We started the day with a visit to Golden Gate Capital in San Francisco, which is one of the premier private equity funds in the country. Josh Olshansky, one of only 8 Managing Directors at the fund, spoke to the group about the private equity markets generally and Golden Gate’s place within the market specifically. One of the interesting things we learned from our talk with Josh is that through good timing and proper structuring of investment transactions, the best PE funds figure out ways to achieve positive returns for their investors even when certain companies do not immediately perform well after an acquisition.
Next up, after exploring the city for a couple of hours, was a visit to Thumbtack. Thumbtack is an online service that matches customers with local professionals, and recently achieved “unicorn” status (a private investment valuation in excess of $1 billion). We spent an hour speaking with Katie Biber, General Counsel at Thumbtack, and as an added bonus, she invited Veronica Abreu, Associate General Counsel at Airbnb. Both shared thoughts around the challenges faced by start-ups in maintaining company culture with employee head-count doubling in size every 6 months.
We concluded the afternoon at AT&T Foundry, which is an internal division created to promote new thinking, ideas and innovation within the larger AT&T company. We enjoyed learning about the difficulties larger, more-established companies have in continuing to innovate, and also had fun playing with AT&T’s latest and greatest tech toys (including virtual reality!) at one of their flagship stores!
We spent the evening at a Northwestern JD-MBA alumni event hosted at Northwestern’s new space in San Francisco. In addition to the food and cocktails, we enjoyed a panel hosted by Leslie Oster (Director of the MSL) and Esther Barron (Director of the Donald Pritzker Entrepreneurship Law Center) focusing on a number of entrepreneurial issues. A wonderful event, and a great opportunity to network with alumni doing all sorts of interesting things in and around San Francisco.