The third annual Booth-Kellogg Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition (ETA) Conference was held at the Chicago Cultural Center on November 9th and attracted more than 400 attendees. The attendance, according to Entrepreneur-in-Residence Alex Hodgkin, was the “largest ever gathering under the ETA banner that we know of.” The conference hosted the “who’s who” of ETA, including some of the most prolific and successful investors, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and educators, and was attended by hundreds of current and aspiring ETA entrepreneurs.
ETA, commonly referred to as a “search fund” investing, has become a buzz word at many of the top business schools around the country. The investment model is unique as it gives an ambitious entrepreneur, often times a newly minted MBA, the opportunity to acquire and operate a small business with the financial backing and mentoring of an advisory board.
The comprehensive conference featured a series of panels covering a broad range of topics, including “How to Search and Close”, “The Young CEO Experience”, “ETA Career Path”, and “Evolving ETA Models”. The expert panels offered candid insight into the challenges and rewards of life as an ETA entrepreneur, and the current state of the market.
A common theme that emerged from the panels is the proliferation of the ETA model over the last few years. Five years ago, 10 to 15 search funds were raised in a given year; in 2016, there will be over 60. The proliferation is driven in large part by awareness as more and more MBA programs launch their own ETA curriculum, inspiring new searchers.
Erick Laseca (‘17), President of the Booth Search Fund Club, delivered the opening remarks at the conference and commented on the growing interest at Booth. “ETA has become a highly desirable career path at Booth. Booth MBAs are analytical and process-driven, but crave excitement and are open to calculated risk. They are also confident enough to step into a CEO role right out of business school, yet humble enough to seek and accept the guidance of experienced investors.”
Booth is one of the leaders among MBA programs in ETA and has ramped up its programming in the last few years – an effort spearheaded by Alex Hodgkin. In addition to co-hosting the annual conference, Booth offers an ETA class, taught by adjunct professors and ETA experts Brian O’Connor and Mark Agnew, publishes a podcast series, frequently hosts ETA investors and entrepreneurs, and holds an annual investor summit that connects investors with UChicago students and alumni seeking to raise search funds. “The ETA Conference, made possible by our flourishing partnership with Kellogg, was a tremendous success”, said Alex Hodgkin. “Booth’s fast growing ETA program has firmly established Chicago and Booth as leaders in this growing area of entrepreneurship”.