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How Harvest Management Partners Got Its Start

Harvest Management Partners is a boutique investment bank and advisory services company that specializes in helping technology companies harness their value and distribute it to their shareholders. Harvest Management Partners' main focus is on software, security/cybersecurity, semiconductor (SIP / AI / Photonics), EDA, PLM, AR/VR, automotive technology and services. Co-Founded in 2010 by Kyle Park and Alain Labat, Harvest specializes mainly in sell-side lower to middle market transactions. 

How did both of you meet for the first time? Where were you working in the years leading up to starting Harvest Management Partners? What inspired the idea of creating a boutique technology investment bank?


Kyle: We met a long time ago at a startup company with around 200 employees called Synopsys. We established a really good relationship and friendship there. It was my second job out of college at Cal Poly State University, where I completed my undergrad.


Alain: Kyle was in the finance and accounting group and I was the VP of International Sales at that time. Kyle: It wasn’t until later on that we really connected and worked together. We both left Synopsys and did other things. Alain was working for Menlo Ventures and helping their portfolio companies. I left and went to a competitor of Synopsys called Simplicity. Afterwards, I went to another company (NIKU) in the dot com timeframe and helped them go public, while continuing to grow my finance skills. We ended up reconnecting at VaST Systems, which was the company before Harvest, where Alain had been brought by the VCs to become the CEO.


Alain: It was run by a brilliant professor from the University of New South Wales in Sydney. At the time I joined as CEO, our job was to redefine a business model and develop a GTM strategy around what was called a virtual system platform (VSP) and processor modeling technology. We grew the business consistently over 5+ years.


Kyle: We built the business from not very much to something substantial. At the end, we got an inbound offer to sell the company to another public company. During that time, we hired a banker to help us with the process. It turned out to be a bad experience for us. We did not receive much help from them. They gave us junior people to work with. They didn't really care – we were too small.


Alain: Initially, they gave us a lot of attention. Before signing the contract, they flew the chairman from New York to meet with us. But once we signed a very expensive contract, we were left with a few junior people just out of school. So it was not a super rewarding process for us.


Kyle: Coincidentally, we ended up working with Synopsys again for a short period, but only on a contract basis as part of our transition out of VaST. During that time, we had some of our investors and those we had worked with in the past commenting things like, “Wow, you guys did a great job! Maybe you could help us on some of our projects.”


We started working on these projects without really thinking that we were ever going to start Harvest. But as we continued, we were fortunate enough to have made some money off the sale of VaST, so we had a bit of a cushion. That gave us the freedom to decide what we were going to do.


We just started talking about it. We said, maybe we should do this. Maybe we could create our own boutique investment bank that caters to the lower middle market tech companies. In other words, we would hire ourselves again and help others like us!

Kyle Park, Alain Labat

Kyle and Alain enjoying a client event in Oxford, England.

What is the story behind your company’s branding?


Alain: We both came from a farming background and know well that harvesting is something you do once a year. The analogy of harvesting is basically, it doesn't happen overnight right? You need to put in a lot of work. I think harvesting is a noble endeavor and in this context, it is basically helping entrepreneurs to harvest their hard work. It’s very analogous to what you do with the land. Sometimes you may even have to wait for years – if you are in the wine making industry, you understand!


Kyle: I grew up with parents who were both teachers. My dad was one of those people who always wanted to teach everyone. And I'd say his primary passion was organic farming. When I was in third grade, we moved from the town of San Luis Obispo to an acre of land outside of the city. We immediately started roto-tilling and bringing in topsoil, turning our backyard into a large organic vegetable garden with fruit trees and chickens. My dad and three others went on to become the founders of the San Luis Obispo Farmers Market. That was many many years ago. I continue to garden, so the subject of harvesting and planting is still in my DNA.


Alain: In my case, I grew up in a very small village, a farming community in Gascony, Southern France. So I view harvesting, in addition to education, as a way to be able to achieve higher levels of rewards and give back in life in general.


Kyle: We like the name Harvest because the essence of harvesting is that you build something up over a period of time. You've watered it; you've fertilized it. It's grown to a point where it's time to bring it to market. And that's basically what we're doing: we're helping folks who have gotten their crops, so to speak, right there. They’ve grown their companies to a point where it's time to harvest them and enjoy the fruits of their labors.


Kyle: Our logo with the wheat and chaff — it's kind of a play on that but with a more modern look. And this is the funny part: the swatch name for the shade of red that we have on our business cards and on the website is “Million Dollar Red.”  That’s what our clients expect and our passion is to deliver that!


Celebrating in England after closing a deal with a client.

What makes your company unique in the context of your backgrounds and experience relative to other investment banks in the tech space? How does each of your diverse backgrounds separate you from your competitors?


Alain: I think our different backgrounds have been very helpful because you bring different perspectives, different values, different ways of understanding, different angles. Obviously, this is an asset, because if you address the same issue with the same lenses, oftentimes you may miss something. In our case, we bring many years of operational experience in sales and marketing, and later on as CEOs and board members, so we know the challenges of our clients who are trying to grow revenue and develop a GTM strategy.


Kyle: In our early days, it was great to have Alain's background in sales and marketing, as well as being a CEO and an investor. It was a good complement to my finance background with deep experience in finance, tax, accounting, legal, operations, and human resources.  Alain grew up in France and I’m a California guy. Our diverse backgrounds were definitely an asset to the company.


Kyle: Our Rolodex, especially early on, was quite a bit more eclectic and different. Now, after 14 years, it's merged into being very similar.


Alain: Something that sets us apart is the fact that we have been deeply committed to our clients in a way that exceeds the efforts of other banks. Sometimes you hear that, whenever the project doesn't close, they move on quickly. By contrast, the transaction we closed recently with a Munich-based company was a 12 year endeavor in the making.


Alain: We never gave up, remaining in contact with that client the whole time. To me, that is a reflection of our DNA and our commitment to support our clients no matter what. It also speaks to the trust that we have been able to cultivate with our clients in general. We don't look at the world in terms of a couple of quarters or in a half year scheme. We focus on the long term.


Kyle: We really do a good job for our clients. We don’t just say, “this is not sellable. We're just going to give up and move on.” We have the passion and the drive to look under every rock.


Alain: Absolutely. Perhaps that’s because we're coming from a different angle. We're not the typical banker out of Wall Street. We’ve been entrepreneurs and small business owners ourselves. So I think we bring a different value proposition, different ethics and a different level of commitment to our clients. And if I were sitting on the other side of the table, that would make a huge difference to me.


Alain: We have a lot of good, strong analysts that we bring out of school, but we never bring them in as the primary contact.


Kyle: We do not delegate the project management to them. They help us, but we're still the ones running the show. That's the attention you get with us – you get both of us.


Alain and Kyle close their first deal with a client in Tokyo.

Do you have an interesting anecdote from your business transactions or travels that felt notable or rewarding that you'd like to share?


Kyle: The first deal we ever closed was one of those stories. It was the most complicated deal on the planet. Right, Alain? I don't think we've had one like that since then.


Alain: The bankers were in New York and Mumbai. The executive sponsor was in London. The acquiring company was in Pune, India. The client was in Tokyo. Obviously, we were in the Valley. I remember being sick on the plane on the way back from Mumbai to Frankfurt. [chuckles] So clearly there were a lot of challenges; the complexity was immense. But we did everything ourselves from A to Z with a client in Tokyo and 15 different very complex executives in the sponsorship.


Kyle: We felt that if we could get this deal done, we could do any deal. We went all over the world with it. Calls at all times. It was exciting because it was our first deal that we had done as bankers.

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Kyle at the Harvest Management Partners office in Campbell, CA.

How has the company evolved and who is your ideal client? Where do you see the industry heading in the next 5-10 years?

Kyle: When we started the company, we had experience of hiring bankers and working with bankers. But, we weren't bankers. As a result, we spent a lot of time trying to establish some credibility. It was 80% trying to find clients and 20% clients who came through contacts. Our main focus has been really in the semiconductor and semiconductor ecosystem. I think over time, it's definitely gotten to where we don't have to talk about all the deals we've done well, especially in that space. Now, it's more 80% of coming through either our network, lawyers or investors we know, or people we know in some way.

Alain: As far as our ideal client, we’ve been very successful with entrepreneurs who have not raised a lot of capital or are basically just starting from scratch. We can effectively help them because we can relate to them. Since we’ve grown, some of our newer clients have been more established US-based VCs and that's a slightly different profile. I think we have a good mix of both profiles – somehow more of our European clients are small investment and true startup companies. The US clients tend to have larger investments from local VCs.

Alain: The expansion of the semiconductor industry in general has been pretty phenomenal over the last several years. Due to AI/ML, the software tools that are needed to develop the next generation of semiconductors, we have seen a huge increase in market valuation and expansion of these businesses, especially companies like EDA Tools suppliers. So I think we’re in a very positive, forward-moving environment with a lot of wind behind the sales of those companies. That obviously provides the ability for us to bring new technology to those big public US or international companies. So we see that as a very market-driven environment which we’re able to successfully cater to.

Kyle: We're boutique, so I think it's really not going to be a matter of the macro environment. What I see is that the more deals we do, the more people we know, the more people who can refer to us, the more growth we’re going to see. I think we're in a good spot for this next big wave of M&A. I think it is going to be amazing!

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