As a long time lurker of this forum, I am trying to understand how best I can position myself to move into ETA as a full-time owner / operator. Hoping some of you might be able to guide me on this journey and my next steps. Understand the decision on "when" to move into ETA is highly subjective, but hoping your experiences can offer me new perspectives to consider to successfully make this decision.

The ask: specifically, I would greatly appreciate any feedback re: potential roles / experiences I may want to consider toward improving my background for a future ETA. Sharing the following context on my background and current thought process.

Breaking this down into 3 sections: 1. My ETA goals 2. Current background + estimated ETA skill gaps 3. Potential roles I have considered to close said gaps

1.ETA goals: Overall, my search / ETA goal is to own and operate a business doing $3-15M+ in revenue (EBITDA $750k-$2M/TBD?). Industry foci TBD- very interested in service based companies that are ripe for basic technology integration/improvements, operational restructuring opportunities, and consolidation (much of this I've done at MBB). Leaning toward self-funding a search then using debt+equity (also considering SBA) to acquire. All current hypothesis, subject to change.

2.Current background & estimated ETA skill gaps: I believe I have many of the foundational components of search/ETA (basic finance, strategy, entrepreneurial, deal, etc. experiences); however, trying to understand what roles/experiences I should now pursue in order to continue building on these foundational components. In particular, concerned about what level of deeper finance skills are required. I have some light ETA experiences in the SaaS space (small deals, see below) which has allowed me to dip my toes in and better gauge ETA skill gaps (fortunately, personally very familiar with SaaS / web deal sourcing / origination and the sheer volume of deals req'd to close a single acquisition). Engineer by degree + MBB consultant.

List of experiences + skill gaps:

  • Education: - Engineering degree w/ business minor (non-target) (also self-taught programmer), no MBA
  • Corporate experience (3+ years): - MBB (junior manager) - Focused on digital transformation and tech product strategy for F500 clients (including both strategy and execution) - Add’l relevant work includes: organizational restructuring, build vs. buy cases, building “corporate startups” within larger enterprises (both strategically and operationally- incl. talent management, rodmapping, market sizing, customer discovery, etc.)
  • Entrepreneurial experience (3+ years): - Founded former tech startup in B2B logistics & supply chain space. Developed company’s IoT platform, led product strategy and development, marketing, sales, etc. Clients included major corporate manufacturers and warehouses. Team size: 5 (3 interns). - Launched investment portfolio in real estate + e-comm / SaaS / web – dipping my toes into the ETA space (see below) w/ hybrid on+offshore team
  • Deal experience (1-2 years): - Real estate investment (high level experiences on commercial side (office); very tactical on residential side (multifamily)) - E-comm / SaaS/ web buyouts <$150K EV (very tactical- have sourced and DD’d >1,000 on+off market deals incl. financials, operations, etc.)- acquired 1x web business (VERY small) (operating passively) -- considering this my ETA 101 tuition. Very comfortable with valuations / DD / planned execution strategies in this space. - Hybrid off+onshore operations team (9 contractors) established to handle all SEO, development, content etc. work fully driven by VAs
    - Automated deal sourcing, outreach, and high level deal qualification tools built in house (for both off market real estate + tech opportunities)
  • Top potential skill gaps: - Deeper finance / valuation experience: Base experiences in real estate and SaaS (smaller deals)- either need to partner with another searcher w/ finance background and/or build this skillset (Actively self-studying currently) - Further operating experience: Experience leading MBB teams, clients, and senior management; however, no prior experience leading front line blue collar workers / teams . Maybe this is not as big of an issue as I am seeing many more searchers learning this on the job (as an owner) - Investor experience: Past startups and real estate efforts were fully bootstrapped- currently do not have a network outside of MBB / university contacts to potentially tap for equity investors though confident this can be built.
  1. Potential roles I have considered to close said gaps:
  • Business development role at LMM PE firm (bonus: if firm has a tech focus and opportunities to support portcos w/ tech enablement)
  • Family office- potential opportunity to experience the full deal gamut from origination to close (bonus: if role offers operating opportunities)
  • IP associate role at LMM PE firm (actively prepping for technical interviews; however, may be a long shot given low deal experience)
  • MBB- return to firm and try to focus on PE / M&A cases. 2 concerns: 1) No guarantee I can work on these style projects and 2) Uncertain whether experience in these cases will be relevant to ETA goals shared above
  • Intern with an active searcher- Not convinced this is the best use of time. May be better to work with a firm offering more structure and support searcher on nights / weekends.
  • MBA- Numerous obvious benefits but not sure this is totally critical path right now. Would need to determine whether to self-fund search vs. self-fund grad school. Biggest opportunities I have explored related to ETA include: 1) really building that finance muscle and 2) network (potential ETA partner, investors, etc.).

    In summary, can you offer any feedback or suggestions re: any skills / experiences / roles I may want to consider next in preparation for ETA based on the background provided? Thank you so much for taking the long read and time to help an aspiring searcher!