Last week, a subset of Booth’s Private Equity Group ventured to the West Coast on the Bay Area Trek, during which the group met with eight firms across a day each in San Francisco and the South Bay (Menlo Park and Palo Alto). The trek culminated in an informal happy hour where our group, host firms, and Bay Area alums in PE were invited to mingle, discuss the industry, reminisce about Booth, and build deeper connections. As the second-year student leader of the trek, I wanted to share my experience and provide some insights into the value of our trip.
Like many other student groups at Booth, the Private Equity Group (PEG) runs several annual “treks”—or informational trips—in which small groups of students travel to meet with a breadth of professionals and firms in a specific industry over the course of a few days. While explicitly not meant as recruiting trips, PE treks are structured so that students are exposed to a range of investment stages, from growth through buyout, and across industry and strategy to showcase the entirety of the PE landscape and to help students think about where their skillsets and interests might be best aligned.
To prepare for the trip, pairs of students were assigned to research a given firm and create a one-page overview detailing its history, strategy, and elements of differentiation. Though most of our meetings consisted of a brief introduction by the firm’s host, the vast majority of the time was spent in interactive Q&A sessions, and the preparation done prior to the trip really increased the depth of discussion.
At four of the firms we visited, we met with Booth alums, and it was particularly exciting to hear their perspectives on what they did during their time at school to help prepare them for their current careers. Unsurprisingly, popular classes like Professor Steve Kaplan’s “Entrepreneurial Finance & Private Equity” got several nods, as did classes in the Finance, Entrepreneurship, and Strategy concentrations. Several alums noted that in their experiences, it is table stakes to be able to do the financial modeling, but what truly differentiates a successful investor is his or her ability to really understand business models and markets, think strategically, and be able to sell—both the firm and oneself; as a result, they encouraged us to explore classes like “Entrepreneurial Selling,” as well as to take advantage of the flexible curriculum and enroll in classes across Booth’s course catalog and at other UChicago schools, like the Law School.
Experiential learning—a hallmark of Booth’s curriculum—also repeatedly came up, as they recommended participating in programs like the New Venture Challenge to see in practice what is required to build a successful company, or testing the desire to be in the PE industry through internships during the school year.
While many students on the trek had professional experience in private equity, it was by no means a requirement, and for some, this was the first real interaction they had had with the industry. Regardless of one’s prior experience, however, it was incredibly informative to hear how firms differed in their approach to all aspects of the investment process—from sourcing through post-investment value creation initiatives, as well as with respect to the cultural elements that make each firm unique. Of course, being Booth students, the conversation often wandered to economic impacts on the future of private equity and hypothesizing on where the industry might be headed in the coming years.
Outside of getting to hear from Booth alums, my favorite part was getting to know first-years on the trip, many of whom I had never met before (nor had they met each other). Booth professional groups are not just for practical or recruiting purposes—they are meant to foster friendships and connections, and it was neat to hear how our group’s diverse backgrounds had brought them to this trek. All in all, we had a busy, educational, and fun few days!
If you are interested in learning more about the Private Equity Group at Booth, please visit www.boothpeg.com.