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What's Next? Search Fund Entrepreneurs Reflect on Life After Exit

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During his time at the Yale School of Management, Matt Dittrich (Yale SOM ’18) became interested in how recent MBA students gathered search funds, structured small acquisitions, propelled themselves into being a CEO, and then participated in a liquidity event only a few years after acquisition and graduation.

Dittrich wanted to find out more. He enrolled in MGT 671, Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition, in Spring 2017. He appreciated the case studies about entrepreneurs facing acquisition, strategy, and financing issues. He also spent the summer between his first and second year, working at Trilogy Search Partners (http://trilogy-search.com ), a prolific search fund investment firm in Seattle, Washington. While at Trilogy, Dittrich further immersed himself in the search fund space and absorbed more information about what makes a company a good search fund target and how entrepreneurs successfully transition from searcher to CEO.

However, Dittrich believed there was a gap in his knowledge. In MGT 671, there were a few cases which examined search fund exits with a focus on valuation, the mechanics and choices around the exit. But what did entrepreneurs do after their exits? Dittrich noted that many entrepreneurs who exited were still young, in their 30s or 40s, and had lots of professional runway ahead of them. He was considering being part of the search fund world after graduation, possibly as a CEO or an investor. Before making that commitment, Dittrich wanted to learn more about the entire career arc.

Dittrich asked his teacher from Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition, A. J. Wasserstein, what happened to the entrepreneurs after they sold. Wasserstein suggested connecting with some former search fund entrepreneurs who had experienced an exit to learn what exactly they chose to do, and why.

Wasserstein advised Dittrich to examine the many different afterlives the conversations revealed. Both psychological and economic factors played a role in determining what entrepreneurs did next and how they evaluated their experiences. The type of exit also made a difference. For example, did the acquirer necessitate the entrepreneur to roll equity into the deal to make the acquisition work, and would the CEO be required to continue on with the firm?

Overcome by curiosity, Dittrich was excited to begin his informational interviews (summaries below). However, he had no idea what he would do with the data once he got it.

Published Date: 17/11/2017

Suggested Citation: A.J. Wasserstein, "What's next? Search fund entrepreneurs reflect on life after exit," Yale SOM Case 17-019, November 17, 2017

Keywords: Search Funds, Life-course, Careers