ETA@MIT

MIT's hub for search funds and small business entrepreneurship

ETA@MIT is the hub for search fund activity, research, and resources across MIT. We bring together undergraduate and graduate MIT students with searchers, entrepreneurs and investors to forge meaningful connections and position each other for success.

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3rd Annual ETA@MIT Summit Recap

MIT Sloan students are about to head off for spring break. Before we do so, this year’s organizing committee is excited to share a brief recap of this year’s ETA @ MIT Summit! (In case you missed it, the agenda is still posted here).

First, a huge thank you to The Provident Bank, our Platinum Sponsor, for the generous support in making this year’s summit our biggest yet. Thank you, as well, to our impressive cadre of sponsors: Relay Investments, Search Fund Accelerator, Brook Park Holdings, Searchfunder.com, MIT Innovation Initiative, and MIT. We were thrilled to be joined by David Schmittlein, Dean and Professor at MIT Sloan, and Jim Sharpe, Entrepreneur in Residence at Harvard Business School.

Thanks also to our 110 attendees from around the world for showing up on a Saturday. We saw so many lively discussions between sessions, over lunch, and during the networking reception, and we can’t wait to do it again next year. We were especially excited to welcome back Esteban Kallay and Christopher Sykes, Sloan alumni who created the inaugural ETA @ MIT Summit three years ago! Since graduating, they have both embarked on their own search fund journeys - Esteban in Argentina, and Chris in LA.

In the spirit of “Sloanies helping Sloanies” (as well as sharing with the broader search fund community), here are our top takeaways from the summit:

  • You don’t need to find a “great company” - just a good one that you will enjoy running and think you can make a difference in.

  • There are many avenues to fund your search, whether you choose to go through an accelerator, raise money from traditional investors, or self-fund. There’s no right way, just a right way for you.

  • Search can get lonely, but it doesn't have to be. Don't overlook the importance of building your search network and support system.

  • Focus on finding a company you can ACTUALLY buy. Ask the difficult, clarifying question up front to help you gauge whether the owner is going to be willing to sell. Don’t lose this focus!

  • The most important question to ask an owner is often, “why are you selling now?”

  • Don’t underestimate the amount of time needed to find your company! 2 of 3 LOIs fall through, so don’t stop searching even when you have offers out.

  • Don’t get discouraged by broader valuation trends. There’s always a business out there ready to be bought!

  • Hiring and managing people is one of the biggest parts of the job. Make sure you’re excited about it.

Whether you’ve been a regular attendee or are just starting to explore entrepreneurship through acquisition, we hope to see you the same time next year!

ETA@MIT Hosts 2nd Annual Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition Summit (originally posted on April 10, 2018)

I had the distinct pleasure of working on the ETA@MIT team that organized the 2nd Annual MIT Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition (ETA) Summit on March 9, 2018. The search fund model that Irving Grousbeck pioneered in the mid-80s has come a long way, with hundreds of purposeful MBAs now giving up, in some cases, lucrative corporate jobs to fulfill ambitions as young CEOs. Why? Because enduringly profitable businesses with solid margins offer young entrepreneurs a hands-on opportunity to accelerate a small business's growth. Five to seven years of that growth can translate into a successful exit, healthy profits, and a life-changing experience for investors and searchers alike.

ETA@MIT partnered with The Provident Bank’s Search Fund Lending Center, Relay Investments, Search Fund Accelerator, and Searchfunder.com to bring together entrepreneurs, investment professionals, and students from across the country for this full-day event on March 9th. After reflecting on the event, our organizing team wanted to share some insights about how events like this contribute to the dialogue surrounding this increasingly popular route for MBAs. What we hoped to achieve – besides a unique opportunity to network with searchers, investors, and young CEOs – was to decompose the process of finding, acquiring, and running a small business by offering concrete and practical advice from those who’ve been there before.

In many ways, the searcher has never had it better: search fund industry data continues to improve, social networks like Searchfunder.com facilitate new connections, and the wave of baby boomers reaching retirement age is set to drive small business sales to new records. The excitement surrounding the space was palpable at the MIT ETA Summit.

While existing literature and conferences in this space provide a wealth of high level information, our objective for the Summit was to get in the weeds and provide a nuts-and-bolts view of life as a searcher. Our panelists debated the merits of accepting funding from different sources, and considered the practical realities of stepping into the shoes of the CEO in the first 100 days on the job. We also had the privilege of hearing from three successful searchers, Jay Davis, Palmer Higgins, and Kevin Oxendine, on the long-term implications of ETA as a career, including exit strategies and life after the search.

In closing, we’d like to extend our sincerest gratitude to the sponsors, panelists, attendees, mentors and friends who supported the 2018 ETA Summit. We'd particularly like to recognize Zach Duprey (Provident Bank), Mark Yuan (Searchfunder.com), Sandro Mina (Relay Investments), Coley Andrews (Pacific Lake Partners), Tim Bovard (Search Fund Accelerator), and Dean Jake Cohen (MIT). On behalf of our entire ETA@MIT team, we thank all those involved and hope this opportunity serves as a launching pad for a lifetime of success in search.

Happy Searching,

Ryan Alberts, ETA@MIT