What made you decide to do something different?
GP: I’d spent a very large part of my career [at SL Capital], and to be honest I turned 40 and decided I wanted to do something different in my 40s, and not wake up on my 50th birthday having been in the same organisation for 23 years.
GF: I wanted to do something entrepreneurial. Having sat across the board table from so many entrepreneurs over my career, I wanted to have a go at doing something different. Having spent 15 years in the industry, I felt it really could do with better software and systems. And that was what I had an idea for and decided to leave to pursue.
Did the idea for TopQ come from a need you yourself felt?
GF: When I started my career, one of the first things I ended up doing was performing track-record analysis as part of the due diligence process. As I worked my way up the organisation I was struck by the fact that people coming into the organisation were still doing that same job in spreadsheets.
When I asked around it appeared that everyone in the industry was still doing all this work in a very manual, labour-intensive way.
Private equity at that point was becoming a $3 trillion asset class and we were still relying on spreadsheets as a way of analysing and measuring performance, which is very different to most other financial asset classes, where performance is much more systemised.
TopQ allows investors to be more rigorous and consistent to make sure they’re looking at each fund in the same way.
We met one GP who had been asked to present his track record in 80 different ways during fundraising. By using TopQ, you may not eliminate them all but you can significantly reduce the number of requests that you’re going to get for those different formats.
Who were your first customers?
GP: Some of the early adopters included the likes of IK Investment Partners, Equistone, Permira, a number of US university foundations, APG Asset Management.
Was SL Capital an early adopter?
GF: They were, but they weren’t that early. It’s fair to say we had other funds of funds before them.
What do you miss most about fund investing?
GP: It’s the transition from being an investor to being a service provider. If you’ve got several billion that you can invest, that opens the door a lot easier.
What do you miss least?
GF: The thing I miss least is having to read countless papers every week for investment committee.
Is there more pressure?
GF: I think it’s very different pressure. Being an entrepreneur in the early days, you’re responsible for every aspect of the organisation. We had to paint the walls of our first office and do our own cabling and IT. We’re now in our third office, and as you add more people in and become part of a bigger organisation, other responsibilities appear.
You sold TopQ to eVestment last year — are you still full-time?
GP: We’re still very much involved in the TopQ journey. The sale was the end of the beginning.
Do people in the industry speak to you differently now?
GP: Funnily enough they are [more open]. Because they’re not trying to sell to us or pitch to us, we tend to get a more open and honest dialogue with them.