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Nate Nead is a M&A advisor and investment banker who has successfully managed numerous deals in the software, hardware, and digital marketing. Nate assisted clients like NASA and Raytheon in maximizing software investment returns. His personal client list includes the U.S. Marine Corps, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, Marriott, ASU, The University of the Pacific, Crowley and MasterCraft.
Nate Nead is also running a successful online publication investmentbank.com. Of course Finbuzz embraced the opportunity to speak with Nate Nead about his career success, digital publishing, and – why not? – fishing.
How did you get into finance? How did you begin your career?
Like many, my career path has been circuitous and not a straight course. This is likely even more true for those with entrepreneurial ambitions. My original aim was dentistry, but I founded two companies that have since grown into great little companies that took me from that path rapidly.
I entered the world of investment banking and M&A with a small, boutique firm in Seattle as an independent contractor in the early 2000’s prior to beginning my master’s program. Most of my experience there was in sell-side M&A for private mid-market companies across the west coast of the United States.
You have been working in capital management for many years. What prompted you to start investmentbank.com?
We negotiated the sale of investmentbank.com a couple of years back with the intent on using it as a deal portal for facilitating an ecosystem of private business buyers and sellers. We used the content and notoriety of several other websites we had owned and operated at the time and combined them with the investmentbank.com property.
Since then, we have been working to build out a true platform that combines many of the disparate software solutions used by investment bankers on the market today including, CRM, marketing automation, project management, virtual data room, deal matching, deal syndication and digital signature solutions. It’s a focused effort on housing all relevant software tools under a single system. It’s a monumental task, but one we feel is absolutely necessary for truly maximizing the effectiveness of active deal makers, particularly in the middle market. As a true platform, the software will allow for independent developers to take advantage of our eyeballs and ecosystem to develop their own apps that site on top of our core technology.
What would you call the most memorable moments of your career?
Deal closings are perhaps the most memorable for me. It is the final reward after a typically long-fought struggle to reach a conclusive end to a business sale or complex capital formation project.
Other notable moments include crazy pitches and ideas for companies seeking capital on projects that are out-of-this-world crazy.
What makes a good financial strategist, in your opinion?
The best financial strategists combine the ability to dig deep into the minutiae of the numbers, but while at the same time have an uncanny ability to step back and see the 30,000 foot view of the deal. They can make high level and low level decisions using all the facts. They are also good at making rapid, but very well-planned decisions on complex, large deals.
Deal closings are perhaps the most memorable for me.
What has been the greatest challenge in your career so far?
The greatest challenge is bringing together an issuer and investor and getting them to agree to a fair value and price on a business. There is always a gap in what the buyer and seller of securities are willing to give or pay for stock. Bridging that gap as an intermediary in a deal is never easy and always challenging.
Who has inspired you?
I am constantly inspired by entrepreneurs who are able to build companies to multi-million dollar profit horses with little to no capital, an idea and a great deal of hard work. There are many of them worldwide that are overlooked, but very successful in their given niche. Their stories of near-failure and eventual triumph and success are inspiring. They also represent the core demographic of the type and style of people with whom we work every day. It is one of the reasons I love what I do. In short, I’m inspired most by our clients.
What valuable lessons have you learned?
No deal is ever over until it’s over. Many deals have nine lives and many times deal makers write-off deals that eventually resurrect at some point. I have worked on several deals that seemed, at least on the surface, to be completely dead. At some point, all of them either resurrected or revived.
I have also learned that no matter how we try to automate things with today’s technology that deals are sold not bought. People are the impetus behind all successful deals. We will continue to need people to take the emotion out of the process and successfully push deals toward closure.
What advice would you give yourself if you were starting your career in finance today?
I would likely plan my course down finance a bit more strategically. Most analysts cut their teeth a bulge bracket investment bank like Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan. I went from a different direct and right into a boutique firm. I would likely advise toward going the corporate route to get that experience first, rather than going down what I would call the entrepreneurial route first. Neither is right or wrong and each has its pros and cons, but I would likely advise toward something different if I were to do it all over again.
No deal is ever over until it’s over.
What is the key to job satisfaction for you?
Apart from making a living for my growing family, I think my greatest satisfaction is autonomy and working with talented people. My job allows me to be very independent. “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.” There are no real managers breathing down my neck and I love to write my own ticket and be my own boss.
I also love working with entrepreneurs who are accustomed to being the smartest guys and gals in the room. When you work with smart, driven and successful people, some of it tends to rub off a little.
Who or what comes to your mind when you hear the word “success”? What do you associate with this word?
Success can be a very relative term. To my previous point, I believe success is autonomy and not being tied to another person or group (other than perhaps customers) for your income. I also personally define success as having the ultimate decision-making authority over my time.
What has been a defining moment of your career?
There is no single moment, but a bunch of little moments that lead me down to the path I’m currently traversing. All small decisions and opportunities have lead me to where I am currently. There are dozens of them.
What would you have done if you were not been working in finance?
I would probably be a dentist, drilling teeth in some dental office somewhere. I was accepted to several programs and within inches of matriculating into a dental program. It was a very real possibility.
I personally define success as having the ultimate decision-making authority over my time.
What do you find most rewarding about your job?
Assisting other entrepreneurs, like myself, in maximizing their financial dreams through corporate finance. It is rewarding to help companies grow and be the financial arm to facilitate that growth.
What’s the most extraordinary thing you have seen?
I have seen crazy valuations paid for companies that I thought were worth little to nothing. Some people bet very hard on the future and throw a ton of money at that aim. I’m much more pragmatic. The stories that litter the homepage of TechCrunch continue to amaze me.
What do you do to relax?
I exercise and spend time with my family.
What are you proud of?
I am most proud to be a husband and father.
What would you like to achieve in the future?
I would love to become the “go to” platform for financial technologists and deal makers alike—a place where both developers, investors and intermediaries go to transact in an online world. Like many others, I would love to become the Amazon of Fintech.
What are the key challenges facing the investment banking industry these days?
Decreasing fees, increasing regulatory burdens and a reversion to the status quo are all killing investment banks. There are a lot of middle-market shops that are killing the big boys. They tout similar experience, but are much more nimble on their feet.
I also think many older, more entrenched investment banks are relying too much on human capital to do processes and procedures that could easily be done with an algorithm. Fintech will continue to steel jobs and change the way investment banks operate. Those that are slow to adopt will quite certainly be left in the dust.