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Search Fund Entrepreneurs


Portrait of Zach Krumholz (L) and Rafaell Caldas (R) of Long Horizon Partners



Key Highlights

  1. Zach Krumholz and Rafa Caldas are bringing their childhood dreams of owning and running a business to life. Co-Founders of Long Horizon Partners and kindred spirits within a dedicated business partnership, they draw from their extensive experience in investment banking, consulting, and engineering to expertly navigate the search, acquisition, and leadership aspects of entrepreneurship through acquisition.

  2. Their long-term commitment to a firm’s growth distinguishes Long Horizon Partners from traditional equity firms. Unlike most, Zach and Rafa don’t merely wish to acquire and own a company—they’re invested in the future of the business and aim for market leadership. Having grown up in family enterprises, they’ve been intimate with the fulfillment of nurturing one and plan to grow a business they can be proud of.

  3. Leadership is more than just a title for this duo—it's a legacy they're working to shape. Rooted in empathy and inclusivity, they plan on creating a culture where innovation thrives, voices are heard, and every individual's brilliance is celebrated. A culture where personal growth intertwines with company success, paving the way for a brighter future.

Introduction

Zach Krumholz and Rafa Caldas proudly carry forward their family's entrepreneurial legacy as they embark on a journey driven by search funds. Co-founders of Long Horizon Partners and business ownership enthusiasts, Zach and Rafa’s partnership leverages their expertise in consulting and engineering to acquire and steer a firm toward lasting success.


Growing up in Southern Florida as the second youngest of six, Zach dreamed of starting and running his own organization. He went on to study economics at Yale University and ventured into investment banking at the reputed Goldman Sachs, where he learned the nuts and bolts of finance and investment and honed his financial acumen. After further enriching his skills at Crestview Partners, a New York private equity firm, and being inspired by his family’s entrepreneurial paths, he set out to earn an MBA at the Columbia Business School.

“My grandfather immigrated to the United States and started a multifamily real estate business. My father is a doctor who started a private practice, and my older brothers both worked in finance before starting their business, Delight Restaurant Group. And so I thought getting an MBA and going to business school would be a great path to that.”

Meanwhile, Rafa's upbringing in Rio, Brazil, amidst a family of five, kindled his passion for engineering. After studying mechanical engineering at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, he established a successful career in business development at Boeing and later became a petroleum engineer at Shell plc, where he focused on complex engineering calculations and procedures for large offshore oil fields. Eager to fuse the technical and commercial worlds, Rafa transitioned into management consulting at Bain & Company before seeking new frontiers through an MBA at the Columbia School of Business.

“I came from a large family—I'm one of five. And I had a lot of examples of entrepreneurs in my family. My brother started a real estate brokerage firm. My godfather started a restaurant.”

Kindred Spirits

Zach and Rafa’s serendipitous pairing occurred within Columbia’s esteemed halls. They were placed in the same learning team, which is a close-knit group of five students who work on all core assignments together throughout their degree. As they spent the next few months working together, they discovered an alignment of interests, interests, values, levels of diligence, and a shared pursuit of excellence and ambitious career goals. There was great potential in a business partnership. In their time together, the duo has experienced fulfilment in the trinity of work, academia, and friendship.


Rafa strongly believes their diverse cultural perspectives, woven from their Brazilian and American backgrounds, offer a global advantage. Having moved from Brazil to the U.S., he notes that, unlike in Brazil, American partnerships don’t need to stem from friendships, and such global insights could make the pair more affable and inclusive leaders to people from various backgrounds. Moreover, Rafa envisions the power of their international mindsets as potent contributors to their future firm's bottom line, propelling them to venture into untapped markets and harness a multinational workforce. Even as an individual native to the U.S., Zach has noticed a world of difference between the suburban Palm Beach County in South Florida and the bustling New York City, and he appreciates both ways of living.

“That's what fits well into this traditional search fund model: Rafa and I are both completely ready to move anywhere in the United States or North America to find this great business we can grow and run. That’s what we're really excited about.”

Another unique factor contributing to Zach and Rafa’s partnership was their childhoods spent under small enterprises, which not only brought them together—but also brought them into search funds.


Taking the Search Fund Route

Growing up, Zach and Rafa noticed how small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) perennially contributed to the economy and significantly impacted the community around them. Keen on continuing SMEs’ influence, they’re not stopping at successful execution; they’re striving for excellence by actively wearing multiple hats to build a thriving, impactful organization they can be proud of. To them, it feels like a perfect career fit with the best use of their time and skills. To them, this makes search funds the fastest and most efficient path to achieving the dream of running a company. Looking ahead, they’re thrilled at the opportunity to lead a team, take the company culture to new heights, empower employees, and build lasting customer relationships.


What differentiates Long Horizon Partners from traditional private equity firms is Zach and Rafa’s long-term dedication to the acquired establishment and a decades-long commitment to its growth, which includes relocation to the SME’s region. Unlike most private equity firms, which sell their portfolio companies after five to seven years, Zach and Rafa would love to stay with their entity and build it for decades to become a market leader. They are wholeheartedly committed to manifesting their lifelong dreams.


Insights from an extensive survey conducted by Harvard Business Review, encompassing 87 companies, also highlight co-CEOs' prowess in generating higher average annual shareholder returns. Beyond financial gains, collaborative leadership also ushers diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and skill sets, enriching the company's culture and driving innovative thinking (Feigen et al., 2022). Zach and Rafa's partnership uniquely positions them to capitalize on these proven advantages, amplifying the potential for a successful firm through collaboration.


The Search for a Perfect Business

Having secured the funds to find a business, Zach and Rafa are now in the most pivotal stage of their journey: the search itself. Zach and Rafa are searching for a business within a growing industry with high barriers to entry and a degree of fragmentation to pursue inorganic growth opportunities post-acquisition. They’re specifically looking for a resilient organization that can survive challenging economic circumstances. Within this industry, they seek to align with a stable establishment with recurring revenue, efficient cost management, and a strong track record of generating profits and free cash flow. The ideal company would have a favourable return on invested capital, indicating its ability to provide a good return. It would also have a strong management team and technology and processes with a competitive advantage.


Throughout the transition phase, the duo is set on embodying a sense of responsibility and preserving the efficient components of the firm. To balance innovation and cultural consistency, they’re ready to collaborate with the existing business owner and encourage them to stay present until the pair can comfortably manage the entity as co-CEOs. They’re also flexible in the partnership structure and are open to the current owner’s continued involvement if preferred—what Zach and Rafa care about most is how they can genuinely benefit the business through their leadership.

“What matters to us is finding a company that we're extremely passionate about and believe we can drive substantial long-term growth. It matters to us that we're set up for success.”

Using Past Experience for Future Operation

Zach and Rafa’s entrepreneurship experience will be valuable when the time comes to operate their acquired company. Rafa’s illustrious career, spanning design engineering and strategic consulting at White Martins in Brazil and Shell and Bain & Company, has granted him some vital transferable skills. His time designing cryogenic equipment at White Martins instilled in him a deep appreciation of the intricacies of implementation and the amount of skill and effort that goes into implementing an idea. Understanding the process allowed him to consider the execution of a design realistically. As a Reservoir Engineer at Shell, Rafa built upon that skill when he learned to keep pragmatism and simplicity at the back of his mind to run an operation seamlessly. He also practiced transparency, proactiveness, and communicativeness and relentlessly focused on simplicity.


As a strategy consultant at Bain & Company, Rafa worked closely with CEOs and guided them through complex critical decisions. One vivid memory was assisting a CEO with integrating a larger company with a smaller one, involving the adoption of sales processes and cultural aspects. Would they adopt the agility of the smaller company or the structured approach of the established one? Would the globally situated sales team be relocated to the headquarters? Rafa assisted the CEO with these questions. They considered each option's pros and cons and considered the company’s long-term goals and how they fit with each decision. They also laid out the key drivers of their strategy, navigated the firm's politics and its people's interests, and ultimately, Rafa increased his client’s confidence in their decided outcome. Rafa aims to equip his leadership toolbox with these management and decision-making skills to lead with precision and poise as a future CEO.


Zach’s professional experience as an investment banking associate at Goldman Sachs will also be critical in the acquisition process. As a CEO, he plans on using distinct childhood experiences to practice leadership and grow their business. The second youngest of six siblings, Zach had plenty of role model figures to look up to and be inspired by, and he brought his siblings’ role model examples into his role as captain of the varsity tennis team at Yale. The role meant a lot to him, as it was bestowed on him by his teammates and ensured his team’s confidence in his leadership. On the company growth side, Zach is confident his skillset will be beneficial for inorganic growth through acquisition. During his tenure at Goldman Sachs and Crestview, he immersed himself in financial analysis and investing, which he hopes will assist him in finding compelling acquisition opportunities that the duo can tactically bring into their acquired company to grow and create significant value for shareholders.


Leadership Goals

Creating a new culture within an established organization is an intricate task. It takes intuition and experience to decide which cultural aspects of an entity to keep and which to modify without changing its essence. Zach and Rafa recognize this challenge and are prepared to address it. With a grounded approach, they intend to assimilate with the existing company culture by acknowledging it, adapting to it, and gradually infusing their contributions through demonstrative management.


Zach and Rafa were lucky to assimilate the finest elements from the cultures of world-class organizations where they previously worked, laying a solid foundation for their search fund venture. Rafa underscores four pivotal leadership traits essential for shaping a thriving company culture. First, employees should be able to speak their minds without fear of hierarchy-related repercussions. Second, their contributions should be valued without concerns of job security or well-being within a meritocratic culture that rewards good performance and celebrates success. Third, a culture that promotes learning and development is crucial, as employees have an opportunity to learn and are empowered to take on increasingly meaningful challenges, allowing both personal and professional growth. Finally, the duo highly prioritizes gratification and enjoyment.

“Nobody wants to wake up every morning and go to work if it's not fun or if they don't feel like they're fulfilling a bigger mission. So, we believe that work needs to be fun, and we want to make the work culture fun. We want to promote that.”

The compassionate and inclusive leadership demonstrated by Sanofi, a global healthcare and pharmaceutical company, epitomizes the values that Zach and Rafa aspire to embody, particularly during a challenging time like the Covid-19 pandemic (Harvard Business Review, 2021). During the strict lockdown phase in Vietnam, where the multinational company has headquarters, citizens were forbidden to leave their homes for any purpose. To manage this regulation, 300-400 dedicated employees selflessly volunteered to stay at the manufacturing site, sleeping in tents to ensure the continuous production of essential medicines for patients throughout the pandemic. The head of the site went above and beyond to support the employees' well-being, installing Wi-Fi routers to keep them connected with their families and arranging for hair-cutting services during their six-week stay. They recognized the employees as people and rewarded the ones who stepped up to help. Creating an environment for innovation and diversity of open expression is the kind that Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson states is the future of leadership.


As forward-thinking influencers, Zach and Rafa look forward to inspiring others to reach new heights. For Rafa, the true excitement of leadership lies in watching the time and effort invested in his team members bear fruit as they exceed their potential and break barriers. He has loved seeing former team members gain autonomy, take on bigger challenges, and develop more impressive ideas than his own.

“I feel extremely proud, and it's a sense of purpose that you're helping people grow into leaders as well. And that's what's most exciting to me about being one.”

Zach wholeheartedly agrees with Rafa’s sentiment and adds that he can’t wait to spend the next few decades doing the same with their company, investing time, energy, and passion into it and watching it dominate the market. He hopes to build a culture they’re proud of, create an amazing team, grow tremendously, and look back at their success with well-earned pride.


Zach and Rafa are eager to get in touch with business owners looking to retire or for a succession plan or can refer one and encourage them to leave their email addresses at longhorizonpartners.com.


Conclusion

Growing up, Zach Krumholz and Rafa Caldas were inspired by their entrepreneurial families and dreamed of owning a business. It was no surprise that they decided to join forces at Columbia Business School to pursue search funds as Co-Founders of Long Horizon Partners, combining their investment banking and engineering backgrounds to set the stage for a collaborative search, acquisition, and management journey. Fueled by a passion for leadership and united by shared values, they search for a firm with recurring revenue, cost efficiency, and a history of profitability.


Rooted in a genuine passion for entrepreneurship and equipped with exceptional leadership tools, Zach and Rafa promise a decades-long commitment to nurturing their SME for the long haul. With a blend of Brazilian and American backgrounds, Zach and Rafa’s influential leadership complements their partnership as two passionate entrepreneurs who dare to fulfill their childhood dreams. The future is bright for these two trailblazers as they pave the way for a new era of business ownership—and it wouldn’t be possible for either partner without the other.


References

Feigen, M. A., Jenkins, M., & Warendh, A. (2022, June 21). Is It Time to Consider Co-Ceos? Harvard Business

Kelly, P., & Heston, S. (2022). 2022 Search Fund Study: Selected Observations. Stanford Graduate School of

Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson on Company Culture in a Distributed Office. Harvard Business Review. (2021,

 

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