First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Kison Patel: Great. We’re really valuing this time together and using it as an opportunity to discover new activities we can do. For me, it’s learning how to rollerblade and kicking a soccer ball around with my kids.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded DealRoom.
Kison Patel: I spent 10 years as an M&A advisor for both the buy-side and sell-side. During that time, I saw all the shortcomings and inefficiencies of the M&A process with no great tools to use as a solution. That prompted me to start building my own tools in house. During the recession, I noticed this trend of project management tools stemming from the software industry, expanding into other industries. I thought it would be a good idea to get ahead of the curve and bring that technology to M&A. My thought was that these billion-dollar deals shouldn’t be managed on Excel forever.
So in 2012, I founded DealRoom as a way to bring modern information management practices to M&A.
How does DealRoom innovate?
Kison Patel: DealRoom innovates primarily through market feedback. I started the company based on a lot of assumptions that ultimately proved to be wrong. What turned DealRoom around and in the right direction was creating a feedback loop with our customers. We take the time to interview them and understand their pain points and challenges to make sure we’re solving real-world problems.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Kison Patel: During lockdown periods we had a slowdown of new client acquisitions and had to work with some of our clients who were really affected by COVID-19 to help them adjust in order to maintain a long term relationship. Coming out of it, when things started opening up, we were able to continue our growth. We see a stronger market demand as companies are ramping up to do more M&A. We’ve been lucky to come out of it in a pretty positive way.
Our team is working almost entirely remotely, leveraging a lot of collaboration tools. Platforms like Slack, Zoom, and even our own product DealRoom have been very helpful.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Kison Patel: When COVID first hit, the biggest challenge was making a major shift in our strategy. We had initially planned to expand our outbound sales team, but knowing the transaction rates were going to slow down significantly, we decided to put those resources into our marketing efforts. Focusing on brand awareness allowed our team to focus on building educational content for those who may be looking for that during the lockdown.
We learned how to take advantage of being a smaller company. That being, we were able to quickly shift focuses and realign quickly. Making those adjustments led us to discover a whole new business line for us. We were able to launch a new podcast series that’s live-streamed and held a virtual conference that ended up being one of the most successful virtual events of the year. Leveraging those opportunities really gave us the attention and exposure we were looking for.
Most recently, we’ve launched an online academy with different courses surrounding every area of M&A, which is quickly becoming another business line.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and DealRoom in the future?
Kison Patel: Staying active, if I’m being honest, is really how I manage stress and anxiety. My big personal thing is cycling – just to be able to hop on a bike, take a break, and physically get away from whatever it is that’s causing me stress as well as just taking breaks whenever you need them. A lot of the time, we can get into this marathon work mode, and it’s really important to take breaks and do different activities to clear your head, come back, and revisit things.
In terms of future projection, our company is positioned for strong growth in the future, and we’re going to continue to focus on our mission to provide educational resources and technology for our industry.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Kison Patel: DealRoom competes with legacy virtual data room products as well as project management tools designed for M&A. So those companies would be Intralinks Data Site and Midaxo.
Innovation is key for our company to stay in the game. We want to keep that customer feedback loop going so that we can stay relevant with our clients’ needs, but we also want to utilize customer experience as our competitive advantage.
I learned at a young age that my competitive advantage is my discipline to work hard. At the end of the day, I got hired for consulting projects because I worked harder than others and demonstrated that.
Your final thoughts?
Kison Patel: My final thoughts are around the importance of being agile for organizations, especially as they come through hard times. Depending on how your company is positioned, you may either have to respond or adopt to unique levels of growth.
Being able to quickly iterate and respond and encompassing that into your company culture is something that can make your organization much stronger.