David Ewing, ECI Partners
David joined ECI Partners, one of the UK’s oldest buyout funds, in 2001 and is now co-managing partner. He started out in software and has completed several landmark deals, including the UK’s first buyout of a native digital business and the UK’s first buyout of a native SaaS business.
We talk about software investment, the UK’s competitive edge, originating deals in the mid-market, expanding internationally, and the prospect for private equity returns.
David underscores the significance of adaptability and staying current in an industry characterized by constant change. David emphasizes the core mission of private equity, which is to identify and collaborate with innovative and passionate management teams to elevate good businesses into exceptional ones. He highlights the importance of being an appealing partner to decision-makers, frequently founders, and the role of experience and humility in nurturing successful partnerships.
David sheds light on ECI Partners’ approach to private equity, characterized by its adaptability and avoidance of a one-size-fits-all model. The firm tailors its strategies to each unique situation, recognizing that businesses come with their own architectures, platforms, and legacies. He mentions that a focus on product management, particularly in the United States, plays a crucial role in the success of portfolio companies. David discusses the challenges of managing succession in businesses acquired from founders and underscores how ECI Partners often supplements the management teams to drive business growth.
The conversation also touches upon ECI Partners’ diverse portfolio, which includes companies located in commuter belt towns and industrial areas across the UK and beyond. David explains the importance of expanding the international footprint of portfolio companies to tap into niche markets with sustainable growth drivers. He cites examples of portfolio companies successfully expanding to North America, emphasizing that international expansion often requires both organic growth strategies and strategic acquisitions.
David then provides insights into the challenges and pressures faced by co-managing partners in the private equity industry. He reflects on how the industry weathered the challenges posed by COVID, highlighting the resilience and adaptability of private equity. He emphasizes that private equity has become an increasingly attractive asset class for investors and a long-term solution for business owners and managers. Contrary to the belief that more capital inflow would lead to lower returns, he points out that historical data suggests otherwise, with private equity consistently delivering strong and stable returns.
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