Virtual platforms come to the fore
iConnections: Best Fund Raising Solution – As travel restrictions extended beyond March 2020, raising assets without face-to-face meetings proved challenging, especially in private markets which are heavily reliant on personal relationships. In this environment, asset owners and investment managers recognised the need to think laterally and search for a virtual platform which understands the bespoke needs of the private capital community.
“Prior to the pandemic, the capital introduction process was largely centred around conferences, which by their very nature tended to be quite regional in their reach,” observes Ron Biscardi, CEO and Co-Founder of iConnections. “They also tended to have a narrower scope, focusing on a particular asset class or a particular client group. This, in turn, created siloes which were not necessarily an issue when travel was a possibility.”
However, the pandemic upended this whole process. “Geographic barriers can be broken down; you can bring the best people in the ‘virtual’ room from all over the world, showcase your expertise, track record, present ideas, expand the investable horizons for allocators and create greater fundraising opportunities for managers,” highlights Biscardi, adding these are all important learnings for when physical interactions resume.
iConnections identified the need managers and allocators had in this new virtual environment and sought to provide a platform that could match asset allocators and asset owners. It facilitates meetings which would be most relevant to both parties, depending on their profiles, and provides a professional and confidential environment in which to conduct the initial pre-screening meetings as well as future follow-ups.
The private capital industry and alternative investment management as a whole values peer-to-peer connections and these have been inevitably impacted by the pandemic. In recognition of this, iConnections offers ‘coffee chats’ for informal idea exchange and sharing best practices to help build and maintain those relationships. Biscardi notes: “This can be especially valuable for the small and midsize PE firms that often don’t have as much access as larger firms. The industry as a whole has a huge amount of dry powder which needs to be deployed. To ensure the most efficient allocation of capital, thus making the fundraising process more efficient, is critical. Doing this well leaves more time for investing and therefore generating even better returns for end investors, endowments, pension plans and the like. An efficient capital raising process has huge network effects which go beyond the process itself.”
The firm expects the industry to adopt a hybrid remote/in-person fund raising model, once the world emerges from the throes of the pandemic. “There is real value in meeting in person and iConnections plans to host its Global Alternative Investment Conference in Miami in January 2022, in person. But in our view, fundraising will be a continuum, not just centred around events,” Biscardi underscores.
In view of this, platforms such as iConnections can offer the consistency and regularity of contact ensuring that a PE manager doesn’t need to fly half-way across the country or around the world, especially for those first few meetings. “A virtual connection is faster, more efficient, and leaves PE managers with more time for deploying that capital efficiently and looking after portfolio companies,” Biscardi surmises.
Ron Biscardi, CEO, iConnections
Ron Biscardi is the CEO and Co-Founder of iConnections. Ron has over 25 years of experience in the alternative investment industry, and has closed over 20 seed deals and deployed over USD600 million in capital. His achievements include building the world’s largest capital introduction conference which takes place annually in Miami Beach. In April 2020, he founded iConnections, an online community for alternative investment professionals with philanthropy at its heart. Funds4Food, the first event organised by iConnections, raised USD1.9 million for victims of the global pandemic. iConnections has hosted some of the largest events in the industry in partnership with AIMA and 100 Women in Finance.