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TECHWORK 23: Gilad Amir, Pollen Street Capital

by Alice Murray 6 April 2023

Amir began his career on the audit and M&A side with EY. However, his journey into the tech world began when he and a friend developed an app in their spare time. “We were literally two guys sitting in our garage in the evenings, and before we knew it, we had a business,” recalls Amir.

He then spent several years as a fintech entrepreneur. “As much as I enjoyed tech M&A and assurance, the notion of being able to change our industry with tech was such a compelling opportunity. And I was excited by entrepreneurship and building businesses; doing the work I had previously been telling others how to do,” he explains.

Then, following the sale of his last venture in 2017, Amir joined Lloyds Banking Group as head of fintech. “They were looking for someone who had been in the fintech trenches who also had first hand M&A experience,” says Amir.

One year later, Amir joined Pollen Street. “I always laugh about it that my love is M&A and corporate finance, but my obsession is tech - and the idea of making businesses better with technology. Over my career I have done both things at different levels, but at Pollen I have the privilege of being able to do both at scale,” says Amir.

Amir is part of the Pollen Street Hub Team. “The purpose of the hub is to be a centre of excellence; it’s really to bridge any knowledge and execution gaps across the portfolio in the areas we specialise in, and by that ultimately reduce volatility and increase our alpha,” he explains.

Alongside the firm’s other operating partners, Amir provides a central resource to support the digital transformation of Pollen Street’s portfolio companies. “Often the knowledge or experience isn’t accessible, so it allows us to address those gaps very quickly based on our value creation playbook,” says Amir.

Two notable examples of where the Pollen Street Hub Team has delivered a notable and successful digital transformation are Shawbrook Bank and CapitalFlow. Says Amir: “We built some of the most advanced systems there across different divisions in terms of harnessing data, automation and analytics that translate into superior business performances.”

Over the coming year, beyond the ongoing transformation programs, Amir and his team will be focusing on the ways in which data and analytics can better support operational efficiency for the portfolio companies.

Another key focus will be on generative AI. “This area has changed so quickly and is no longer a nice to have, so we will be focusing on its application across our portfolio companies,” says Amir.

Finally, another area of focus will be on the CFO and finance function with portfolio companies. “We see a new wave of tech providers and capabilities that can completely change the way CFOs and finance teams function, and ultimately their ability to support the business,” he adds.

Each portfolio company requires its own unique tech stack based on its specific needs, explains Amir. “When it comes to digital transformation, technology is not the end goal, it’s simply a by-product. Once the business context, or the what and why are clear, we can decide about the how - the buy versus build, and end-to-end versus best-of-breed.”

However, Amir has a preference for using third party vendors, and for a best-of-breed approach (rather than end to end systems). “For the most part, tech has become a commodity, and there are so many good technologies and vendors out there. The real IP is not the tech, but rather how it is used, and the flexibility and business agility it creates. That said, we constantly look for interesting vendors and technologies that could turn into inflection points across our portfolio. I can mention a few exceptional vendors like RainBird.ai, EasySend, DataBricks, DataRails, Camunda and Zoho creator. To the possible extent, we’ll build a composable architecture with the flexibility to plug in/out different solutions.”

Amir recognises that digital operating partners are still uncommon in Europe, however he is in contact with several. “The idea that PE needs this function is progressing,” he says. “We see more PE funds focusing on value creation through data and analytics.”

Amir is on several advisory boards and attends panels, where he and other members share notes, best practices and opinions.

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