Paul Lipson - Fort Point Capital

If I were on a management team sizing up a PE firm, I would want to know things like: How did we act when the business suffered a loss or missed its budget? What did we do when faced with a serious customer issue? Were we additive and did we help solve the problem, or did we just heap more pressure on their backs? Did we generate new ideas and new thinking? What kind of resources were we able to bring to bear, or were we just sitting there asking questions?

< Back to list

Paul Lipson

Partner

Paul Lipson is one of the co-founders of Fort Point Capital. As Partner, he is responsible for all aspects of the firm’s activities, with an emphasis on sourcing and investment origination activities.

Prior to founding Fort Point Capital in 2010, Paul was with Fidelity Equity Partners, a $500 million growth buyout fund, where he was responsible for the firm’s business development activities in North America.

Before Fidelity, Paul was with Great Hill Partners, a Boston-based private equity fund focused on the middle market, where he was responsible for investments in the business services and media sectors. Previously, he held business and corporate development positions at a number of media and for-profit education companies. In these positions he was involved in multiple acquisitions, successful capital raising efforts and a management buyout.

Paul received a B.A. in international relations from Colgate University and an MBA. from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business. He lives in Brookline with his wife and children, and often tries to coax them into weekends spent fishing or skiing.

How did you become interested in private equity? What drew you to it?

My career in private equity started on the operations side, which is a bit less common. I was working in an operating role for a Great Hill Partners' portfolio company, and I was actually recruited to join that firm as an investment professional.

As an operator, I always had this enormous respect for the challenge of running a business, but I was also intrigued by the possibility of this new private equity role—one that would allow me to be involved with the operations of a business while functioning as an investment professional with broader aims.

What makes Fort Point Capital a unique private equity firm?

For starters, we operate more like larger firms. We're institutional in both style and nature. We're thoughtful in every stage of the process. And we're 100% committed to the lower end of the market. In fact, Brooke and I both came from firms that got started in the lower middle market.

Second, we're management led. It's just our nature; it's in our DNA. We're supportive investors looking to partner with management teams to enable and accelerate their plans for growth and success.

I guess a third thing is that we don't just look for great investment opportunities; we look for great people just as much. Nowadays, everyone spends just so much time at work. It's crazy to be at odds or loggerheads with the people you work with. So finding great people, people we truly want to work with and help—people we actually like working with and being around, just in general—that's proven critical to our success.

What do you look for in a management team you're thinking of investing in?

We look for the same things that I think we'd hope the management team would be looking for in us. Honesty, for one. Passion, for both success and performance, that's essential. Natural leaders. People who combine raw intelligence with the willingness to work incredibly hard.

Depending on the role, we might also be looking for someone with exceptional analytical skills. We tend to look for that in the senior management team—a mix of skills, and if there are shortcomings, we look to augment the team. That can mean adding some new folks to the team or establishing an outside board of directors.

Ultimately, we're looking for all those things in people (or a team) whom we believe to be genuinely good folks. People of character. People we can work side by side with and for.

How should management teams evaluate Fort Point Capital or interested private equity firms more broadly?

When we meet with management teams, we tell them about ourselves. We'll go through and tell them our whole story. We want them to know who we are, what kind of people we are, how we do things. But at the end, we very clearly tell them not to take our word for it. Talk to the people we've invested with in the past. Talk to the CEOs of those companies; ask them how we were as a partner—of course, not just in the good times, but during the tough times too.

If I were on a management team sizing up a PE firm, I would want to know things like: How did we act when the business suffered a loss or missed its budget? What did we do when faced with a serious customer issue? Were we additive and did we help solve the problem, or did we just heap more pressure on their backs? Did we generate new ideas and new thinking? What kind of resources were we able to bring to bear, or were we just sitting there asking questions?

We try to really say, "Hey, these are the kinds of things you really should consider as a management team." Lots of people have money they can give you. But what else do they offer? You want someone who's got the resources, the ideas and a hands-on, roll-up-the-sleeves inclination. That's who'll create the greatest benefits for you in service of the plan you're executing.

What are your goals for Fort Point Capital?

Our ultimate goal is to continue on our path to becoming the best possible financial partner for growing, service-oriented companies in the lower middle market. We're entrepreneurs. Just like our management teams. We believe in the growth of our investments and of our own fund.

Growth also means growing great investors from within our team. People who can create and grow durable partnerships with management teams and create real value for our investors—all while staying committed to, and investing in, small businesses. That's where our networks, our relationships and our success lie.

If you weren't in private equity, what would you be doing?

Probably still operations. Running a business somewhere, ideally a very successful one. (Laughs.) That's where I came from, and I've always really enjoyed doing all the things that need to be done in order to grow a business. Be it from where we're positioned or from the inside out (which I frankly think is a tougher job, probably), I love it all .

And when you’re not working...

Outside the office, I'm all family, family, family. We have a pretty young family; my oldest is just 5. And being outdoors with them ... whether it's really warm or bitter cold, I don't mind either way. We'll either be up north skiing, or fishing somewhere around the Cape. Just getting everyone out there together and spending the day. For me, that's about as good as it gets.