Tuesday, June 25, 2024
Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Interview of Monika Wincel, Founder of Cedo Capital, first women searcher in Poland

Poland is one of the faster-growing economies in Europe, currently is the world's 22nd  largest economy and the EU's 5th most populous nation.

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Before entering in details about your Search Fund, I would like to take this opportunity for you to explain a little about the economic situation of Poland and why it is an interesting market for a searcher?

Poland is one of the faster-growing economies in Europe, currently is the world’s 22nd  largest economy and the EU’s 5th most populous nation. The country has a track record of over two decades of stable GDP growth, expanding seven-fold since 1990 and an impressive 4.1% per year since joining the EU in 2004. Resilient during crises, Poland was the only EU country with GDP growth during the 2009 financial crisis. The country also recovered swiftly from the COVID-19 pandemic, outpacing EU averages. It boasts a skilled, cost-effective workforce with a nearly 60% labor cost advantage vs. the rest of EU. Poland has attracted over USD 269 billion in FDI, ranking 16th globally and a leader in Central Eastern Europe (CEE). M&A market is dynamic with 366 transactions in 2023 – 4th consecutive record-breaking year. The country is also searcher friendly with an ecosystem of 64 thousand SMEs (excluding micro companies), over 62% of the economy concentrated on the service sector, and only 2% of EU focused PE investments going into the country. Additionally, around 60% of private polish companies will undergo succession in the next ten years, representing the largest intergenerational shift of ownership and wealth among the closely held and family-owned businesses since the market liberalization in 1989.

If I’m right, Nextline was the first SF in Poland in 2018, and acquired Motion VFX two years later. How is the current situation of the SF market?

It is correct. Nextline was the first SF established in Poland. Since then, the market has been tested. There has been 7 SFs to date. 5 of them have already acquired a company: Nextline (Motion VFX), NCA Val Pilch (ForMeds), Stability (Velis Real Estate Tech), NCA Fryderyk Rdultowski (Adex Cosmetics & Pharma) and recently KCP (Szwajcarka). One is still searching. To date we’ve had only one search fund close without acquisition. This track record demonstrates the viability of the SF model in the Polish market. Currently, in addition to Cedo Capital, there are 2 other searchers who have just commenced search and a couple of others at a fundraising stage.

Thank you for these insights. Your profile embodies the qualities that investors often seek in a prospective Searcher: MBA from a prestigious institution, hands-on experience in Consulting & Private Equity at renowned firms, as well as a track record of entrepreneurial leadership within the SME sector. Could you please introduce yourself and elaborate on what motivated you to establish Cedo Capital?

Happy to. As you mentioned, with 20 years of professional experience, I come with more “under my belt” than an average searcher. My career began with 8 years in SME leadership roles, primarily in events management, professional training, and hospitality sectors. During this time, I also ventured into entrepreneurship by founding an eCommerce business that imported high-end tea from China.

I was fortunate to join BCG, where I spent 8 years in several international offices, focusing on large-scale transformation projects across various sectors. During COVID, I joined KKR’s value creation team (KKR Capstone), overseeing portfolio companies in Australia. This role allowed me to delve deeper into operations, gaining hands-on experience in due diligence and leading critical change initiatives.

My journey spans over two decades, but what’s most important is what my CV does not show. I became quite resilient by overcoming numerous challenges in the background. I started working full-time at 19 to support myself through university, completing my bachelor’s degree by studying on weekends and working during the week. At 23, after saving up a bit, I moved from Poland to Australia seeking international experience and education. Despite my experience managing large teams in Poland, I had to take on waitressing jobs due to lack of Australian experience and my limited English skills. This fun yet humbling experience felt like starting from scratch, with the added pressure of very few pennies in my pocket.

The theme of “starting all over again” has been a constant in my life: when I joined BCG at 28, took a stint in the non-profit sector with the World Food Program, relocated to 5 different countries, began in private equity at 36, and now, as I switch from a lucrative position in private equity to entrepreneurship. I’ve always been hungry for a challenge. My early experience with SMEs instilled a strong affinity for smaller businesses. I first learned about search funds at INSEAD in 2016, which was a lightbulb moment for me. However, it took several more years to feel that I had the maturity and experience to become a successful CEO.

From what I’ve gathered, you’ve achieved a record-breaking fundraising close. Could you please share your experience and provide details about the investors who have joined you on this journey?

The response I received definitely exceeded my expectations. I began drafting my PPM and investor materials in January and kicked off investor meetings in February. I planned for a 3-6 month fundraising phase but reached 100% commitments in just a fortnight. Following the MIT Conference in mid-February, I also managed to add a couple of additional high-quality investors from different geographies. Having a diverse investor base with a long track record, including successful exits, was very important to me. When I finished the process at the end of February, the fund was significantly oversubscribed. I am very pleased with the cap table I assembled – every one of the 17 investors is a clear value add.

Special thanks to Ambit Partners, Istria Capital, Cerralvo Capital, Innesto Partners, Gernot Eisinger, Thomas Buhler, Evolutiq, León Bartolomé Velilla, TTCER Partners, Robert Coombe, Search Fund Pioneers, Pawel Malon, Konrad Winiarczyk and many more who are supporting me and the Cedo Capital project.

Ready to embark on the research phase? What’s your ideal target?

I could not be more excited to get going. Cedo Capital will conduct an industry-agnostic, opportunistic, nationwide search in Poland. The ideal target will be a well-established, successful company operating in a growing sector. It will have an annual EBITDA between €1M and €5M, high margins, recurring revenues and a history of growth. .

My initial time allocation will be 70% dedicated to a proprietary outreach, and the remaining 30% focused on opportunistic lead sourcing with M&A advisors and broader advisor community in Poland.

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