Search Funds

Search funds are a niche asset class that have historically been focused on the US market. These investment vehicles enable high potential and entrepreneurially spirited individuals or partnerships to locate, acquire, manage and grow a privately held company. For many prospective entrepreneurs search funds offer a rare opportunity: the possibility of becoming an equity owning manager of a business early in their career.

IESE International Search Fund Center is committed to supporting entrepreneurs and investors from around the world who are engaged in search funds. Through our research, events, and network, we try to understand the specific challenges of search funds and provide resources to help entrepreneurs and investors make their decisions and successfully engage in this form of entrepreneurship.

In 2011, IESE agreed with the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) to identify and track international search funds. This note is updated bi-annually in concert with Stanford’s note on search funds in North America and with recent data from international search funds as the number of search funds outside North America increases.

IESE’s MBA curriculum offers an intensive course focused specifically on search funds. IESE was the first business school outside North America to have such a course.

Since 2015, IESE has hosted an annual International Search Fund Conference with the aim of bringing together the search fund community to discuss issues and opportunities that individuals and the community face and further explain the general model to MBA students and potential investors. Beginning in 2017 this conference will be scheduled bi-annually, alternating each year with the Search Fund Conference held at Stanford.

IESE – International Search Funds – 2018: Selected Observations
IESE – International Search Funds – 2016: Selected Observations
IESE – International Search Funds – 2013: Selected Observations
IESE – International Search Funds – 2011: Selected Observations
This note is a biannual study completed by IESE Business School on search funds that were formed outside the United States and Canada. It was undertaken in partnership with Stanford Graduate School of Business.

IESE Re-Thinking Search Fund Incentive Structures
This study analyzes several components of the typical search fund acquisition structure, with the aim of strengthening the alignment between the searcher and investors.

IESE – Search Funds – What Has Made Them Work?
This note highlights the key success factors of search funds based on interviews with past searchers and serial search fund investors.

IESE – The First 10 Questions for Would-be Searchers
This note answers ten of the most common questions asked by people who are relatively new to the Search Fund model, or have never heard of a Search Fund before.

IESE – Considerations for Entrepreneurial Acquisitions
This note synthesizes interviews with entrepreneurial acquirers and financiers from across the globe and summarizes the considerations any would-be entrepreneur should address as they embark on the journey of acquiring an entrepreneurial opportunity.

VIDEO – IESE Introductory Session on Search Funds​ 
IESE, October 20, 2014: Simon Webster, Rob Johnson, Marc Bartomeus

E-conferences: Search Funds
IESE, November 18, 2013: Rob Johnson, Sandro Mina, Simon Webster

E-conferences: An innovative entrepreneurial acquisition model: the Search Fund
IESE, February 11, 2013: Marc Bartomeus, Pep Casas, Rob Johnson, Will Thorndike, Simon Webster

VIDEO – Global Entrepreneurship Week: Simon Webster, Mark Egan 
A video introducing Search Funds and the Search Fund experience.

Stanford Search Fund Primer 
For those contemplating the pursuit of a search fund, the CES has created a practical guide to answer the most frequently asked questions. The Primer aims to provide an unbiased view of the benefits and challenges, explains the model from the entrepreneurs’ and investors’ perspective, and gives many operational and execution tips from previous search fund entrepreneurs.

Stanford Search Fund Page (including historical studies) 
Stanford’s Search Fund Page provides links to their Search Fund Primer and Search Fund Studies.

VIDEO – Search Fund Videos from Stanford GSB 
A series of videos from classes and panels focused on Search Funds.

What it Takes to be a Search Fund Entrepreneur
The search fund model explained by experienced investor Coley Andrews.

Intern Training Manual & Director’s Training Manual
These two manuals were developed by a US-based search fund and have since been used by numerous searchers. They provide a step-by-step guide for training interns and the intern manager.

Search Fund Guide to Internships
The purpose of this guide is to provide a ready reference for the use of interns in search funds. It provides searchers with resources describing how to recruit, train, and manage interns, along with checklists, forms, templates, and samples that searchers need for managing internship programs.

Harvard Search Fund Page 
Harvard’s Search Fund page provides an overview of the model and several good videos that cover topics relating to Search Funds.

Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth – Note on Search Funds
This note provides an abbreviated overview of the Search Fund model and is a good place to start for those who are new to Search Funds.

Search Fund Model in Germany
Platform created by Search Fund investor Jürgen Rilling to spread the Search Fund model to German speaking countries.

Blog – Jim Sharpe, HBS
Jim Sharpe is an Entrepreneur in Residence at the Arthur Rock Center in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at the Harvard Business School. His interests are in the area of search acquisitions.

Search Fund model in France
A platform created by the searcher Bruno Lea to explain and spread the search fund model in France.

April 2015:
Ofering an exit strategy for aging European business owners 

March 2015:
Entrepreneurs use business school tool to buy companies globally 
Financial Times

November 2014:
Why You Should Sell Your Business to an MBA

November 2014:
Ariol Capital destina 10 millones para hacer crecer Repli

August 2014:
The Search Fund Model: How to Become a 28-Year-Old CEO

June 2014:
International Search Funds: Tracking Tomorrow’s Trend 
IESE Insight

April 2014:
Graduates hunt for ‘search fund’ success –
Financial Times

November 2013:
Booth MBAs Now Have a Pipeline to Investors
Bloomberg Businessweek

October 2013:
Stanford’s B-School Sensation: Plot a Takeover in Two Weeks

August 2013:
Prime Minister of Saxony at S-Cape GMBH

February 2013:
Business-Buying Search Funds Gain Momentum  

November 2012:
Der Nachfolger 
Brand Eins

October 2012:
Search Funds: The Boys Club You’ve Never Even Heard Of

September 2012:
Search Funds: A New Way to Find Returns

August 2012:
Search Funds: An MBA Shortcut to the C-Suite
Bloomberg Businessweek

August 2012:
Search for a Business – Best Practices
Bay Investment Partners

September 2011:
Suche Chefposten, biete mich

August 2011:
Doce inversores crean Ariol Capital para entrar en pymes consolidadas

August 2011:
Hunting for the Deal: 7 Stages of the Search Fund Model
Business Insider

May 2011:
Finders, keepers
The Deal Magazine

May 2011:
Seek and you will find
The Financial Times

May 2011:
Search Funds: A Financing Option for Business Buyers

August 2010:
Business angels put MBA graduates on the fast-track to becoming chief executives
The Telegraph

November 2009:
Enterprising approach to entrepreneurship
The Financial Times

October 2009:
The Secret Of Search Funds

October 2009:
An alternative source of funding
The Financial Times

April 2009:
How to Make Acquisitions in a Down Economy
Bloomberg Businessweek

March 2009:
Paying Entrepreneurs to Find the Right Business
The New York Times

February 2009:
Business Opportunities Abound, Even in Bad Times
The New York Times

Spring 2009:
An Alternative Route to Entrepreneurship
IESE Alumni Magazine

August 2007:
Looking for a Company to Run? Search Funds Could Be the Answer 
Knowledge @ Wharton

3rd International Search Fund Conference. IESE, Barcelona – October 4-5, 2018
Registration details will be on this web site in early 2018

2nd International Search Fund Conference. IESE, Barcelona – October 28, 2016
Watch video: Search Funds Go Global

1st International Search Fund Conference. IESE, Barcelona – April 24, 2015
At the inaugural International Search Fund Conference in April 2015, over 180 attendees, including twenty searchers and CEOs from four continents and investors from the United States and Europe, learned form in-depth discussions on ideas and issues involving search funds. As one U.S. serial investor stated, “The event far exceed my expectations, the panels were truly world class, producing valuable insights for all.”

Watch video: Search Funds: Is the Time Right to Go Global?


Advisory Board

Simon Webster – Chairman 
Simon learned about the search fund model while studying for his MBA at London Business School. He raised a search fund and acquired Rehabilitation Services Ltd. in 1995. As the CEO of RSL, he grew the business from £3.5m to £30m in sales and from £0.4m to £2.4m in EBITDA over a ten-year period. He successfully sold the business in December 2005, realising an excellent return for investors. Simon continues his entrepreneurial activities and is an active investor in search funds mentoring search funders and serving as a non-executive director on search fund boards.

Rob Johnson
Rob is a successful entrepreneur and business angel investor. He co-founded a big data company in the United States that was backed by ten venture capital firms. Following the sale of that company, Rob moved to Europe and taught for ten years at London Business School. Since 2000 he has taught the Entrepreneurial Finance course at IESE Business School, where he also founded the International Search Fund Center. He has served as a director of many private companies, including search funds and their acquisition companies. He serves on the Advisory Board of Palamon Capital Partners in London and the Investment Committee of the Cambodia-Laos-Myanmar Development Fund. Rob holds a BA from Davidson College and an MBA from the Darden School at the University of Virginia.

Peter Kelly
From 1993 until 2010, Peter was CEO of Pacific Pulmonary Services (PPS), a home respiratory services provider that grew during that time from 12 to 115 locations. He also previously served as CFO and COO, and was co-founder of the search fund that acquired the predecessor to PPS. Peter has prior investing experience at TA Associates, a private equity firm, where he originated investments in software and communication companies. He has served as on a number of boards of directors. Peter received a Bachelor of Arts in Science, Technology and Social Theory, a Master of Science in Industrial Engineering, and an MBA, all from Stanford University. Peter currently teaches two courses at Stanford Graduate School of Business (Entrepreneurial Acquisitions, Managing Growing Enterprises) and one course at IESE Business School (Search Funds).

Jürgen Rilling
Jürgen is the owner and Managing Director of Mirablau, an investment and consulting group. In 2001, Jürgen founded Mirablau as his self-funded search vehicle and finally co-acquired Grundig Business Systems. Today, Mirablau holds several private equity and venture capital investments. Before founding Mirablau, Jürgen worked with Rodenstock and Roland Berger. He currently serves on several advisory boards and is a serial search fund investor. Jürgen holds a Master’s Degree in Engineering from Technische Universität München, an MBA from IESE Business School and lectured on entrepreneurship at the Entrepreneurship Center of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.

José R. Stella
José is Co-CEO and Co-Founder of QMC Telecom International Holdings LLC, a multinational provider of wireless infrastructure. Preceding that, he was CEO and Co-founder of VIU Media until the sale of the company to Lamar Advertising in 2006. At the time of the sale, VIU Media was Puerto Rico’s largest locally owned outdoor advertising company, and, prior to becoming President of VIU Media, he was Co-Founder and President of Quest Management Corporation, a search fund formed to identify, acquire, and operate a company in Puerto Rico. Previously, Jose worked with KPMG Peat Marwick in their middle-market M&A Advisory Group, UBS in Zurich, and Chase Manhattan Bank. Jose and his business partner were awarded the 2004 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Puerto Rico. He has served on several boards of directors and received his undergraduate degree from Babson College and an MBA from the University of Michigan.

Will Thorndike
Will Thorndike founded Housatonic Partners in Boston in 1994 and has been Managing Director since that time. Prior to that, he worked with T. Rowe Price Associates and Walker & Company where he was named to the Board of Directors. Will Thorndike is a graduate of Harvard College and the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He is a Director of Alta Colleges; Carillon Assisted Living, LLC; CONSOL Energy, Inc. CONSOL Energy, Inc. (NYSE: CNX); Lincoln Peak Holdings, LLC; The London Company, LLC; OASIS Group Ltd.; QMC International, LLC; White Flower Farm, Inc., and a Trustee of The Stanford Business School Trust; WGBH; the College of the Atlantic (Chair); and a founding partner at FARM, a social impact investing collaborative. He is the author of The Outsiders.