Spotlight On Omar Divina
Why Omar Divina Joined The (Maestro) Revolution & What He Sees As Its Future…
Omar Divina has spent his career helping individuals, teams, and organizations discover how to harness the power of digitization to drive business performance. He’s helped drive adoption of pioneering technologies long before they gained mainstream acceptance. He’s been at the forefront of meaningful technology category creation.
And, with all that experience, insight, and perspective, he’s calling Maestro an opportunity of a lifetime.
Here’s why. And here’s how, as Maestro’s newly appointed CEO, he believes he can help shape the future; not just of portfolio operations, but also of the way in which organizations work together to drive valuable results and positive outcomes.
Q: Let’s start off with an easy one. What led you to Maestro?
I have worked at the intersection of technology, finance, and business performance throughout my entire career. So, I look at all my previous experience as important steps on a path leading me to Maestro and to the Private Equity industry at large. The industry is at an inflection point when it comes to technology-enablement. More than ever, it’s clear that firms across the PE landscape are looking to leverage technology to foster new levels of collaboration in order to accelerate value creation.
I’ve been a true believer in the power of collaboration. Robust, easy-to-use systems that define and strengthen the connective tissue between all stakeholders: individuals, teams, and in the case of Maestro – organizations, can reveal value where it’s been hidden and can accelerate value where it’s been found.
Collaboration and alignment are always critical. But, now, in the Covid economy with the drastic shift to remote work, it’s become essential.
I really believe our software platform represents the future of portfolio operations. And, I’m eager to apply my cross-industry knowledge to get us to that future state, sooner.
So, what drew me to Maestro? It was the tech, it was the timing, and it was the totality of the opportunity.
q: you say that you are someone who has long lived and worked at the intersection of finance and technology. What do you see at that intersection now, particularly in the PE space?
I think it’s important to start by acknowledging that for years it wasn’t a very busy intersection. But that’s now starting to change.
I believe there are three concurrent narratives pointing PE toward greater (and more meaningful) technology adoption.
First, there’s the decade-long, yet still relatively newfound, approach to investments. Gone are the days of pure financial engineering for short-term gain. Sure, a more disciplined fiscal approach still plays a role in driving exit value. But PE firms are now looking to drive long-term value creation by improving the operational performance of their portfolio companies.
Second, there’s more competition for deals in the first place. That’s particularly true now, as the industry is eager to put some of its sidelined (and record-breaking) dry powder into play.
And third, there’s the fundraising component. LPs are demanding more transparency, accountability, and a codified, institutionalized, fund-specific approach to value creation. And they’re no longer satisfied by partner assurances – they want to see the data that says it, a) exists, and b) works.
In short: LPs, GPs, and portfolio companies all want to be able to define and harness their various routes to success. They are on a journey to get from a starting thesis to a desired outcome, and Maestro is here to help them map that path to success in a repeatable way.
Q: But technology has never really been part of the PE toolkit. Even as other pockets of the financial services industry have embraced software and systems and digitization, the PE industry has not. Some would call it a stubborn refusal. So why now?
Let me share an anecdote that could portend the future for ‘private techquity.’
Back in 2007, I was with a startup whose mission was to help companies collaborate and communicate more effectively across organizational and business silos. At the time, Twitter had just started taking off and our product team came up with what we thought was the enterprise solution for communicating in short 140-character bursts. The market initially thought we were crazy: “Colleagues aren’t interested in communicating that way.” We had to do a lot of evangelizing at the time. Of course, other solutions came along to claim the collaborative communications space and became wildly successful. Fast forward to now, and virtually everyone works via Slack.
My point is that 15 years ago, many of the technologies that we take for granted today—that we couldn’t function without now—were not eagerly embraced, and some were outright rejected. That’s where we are with PE now. I think we’ve passed the point where technology is avoided, but we haven’t yet hit the tipping point where they’re inevitable – at least across some portions of the PE landscape.
Q: Wait, why do you say ‘some’ portions?
Because, it’s not that PE has ‘stubbornly rejected technology’. That’s a false narrative. It’s that its embrace of tech has been imbalanced, to date.
For example, PE has a sophisticated back office technology infrastructure. Think of all the tools for financial reporting, for example. With the maturity of back-office solutions, the industry is now ready to start meaningfully exploring how technology can help solve front-office concerns.
But it’s also worth noting that PE is a distinct animal, and while sponsors may be ready to conceptually embrace front-end solutions, they’ll reject more generic tools as inadequate to fit their needs. They’ll demand a PE-specific solution. Which, until now, has been elusive.
Q: Ok, so let’s talk about Maestro. Why is it the right solution for the right time?
Well, Maestro is that unique front-office solution built for PE. In fact, because Maestro has been incubated inside of Accordion, you can say it’s built for PE by PE.
And, as I mentioned earlier, the PE world is continually evolving. Yes, financial engineering is still critical – but it has a ceiling in exposing value. Operational improvement elevates that ceiling and raises the bar in terms of long-term return expectations.
It’s great when PE firms can achieve those operational efficiencies for individual portfolio companies. But imagine the returns when they can use software to replicate that success across their entire portfolio. That’s game-changing.
And that’s what Maestro is: a game-changing technology solution that accelerates the value creation process and provides PE firms with a more strategic and codified way—unique to their institution—to manage their investments from diligence through exit.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about its application across that lifecycle? Because, it’s more than just codified playbooks, right?
Yes, it’s absolutely more than codified playbooks.
Because Maestro centralizes the key elements required to successfully manage and optimize portfolio operations, not only do sponsors have a way to manage end-to-end value creation initiatives across all key stakeholders, they also now have a mechanism for real measurement, providing a way to both quantitatively and qualitatively assess value creation.
The alignment, transparency, and accountability that drives success then leads to data-driven insights. Maestro as the connective tissue between sponsors, LPs, and management teams means the possibility of real benchmarking of portfolio and industry-wide data.
Q: So, it’s fair to say that when boiled down to its basics, it’s value creation, collaboration, and metrics?
Yes, Maestro is all those things at its core…and we’re just getting started. I think back to my early days when we were at the forefront of the nascent Social Business/Enterprise 2.0 movement. Maestro is game-changing, and much like Enterprise 2.0, it’s category-creating.
Q: SO, WHAT’S THE CATEGORY, THEN?
Right now, we’re calling it Deal Performance Management (DPM). DPM is about harnessing the power of collaboration and codification to drive value creation. And, even more than that, it’s a recognition that value creation is just one important subset of a larger effort to capture and harmonize data across systems at every stage of the deal.
Q: You said ‘right now’ we’re calling it DPM. Why the caveat?
I absolutely believe in the power of DPM for private equity. I believe in its ability to modernize the industry and lead to greater returns and higher valuations. That’s absolutely our focus today.
And, I also believe Maestro could have a significant impact beyond PE.
Today, Maestro serves as the connective tissue between sponsors, LPs, and portfolio companies. But if you break Maestro down to its component capabilities, we have the potential to become much, much more.
While there are many generalized tools for collaborating between individuals on the same team or within the same organization, Maestro is poised to become the platform for purposeful collaboration between organizations, aligned on shared objectives, and ensuring the participation of all stakeholders.
It’s an optimistic view of the future, and I am happy to be leading the charge.
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