What’s hot in the deal world at the moment? The fintech sector continues to generate steam and so is another industry, the wine business. Private equity investors’ interest in turnarounds has diminished somewhat, and they are instead prioritizing growth and control in their investment strategies.

These were just some of the noteworthy learnings and interests expressed by private equity firms during the Association for Corporate Growth’s (ACG) West Coast M&A Conference in San Francisco this spring. As they networked, attendees said they’re seeking deals that typically have 10% of revenue EBITDA or a total of $3 million to $15 million of EBITDA at a minimum. Optimism is high with expectations that we’ll see deals continuing to flow but possibly slow down toward the end of the year.

Here are the highlights of what’s on dealmakers’ minds at the moment—most of the conference attendees represented firms seeking deals in the $5 million to $100 million range. The firms represented at least five states including many from New York, Massachusetts, Arizona, North Carolina, Connecticut and, of course, California.

An active market

Deal flow continues to be strong, and everyone is seeing lots of activity, according to participants of the keynote, who included Dipanjan Deb of Francisco Partners, John Kim HIG of Growth Partners and Dave Welsh of KKR.

The overall belief is that the past two years have been particularly fruitful, and that opportunities will slow down toward the end of the year as a result. The innovators of the fintech market are getting attention, leading to one of the most robust deal areas as the entire banking system is disrupted by these strong niche players.

Success vs. failure

There are some big deals to be had in the PE space. Darren Abrahamson of Bain Capital emphasized that the talent of the management teams is a critical factor in the success or failure of a deal. Everyone during a panel that included Abrahamson, Heather Madland of Huron Capital, Greg Clark of Symantec and Mark Grimse of Rambus hit on this theme: No matter how big the transaction—the outcome ultimately comes down to management’s ability to execute pre and post deal.

Moreover, they went over what derails some deals—inadequate systems and processes can take much of the blame. The panelists emphasized that successful companies need a strong understanding of their core competency (high value add) versus other strengths of their business.

A different varietal of M&A

The wine industry has had a tremendous number of deals over the past year, and owners believe it’s hitting a peak. This industry is extremely “high touch” and relationship driven due to the family nature of ownership, noted panelists who focused on this topic, including Adam Beak of Bank of the West, Pat Roney of Vintage Wine Estates and Richard Mendelson of Premium Wine Properties.

The business model of three-tier distribution comes into play as well as cash flows that can be varied across different properties. Money is not the only thing that is driving high valuations—brand and locations are key factors as well.

The road ahead

This M&A Conference had a positive tone. Deal flow this year is very strong due to the low cost of capital and the overall optimism in the economy. Overall the PE market continues to chug forward as the cost of money and quality of deals are favorable. There are some niches doing particularly well (fintech) and few areas are struggling. Valuations seem to be both beneficial to both the PE firms and companies.

Chris Vane is a director at RoseRyan, where he leads business development for this finance and accounting consulting firm’s high tech and cleantech practices. He helps fast-moving companies calm the chaos with precision finance at any stage. He can be reached at [email protected], or call him at 510.456.3056 x169.

Tech companies are in the business of transformation. They have the ability to transform something we do every day (like how we communicate) and transform entire businesses (back to the business-model drawing board for some folks). This is why it was fascinating to hear about the major impact that digital technology has had on the professional sports industry during a recent ACG (Association for Corporate Growth) meeting in San Francisco.

How technology has intersected with sports was the main topic of discussion by speaker Roger Noll, professor of economics, emeritus at Stanford University, who is an expert in the study of sports marketing and the economic expansion that has transformed professional sports in the past 20 years.

Here are a few statistics he shared that help illustrate how dramatic this industry has changed:

  • The average professional hockey team from 1965-1975 was family owned and had less revenue than a typical Chevron station.
  • The Yankees and the Dodgers were sold around 1970 for $12 million each, the first teams to be valued at over $10 million.
  • Bill Russell was the highest paid NBA player in the late ’60s. He made $12,000 a year.

The introduction of digital technology and the enormous expansion of the TV viewing audience have fundamentally transformed the reach and capabilities of pro sports teams, enabling them to enter more households and sell more merchandise. And increase their fan base at every turn. The downside: supply and demand. You still have the situation of a fixed number of teams and 10x the number of TV stations that want to broadcast games. Also, more cities want to host professional teams than there are in existence (something 49ers fans in San Francisco know all too well).

Sports team owners have taken smart advantage of demand. They realized they don’t need to build larger stadiums for additional seating—they can keep their stadiums around the 45,000-seat average—and use a lot of their space for concessions, shopping and arcades. Merchandising and broadcast revenue is where the big money is, and now teams are worth between $1 billion to $2 billion!

Of course, other factors have led to the dramatic increase in revenue, salaries and valuations, such as collective bargaining with the players and shared revenue contracts, but the key enabler was the growth of digital technology and digital media. Advances in technology have expanded how much time we all spent consuming and thinking about sports—and how many of our dollars we give toward it. People today spend much more of their free time watching sports, reading about them or shopping for merchandise.

One of the most challenging and thought-provoking books I’ve ever read sprang to mind when I was at the ACG meeting. Published in 1967, The Medium Is the Massage, by Marshall McLuhan, was packed with ideas that were decades ahead of their time. With his concept of an electronic Global Village and the mass influence of electronic communication technologies, McLuhan predicted the Web and social media over 30 years before they came into existence.

Now when we’re on the move, we can make sure we don’t miss a minute by teeing up the DVR through our smartphone. We can get the sense of camaraderie even if we’re watching alone in our living rooms by sending out real-time reactions on social media. On top of this, we’re living in a time where we can skip the stadium but feel like we’re still at the game through a virtual reality headset.

The transformative changes and the power and influence that technology has had on professional sports remind me of this quote in McLuhan’s book: “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”

What tool is going to shape your business in the year to come? What disruptive innovations, products and trends are wending their way into how your products or services are perceived, consumed and monetized? Some of the leading candidates—the internet of things, artificial intelligence, driverless vehicles and nanotechnology, to name a few—are poised for some transformative effects (not to mention they’ll be multitrillion-dollar markets within 10-20 years). How will these changes affect your lifestyle and your business?

Stay curious, my friends.

Stan Fels is a director at RoseRyan, who joined the finance and accounting consulting firm in 2006. In addition to helping the finance dream team keep their skills sharp and stay true to RoseRyan’s proven processes, he matches gurus to clients in the high tech and life sciences sectors. 


It’s fitting the annual Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) West Coast M&A Conference was held on St. Patrick’s Day. We were all feeling a bit lucky with a nice bounce-back in the markets, and a cautious sense of optimism was shared by many of the upwards of 300 attendees, consisting of specialists in private equity, banking, and finance and accounting, as well as entrepreneurs.

A faint wariness has been in the air since November, when the economy had a clear drop in financings and valuations. Conference attendees in general believe the dip was due to overheated valuations that had continued to rise despite concerns over whether imprudent investments were getting made.

With the state of the markets setting the stage for the event, there were many takeaways to be had at this San Francisco conference, which I attended with my counterparts at RoseRyan, Terry Gibson, who oversees the RoseRyan Private Equity service, and director Stan Fels, who was there for the small-business perspective. Here are the topics everyone was talking about:

  • In one session, approximately 30% of the attendees predicted that there would be a recession starting some time in the next year and a half. It was tempered with thoughts that it wouldn’t be nearly as bad as the 2007/2008 recession.
  • There was a strong shared sentiment at the conference that the business cycle has gone to the wayside as Fed policy is now the biggest indicator of whether the economy will expand or contract.
  • A common topic of discussion was the democratization of fundraising. This is taking form through the increased use of technology to bring buyers and sellers together in an efficient way. Tremendous growth in the enabling technologies has made this all possible (consider these now-common names we didn’t know a decade ago: Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Lending Club, GoFundMe, Lending Club, Prosper and Funding Circle).
  • The personal touch is not leaving. Investors still want to understand the business owners who are seeking money. The old rule of being close to your money still resides. This was emphasized from the private equity folks in the room to the entrepreneurs as well.
  • Bankers are starting to get risk averse—no surprise there.
  • There is lots of money in the PE marketplace. Due to the dearth of opportunities and low interest rates, opportunities are still out there. Valuations are coming down dramatically. Fidelity, in particular, has been aggressive in downgrading its investments.
  • Fintech is exploding, enabled by the rise in big data and analytics. Machine learning and artificial intelligence have helped companies in this field better gauge risk and tap into markets where bankers are afraid to risk capital. Attendees and speakers expressed great optimism about this sector and marveled that it’s a phenomenon that’s been going on for at least five years now.

Deal-making has its up and down times, but there are opportunities in the M&A space at the moment. Capital is definitely available. It is a safe bet that there will be more prudent investing, more cautionary growth plans and more options on how to raise money in the coming year.

And there will certainly be new ideas brought to the table by entrepreneurs looking to transform our lives. The last session I attended was an entrepreneurial meetup in the style of the TV show Shark Tank. I watched as Amy Errett, CEO of startup Madison Reed, flawlessly executed her pitch for a prepackaged hair coloring kit billed as “makeup for hair.” Using a combination of technology and healthier formulas, the startup is attempting to be a disruptor in the hair-coloring space.

As the father of three daughters, I took notice when Amy mentioned the hair coloring market is a $50 billion industry. I introduced myself to Amy after her presentation and took the free $75 gift certificate and headed out the door, feeling cautiously optimistic about the prospects ahead.

Chris Vane is a director at RoseRyan, where he leads the development of the finance and accounting firm’s cleantech and high tech practices. He can be reached at [email protected] or call him at 510.456.3056 x169.

When times are good in the Bay Area as they have been generally over the past year, there’s energy in the air. We feel it when we’re working with our clients, and we are feeling it within RoseRyan as well.

We are proud to share some notable achievements in recent months. We ended 2015 blowing past our revenue and our profitability goals, adding many new clients. This was due in part by our continuing expansion in San Francisco, where things are booming and companies on the fast track are turning to us for sage finance advice and to fill the gaps of their resource-strapped teams.

Our proudest moment last year was feeling like we’re getting somewhere in the talent war. It’s tough out here, competition is fierce, but we managed to increase our headcount by 23 percent. Wow. Our current employees raved about us in a confidential survey and earned us a spot on the Top 100 Workplaces list by the Bay Area News Group. And five all-star former employees returned home this summer after spending some time fine-tuning their skills in the corporate world. We’ve warmly dubbed them the “Boomerang Bunch” and are happy to have them back.

A big attraction to RoseRyan, we’ve found, is the fact our culture is so vibrant and real. The four key values that guide our work are very real: a true teamwork approach, being trustworthy, advocating for our clients and the firm, and focusing on excellence in all that we do. Our culture has become a differentiating factor when we look for job candidates and make our case to potential clients. People who work with us like to know they will be in good hands, with collaborative folks who give their all to every project.

While we have successes to report at the start of 2016, there is always room for improvement. These are just three of the many resolutions on our plate this year.

Keep learning: RoseRyan gurus thrive on a challenge and love to stock up on their expertise. It’s one of the reasons people come here—to work on a range of client experiences that keep them engaged and stimulated, and on top of their game.

Within the firm, we have a variety of ways to keep the mental juices flowing, providing opportunities for our consultants to freely share information and tips they pick up in the field. Part of this is due to our camaraderie-focused culture with an emphasis on teamwork and collaboration. We also provide classes, workshops and tools for growth, with access to our Technical Accounting Group, which helps both our clients and our employees stay up-to-date on the latest accounting changes and interpretations.

We expect all our consultants to spend a certain number of hours each year on learning and developing not only their technical skills but their soft skills as well. On that note, we are launching a new internal program, Survive & Thrive, to share best practices in the field and the innerworkings of our firm. It’ll also help us onramp new employees into the fold.

Make new friends: Speaking of new employees, we expect to keep hiring in the months ahead. We are looking for stellar finance aces to join our strong team of “A” players. (If you have top accounting chops and operational finance experience to match, Michelle Hickam, our talent manager, would love to connect with you at [email protected].)

We also plan to add to the stable of fast-moving companies we work with in Silicon Valley and San Francisco, continuing to focus on the technology and life sciences field. Every new client has an intriguing financial challenge, and we’re fascinated to fix the next one.

Be open to change: This wonderful firm I co-founded is getting older in age (22 years and counting) and continues to evolve and change. The world around us is shifting at rapid velocity, and we need to move quickly to remain ahead.

One of the changes we have been seeing is the increased acceptance and demand for remote workers. Some job candidates place high on their priority list, for example, the flexibility to work both on site and off site. It minimizes long commutes, helps a family situation or allows a guru to work on a great engagement with a great company that happens to be several hours away from home.

We want to give our clients access to smart minds and excellent resources in finance no matter where they are located. Let’s say we have access to a brilliant finance mind with a particular expertise who is living four states away. We’ll take it! In some cases our clients have been amenable to remote work situations and have embraced it. We will continue to explore the possibilities, including the latest technologies that make it easier (we can thank our tech-savvy clients for that).

Changes and progress all around—it’s an exciting time. We are propelling into 2016 with a renewed sense of purpose and momentum. More than two decades into this fascinating firm, we are really hitting our stride, and I look forward to everything that’s in store for us this year.

Kathy Ryan is the CEO and CFO of RoseRyan. Since co-founding the firm in 1993, she has served as interim CFO at more than 50 companies. She was honored by the San Francisco Business Times in 2015 as one of the most influential women in Bay Area business.

We were beyond thrilled when we found out RoseRyan CEO & CFO Kathy Ryan would be recognized as one of the most influential women in Bay Area business by the San Francisco Business Times.

Of course, we’re always excited to get recognition, and Kathy, who co-founded this firm over 20 years ago, certainly deserves acknowledgement. She’s not one to brag, so the rest of us will do it for her: she was a pioneer in creating a consulting firm from scratch when she and a former colleague saw a better way to deliver finance and accounting services to Bay Area companies, particularly in tech and life sciences. The nod from the San Francisco paper comes on the heels of another noteworthy accolade Kathy received over the past year; she was named to Accounting Today’s national listing of the sector’s top 10 leaders, known as the Managing Partner Elite, last fall.

What makes the most recent honor truly special is the fact we are continuing to expand in San Francisco and it’s getting noticed. In recent years, of course, the city has enjoyed meteoric growth in the high tech sector. It’s positively bubbling over with well-funded startups and a few happy unicorns. So it’s natural for us to be there, too, working hand in hand to augment their finance teams, fill a gap or resolve a complicated accounting dilemma.

It’s a great time to be part of the San Francisco scene. The city has changed dramatically from when RoseRyan first started out two decades ago. In 1990, tech jobs made up just 1 percent of the economy and all the action was down in the Valley. Now high tech accounts for 30 percent of job growth there since 2010, absolutely transforming the City by the Bay. The growth has been astonishing—just witness the gleaming new private buses that shuttle the many thousands of new tech workers from their San Francisco homes to their Silicon Valley jobs. New transportation systems have risen amidst the chaos, Uber is everywhere, and Chariot and Leap offer special shuttles.

There is a raging battle over commercial real estate in town. The prices for office space are up and inventory is down. Last year the overall vacancy rate dropped to 8.3%, the lowest rate since 2001, according to the San Francisco Center for Economic Development. The mid-market corridor has been anchored by Twitter and other innovative companies, and SoMa is smoking with hundreds of new businesses.

There’s excitement everywhere you turn: the streets are awash with Millennials carrying messenger bags, furiously typing into small devices. The hotels are popping full. Some days the Giants pitch exceptionally well. And the fog has been remarkably light this year.

What could be better than all of those things? Well, we’re still praying for rain.

Eve Murto heads up our marketing and leads the charge for getting the word out about the stellar work that the finance pros do at RoseRyan. Before joining the firm in 2011, Eve held leading marketing roles at various Silicon Valley software startups, after building up steam at Sun Microsystems and Apple.