buy side, what we’re doing there is bringing discreet proprietary deal flow to our clients. So we’re not bringing them deals that are on the marketplace, which right now, if it’s a decent quality deal is probably getting a lot of action, we’re going into the marketplace. 

    And we’re trying to uncover opportunities with owners in businesses that are not on the market for sale, and see if they’d have an appetite to talk to our buyside client who is also paying our fee. And so that’s how we distinguish between the two and right now that the buy side part of our practice is exploding, because there just are so many buyers out there in the marketplace.

    Patrick: And I can imagine these are largely strategics or do you have smaller private equity firms that work with you?

    Domenic: So largely strategics. But we do have some private equity groups that have retained us to go out and do this work for them as well.

    Patrick: Oh, I would think for private equity is an ideal fit to have Sun Acquisitions help them because when you’re you know, looking for proprietary deal flow, that’s a fancy way of saying you’re cold calling. And you’re you’re going out reaching out to owners and founders that may not be in the mindset to take those types of calls yet, and they come around, but at the time, that’s as a real tough slog and have a professional like you that can bring those to them, I think is a great value add that you bring.

    Domenic: Well, and the other thing that we hear from owners who have been contacted directly by private equity groups, because for a lot of private equity groups do this work themselves. But the things that we hear time and time, again from owners that have been contacted directly is they didn’t want to go down that path. They felt like they were overmatched. They were in over their heads. And they felt like they needed professional representation. So if a private equity group outsources to us, even though we represent the private equity group, we’re much less intimidating to the owner of that business. When we do that outreach, and we try to make that match.

    Patrick: Talk about the ideal profile for Sun Acquisition. Give me a profile of your ideal client both on the buy side and sell side.

    Domenic: You know, so I’d say on the sell side, we’re, you know, we’re largely working with companies that are a couple of million dollars of enterprise value up to $40 million. That’s usually our sweet spot. We’re fairly industry agnostic, although I admit we don’t do deals in energy and agriculture. We tend to steer steer away from retail, and restaurants. Those are just not places that we tend to focus on. 

    On the buy side. We’ll do transactions from you know, a million dollars up to a couple of 100 million depending on what our client wants, we represent both international and domestic clients. And we’ll do it in any industry they want. And we’ll even do international searches, which we’ve done a couple of for some clients. So the deal sizes there can be can be much different.

    Patrick: And geography is not a problem for you.

    Domenic: Geography is not a problem, we have our own in house Business Development Group. So we insource, all of that. So we’re not, we’re not outsourcing anybody, we control all of that outbound effort on behalf of our clients. And these are people that are trained on our industry. So when they get an owner on the phone, they understand the sensitivities, they understand what the dialogue should look like. And they’re very professional, and quick about it. So we can really exercise and implement these engagements in a very time efficient manner.

    Patrick: Well, I think one of the things is important about what you’ve mentioned a couple times on this, it just shows the empathy that you and Sun Acquisitions has for for target companies, for sellers out there prospective sellers, because, you know, they’re not doing M&A every day. And you know, so they’re inexperienced, or not naive, they’re just inexperienced. And so, there can be a little bit of a intimidation factor there, as they go into this, you know, what I consider, in some cases, a life changing transaction for that. And so, there, there is some fear out there. And, you know, one of the great developments has been out here now, mergers and acquisitions was, has been the development of reps and warranties insurance. 

    Where a seller has their representations of their disclosures with their company outline in the purchase and sale agreement. And to a buyer this is standard operating procedures. These reps are there, the buyer performs diligence. But then the buyer says, well, we’ve got this thing called an indemnification clause. So in the event we miss anything in the diligence is with the seller, if we missed anything, this provision allows us to come and claw back money from you for something that you didn’t tell us about may not have known about it, but you know, that’s what it is. And that scenario, particularly for someone who’s inexperienced, and as, as these owners, and founders are, they, you know, have the situation, fall from a collaborative conversation to a confrontational, almost adversarial. Because all of a sudden, you enter a little distrust there. 

    Because, you know, on one side, the seller is like, you can’t keep me responsible for something I didn’t know about. And the buyers is saying, well, that’s true. But at the same time, you got to understand, I’m betting 10s of millions of dollars, that your memory is perfect, okay. And so you’ve got that natural tension. The beautiful thing is by ensuring a deal with reps and warranties, that indemnity obligation is transferred away from the seller, to an insurance company, buyer benefits because they got certainty that if there is a breach, and they suffer financially, they can collect from the insurance company without having to, you know, attack the seller. The seller benefits, because the attachment points on these policies is usually lower than most escrows. So less money is held back at the transaction, seller gets more cash at closing. 

    Better yet, they have peace of mind knowing that even with that additional money they have, they’re not at risk of any more clawbacks coming back so they can go ahead and exit cleanly. And we’ve just seen this just you cannot understate the tension as released, when when this is brought into the deal. And happily deals now in the lower middle market as low as 10 million to $15 million transactions are eligible for rep and warranty. It wasn’t the case pre COVID. Now it is and so the more we can get that out, the better. But you know, you don’t take my word for it. Dom, what experience have you had good, bad or indifferent with rep and warranty?

    Domenic: Yeah, not a lot. Because it like, as you pointed out, it hasn’t really been available down to the, you know, deal sizes that we’re focused on. Right. And so we’ve been learning about it over the last couple of years, we’ve presented it in a couple of situations where we thought we could bridge a gap. But now that it’s coming down market and the price points are, you know, to the point where people can, you know, it really makes a lot of sense for a 10, 15 $20 million deal. We’ll be promoting this a lot more. And I think, especially with post COVID. With all of the new deal structures that we’re starting to see, with all of the uncertainty about is the business recovering. If it’s going to recover, what’s it going to recover to? 

    And I know there are some limitations around will it cover earn outs or not and things like that, but there are all sorts of new deal structures because of COVID. And I think if we can fit reps and warranties insurance into that, even in some small way, it will go a long way to bridging bridging gaps between buyers and sellers.

    Patrick: Fantastic. Now let’s talk about M&A Unplugged. And just as one podcaster to another I’d love for you to share your story on, okay why did you decide to become a podcaster? And what types of tell us about the content and so forth? How we can find it? I mean, I will comment on one thing for my audience about M&A Unplugged. As of today in post first quarter 2021. There are over 1 million podcast series out there right now. Okay. But the average podcast series is only six episodes doesn’t go more than that. Dom as a you and I talked before you’re approaching episode number 100. So you definitely got some sustainable messaging out there. There’s some great stuff. So tell us about M&A Unplugged.

    Domenic: Yeah, you know, I didn’t set out to actually do a podcast, we were trying to figure out how we can help people that do transactions with the number one pitfall that we see, over our 20 years of experience. And over, we’ve got over 400 completed transactions under our belt. And the number one pitfall is people don’t properly prepare. Whether you’re acquiring a business and you don’t put all the pieces together, and you’re not strategic, and you don’t really figure out the finance. Like if you don’t put all those things together ahead of time, you’re bound to hit some speed bumps, and you can lose deals are not met, not meet your returns. 

    On the owner side, we see it almost 100% of the time, they haven’t properly prepared, they haven’t put their house their their personal house in order their personal financial situation order, they haven’t put their business in order. And then sometimes they’re not even emotionally ready. And so we wanted a way to help people understand what preparation looked like, whether you’re looking to buy or sell, and what goes into getting a deal done so that when they are ready for their own transaction, at least maybe we’ve played some small role in helping getting you know, helping them to get smart, so that they can maximize their returns and minimize their risks. And when we thought about how can we do this, you know, could we blog? Can we do webinars? 

    Podcasting, back we did, we launched in 2019 was already taking off, but not even like it is today. I mean, it’s exploded since I started doing it. And the more I learned about it, the more I thought, wow, this is a great way to create content that’s evergreen people can consume it, they can go back to episode number one or two or whatever, you know, episode topic may fit fit them, and they can consume it. And they can consume it at regular speed, fast speed, like you know, I just me like it was a really flexible way. And and we captured video early on. So we also knew we could put this information up on YouTube. 

    And YouTube’s become a tremendous way for people to get content. And so the more I thought about it, and the more My team and I researched it, we arrived at the conclusion that podcasting was the way to go. And our mission has been simple from day one. We just want to help people avoid the number one pitfall of not being prepared. And hopefully we do that hopefully we you know, our episodes and our content deliver on that mission.

    Patrick: I can tell yours are nice and tight. And you know, they don’t ramble on very long but very informative. But that’s what you need is you need those kind of bite sized data points and talking points to kind of get you familiar with some of these unfamiliar, which has been a boon. I think also what’s been great is just the, you know, the silver lining COVID was just the evolution of Zoom with being you know, being able to have have these meetings, and so forth, then record them and get them out. So I think that’s just a wave of the future we’re not going to go away from we will do more in person as as as the as COVID wanes. But I’ll tell you, this is a tool that we’re going to leverage quite a bit.

    Domenic: I believe that.

    Patrick: Yeah. Now as we’re getting into, you know, we’re now a good chunk into 2021. Dom, share with us your perspective, what do you see for the rest of the year? Either be it M&A in general, or Sun Acquisitions in particular or M&A Unplugged?

    Domenic: Yeah. You know, so from what we would what we can see in the M&A market at this point in time, there continue to be more buyers than sellers. The buyer market has exploded for a number of reasons. Private Equity pre COVID had raised almost $2 trillion pre COVID. And that money is earmarked for private equity go out and make acquisitions. So you had all that money that was raised pre COVID. You also have all these strategics who are out there trying to grow their businesses. And what we hear time and time, again, is that organic growth has become very hard for people. And acquisitions, if you have a healthy balance sheet has become an easy way, a much easier way than going out and spending money on R&D or starting up a new division. 

    Let’s go buy something somebody else somebody else has already built. So you’ve got all these strategics in the marketplace. And then you’ve got this third level of investor groups that have popped up people with a good amount of money, who have decided that they’re done with corporate America. They’ve had two or three people pull, you know, a couple of million dollars together, and they’re out in the marketplace, and they’re looking for acquisitions. And we’ve seen that part of the market explode. So you have all these buyers with lots of money supported by a lending environment with very low interest rates. 

    And it’s, you know, it’s a lot of fuel for acquisitions. The piece that continues to be a little bit missing in action are the owners. We have good quality businesses, but not nearly enough to meet the demand of the buyers that are out there, which is why you see multiples being you know, as high as they are in the marketplace right now. So owners who are selling are getting very good multiples for their, for their businesses. And I’m also sort of surprised that the looming tax changes, even though there isn’t a decision on them. But there’s lots of talk about capital gains taxes going up, I’ve been a little surprised that that hasn’t moved more market and more owners into the market to sell their businesses. 

    So I’m a little uncertain at this point in time as to where the sellers are going to shake out. I’m still hopeful that before the end of the year, we’re going to see a flood of owners decide that 2021 is the year to get out. They’ve recovered from COVID. And all the buyers are still there to you know, to make those acquisitions. So I think it’s still going to be a very strong year. I think it’s going to be stronger in the second half than it has been in the first half.

    Patrick: Yeah, well, I’m stealing from a prior guest. But one of the things that, you know, people overlooked with COVID was, you had all that dry powder. But not only that, you know, time didn’t stop. And so the people that were thinking of an expert that are getting a little bit older, those owners and founders, they’re not getting any younger that time has come on. So I have a feeling that there’s going to be you know, not a surge, but you’re going to see quite a bit more movement. I think as as everybody kind of gets back to work. 

    I think there are a lot of owners that, you know, they want to dig out of the whatever lag they have from COVID and get back on their feet, because they don’t want the earnouts they want to go ahead and see if they can build up a bit. Yeah, and you know, more power to them. But I think as as you and I both agree that it probably you know, the in the foreseeable future M&A activities, definitely not going to be going away.

    Domenic: Yeah. Yeah. No, I think it’s, I think next couple of years, as long as interest rates stay relatively low and the capital markets remain open. It’s it’s going to be a robust M&A market.

    Patrick: I mean, just look at look at a SPACs are out there. And that’s on the high end, and they’re doing 100 million dollar deals. Hundreds of those from out of nowhere. So there’s a very diverse community out there for for everybody. There’s enough for everybody, which is, which is a nice way to view life I guess.

    Domenic: Absolutely.

    Patrick: Dom this has been fantastic. How can our audience members find you either with M&A Unplugged as well as Sun Acquisitions?

    Domenic: Yeah, so M&A Unplugged is on all the major podcast platforms. We also post the episodes on our websites sunacquisitions.com. And you can always reach me directly at my email, which is drinaldi. drinaldi@sunacquisitions.com. And Patrick, thank you so much, and kudos to you too, with your show. You’re also up there in the top shows in 2021 for M&A. So it’s a pleasure to do a show with a fellow M&A compadre.

    Patrick: I totally appreciate it. I was thrilled. I didn’t even realize that there was a list out there. And then when I saw it, I was like, you know, I didn’t care if it was a 15 way tie for tenth. I didn’t care. The fact we got on the list. I was thrilled. But it was it was nice, because this is a great way to meet you. And I wish you all the success and let’s keep talking. Okay.

    Domenic: All right, Patrick. Thank you.

    Patrick: Thank you.

  • Vania Schlogel | Why Your Ideal Client Profile Matters
    POSTED 2.25.20 M&A Masters Podcast

    In today’s episode, we’re joined by Vania Schlogel– the founder and CEO of Atwater Capital, who focuses exclusively on the media and entertainment sectors.

    In our chat, Vania shares with us the fine line between being able to have the formal, polished side of the business in conjunction with the creative and operational side.

    Vania also chats about the areas she specializes in, and…

    • Streaming services
    • The emergence of technology in the media and entertainment world
    • Her ideal client profile (and why it matters), and
    • Building relationships with managers and founders

    Listen now…

    Mentioned in this episode:

    Transcript

    Patrick Stroth: Hello there. I’m Patrick Stroth. Welcome to M&A Masters where I speak with the leading experts in mergers and acquisitions. And we’re all about one thing here, that’s a clean exit for owners, founders and their investors. Very excited today, as I’m joined by Vania Schlogel, who is the founder and CEO of Atwater Capital. Atwater capital focuses exclusively on the media and entertainment sectors, two areas that are unique throughout business in America and it’s a topic that a lot of people want to go and lean forward in. And so Vania, thank you very much for joining me today.

    Vania Schlogel: Thank you, Patrick. Thanks for having me.

    Patrick: Before we get in talking about Atwater Capital and the media and entertainment industries, tell us about yourself. How did you get to this point in your career?

    How Vania Got to Where She is Today

    Vania: Well, I started life in a vastly different format. So I grew up in Idaho, in Boise and also Nampa. And really decided, you know, to apply to a school system where I didn’t have to make too many applications, which ended up being the UC system, because you could apply once and I think cover five colleges or so through the application.

    Patrick: It’s its own team now.

    Vania: is that right? Okay. So, this ended up taking me to UCLA, which quite frankly, probably also facilitated in moving into media and entertainment. And I decided, well to be completely frank, I knew I liked business. My father was always a small business owner. But I didn’t grow up with a lot and to be completely frank, googled in my junior year, what are lucrative careers upon graduation?

    I can’t remember exactly what the Google search was, but it really, and two things came back, engineering and finance and I mentioned this little anecdote to perhaps dispel the myth that one must grow up obsessed with M&A or knowing exactly that that’s what one wants to do in life. Because, for me, I sort of kind of fell into it, and that precipitated internship, and then full-time position at Goldman Sachs for a few years in the Los Angeles office, and then London. And then I spent six years at KKR, which is a large private equity firm, investing in media and entertainment.

    So that’s really where I cut my teeth, in terms of sector specialization. And from there, you know, it’s funny how networking is so important and a lot of the opportunities that are presented in life are really just sort of who you know, not necessarily what you know, because I got a call one day while I was at KKR, and it was from the folks at Roc Nation and that precipitated in me going to be Jay Z Chief Investment Officer at Roc Nation.

    And it was an interesting experience because I got to see firsthand how working in tandem with creative folks and creative communities could create a lot of equity value. And I also saw that this wasn’t a natural, it’s a relationship set that was happening between investors in Wall Street and a lot of creative communities. And so that’s why I founded Atwater Capital in 2017. We have offices in Los Angeles and Seoul, South Korea. We manage about 160 million dollars of assets under management. And as you mentioned, we focus on the media and entertainment sectors.

    Patrick: Well, I’d like to ask you a little bit about more is that that balance between the financial discipline and the investment, operational discipline and the creative side of a project or a venture. And the only parallel I have or analogy is the story I heard about the folks at Pixar. We’ve got little kids back at the time, but they would have their creative meeting where they’d sit down and talk about their next few movies that they wanted to do. And you’d have one about talking cars and I just would sit there as a, they want how much money for that kind of thing? And, you know, being able to evaluate what creative idea is actually gonna have value or not, and how do you keep them from going off the rails? Discuss how that works of what you’ve seen.

    Vania: I would say that for that balance between sort of the financial or commercial side of things with the creative and then the operational execution, the way to keep that fine balance in check, and quite frankly, moving to the best outcomes is a mutual respect and understanding amongst those different parties. What I, when I’ve seen it go badly, it’s typically because, you know, for example, the investors and the finance guys just give zero credence or respect to the creative aspect of things because it’s not the same language, quite frankly, or vice versa.

    And that’s when things go badly because things must be creative, but they also must be commercially rooted with the return on investment. And when there’s a fine balance between all of those different elements, it works out really well. And the way that we deal with it at Atwater Capital is we seek to be very respectful partners who respect the opinion and domain expertise of our partners.

    So we set up very deep partnerships with operators and creative folks and companies and essentially say to them, Look, we’re going to be supportive partners. We’re going to have a different kind of discussion with you than we think has been historically presented in your interactions with Wall Street. And that means that what you do does need to be commercially viable, but we’re not going to mess with your creatives. And typically, that works out really well.

    And the other thing that we do is you mentioned discipline, which is exactly the right word because at the end of the day, we have a strong fiduciary duty towards our LPs who give us capital. And so we make sure that we do or I should say, we contribute what we’re good at in terms of evaluating the financing of creative companies or projects. And that’s things like financial judgment, portfolio, curation and diversification, legal structuring, collateral perspective, things like that.

    And where we stay out of is the creative. We’re actually, this is going to perhaps disappoint lots of people, but we also have policies in place like none of us are allowed to attend red carpet premieres, for example, if we invest in a movie. We just need to make sure that as investors, we let the creatives and the operating folks do what they’re really good at. We stick to what we’re good at and make sure that our views are not somehow wrongly influenced by the things that we shouldn’t be focusing on as investors and financiers.

    Patrick: So you keep that arm’s length to avoid conflict.

    Vania: That’s right. Yep.

    Patrick: With entertainment in media is like software. There are many different elements of that. Are there particular areas of media and entertainment that you specialize in? Or is it pretty much everything in that channel?

    Vania: What we try and do is be investors who see where trends are going and get ahead of those trends. So the short answer is we’ll be quite generalist in the sector, but we will drill down into our view of sub-sectors and where things are going and try and place capital ahead of those trends.

    Patrick: Which leads me to this question because this was an opportunity we had and, you know, as with a lot of things in entertainment just kind of died on the cutting room floor. But give me your idea with the new streaming services that are out there as we go from bundle entertainment packages two is rapidly unbundling, but it looks like that unbundling is going to result in, a different type of re-bundling is people have to buy more things all a cart. What are you seeing out there in that field?

    The Evolution of Entertainment Delivery

    Vania: It’s interesting because I think specifically, you’re speaking to filmed entertainment. And if you look at what’s happened in the music industry, this process really unfolded in a much earlier fashion than it has been filmed entertainment. So we used to buy a bundled hard good in the form of, you know, vinyl or CD. Things, essentially that bundled good disaggregated and digitized into a digital download that was an owned digital goods. And now, things are re-bundled into a streaming which is access, not ownership subscription bundle.

    So I think we’re just finally seeing filmed entertainment come around to that. So it’s quite funny because initially, so many folks were excited, or at least I did a lot of equity. Research analysts were super excited about the golden age of streaming when it came to filmed entertainment because the bundle was breaking. And that’s right. The bundle was breaking on the traditional media side, but it’s absolutely re-bundling.

    And we’re in a period where it’s great for the consumer because competition creates innovation. It creates choice. And so right now we’re in a golden age for the consumer because we’ve got tons of different platforms, whether they are relatively, I’d say technology-centered players or tied to a traditional media player, who are all investing GADS as money to compete for our competition. Sorry to compete for our attention.

    And at the back end of this, we will see various players emerge. I think we are going to, what’s happening is probably not long-term sustainable in order to actually get a proper return on investment for all the capital that’s going into tier one content. We are going to see have to see some big winners emerge at the back end of this. And there will be a re-bundling and a massive wave of content.

    Patrick: So there’s going to be a consolidation and so forth. Can you talk to me, I know we didn’t cover this when you and I spoke, but tell me your impressions on the emergence of technology, within media and entertainment.

    Vania: Overall been, just as from a consumer standpoint, fantastic. Think about the experience, the consumer experience of let’s go back to music, paying $26 for a CD. By the way, inflation, if we adjusted for inflation would be much more expensive in today’s terms, but paying that much for a CD, potentially losing it or scratching it and even.

    You know, trying to play a playlist and verses now where I can walk into my home, voice command any song for $9.99 a month and get that song played over the speakers. From a consumer perspective, technology, or let’s say tech entrance to various sub-sectors within the space has done wonders for the overall consumer experience when it comes to consumption of content.

    Patrick: I just think also just the impact on the economy, the impact on business, not only in America but worldwide, is profound. And how we’re big Nativists here up in Silicon Valley, and we’re the hub of all things tech, if anybody were to venture down to Southern California, you’ve got a mini, I guess they call Silicon Beach. But technology has really transitioned down there very nicely and it’s everywhere.

    Vania: That’s right. And I’d be remiss to not talk about the flip side of it, though, which I think we always have to be aware of which is, there’s already rumblings where, is a consolidation amongst the tech powers that now distribute the content that we are consuming on a daily basis, is that consolidated power going to be good for the consumer in the long run. And so for a period there, I think you saw, for example, platforms like Netflix or Amazon Studios, quite frankly, creating content that was not seen and would not ever get greenlit by some of these major studios and players.

    And so there was really a creative Renaissance that came up from that. And I think one of the things that from a societal standpoint that we just have to keep an eye on, is that as we talked about, just now, on the back end, there will be a bundling, there will be an emergence I think of various large failed And who wins this war. And I think we just need to make sure that in that whole equation, that when it comes to what consumers, their experience and the diversity of their choice and whatnot, that there’s always going to be that natural tension between consolidation of power on one side, and what’s good for consumers on the other.

    Patrick: With Atwater Capital, give me a profile of your ideal client, because there’s the nostalgic idea of a producer or somebody running around trying to raise money for a project and so forth. But tell us what the profile of your ideal client.

    Atwater Capital’s Ideal Client Profile

    Vania: Sure, so I’ll contextualize client in our case as a company or project, for example, that we would invest in. And so the investments that we have made that have been successful, and I would say the common thread between those is a great management team, rather than for example, a very special strong CEO. We don’t like cult of personality. Quite frankly, we like to see great leaders. And great leaders have strong people and a very strong supporting cast around them.

    And so the best companies that we’ve ever invested in have strong management teams that, you know, go down into second, third layers and there’s still a strong core competency there. You have folks who can have healthy debates and discussions around strategy around operation and can be, you know, because as a shareholder, we don’t want to go in and run that company. That’s actually a disastrous outcome for a shareholder. The mantra is we invest in people, not assets. And so you want those folks running the company.

    And you really, as a shareholder want to be the supporting cast where you can just kind of optimize around the edges, whether it’s making introductions, kind of helping to think about strategy. And so management teams are very important to us and core to the thesis. The other thing about it is does this company solve an issue or meet a need?

    A very discernible need? And do they meet it in a particularly efficient or effective way? And I know this all sounds very basic, but quite frankly, investing is down to the fundamentals and basics most of the time. Yes, there’s a level of domain expertise that one must built up of one’s career, but it really comes down to the basics. And so I would say those are the common threads that we’ve experienced in our successful investments.

    Patrick: And you’re looking at investments all over the place.

    Vania: All over the place, yes. We have portfolio companies currently in the US and Europe. We’re looking at, we’re actively evaluating investments right now in Asia, in East Asia specifically. The only reason why right now I’d say we have not focused on certain geographies like South America or Africa is in my belief investing is a local activity and a very human-intensive activity.

    It’s one where you should have a local team who understands local trends who can build relationships with local founders and management teams. And so we have not grown to the size to focus on those geographies. So we focus sort of where we do have incumbent relationships and expertise.

    Patrick: That’s what I was told not too long ago was the reason why so many venture capitalists only investing in the bay area up here in Northern California. They only invested quite a few of them in just the Silicon Valley, the Bay Area companies and ventures, because they wanted to be within a couple hour car ride of their investment in case they had to make quick changes. And if you’re investing in something, you know, two or three time zones away, that gets a little problematic. So that’s not a surprise.

    Vania: Just in general, obviously complexity and communication grows the more timezones you have in between you and your portfolio company. But I, and that’s once you’ve already made the investment. So just from a portfolio monitoring and sort of operational involvement perspective, but I also think, so for Atwater Capital, 100% of our capital is invested in proprietary deal flow.

    And we really pride ourselves on that. And that is also another reason why I think investing locally is important and having local teams is important is the deal sourcing aspect of it. Do you have folks on the ground who are plugged in and who can build those human relationships with management teams and founders?

    Patrick: Vania, how can our audience find you?

    Vania: Probably your website is the best way. So we’re at www.atwater-capital.com and we have a submission tool there where they could write a message, give us their contact details. And we’re reachable that way.

    Patrick: Excellent. Well, Vania, thank you very much for joining us today and we look forward to speaking again.

    Vania: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.