Meet the Team: Dave Kirby

Why did you decide to join the world of private equity?

I’ve worked in and around the deal world my whole career, starting out as a strategy consultant, where I predominantly worked on private equity transactions and with private equity-backed businesses, before joining the latter as an operator. It felt like the logical next step for me to complete the trilogy by moving into the investment side of things.

I’ve always been drawn to small and medium-sized companies, because I think that represents the most exciting stage of a company’s development. When I was a strategy consultant, I used to get headhunted to work in big, established companies, and whilst I’m sure that would have been great, it just wasn’t for me. I wanted to be involved during the business’s most formative chapters – which is the stage Livingbridge focusses on.

You joined Livingbridge in 2016. What first drew you to the firm?

I had the luxury of working across lots of different funds during my time as a consultant, and Livingbridge really stood out to me. I was especially drawn to the firm’s level of ambition. Livingbridge itself is a growing business, and we’ve doubled in size since I joined. We’ve made big investments into those areas we find strategically important, and we think carefully about where we want to take the business. Just like our investee companies, we walk the walk.

I also really took to the people, who were like-minded and who I felt would be great to work with. I didn’t decide to join private equity and then zero in on Livingbridge – I met the Livingbridge team, and it immediately felt like a good fit.

You lead Livingbridge’s Services investment team, where you focus on technology-enabled service providers. How have you seen the industry evolve in recent years?

Artificial intelligence and robots are increasingly permeating our lives, with more and more jobs being taken over by machines, and different parts of the economy are at different stages of that evolution.

What we’re seeing now is that every services business we are looking at is tech-enabled in some way. What sets a business apart within this space is if it’s enabled by its own data as well as its own technology – allowing it to achieve better outcomes for its clients, create better jobs for the people who work there, and scale faster.

We’re also seeing some long-term drivers behind the growth of the services sector, including risk and compliance, procurements and operational efficiency, and an increasingfocus on ESG – particularly around the green energy transition.

What do you enjoy most about your role as lead of the Growth Acceleration Team?

As experienced investors in small and medium sized companies, our purpose is to identify and solve problems many of our companies are tackling for the very first time – be that hiring for a new role, supporting them in making their first bolt-on acquisition; internationalising; or streamlining their data driven approach.

What I love about that is that we have the chance to really make an impact and go on that journey with them; witnessing them progress and evolve.

The difference between doing that sort of work as a consultant vs an investor, is that we’re not beholden to a fixed budget or timeline, and that we are completely aligned with the management team the whole way. This kind of work isn’t easy, but it’s not supposed to be. Which makes it all the more satisfying when we succeed.

What are the three main things you look for when choosing a portfolio company to invest in?

I look for companies with a clear view on the problem they are solving for their clients, and who do it in a unique, distinctive way; companies with a strong track-record in acquiring and keeping clients over time; and a management team with an appetite to reshape the industry in which they operate.

As someone who loves to cook, what’s your favourite meal to prepare?

I’ve always enjoyed cooking and find it extremely relaxing. I watch loads of competitive cooking shows – if it’s not MasterChef, it’s the Great British Menu, if it’s not the Great British Menu, it’s Bake Off. It’s a great way to switch off from work, and over time I got into the habit of trying new things – be that smoking meat, trying out various Japanese dishes or attempting (rather unsuccessfully) to sous-vide fish in my dishwasher…

My latest toys are a Bluetooth-enabled thermometer, which I love, and new pizza oven – which my kids love even more!

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