In this special episode of The Distribution by Juniper Square, Managing Director Brandon Sedloff sat down with our CEO and Co-founder Alex Robinson. The two of them took a look back at the history of Juniper Square, Alex’s vision for the digitization of the private markets, and his best career advice for young entrepreneurs.
Here is a portion of that interview edited for clarity. Watch an on-demand recording of the entire back-and-forth here.
Brandon Sedloff: Today, Juniper Square serves the entirety of the alternatives space—private equity, venture capital, and commercial real estate—but the business started in real estate. Why did you choose to start with real estate?
Alex Robinson: If you're just three people getting started around a kitchen table, it's great to have grand ambitions of what you'd like to do one day, but you're limited by what three people could do in a day. You want to reduce the scope of the problem you're solving as much as possible, to get the narrowest set of customers with the narrowest set of problems so you can make meaningful progress. So why real estate?
Of all the private equity asset classes, it’s arguably the most information intensive. The load on information exchange between GPs and LPs is higher. And traditionally, real estate has been a slow adopter of new technology compared to hedge funds which were very rapid early adopters of technology. That meant we could come in and quickly have a much better solution for them than the status quo.
Brandon Sedloff: We've coined this term, Modern Administration, to describe the combination of the traditional service model with an overlay of technology to drive efficiency. Where is there an additional opportunity for disruption or change to the fund administration space?
Alex Robinson: We have a very healthy amount of respect for not breaking anything. We're operating at a significant scale—in any given month, there are tens of billions of dollars being raised via our digital subscription tools, being accounted for across ledgers, or moving into LP banking accounts. There's a tension between getting it right and the desire to innovate, move quickly, and disrupt.
But outside of Juniper Square, so much of the work today is happening in silos. One human takes the data out of this sheet and copies it over to this sheet. Another human comes in to check the work. And then, a third human sums the columns of that sheet with their spreadsheet to ensure their calculations are the same. All the work is happening in a black box. The CFO has no idea what's happening—they have no idea where their data is.
So many of our clients were so frustrated with the status quo because they didn't have access to their data. We just believe that, if applied appropriately, Modern Administration can create a revolutionary experience for the customer.
Brandon Sedloff: How do you see the world today through the lens of a venture-backed technology company?
Alex Robinson: There are two ways to answer that question. One is that, as a venture-backed company, how do we think about the fundraising environment for ourselves? We need to make sure that, as a company, we raise all the money that we think we'll ever need to control our destiny, even if that means we have to raise it at lower prices than we would optimally like to. We were quick to take that medicine and raised another $130+ million last year just to say that, regardless of what the financial future holds, our company is well capitalized for any scenario.
I think the well-run businesses are approaching it the same way. There are probably some entrepreneurs out there that are just rolling the dice, hoping that something's gonna change a quarter from now, two quarters from now, the market's gonna come back. I hope that they're right, but it's hard to run a business that way.
And then the other is we support tens of thousands of private equity funds. So what are we seeing regarding fund flows and new fund formation in private equity? I look at the rate of digital subscriptions on Juniper Square, and I can tell you that the first half of this year is off to an extremely slow start. We're just seeing this drop-off in new fund formation.
So venture-backed companies are sitting on the sidelines with their old valuation, which is, let's say 80% higher than the public market's equivalent. And that trade's not happening. So the market is seized up and until that bid spreads narrow, we're not gonna see the flows into these asset classes because everybody's sort of waiting.
Want to get the full conversation? Watch it on-demand now.