As a small team with a highly customized approach to mergers and acquisitions advisory, we are very intentional about who we bring on board. In fact, our deliberate approach to hiring, training, and investing in our team’s growth has both created opportunity for the team but also caused us to expand much more slowly than we would like, leading us to turn down new clients – many that we would love to work with – on a regular basis. Due to our high touch approach to client work and the significant responsibility that we give our team members, we consider each hire to be a “million dollar investment” that needs to be a strong fit technically, culturally, and strategically.
However, that’s easier said than done — competition for top talent is fierce and the nature of our business means we’re competing with exceptional firms that also offer tremendous opportunity and excellent compensation.
The foregoing being said, there are several career-optimizing and opportunity-maximizing factors present at Horizon that we think give us an edge over other investment banks and private equity firms. Below are some of the main reasons that we feel excellent candidates should “join us” along with quotes from some of Horizon’s employees illustrating why they are glad that they did. If any of these resonate with you and your career goals, please reach out. We’d be thrilled to explore together!
My partner Sandy and I founded Horizon Partners 12 years ago. As we began, Sandy put down roots in San Francisco and I did the same near Salt Lake City, Utah. From the start, we were accustomed to collaborating virtually and found that the “collaborative muscles” our team built working with Horizon’s founders remotely was an excellent “sandbox” that prepared them for seamless, high-impact client interactions, many of which – by nature in mergers and acquisitions – are also remote.
Given these dynamics, it was a simple choice to move to a fully-remote work environment during the pandemic and we found that we didn’t skip a beat when it came to delivering on behalf of our client companies. We also quickly found that such working arrangements afforded our employees greater flexibility and actually boosted total team productivity.
[Horizon gave me the flexibility and support to move where I wanted. My wife and I couldn’t have been happier to leave our ~800 sq. ft. San Francisco apartment behind.
– Michael W.]
Our business model is built on trust and at Horizon, we put a lot of trust in our employees from the very beginning. If trust is there, we believe remote work can be highly effective. This also allows us to hire across the country. We currently have employees in every U.S. time zone!
While most banks relegate Analysts to putting together pitch books and sending calendar invites during their first year of employment, Horizon has a unique, “on-the-job” training model. This includes execution AND deal sourcing — i.e., identifying businesses that fit Horizon’s unique model and building relationships with their founders.
Most investment banks don’t trust Analysts/Associates to reach out to CEOs or company founders to identify new partnership connections, so Horizon’s model is quite different. We view sourcing not only as an opportunity to find new potential clients, but also as a unique method of training team members for their current and future roles. Spending an entire career in investment banking or private equity is only achieved by those with a client-first (or portfolio company first in the case of PE) orientation and with the ability to engage deeply with business leaders. We believe that it would be a mistake not to invest in our team’s growth in these areas early in their careers.
[“I never expected to be on the phone with a founder within my first month at Horizon, let alone multiple per week. Horizon’s model provides true “hands-on” training and I learned more in my first 6 months of employment than I would in two years at a bulge bracket bank. At Horizon you’re not just a “cog in the wheel”, as everything you do has a meaningful impact — not only on your career progression but also on the firm’s results. Horizon gives you real ownership and responsibility over your career path.”
– Savannah H.]
As a new Analyst / Associate, you are not assigned to a “shelf” company or to a specific industry / sector. Instead, each junior banker is expected to develop their own thoughts, opinions, and insights regarding all the verticals within software and technology that Horizon targets. Our typical Analyst role is a great fit for an entrepreneurial-minded person with deep intellectual curiosity. It also crosses over nicely with the merchant banking part of our model where we engage like (or as) investors on an as needed basis.
We have found that there are many startup founders who love discussing their businesses and are more than willing to sit down with financiers at all levels to discuss what makes their business unique, how it will impact their industry, and even product roadmap — especially if you can reciprocate with equally interesting talking points. However, it is high risk… in the same way we are looking for excellent client “fits,” many entrepreneurs are looking to remove another “typical” investor or banker from consideration. That is why we take our trust and investment in this part of the role so seriously. Sourcing is only a good investment of time if our professionals get Horizon into the “in” group of firms that a company we love finds compelling. This is a tremendous responsibility that can create unparalleled opportunity.
Each of our junior bankers have exposure to both the execution and sourcing (relationship building) sides of banking from day one. We believe this creates more well-rounded bankers and allows for faster, more fulfilling career progression.
Variety & Depth of Work: What We Call “Artisanal M&A”
We primarily work with bootstrapped technology companies. As these companies have little to no funding, they often grow organically through product-led-growth (“PLG”) motions and high word-of-mouth virality. With minimal funding, bootstrapped companies often take a pragmatic approach when building out company infrastructure, data sets, processes, etc.
In preparing a client for an M&A process, we go far beyond the industry norm of a ‘rush-to-market’ process, opting instead for an engagement with more depth. Horizon’s long-term approach allows for a more high-touch, partnership-oriented model. This often results in the Horizon team ‘plugging in’ to a client’s internal systems, advising on strategic initiatives, helping to make key-hires, etc.
At the junior-banker level, the majority of execution work is not templatized. While we do have some standard processes and process materials ‘must include’ items, we don’t utilize ‘stock’ models or templatized ‘base’ pitch decks. Each engagement is unique and is highly customized via a bespoke service offering for each of our clients. This means you will have exposure to new, intellectually stimulating challenges during every deal cycle.
On a related note, we don’t do ‘busy-work’ here at Horizon. We don’t have the time or resources to spend ‘man-hours’ on anything but high-impact, meaningful work.
[The type of work Horizon does was definitely a surprise. Despite Mike and Sandy telling me otherwise, I was expecting my first year to be filled with ‘v.78’ of pitch decks and small parts of models someone else owned. Instead I’ve been able to add real value and ‘own’ significant parts of the M&A process. It keeps me motivated and excited to come to work every day.
– Michael W.]
Lastly, our approach results in highly compelling, award-winning transactions. For example:
- Evertrue and ThankView merged and recapitalized by Rubicon Technology Partners (Link)
- PDQ.com is recapitalized by TA Associates (Link)
- DistroKid received strategic investment from SilverSmith Capital Partners & Spotify (Link)
As mentioned above, Horizon is a small firm. When joining a small firm, it’s important to acknowledge the risks and make sure you’re ‘betting’ on a winning team.
Some of the firm’s first transactions were small deals that came from pre-existing relationships. Since then, Horizon has carved out a reputation as a top firm in the lower, middle-market technology space. We have a rabid fan base of past clients who are thrilled with our results and have helped us achieve tremendous results. We are very grateful for them and that our unique approach has resulted in increasing deal flow and transaction size year over year.
2021 was an exceptional year at Horizon with an average transaction size that scaled from the low nine figures in 2020 to over $250MM. These transactions, and other similar transactions, have allowed Horizon to continually move up market and advise on larger, more compelling, industry changing deals.
What does this mean for the Horizon team? Growth and opportunity. Horizon plans to expand its team significantly over the next few years to meet demand and achieve our artisanal M&A execution objectives. As the team scales, so do the opportunities awarded to our team members. If the fit is mutual, we hope you’ll join us on the journey!
Horizon Partners is a boutique M&A advisory firm for bootstrapped software & technology businesses. To learn more, subscribe to the Horizon Partners blog or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.