Nicholas Donato explores how technology and social networking are influencing the way private equity funds operate, in his well-written article for the PEI Fund Administration & Technology Compendium, titled:
One of the questions that the article raises is whether social networking can change the way deals are sourced, in a people business like private equity? Here is an excerpt from the article:
….. Navatar is also rolling out a free cloud service to connect GPs with M&A bankers and other industry contacts to form an online community where deals can be collaborated. Navatar’s social networking site for private equity professionals works by having buyout shops create an online profile describing the types of deals they target alongside their contact information. Bankers, business owners and other sources of deal flow can then access profiles that match their capital seeking enterprises.
The free cloud service, that Nicholas refers to, is Navatar Deal Connect, scheduled for a beta launch in late August. The article goes on to say:
At the moment GPs don’t rely on portals for originating transactions, sources say. Private equity is after all a people business, points out Philipe Bucher, chief financial officer of Adveq. But similar to the evolution of social networking sites, who’s to say one portal won’t feed off its own success to morph into a dominant internet presence, a feat Facebook accomplished after eclipsing rival sites such as hi5 and MySpace. One can imagine a GP in the future sourcing deals from the comfort of an armchair, jokes Bucher when asked whether portals have the potential to be a significant source of deal flow down the line.
Will GPs ever get comfortable with the idea of sourcing deals from an armchair? I’ve never been a GP in a private equity firm, so I’m not sure I have the credentials to answer that (although that doesn’t stop me from babbling about how deal sourcing is about to change). I can tell you, though, that during the early days of Linkedin, most of us who were sourcing consulting business for Deloitte (that’s what I did back then) scoffed at the idea of getting a Linkedin account – of course, most of my management consulting buddies (Deloitte partners) have had a (dramatic) change of heart on this issue.
OK, I’m biased, but what would it take for a social networking portal to bring about this change, in your opinion?