How Alpha Partners standardizes and streamlines their due diligence process with Affinity
Alpha Partners is a New York-based Growth Equity firm that partners with hundreds of early stage and emerging VCs to provide capital beyond their portfolio companies’ B, C, and D-series rounds. The firm manages a portfolio of 24 companies, 9 of which have exited at 5x MOIC, including Coursera, Getaround, Rover, and Udemy.
With a team of almost 15 people and a growing portfolio, Alpha Partners needed a better way to manage and capture data coming from meetings with VCs in order to perform the necessary due diligence as they vet prospective companies.
Alpha Partners chose Affinity to replace their legacy CRM because of Affinity’s innovative approach to relationship intelligence and ability to streamline capturing data and company information used to perform due diligence with potential portfolio companies.
Affinity enables Alpha Partners to:
- Double deal flow over the past two years
- Save each employee 10 hours a week by automatically capturing contact information, emails, and meetings
- Standardize meeting notes across the firm and ensure everyone captures the same information during meetings.
- Reduce time spent attending meetings and performing manual work around the due diligence process for prospective companies
So many relationships, so little shared information
In the world of Private and Growth Equity, no two firms are alike. Each specializes in different company stages, industries, sizes, and regions, and as a result might have different criteria for what they’re looking to invest in. Despite these differences, they share a lot of the same foundation for success, including a network built strong relationships each individual brings to the firm.
As Brian Smiga, a partner and co-founder at Alpha Partners best puts it, “I truly believe that one's relationship set is the most important data in their life. It's the most important piece of data on your hard drive, and for the most part, it really belongs to you as an individual, and you want to nurture it and build it through your lifetime.”
Alpha Partners, a firm specialized in investing alongside seed and early stage investor partners, is unique in the Growth Equity world because they work to continue partnering with the VCs who come to them with potential portfolio companies to invest in.
Alpha Partners is flexible around investment sizes and unlike other firms, they often opt out of taking a board seat from these companies but still offer strategic, fundraising, and recruiting support. They also move in an agile manner when making decisions as they partner with VCs and the early-stage companies those VCs already nurtured, who are in their Series A, B, or C-funding rounds.
In the firm’s early days, they were avid users of RelateIQ, but after it was acquired by Salesforce, the look and feel of the CRM changed and the team eventually stopped using the platform because it didn’t cater to their needs.
Additionally, the team lacked a standardized, consistent process around capturing contacts, meeting notes, and other important data. Because everything had to be entered manually, Smiga shares “it was pretty much a fork lifting opportunity where you were fork lifting from a business card, and you were fork lifting from a conversation into a CRM.” As a result the data was static and inconsistent, and partners were begrudgingly spending around 10 hours each adding this information to their CRM. This only made things more difficult as Alpha Partners was bringing on more junior employees who were trying to build their network and support the team.
With the firm growing and reviewing over 300 proposed investment deals a year, Alpha Partners needed a solution that would help manage the deal flow and capture the company’s network, meetings, and overall work as a whole.
A CRM with the right DNA
After considering several CRMs, Alpha chose Affinity because it was one of the few CRMs that focused on the relationship component of their business. As Smiga notes, “Affinity was the only CRM that really spoke the relationship intelligence language and had that DNA.”
Alpha Partners began using Affinity over five years ago and right away saw value from the first interaction with the Customer Success team in the onboarding process. Smiga shares, “One of the best things about companies like Affinity is the Customer Success team because every hour they can save us is worth thousands of dollars.”
Affinity automatically synced the firm’s contacts, emails, and meetings, immediately removing the manual data entry the team had been inconsistently doing. This gave Alpha Partners an accurate firmwide view of everyone’s network, leveling the playing field for more junior team members who are working to build relationships.
“The magic of Affinity is that everyone's growing together and you really get transparency on people's relationships, emails, and meetings with others so that it's a team intelligence, and that's a big force multiplier.”
Streamlining due diligence
With Affinity’s ability to customize fields and templates, the team is also able to standardize how they take notes during meetings and leverage a scoring model to review the hundreds of deals that come in each year. In Affinity, they were able to add custom fields to capture those scores and create a notes template to capture the more qualitative but very important information that comes out of meetings, including other companies, VCs, and industries Alpha Partners should be thinking about. Smiga says, “We can't forget the curated data that comes out of the brains of our peers is really valuable and we need to… capture that back into our CRM so the whole team can utilize it.”
With the standardized scoring mechanism and ability to automate manual entry work, Alpha Partners streamlined their due diligence process to better align with their agile investing strategy. They can now have 15-minute meetings with VC firms about their top companies and after that meeting, they’ve essentially captured everything they need to know about the potential deals thanks to the template they created.
Smiga shares that with the deal information and key facts now living in Affinity, Alpha Partners can easily do a preliminary analysis and “whittle that double dealflow, which is maybe 300 deals a year to about 50 we're gonna deeply diligence. Here again, Affinity really helps in the diligence process.” With Affinity, the team can pare down the 50 or so deals left and finalize their list of about 5 or so companies using the same standardized rubric.
Accuracy and consistency in a changing landscape
Since becoming an Affinity customer, Alpha Partners has been at the forefront of integrating Affinity into their tech stack, from Affinity’s Pathfinder Chrome plugin to the Zoom integration, helping the team save over 100 hours a week in due diligence work and double their annual dealflow in the past two years.
As the market changes and the firm hires more professionals, Affinity serves as a constant where anyone, regardless of tenure, can utilize the network available to the firm. Says Smiga, “I think private equity, investment banking, and venture capital are very much relationship businesses… and, I think without Affinity, new associates and analysts have a much longer learning curve, and it takes them much longer to build a book of relationships.”
With Affinity continuing to bring on new features, integrations, and offerings, Alpha Partners knows it has a CRM that will continue to focus on the most important thing in their industry: relationships. As Smiga best puts it, “We were thrilled to go over to Affinity because it was fresh and it was ahead of anything else we saw in terms of relationship intelligence. It was a company that listens and it's a company that ever since… has been innovating constantly.”