On Thursday, Exponent will host its 2nd annual Exponent Exchange conference in New York City. Founded by women in the M&A dealmaking community, Exponent strives to deliver meaningful interactions and actionable content to women dealmakers. In the private equity industry, women hold just 10% of senior private equity roles and 31% of the junior positions. On the investment side, only 9% of the highest roles are held by women.
Stephanie Ruhle, an anchor at MSNBC, will keynote the event, and attendees will hear from many experienced dealmakers throughout the day. Axial founder and CEO Peter Lerman will moderate the spotlight panel discussion on women-led funds, featuring five women who have raised successful funds recently.
To learn more about Exponent’s mission, its take on dealmaking today, and the upcoming conference, we sat down with Nanette Heide, a partner at Duane Morris and a founder of Exponent.
What is Exponent and why did you think now was the time to launch it?
Exponent was created by a group of women in the finance ecosystem who have all done business together, to create a trusted environment where women could come together and network to help each other move the needle on their careers. Our members can exchange ideas, get advice, and use us as a trusted resource. We decided to create several events, of which The Exponent Exchange is our biggest. It’s an interactive experience with several different panel discussions that touch on numerous sectors such as blockchain, healthcare and consumer investing. Many of the discussions will touch on where deals are coming from and who’s investing.
Why is Exponent relevant today?
We didn’t buy a list and start inviting people to our events. It’s been a grassroots effort and the women who attend our events really want to move their careers forward. We aren’t talking about handbags and navigating the mommy track. That’s not the conversation. This is about finding your next deal and moving it forward.
What can people attending Exchange expect?f
If you closed your eyes and didn’t hear the tone of the speaker, this information could be coming from any dealmaker. Stephanie Ruhle will be talking about how she built her career and we are doing a spotlight on women who have started their own funds. They will talk about the obstacles and hurdles they faced both as female investors, but also in general as investors in a competitive market. The women on this panel are really amazing super stars. Raising a new fund can be treacherous given the typical makeup of private equity investors. These women will talk about why they started funds on their own, how they manage their funds, the track record they needed to get their funds off the ground, and what they are doing differently to win deals in today’s environment.
How would you characterize the M&A environment today?
It’s very competitive and fast paced, although due diligence is becoming more strenuous. The buyers who win want to know what they are getting. Everything is priced high so they want to be sure what they are buying is what they expect.
What are you seeing in the lower middle market?
It’s also very competitive. Bigger players are heading down market to try to make investments and put their capital to work. And you have megadeals too. Then there’s this space in between, where it’s tough to find assets to make investments in. You have to be more creative than in the past to put money to work today.