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An Unconventional Approach to Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition


Portrait of Bakari Akil

Founder and Owner



Key Takeaways

  • Bakari Akil's story makes him a beacon for aspiring entrepreneurs. Imagine not being able to afford college but eventually participating in private equity boardrooms. Now, he teaches an Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition course to MBA candidates at Cornell's business school.

  • Boldly forging a path of self-determination, he bucked traditional trends in attaining an Ivy League education by bypassing the conventional application process. Armed with the knowledge gained from this unique journey, he carved out a distinctive approach to entrepreneurship.

  • Currently, Bakari is on a mission to explore the world. This journey is a deliberate quest for a fresh perspective, marking a new chapter in his experiences and ventures.



Introduction

Bakari's Graves Hall Capital recently closed two major deals: acquiring NYPCorp, a burlap bag manufacturer, in collaboration with a private equity firm and purchasing an educational technology company in a separate deal with a family office. Yet, these accomplishments only scratch the surface of his journey in the world of private equity.


When Bakari faced financial constraints leading to his departure from Morehouse College, he was convinced that alternative paths could lead to a successful career. He turned to self-education and invested time in reading numerous finance books. He sought to comprehend wealth-building, his primary strategy, and an avenue he believed to be his sole option.

"I came across the idea of buying a company and thought of it as outlandish and ridiculously audacious. If I was going to pursue it, I needed to connect with people who were teaching, knew, and practiced the subject." Bakari

Unconventional Access to Business Education Degree

Encountering Tim Bogard, the founder of Search Fund Accelerator, via YouTube, Bakari soon discovered that he was teaching a course at Columbia Business School, located within walking distance from his residence. Unfazed by his non-student status, he seized the opportunity, boldly attending the class for free, transcending the barriers of school membership.


The course taught him the intricacies of deal structuring, financing and the confidence to navigate the complex world of acquisitions. He viewed it as a mission essential for elevating his earning potential and lifestyle. Preparing to commence his career, Bakari sought inspiration from stories of individuals who charted their paths using entrepreneurship through acquisition.

"Few books talk about individuals entrepreneurially. The most popular and well-known, such as Cash McCall and Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun, were published decades before." Bakari

Even with a decent amount of information from Columbia, Bakari had an insatiable hunger for success. He thought there might be a crucial piece missing in his understanding of the process. Driven by this quest, he embarked on a cross-country journey, attending David Dayson's course at Stanford Business School.


Bakari delved into the pursuit of acquiring a company by engaging with business brokers and investment bankers. Concurrently, he sought to enhance his acquisition skills, scheduling office hours with a professor at Harvard Business School. Armed with newfound business acumen, he fearlessly leveraged Harvard's i-lab premises as a strategic setting for meetings with potential clients.

"You can only get into the i-lab at Harvard if you have an ID. I just followed somebody in as if I was a student there waiting for a person. We ultimately ended up meeting." Bakari

Understanding Your Position as an Entrepreneur

Starting his entrepreneurial journey, Bakari gleaned invaluable lessons. Reflecting on his previous experiences, Bakari recognized that he had absorbed all necessary information much earlier. A prestigious education or a specific age did not determine the success of entrepreneurship. Also, the ETA curriculum is not proprietary—it's in the books and accessible to anyone willing to learn.


In business deals, every individual is unique. Deals are influenced by distinct dynamics that require tailored approaches. Case studies can offer valuable insights on what to avoid or pursue. However, the ultimate solution is to identify a specific deal and launch a fundraising.

"You don't have to wait until you're in your 30s or when you have an MBA or other pedigree that people feel are prerequisites." Bakari

What Do Investors Want?

Bakari shattered preconceptions about investors' requirements. Initially, he believed he needed to present a convincing image to business owners, utilizing every available resource to prove his legitimacy. This mindset led to an approach where he tried excessively hard during meetings with potential business partners.


"I would come down the big winding stairs from the Yale Club in a nice suit, and I'd shake their hand. After all of the pageantry they only cared about, 'Am I going to give them a good value for their business'?" Bakari

He learned that the main focus for entrepreneurs should be ethics, trust, and honesty. These principles serve as currencies in the realms of private equity, entrepreneurship, and search funds. Investors are primarily interested in whether you can organize a transaction that aligns with the desired value for their business.


New Experience: Evidence that Leaders in Every Industry Must Face Challenges

Now, Bakari is on an exciting journey visiting different places in the world. He is set to explore 12 countries in 12 months with Remote Year—a company streamlining logistics for remote workers. From to South Africa, Greece, Spain, and Turkey, he now ventures into India, offering an exploration of diverse cultures beyond the superficial.

"Landing in Africa was magical, to know of my roots and where we came from as black people in America. In Athens, I stood on a rock that Paul stood on and gave a known speech in Acts. I'm in Istanbul, Israel's down the street, and it creates a unique feeling." Bakari

Contrary to common belief, global travel isn't just a vacation; it requires meticulous organization and priority setting, to make good use of every opportunity in a new country. NomadNoir, his online show, employs a unique approach to content creation, offering a deep dive into understanding each country.

Navigating the realm of an influencer and content creator for the first time, he grapples with the challenges of captivating an audience while also building a presence. Balancing ethical storytelling with engaging content poses a unique challenge. He strives to maintain the audience's interest while providing ethical and enjoyable content.


The Impact of AI in Business

"I avoided ChatGPT. Slowly, I've been starting to take statements to it and say, 'Hey, what do you think about this?'. It helps you discover your blind spots." Bakari

ChatGPT's self-evaluation capability proves to be invaluable in communication and efficiency in the business world. As the AI landscape continues to evolve, Bakari foresees opportunities to integrate it into his pursuits. Clear messaging ensures thoughts are communicated as intended.


Conclusions

While relishing his global adventures, Bakari Akil concurrently imparts his knowledge to MBA candidates at Cornell's business school and beyond. At 34, he believes he is at the optimal age for exploration. Recognizing his prime years, he finds fulfillment in being impactful but envisions more potential for contribution.

"I am at a great age to be traveling the world. Nobody's going to say, 'Oh my God! Look at this old man finally getting on a plane." Bakari

Bakari's message for entrepreneurs worldwide is clear. They should start early, seek knowledge relentlessly, focus on value creation, and not be bound by traditional norms. His story is proof that limitless possibilities unfold when one combines passion, knowledge, and commitment to personal and professional growth.

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