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Cautious Optimism: What you Missed at ACG InterGrowth

ACG InterGrowth 2013 is wrapping up this morning, and it was a terrific event. Stationed at Booth 507, the Axial team was able to meet with hundreds of our Members, listen to some great speakers, and assess the general feel of the M&A community. While there was near continuous networking and relationship building this week, there was a healthy dose of cautious optimism in the air.

For those of you that were not able to attend the conference — or simply want to relive it — here are a few of the highlights and key takeaways:

DealSource and Capital Connection are hotbeds of networking: With nearly 2,000 attendees at this year’s InterGrowth, the potential for deal making and networking was abundant. However, cautious optimism pervaded the conference’s mainstay DealSource and Capital Connection events. While many dealmakers had a slow 1H, there is hope that 2H will see a surge in activity akin to Q4 2012. The outlook — confirmed by a few of the conference’s speakers — offered fodder for conversation, with a healthy dose of caution and vigilance.

Key Takeaway: Dealmakers are eyeing a recovery in 2H, but are careful not to jump the gun.

Doug Holtz-Eakin predicts modest recovery in 2013: Doug Holtz-Eakin began the speaker series on Tuesday morning. As the former head of the Congressional Budget Office, he discussed his political and economic outlook for 2013. He predicted that although the country is facing challenges in the shape of immense debt and poor growth — mostly due to poor decision making processes — there could be as much as 2.5% growth by the end of 2013. The growth will likely be driven be upside risks including the housing market, rising vehicle sales, and the energy industry.

Key Takeaway: Recovery is on the horizon thanks to upside risks.

Peter Diamandis stressed the importance of innovation: Peter Diamandis, chairman of the X PRIZE Foundation and New York Times bestseller, followed Holtz-Eakin by discussing his outlook for a further future. He challenged dealmakers to not stay wed to their current methods and tools of sourcing capital, deploying investments, and making relationships. Instead, Diamandis encouraged the importance of ongoing innovation, taking risks, and embracing futuristic thinking. Think about your target companies — and your own company — in that way can yield important results.

Key Takeaway: Don’t shy away from new technologies and futuristic strategies, both in your own business and your investments.

Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles discussed the ‘most predictable economic crisis’: The former co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform were Tuesday’s main speakers. The two candidly spoke of the current economy, stressing that the fiscal consequences could manifest quite soon if not handled properly. “We came to understand that if we can’t get politicians on the right and the left to pull together rather than apart, we’ll face the most predictable economic crisis in history,” said Bowles. The five concerns to address first are health care, national defense, inefficient income tax code, social security, and interest on the debt.

Key Takeaway: Despite modest recovery, Simpson & Bowles encouraged dealmakers to write to Congress to address the most important challenges.

Admiral Eric Olson spoke about leadership and inspiration: The final keynote address was delivered by Admiral Eric Olson, the first Navy SEAL to be three and four-star flag rank. While Admiral Olson could not lend economic or deal making insight, he was able to teach InterGrowth attendees about the importance of leadership and tenacity. Some of his advice includes, “The greatest limitation to success is most often an unwillingness to start” and “Learn fearlessly. When the map differs from the terrain, go with the terrain.”

Key Takeaway:  Admiral Eric Olson is a true American hero and a real-life Captain America.

And thanks to all the attendees of our Member Event on Tuesday night!

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