Searching for a Deal: Entrepreneurs Flock to Search Fund Conference

17/11/2011 Barcelona

As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs crowded into the auditorium on IESE's South Campus yesterday to attend the Search Fund conference organized by the school's Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center. Contributions from the panel of four pioneers in the field search funds, Simon Webster, Kirk Riedinger Will Thorndike and Rob Johnson, a member of the IESE faculty, were then followed by a lively Q&A session.

The discussion on investor and entrepreneur's views on search funds centered on deciding to do a search, raising search capital and challenges unique to Europe. Simon Webster said that when he began trying to raise funds the word entrepreneur was still "a bit of a dirty word in the U.K." He said that had changed but there was still a stigma attached to failure that there wasn't in the United States.

Kirk Riedinger commented that "people who have experienced failure can be very valuable in business. The fear of failure isn't as well founded as people think. You learn a lot from it."

Rob Johnson pointed out that search funds are a risky business. "A number of people have raised search funds and not found companies. You get very close on deals that fall through. It’s not a simple process or a part-time job."

You need to be well rounded to be a good entrepreneur, Riedinger said. "You're doing a little bit of everything. What do you need most? Hunger and persistence would be at the top of the list." Will Thorndike added that, "as well as drive, you need humility during the search phase and humility isn't always associated with MBAs."

Once a company has been acquired, Webster said, "you have to make sure you listen hard in the early days and don’t make too many changes." He added that a lot of the best investments are the ones made in difficult times, but that it's not clear whether that will be true of the times we're living through.