ITA Spotlight: First Analysis
Monday, September 23, 2019
Posted by: Gary Hotze
Alice Epstein, Communications, First Analysis, @FirstAnalysis
We use our integrative research process to uncover and leverage the best opportunities in emerging high-growth segments in technology and healthcare for the benefit of the investors and growth companies we serve, as well as our broader society and environment. Integrative research underpins all our efforts, combining 1) dynamic investment research on thousands of publicly traded and privately held companies with 2) thousands of relationships among executives, investors, and other key participants in our focus areas, yielding a deep, comprehensive understanding of each sector’s near-term and long-term potential.
1. In 25 words or less, what is First Analysis all about?
We uncover and leverage the best opportunities in high-growth technology and healthcare for the benefit of the investors and growth companies we serve.
2. What problem do you solve and how do you solve it better than the competition?
We think the key to successfully investing in, advising, and helping build great technology companies is developing an exceptional knowledge of the relevant industries and their markets.
So the foundation of our strategy is an integrated public and private company research effort that yields a deep, comprehensive understanding of each segment's near-term and long-term potential. We put that expertise to work in three ways:
First, we invest directly in companies through our venture capital funds. First Analysis has one of the longest records (spanning four decades) in private capital investing and has invested more than $780 million across 13 funds. We help companies become profitable leaders in large markets, funding growth plans and working closely with management in areas including strategy, recruitment, sales and marketing, and corporate development. Our approach is flexible, targeting investments of $3-10 million as lead investor or as a syndicate partner who brings valuable perspective.
Second, we advise companies. Through First Analysis Securities Corp. (FASC, a registered broker/dealer with FINRA and member SIPC), our investment banking practice leverages the industry insights we develop through our equity research and venture capital activities to deliver value to clients across the life cycle of a business. We provide senior-level attention to every client, offering superior execution across a comprehensive range of investment banking services, including M&A advisory, public equity and debt financing, and private equity placements.
Third, we provide research on publicly traded companies in our sectors. Via FASC’s institutional sales and trading team, we provide institutional investors with equity research on publicly traded companies in high-growth technology and healthcare segments. This research, which is done by the same investment professionals whose work underlies all our activities, is a critical and differentiating element of our approach.
3. How did you get started?
Firm President Oliver Nicklin founded First Analysis in 1981. Oliver had served another great Chicago firm, William Blair & Co., in roles including research director and chief operating officer. When he started First Analysis, he had a vision for creating a company where fundamental investment research was the foundation of all the firm’s activities. For the past four decades, deep industry research and sector expertise have remained at the foundation of everything we do.
4. What are your primary goals for First Analysis?
We’re all about finding, advising, and investing in great companies in emerging high-growth segments in technology and healthcare, and in the process helping those companies become even better.
5. Where do you see First Analysis in two years? Five? Ten?
We’ve been around for nearly four decades, and we’ve developed a model that works – one that consistently adds value for our clients and partners. We pride ourselves on investing and advising with integrity and are committed to our research focus.
6. What’s the No. 1 thing on your to-do list?
Our strength lies in our differentiated research-driven approach. We can provide great value to companies in emerging high-growth segments in technology and healthcare, whether it be via direct investments from our own venture capital funds or through our comprehensive range of investment banking services.
We need to make that message better known.
ITA does a fantastic job of supporting its members, and we want to continue to build on this outreach both in Illinois and nationally.
7. In your opinion, what are some of the pros and cons of being an Illinois business?
We need to continue efforts like those undertaken by the ITA to build on the strong business foundation Illinois already has – to draw together and focus our diverse strengths to foster a fertile entrepreneurial and broader business environment in Illinois. As a Chicago-based business and ITA member, we’re very much a part of that effort, which is both challenging and a great opportunity.
8. What are the biggest challenges you face as you scale your business?
Talent continues to be the biggest challenge, a challenge shared by almost every organization. We are proud of our employees – we have an amazing team of exceptionally talented people that challenge one another to become even better. People who thrive here are intellectually curious and are exceptionally proficient at working with companies of all sizes and stages of development, from start-ups to publicly traded industry leaders. That requires a rare combination of aptitudes and passions. Continuing to find and develop this kind of outstanding talent has always been the foundation of our success. It’s a challenge we’ve exceled at meeting, but it’s always job one and essential for company growth.
9. What is the top reason employees would say they love working for First Analysis?
Our team is full of very smart and dedicated professionals. The stimulating intellectual environment and entrepreneurial spirit allow our team to thrive and grow both personally and professionally.
10. What makes First Analysis stand out?
Research combined with our focus on and understanding of entrepreneur-built businesses continues to underpin all our activities, driving us to become smarter, better-connected, more effective investors and advisors.