Baltimore tech and operations advisory firm Think is bringing former Legg Mason execs to its team and seeking a national foothold with a new acquisition.
Think is acquiring Naples, Florida-based Ventrue, which offers services to private equity and venture capital firms to assess companies prior to an investment, and strategize around tech and operations needed to help a company change and grow after a deal.
With the acquisition, Think is also forming a partnership with Naples Technology Ventures (NTV), a product-focused venture capital firm cofounded by Ventrue founder Mike Abbaei. With this, Think will now provide tech and operations services to portfolio companies of NTV.
Through the cash and equity deal (further terms were not disclosed), Abbaei and NTV cofounder Brij Sharma will become investors in Think. Also stepping into a leadership role on this front is Jeff Musgrove, who is joining as managing director to lead both the existing executive advisory business, as well as develop new business in VC and PE. He will also join as an investor in the next 24 months.
Abbaei and Musgrove have a history of working together. They were executives for 19 years at Legg Mason, the investment management firm that was long headquartered in Baltimore until a recent acquisition. Abbaei served as the company’s EVP and chief information and operation officer, as well as leading its tech services division, and both had a role in a significant M&A deal with Citigroup in 2005. After leaving Legg Mason, they went on to found Finix Business Strategies, which sold after less than two years in 2011, and held senior roles at acquiring IT service company DST Systems and services company Broadridge Financial Solutions.
"I think that in order to have a national presence, Think needs to be known for what it's good at, and this is a good way to focus it."
Currently with 75 employees, Think has a base for employees to meet downtown at coworking space Spark Baltimore, as well as in Rosedale. There was also a previous presence in Florida that will now expand. Its website lists clients in a range of industries from edtech to financial services.
Think has looked to grow organically by offering services that help midsize businesses in tech and operations. Over the last two and a half years, president Tony Gruebl has looked to add folks with experience in roles like CIO, CTO, CISO and COOs that can work alongside clients.
This represents another step of that effort, via acquisition. Think is also taking a specific focus on working with venture capital and private equity firms, and, by extension, the companies in their orbit that may be in need of expertise as they implement new operational approaches or technology to help scale after getting an investment.
The idea is that these midsize tech companies don’t have to get up to speed on their own on implementing something like a Salesforce transformation or agile methodologies. Gruebl said the thinking goes, “Why would they want to take the risk of doing it themselves when they can hire one that’s doing it for many, many companies?”
Abbaei and Sharma will advise the company and make introductions to companies backed by VC and PE firms, serving as trusted sources that can help expand the business.
“They become folks that recognize the quality, recognize how to apply it and when they trust it, they’ll recommend it,” Gruebl said.
Through this pipeline, Gruebl said Think aims to make this offering “sticky,” serving as a launching point for a national presence on this front. Think has been strategizing around this expansion over several months, and Gruebl said the acquisition deal is the “capstone.” A similar strategy was also budding at Ventrue, so with Think’s traction among the middle market, it made sense to team up. Gruebl said the firm may be interested in adding other partners in this area, as well.
“I think that in order to have a national presence, Think needs to be known for what it’s good at, and this is a good way to focus it,” Gruebl said.-30-