- Insider’s Banker of the Week series appears in our weekday newsletter, 10 Things on Wall Street.
- This week we’re highlighting Graham Weaver, founder and chief executive at Alpine Investors.
- Weaver formed the idea for his private-equity firm in a dorm room at Stanford Business School in 2001. Today, the firm has made over 280 investments and manages roughly $8 billion in assets.
Graham Weaver is not your stereotypical finance professional.
He maintains a blog, lectures at Stanford Business School, and entertains more than 283,000 TikTok followers on subjects like private credit and cryptocurrencies.
Meanwhile, he’s also the founder and chief executive of Alpine Investors, a private-equity firm with $8 billion in assets under management that Weaver conjured up in his dorm room while at Stanford Business School in 2001.
Alpine has invested in more than 280 companies, some of which have been very busy in recent months.
July, for example, saw the firm conduct a bevy of deals. Alpine-backed Trilon Group, a infrastructure consultant, inked a partnership with an engineering firm called the Mannik & Smith Group. Alpine also sold its stake in Mindful, an automated callback firm, to customer-service company Medallia, and Alpine made an investment in K-12 online tutor FEV Tutor.
“We run really concentrated portfolios that typically hold fewer than 10 companies per fund,” Weaver told Insider. “We play with the companies primarily centered around building the teams, and getting the best people.”
Indeed, talent lies at the heart of Alpine’s investment decisions. The investment firm often brings in C-suite executives, and also has a hand in selecting M&A teams at its portfolio companies to manage add-on acquisitions, Weaver said.
Alpine also runs a CEO-in-training program, which identifies, and trains, people who the firm believes can run an Alpine-backed business.
While that creates a pathway for future leaders, it risks alienating existing staff at portfolio companies who may not take kindly to an outsider coming in to run a business.
To mitigate that, Weaver said the CIT program is best applied to Alpine investments where existing CEOs are retiring or selling their stake in the business. He also stressed that CIT candidates were not just thrown into the role. They are coached and come equipped with a ready bench of people who can be instructive.
“They’re reporting to experienced CEOs who have run the Alpine playbook in the past,” Weaver said. “We tend to focus on situations where there is a management transition. Otherwise it is very difficult to roll out.”
The ‘fundless sponsor’ model
In his early days, Weaver applied the “fundless sponsor” model. It was a risky play.
He cold-called label-printing companies, an industry he had been previously exposed to and was bullish about, and found an owner willing to sell their stake.
But Weaver had not raised any funds. He leaned on investments from friends, and even borrowed money against his own credit card. All this, after signing a deal.
“I raised almost the entire capital structure in debt. Back then, you could write yourself a check, that was where I funded some of these early deals. By the way, I highly do not recommend doing this, but that was how I started,” he said.
In a way, this persistence dovetails with Weaver’s thinking behind the CIT program. When determining candidates for the initiative, Weaver looks for individuals with a “will to win, persistence, and intellectual horsepower.”
“People are capable of way more than you think,” he said. “One of the fundamental premises of the program is that attributes matter more than experience.”
Weaver counts Tom Steyer, the founder of Farallon Capital who sought the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, as one of his mentors and early investors.
The Banker of the Week series is featured in Insider’s 10 Things on Wall Street — sign up here to get the newsletter each weekday morning.