Rafael Ortega, a second year at Chicago – Booth, spent his Summer working alongside EIR Mitch Pulver and has returned to his team for the Fall term.
University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Can you describe your background and how it led to your pursuit of an internship at NGP?
I grew up in Boston and the Dominican Republic. My parents were not very entrepreneurial but did have a rental property in the DR that I helped run. This is where my desire to be an entrepreneur really started. I joined the Navy and was fortunate enough to fly F-18s. When we deployed (which for me was 7 times), certain items became commodities as resupply’s were few and far between. I would stock up on food and beverages then sell them at a small profit. The success I found here continued my desire to run a business. My final duty station in the Navy was during the pandemic. It was the middle of nowhere in California and most restaurants closed. My wife, who is Japanese and a phenomenal cook, and I decided to sell Japanese food and chili oil out of our home. It grew to be about 50 meals per day and typically 40 chili oils per week. I loved the feeling of making people happy with our products and running a successful business, be it on a very small scale. This solidified my desire to run a business and NGPs model of providing structure and support was exactly what I needed as a veteran who had very little financial and deal handling background.
Can you tell us a bit about the work you’ve done so far, and any interesting learnings?
I’ve been with Mitch for about 13 weeks now and it started mainly as industry deep diving, financial analysis, and target building. This has recently changed to helping with the due diligence process on a current business under LOI. The main thing I’ve learned is that in the world of ETA and PE you must be tenacious and determined when sourcing potential companies. Typically, the first at bat never succeeds and you can’t let this discourage you. You have to build rapport and continue to reach out to truly see any sort of progression.
What is your team dynamic like?
Mitch has broken the team down into 3 separate squads. The hierarchy is Mitch at the top, three MBA interns leading teams in different areas, and undergraduate interns under each MBA intern. While there is a “chain of command” it is a very open and collaborative process. Undergraduate interns are given the freedom to make decisions and show MBAs how to do things in area they lack experience or knowledge, and we have two weekly sync meetings led by Mitch where all squads report on their progress and look for feedback from the group. It is a very open and collaborative process.
What you have you most enjoyed thus far?
Learning about different parts of the ETA process and how PE firms think about deals and investments. Coming from the military I was never exposed to this type of thinking, and I find it incredibly interesting and stimulating.
Any skills you’ve gained or unique takeaways? Pre-existing skills you’re building upon?
I’ve learned a lot about financial analysis and modeling. I’ve also learned a lot about deal structure and using those deals to incentive business owners to continue to care about their business post-acquisition.
I’m building upon leading teams more. In the military the leadership structure and style are much different due to missions, incentives, and legal requirements. Leading people who can walk away at any point or may not understand the goal of tasks is challenging me to rethink how I communicate and collaborate.
What stands out to you about NGP’s process that you’ve gotten to see first-hand?
The structure and support have really stood out. The EIRs here have the deal team constantly helping them out and pointing out things they missed. The CRM and tech stack guidance give EIRs a head start on starting the actual outreach process. The portfolio operations team is constantly helping the portfolio company owners think about growth and opportunities. Lastly the partners and leader of NGP are extremely involved in the day to day. Their experience and expertise are constantly available to the rest of the NGP team and the EIRs.
What do you envision yourself doing in the future, and how is interning with NGP building upon that?
I would like to launch my own search and NGP is helping me understand the intricacies of that process. I’m learning to list build, outreach, look at companies from an analytical perspective, and build relationships that will be pivotal in my future success.