Learning from the Trench Lines: Preparing for the Search

Published by

Alexander Hansen and Christopher King, Managing Partners of Atlas

Published Month

June 2021

Learning from the Trench Lines: Preparing for the Search

1. How much time did you have between finalizing the fundraising and the official launch of the search? Was that the plan all along?

We had 6 months between the finalization of our cap table and the official launch of Atlas. This was slightly longer than originally planned and largely caused by the rather complex German legal process. From a plethora of conversations with former and current searchers, however, we already knew that the foundation for a successful search is often laid before the official launch. Hence, we considered this slight delay an advantage, as we headed into the official launch much better prepared and with many bugs already fixed.

2. How did you use your time to prepare? Was it enough time?

We focused on laying the groundwork: implementing our search strategy, establishing replicable processes, and building our brand. First, we translated the search strategy outlined in our PPM into an actionable evaluation framework, refined industry hypotheses, and set up a tech stack tailored to our approach. We then defined and prepared replicable processes, e.g., the recruiting and onboarding of interns and the various administrative tasks. In parallel, we started reaching out to intermediaries as this allowed us to get in front of owners early on. These conversations provided invaluable insights into the mindset of owners, which also helped us better convey our unique value proposition as search fund entrepreneurs.

3. There have been several Search Funds raised in Germany prior to Atlas. How did you lever their experience searching in your market? Do you see them as competition or allies?

We clearly see other searchers as allies and have benefitted tremendously from the help of German and international searchers. From sparring over search strategy to intros to intermediaries, their input has significantly shaped where we are today. Thus, we are looking forward to the opportunity to give back to this incredible community.

4. What are some of the best insights or recommendations you received in your time preparing for the search?

Talk to as many searchers as possible: Although there are great resources for aspiring searchers, many things are not (well) documented or require some context: How to best approach owners in my geography? How to utilize interns most effectively? How to choose the right CRM for my search strategy? Often, it requires many conversations with (former) searchers and experienced investors to uncover crucial nuances. We certainly had a lot of conversations, all of which extremely helpful.

Get in front of owners quickly: Early on, we devoured every article and interviewed many searchers on how to best approach owners. We quickly learned, however, that nothing beats real experience. Our first owner conversations were eye-opening and helped us truly understand the importance of emotions and soft factors.

5. Once you started searching, did the preparation make a difference or did you miss something? Is the actual experience searching different from what you expected?

Preparation made all the difference, and we feel extremely comfortable where we are now – for example, we have a clear understanding of the kind of company we are looking for, which helps us be efficient and spend our time in meaningful ways.Of course, running a search fund will always feel a little bit like building a plane as you fly. There will be unforeseen challenges, but this is part of the excitement, and we know that we can always rely on the support of our Partners like ALZA.

About Atlas

Founded by Alexander Hansen and Christopher King is a private investment firm focused on the acquisition and active management of a middle-market company at Germany.