The student entrepreneur who started Yale's first search fund.
“It’s hard to believe that five years ago I was sitting in a Yale SOM classroom and now I am a CEO of a company with 600 employees in the Dominican Republic. This was my dream career coming into the MBA, and it is now a reality,” expressed Kalil Diaz enthusiastically.
Diaz knew that he wanted to do something entrepreneurial in his native Dominican Republic after his MBA. After casually stumbling across the search fund concept, he found a perfect fit and he launched a search fund in his second year. A search fund is an investment vehicle used by aspiring entrepreneurs to source, acquire and operate a single business. The fund, Amergent Capital, looked at scores of businesses over two years before purchasing Contact Centers Dominicana, a specialized call center operation which handles 25,000 calls every month.
Diaz did not set out to be a call center entrepreneur and jokes that he “did not take any courses in call centers during his two years at Yale.” Rather, Diaz sought a business with very specific economic characteristics and was completely agnostic about what the business did. For example, contractual recurring revenues, high customer switching costs, high EBITDA margins, and low maintenance capital expenditures were all part of the acquisition screening criteria that led him to Contact Centers Dominicana (CCD).
“I could not be happier and having more fun. I am leveraging the skills I learned from Yale SOM’s integrated curriculum and am in the driver’s seat observing the impact of my decisions as an entrepreneur. It is amazing! The great part of the search fund model is that you de-risk the project by buying an existing business as a platform to launch your venture. CCD had approximately $4 million USD in revenue when I bought the business and a history of profitability and growth,” claimed Diaz. The search fund model allows young, first time CEOs to increase the probability of success by focusing on acquiring a business with very specific economic criteria and being surrounded by experienced investors to provide coaching and mentorship. Originally conceived in the United States, search funds are gaining popularity in the international arena too. Diaz started Yale’s first search fund.
Since purchasing CCD, Diaz has created approximately 400 jobs in the Dominican Republic, a fact that thrills him. “We are making a real impact here. These are jobs that are a gateway to a middle-class life, and 70% of our call center agents earn more than their parents. We are growing rapidly, with hundreds of more jobs on the way, and it makes me so proud to help my community,” expressed Diaz eagerly. “We now are approaching $9 million USD in revenue - up by about 125% since the acquisition in 2017.”
Diaz, a former baseball player with a Los Angeles Dodgers affiliate, is grateful for all his training and support at Yale SOM. “I truly do not think I would be where I am today without Yale. Not only did I get amazing academic courses, but I also was given the confidence and courage to pursue my dream. I am indebted to Yale and would love to see more search fund entrepreneurs follow in my footsteps – of course I would be delighted to help. If I could do this, other Yale MBAs can too,” encouraged Diaz.
Kalil Diaz will be on campus in May 2019 for his fifth-year reunion if any current students would like to learn more about his impressive journey.