Corum Executive Vice President Dave Levine has experienced the M&A process from all sides: seller, buyer, investor, and advisor. His extensive background includes stints as CEO/co-owner of IPI Medical, a company that produces airway risk management systems; CEO and Partner at R1 ventures, a PE firm that invests in healthcare-related companies; and membership on the Board of Directors for Breathtec Biomedical, a research company in breath analysis (now named Algernon Pharmaceuticals), and IT services company Gaxsys.
As a dealmaker at Corum, Levine has been a key advisor in many technology company sales. Asked how the current virtual world has affected the tech M&A picture, Levine sees things positively.
An acceleration in activity
Levine says that at least for some of the founders and advisors he's spoken with, it's been a fairly smooth transition in terms of day-to-day operations. "I think people have figured out how to move in the new normal and figured out what it's going to take to get transactions done, how to operate their businesses, and how to take care of their employees. I would even characterize it as an acceleration in activity, both from investors and acquirers as well as from CEOs who are thinking about their future."
What buyers are doing
The accelerated activity among buyers comes in two categories, according to Levine. "First of all, you've got the strategic acquirers. These are the ones that have strong balance sheets and have been acquiring companies as part of their playbook. I think they're very active right now. Some of them might even be seeing things opportunistically.
In the other category are the PE firms managing funds. "I talk to a lot of funds on a regular basis and I'm hearing things like, 'Hey, we just minted our new growth fund seven, and we've got to put X million dollars to work in the next period of time.' I think money is still coming into the private equity funds in order to fund transactions. So you've got that dynamic going on in the buyer and on the investor side where the capital is still there. So that needs to be deployed."
What sellers are doing
Levine also sees two categories of sellers operating in the current environment. "You have companies that were negatively impacted by the pandemic and COVID. They're trying to figure out what to do next. And then you have the companies that were positively impacted by COVID, and they're seeing dramatic uplifts in their businesses. So now's a great time for them to either recapitalize or potentially sell the majority or the entire company."
Working from home
There's also the work-at-home aspect of the new normal, something Levine also sees with a positive slant. "I think people have more time because they don't have to travel as much. I think that has had a big impact on people and in a positive way. They have more time to reflect on what's really important to them. They're spending more time with their families and it's forcing people to really hone in on what they want to do going forward with their lives. And from a business perspective, CEOs are trying to figure out what this changed world means for them personally. What does that mean for my business? What does that mean for my employees and my stakeholders?"
And for Levine, being close to home in scenic Vancouver, British Columbia, life is pretty amazing. During the pandemic, people in BC are not traveling outside of BC, but Levine says, "I guess if there's ever a place to be stuck, BC is a good place because we've got so many beautiful places to go see."