Our Historyan idea is born
Our history begins in 1994 when two ambitious 20-somethings met while working in San Francisco at one of the nation’s leading investment banking firms as the dot-com era was unfolding. Working on the busy sales-trading floor overlooking the city’s financial district, they saw the dozens of entrepreneurs turned away by the firm’s investment bankers. While many of those turned away weren’t ready for the services of the well-known firm or to go through the difficult process of securing venture capital or pre-IPO funding, the duo who would later launch their own firm knew there was promise in many of the ideas turned away and even more entrepreneurs who would not even be able to navigate their way to meeting with San Francisco and Silicon Valley’s top finance firms at all. The future founders of TPGI each spent a few more years gaining more experience and relationships – one working on the buy-side as the right hand to a top fund manager, the other working for a major Asia-based bank building the business of a wholesale trading desk and launching their high-yield underwriting business. Although working at different firms, weekly drinks at the legendary Royal Exchange and weekend meals at Pier 23 were consumed by talks of the possible, of turning “What if” into “It’s time.”
A NEW FIRM, A NEW APPROACH
Two years after the idea was first hatched, it was time to give flight to a new firm and a new approach to helping start-up and growth-stage companies secure the financing necessary to go “from garage to office park” (which would later be the title of the firm’s first white paper). The Phoenix Group International, LLC (TPGI) formally launched in 1996 rooted in the simple premise that the only barrier to ideas of great pitch should be the idea itself and not the means of implementation. The firm was structured to operate at the nexus of business consultancy, corporate finance and venture capital, focused on helping early stage companies access the capital necessary to execute their business plan and providing the expertise, personnel and partnerships to help them do so.
FIRST IS GOOD, STRATEGIC IS TOO
No two client relationships were identical as each engagement was carefully structured to meet the specific needs at each moment in a company’s lifecycle. For some, TPGI’s work included helping companies secure capital through private placements or public offerings while working with management to ensure operations were meeting plans and goals. For other clients, TPGI took an equity interest in the company, provided personnel to serve in acting c-level positions from CTO to COO or even CEO and became deeply involved in the business development or daily operations of the client business. In nearly all engagements, TPGI played an active role in the company’s growth, securing of strategic partnerships and identification of growth, merger and acquisition opportunities. Working primarily in the competitive technology space, TPGI’s decision to work with clients and the work itself was always guided by three questions:Can we be first to market with the concept, idea or offering? Can we be better than what is already on the market in price, consumer experience or scope of our offering? Is there a clear strategy for owning market share, growing revenues, reaching profitability and delivering an exit for shareholders?
Guided by these operating principles, TPGI went on to work with clients at the leading edge of their space – from helping a client launch the first digital music subscription service on the internet to managing the development of the first B2B portal for the construction industry. While TPGI’s clients were marking up firsts and the embedded TPGI team was helping them leverage partnerships for strategic growth and strengthening of market position, TPGI Ventures was investing in developing new technologies. The team developed the technology and incubated the first e-publishing service for authors, leveraged technology and the powershifts it enabled to help recording artists redefine their relationship with fans and labels and the team were pioneers in internet radio, with their properties consistently being among the most listened to globally in their spaces.
A BUBBLE BURSTS, A STRATEGY SHIFTS
On April 14, 2000, the NASDAQ composite fell more than 9%, bringing to a close a week that saw the index fall more than 25% as losses and fears combined with looming tax bills from a decade of growth to send the markets into a steep correction that would wipe out billions in paper valuations, taking many cash-strapped and unprofitable dot-com companies’ fates with them. Over the next week, the TPGI team had a simple choice to make: Accept defeat and the end of an era or lick their wounds, dust themselves off and find opportunity in the distress. The discussion was short, the options clear. For a firm named after the mythical bird that is reborn and rises from the ashes, the only answer was to do just that. Much of 2000 was spent acquiring distressed assets – of companies TPGI had worked with, their competitors and other undervalued assets that could be rolled up and given new life. With limited opportunities to raise capital at acceptable valuations and wanting to take fate into their own hands, TPGI took a break from client facing corporate finance work to operate a number of the assets acquired and held by TPGI Ventures.
STEPPING BACK, LEANING FORWARD
In 2009, the principals of TPGI took an additional step back to focus on operating a narrow set of assets, to gain hands-on experience with a number of evolving technologies and re-ground themselves in the start-up culture while also doing work in public policy and supporting a variety of efforts to incubate the next generation of talent and ideas.
NEW ECONOMIES, NEW OPPORTUNITIES: TPGI VENTURES RELAUNCH
As a new wave of innovation and market opportunities created needs and opportunities in a number of quickly evolving and growing industries, TPGI Ventures was formally relaunched in 2020 with the addition to the team of respected business and finance professionals in these industries. Today, TPGI Ventures conducts business around the United States and internationally in a wide variety of industries. TPGI’s principals bring deep expertise in finance, public policy and the private sector to support business leaders and investors in blockchain, legal cannabis, hemp and CBD, climate resilience, blue finance projects, ag-tech, ag-biotech and other emerging technologies relating to our areas of focus.