Towanda Capital

Christopher G. Ayala is Managing Partner of Towanda Capital.  Chris has nearly two decades of experience as an entrepreneur, leading teams and empowering organizations to become the best they can be, from startups to mid-market businesses while also advising on strategic transactions for leading public and private organizations.

Prior to Towanda Capital, Chris served as CEO of Vertisense Inc., an early stage Internet of Things company in New York, New York providing CPG and B2B solutions for health & safety compliance. Prior to that, Chris served as VP, Operations of ALK Technologies, Inc. delivering strategic operation oversight and P&L ownership for a 185 global employee company offering enterprise software in the Transportation & Logistics industry. Earlier, Chris served as VP, General Counsel for Native American Resource Partners LLC, a private equity sponsored investment firm in Calgary, Alberta launching strategic joint ventures with Native American Tribes in the Western US and Western Canada for early stage oil & gas development. Chris began his career as a corporate attorney at the firms ReedSmith LLP and Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP focusing on M&A and Business Transactions for some of the leading private equity firms in the world.  Over the course of his career, Chris has participated in transactions totaling an aggregate value of $8.1 billion.

Chris graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and received his Juris Doctor from Fordham University School of Law. He currently resides in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife (Betsy), twin four-year old daughters (Ellie & Brooks) and dog (Jefe) enjoying the outdoors, golf, ice hockey and parenthood.


Coley Andrews is a Co-Founder and Managing Member of Pacific Lake Partners. Since co-founding the firm with Jim Southern in 2009, Coley has worked with over 50 Search Funds. He currently serves as a Director at Inspired eLearning, Aquavita, dESCO, and Data Fusion Technologies and as a Board Visitor at AlphaCredit, Raptor Technologies, Scottish American, Arizona College, and Vector Disease Control International.

Prior to forming Pacific Lake, Coley worked at Tech For Less, a Colorado Springs-based distributor of new and refurbished consumer and enterprise electronics owned by two successful Search Fund entrepreneurs. Coley was also an Associate at Golden Gate Capital, a private equity firm based in San Francisco, after beginning his career at The Parthenon Group, an international strategic consulting firm.

Coley graduated from Dartmouth College with a degree in history and earned his MBA at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. Coley, his wife Alisa, and their four children reside outside Boston, MA.

David Dodson has been active for twenty-five years in the formation of new businesses through entrepreneurial acquisition. After graduating from the GSB, under the direction of Professor Irv Grousbeck, he wrote the original course material for search funds—then in its infancy. After one year as a case writer, David Dodson raised his own search fund, which led to the purchase of Smith Alarm Systems in 1989. He subsequently raised two more search funds to purchase an auto parts retailer and an environmental services firm. During this time, Mr. Dodson became an active investor in, and board member of, other search funds, having invested in over forty. Mr. Dodson has been a director and investor in over thirty middle market companies.

In addition to investing, David currently divides his time between Stanford University and Project Healthy Children (a nonprofit enterprise with operations in Rwanda, Burundi, Nepal, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and Malawi), and a “double bottom line” enterprise called Sanku, LLC, with operations in east Africa.

Susan Pohlmeyer is a principal at Futaleufu Partners, an investment fund formed by David Dodson to invest in search funds and search fund-acquired businesses. She works closely with search fund entrepreneurs during the diligence and acquisition phases of the search, and currently serves as a board observer for Datum Technologies. Prior to joining Futaleufu, she was a member of the investment team at Stanford Management Company, where she covered portfolio strategy as well as private equity investments. She started her career at JP Morgan in equity derivatives.

Susan holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a BA from Dartmouth College.

Craig Jones is a 30 year veteran of the venture capital and private equity industry and currently runs the private equity firm Ticonderoga Private Equity and its portfolio company, InnoCentive. He has invested extensively in healthcare and software businesses, leading investments in over 60 companies in healthcare IT, healthcare business services, healthcare services, SaaS, and internet-based companies.Mr. Jones has invested widely in virtually all subsectors of healthcare and has specialized in the past 10 years in technology-enabled healthcare business services, including revenue cycle management, clinical research management, fraud and abuse detection, data management, and disease management. Ticonderoga Private Equity sold HealthDataInsights for $400 million, providing the Ticonderoga funds a 13X return on Mr. Jones’ portfolio investment. Ticonderoga sold TC3 Health for another strong return on Mr. Jones’ healthcare investments.

He is Chairman of the Board of the healthcare companies eStudySite and National Research Institute and both Executive Chairman and President of the leading crowd source innovation company InnoCentive. He is also a member of Board of Directors of Construction Software Technology.

Mr. Jones’ extensive private equity career includes Managing Partner of Ticonderoga Private Equity since 1997 where he has overseen investments of over $300 million. He was Managing Director at Dillon, Read & Co and head of its venture capital partnerships, Vice President at Advent International, Associate at Centennial Ventures and a consultant with Bain & Co. He is a graduate Magna Cum Laude of Harvard Law School.

Mr. Jones has participated as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Venture Capital Association, and has founded a charter elementary school. He lives in Boulder, Colorado with his wife and kids.

Will Thorndike founded Housatonic Partners in Boston in 1994 and has been Managing Director since that time. Prior to that, Mr. Thorndike worked with T. Rowe Price Associates and Walker & Company where he was named to the Board of Directors.

Mr. Thorndike is a graduate of Harvard College and the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He is a Director of Carillon Assisted Living, LLC; Lincoln Peak Holdings, LLC; OASIS Group Ltd.; QMC International, LLC; ZircoDATA; a Trustee of The Stanford Business School Trust; WGBH; the College of the Atlantic (Chair); and a founding partner at FARM, a social impact investing collaborative. He is the author of The Outsiders.

Joe Niehaus was a Managing Director at Hellman & Friedman before joining Housatonic Partners in 2001. During his twelve-year career at Hellman & Friedman, he was involved in several of the firm’s recurring services, media and communications investments including Eller Media, Falcon Cable, and Mitchell International. Earlier in his career, Mr. Niehaus was employed in the Merchant Banking and Mergers and Acquisitions departments at Morgan Stanley & Co.

Mr. Niehaus is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the Harvard Business School. He is a Director of Accurate Monitoring; Fastener Distribution Holdings, LLC (formerly Aircraft Fasteners International, LLC); ResponseLink; Circle Graphics; 365 Data Centers; HealthWyse; Calo Programs; and ZircoDATA.

Mark Hilderbrand has been a Managing Director at Housatonic Partners since 2006 and has more than 20 years of experience in private equity.  Prior to Housatonic, he was a General Partner at Onset Ventures and a Vice President at Summit Partners, where he focused on recapitalizations and buyouts of high-growth technology and services businesses.  Earlier in his career, he worked as a Management Consultant at Bain & Company.

Mr. Hilderbrand holds a BS from Boston University, a MS from Stanford University, and a MBA from the Harvard Business School.  He is a Director of 365 Datacenters, LLC, Circle Graphics, Inc.; LQ Digital, LLC; HFRI, LLC; Onrad, Inc.; QMC International, LLC; Registria Customer Experience, LLC; WCCT Global, Inc.; and has served multiple terms as a Board Member for the Harvard Business School Alumni Association.

Barry Reynolds founded the San Francisco office of Housatonic Partners in 1998.  Previously, he worked with private equity firms including Bain Capital, Texas Pacific Group and Trident Capital, focusing on information and business services companies.  Prior to becoming principal in the private equity industry, he was a Manager with Bain & Company.  At Bain, he co-founded the Principal Investor Services practice, consulting to medium and large buyout funds and strategic buyers.  Earlier in his career, Mr. Reynolds worked as an engineer for the General Electric Company.

Mr. Reynolds is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he was a Ford Scholar.  He is a Director of Aegis Treatment Centers, LLC; LeadQual, LLC; Onsite Health, Inc.; ProService Hawaii; Registria Customer Experience, LLC; ServiceSource International, Inc.; and Sprout Health, LLC.

Bill Egan is a founder and General Partner of Alta Communications and Marion Equity Partners, Massachusetts-based venture capital firms. He founded Alta’s predecessor firm, Burr, Egan, Deleage & Co. in 1979, and has identified and backed several of America’s leading growth companies in the information technology, life sciences, and communications industries. Prior to founding Burr, Egan, Deleage & Co., Bill was a Partner at TA Associates. He began his career as a Manager of Venture Capital for New England Enterprise Capital Corporation.

He is past President and Chairman of the National Venture Capital Association, a Trustee of Fairfield University, a Member of the Board of Overseers of The Wharton School and a Trustee of the University of Pennsylvania. He is a member of the Board of CRH plc, and a number of privately held companies.

Bill is also an owner of the Boston Celtics professional basketball team. Bill received a degree in Economics from Fairfield University and an MBA from the Wharton School.

Mark Egan is a founder and Managing Partner at Marion Equity Partners, a Boston based investment firm. Prior to Marion, Mark focused on growth equity investments in the technology, healthcare, media, and business services industries at Polaris Venture Partners. Before Polaris, Mark began his career at Alta Communications where he executed investments in the media and telecommunications sectors. Mark also has previous experience with Comcast Corporation in business development.

Mark received a degree in Finance from Fairfield University and an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Rich Augustyn is Founder and CEO of both NIP Group, a top 100 business insurance broker, and Extensis Group, a top 20 Professional Employer Organization (PEO).

Mr. Augustyn has been a successful entrepreneur and accomplished investor for more than 20 years. His investments are focused upon the financial and business services and healthcare sectors.

He currently serves on the board of several high-growth companies and chairs the Market Development Councils of two national insurance companies. His early business success landed him a spot among New Jersey’s Forty Under 40, a program that honors young men and women who have made outstanding contributions to their fields.

Larry Dunn is CFO of NIP Group, Inc. and a member of its management committee. Mr. Dunn’s business career spans over 25 years in the insurance and financial services industries. Prior to joining NIP Group he was Managing Director and Chief Operational Risk Officer for a major subsidiary of GMAC Financial Service (GMAC) a global financial services company, a senior financial executive at American International Group, Inc. (NYSE: AIG) and Treasurer of C.V. Starr & Co., Inc., one of the world’s largest Managing General Agents (MGAs). He began his career in public accounting as a member of the insurance practices first at KPMG and later at Deloitte & Touche. He also served as President of the Society of Insurance Financial Management. Mr. Dunn graduated from Pace University with a BBA in Accounting with highest honors and is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

Michael Miles is a veteran of 18 search fund investments since 2009. He has served as a board member and trusted advisor for many search fund-backed enterprises, including successful outcomes with Innflux and Midwest Supplies.

Michael also has 25+ years of experience building, growing and operating recruiting businesses. In 1988, Michael founded SeatonCorp, a leading provider of recruiting, vendor-on-premise staffing and end-to-end supplier management solutions for strategic users of contingent labor. In 2014, Michael and his investor group sold SeatonCorp to True Blue (NYSE: TBI). Under Michael’s leadership, SeatonCorp grew from a staff of two to one of Crain’s “Largest Privately Held Companies” in Chicago, with more than 2,500 employees. SeatonCorp achieved consistent, organic growth resulting in a 20%+ compounded annual growth rate over a 25-year period, earning more than $700 million in revenue during 2014. Michael has been recognized with several awards including: the Staffing Industry Analysts’ Peter Yessne Workforce Innovator Award, a finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® program, and is listed on The Staffing 100 (the 100 most influential people in the staffing industry). In 2012, Michael founded INCubatoredu (non-for-profit), a national program teaching high school students how to start a business. In 2010, Michael then joined the private equity firm, Lake Capital, as an Operating Executive. Michael is a Board member at Workplace Answers, RIVS, Lund Van Dyke, Vokal, Olus Holdings, The Intersect Group, Insertech and Penn Foster. He is a member of the Economic Club of Chicago and earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Arizona State University.

Carlos Saez is Co-Founder and Managing Director of The Operand Group. Prior to his current role, Carlos had 16 years of proprietary investment and operations experience in the equity derivatives industry. Carlos was Chief Investment Officer for Spot Trading in Chicago from 2009-2015, managing all Trading, Equity Research, Financial Engineering and front-office software development activities. Carlos led and motivated an organization of 60 professionals in the process. Prior to this experience, Carlos executed various trading roles successfully, and in so doing gained valuable process, technology, and management skills that he is eager to share with young entrepreneurs. When not investing in searchers, Carlos is actively involved in the not-for-profit world, as a Director for the Barrington Area Community Foundation and a Founding Board Member of INCubatorEdu. Carlos received his undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering from The Georgia Institute of Technology and his MBA from the University of Chicago Booth.

JT Fitzgerald is founder and Managing Partner of Argo Management Partners and in that capacity, Mr. Fitzgerald has had extensive transactional and operating experience in Argo’s portfolio companies.

Mr. Fitzgerald is Chairman of Hunter MFG, LLP, and serves on the board of directors of Oak Patch Gifts , Progressive Bronze Products, Atlas Financial Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: AFH), and 1347 Capital Corp (NASDAQ: TFSC).

Prior to Argo Management Partners, Mr. Fitzgerald was co-founder and managing director of Adirondack Capital, LLC, a financial futures and derivatives trading firm. He was formerly a member and Full seat owner on the Chicago Board of Trade.

JT has been invited to speak on multiple occasions at the Kellogg School of Management on the topic of Search Funds and acquiring and operating middle-market businesses. He is a member of the Young Presidents Organization, Turnaround Management Association, the Association for Corporate Growth, and The National Association of Corporate Directors. In his free time, J.T. enjoys skiing, cycling, competing in triathlons, and fly-fishing.

Mr. Fitzgerald is an MBA graduate of the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University with concentrations in Finance, Accounting, and Management Strategy. He holds a BS, finance, from DePaul University with highest honor, Beta Gamma Sigma.

Bob Whitelaw founded Graue Mill Partners, LLC (“GMP”) in 2000 and has played an active role in its development and with oversight of the firm’s investments. Previously, Mr. Whitelaw spent over twenty-five years as an investment banker, principally with Merrill Lynch & Co., to corporations of various sizes both domestically and abroad, advising in all areas of capital raising, corporate finance and mergers/acquisitions. Just prior to forming GMP, Mr. Whitelaw was Managing Director and Head of the Chicago corporate finance office for PaineWebber Group, where he re-established the firm’s investment banking presence in the Midwest to leverage the middle-market, equity research driven focus of the firm.

More recently, Mr. Whitelaw has led GMP’s efforts to refine its origination and investment focus in the Search Fund asset class, as the firm has successfully positioned itself as an active partner and unique resource to Search Fund Entrepreneurs in this very attractive alternative private equity investment category. In 2013, these efforts included the formation of an exclusive partnership with a well established, Chicago based asset advisory firm, which now serves as GMP’s institutional capital partner behind its rapidly expanding portfolio of Search Fund investments. Mr. Whitelaw currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Caravel Autism Health, Blue Sky Network and MST Services, Inc., all currently active GMP Search Fund portfolio companies.

Mr. Whitelaw is an honors graduate of Vanderbilt University and the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. He is a past Chair of the Wellness House Foundation Board of Directors, a former President and Board Member of the Hinsdale Golf Club and is currently a Director of the Western Golf Association/Evans Scholars Foundation, currently sitting on its Investment Committee.

Rick Bruder has been managing private equity investments and partnerships for nearly 20 years. Prior to joining Graue Mill Partners in 2003, he was most focused on creating long term capital appreciation through participatory ownership with management. This overall theme of creating business environments that would motivate entrepreneurial executives, partners, and staff, laid the foundation for Mr. Bruder’s work at GMP.

Beginning in 1980, Mr. Bruder spent 20 years as a member of the Chicago Board Options Exchange and 18 years as a member of the Chicago Board of Trade. At the CBOE, Mr. Bruder was a long-standing member of the Board of Directors, the Executive Committee, and numerous standing committees. He also served on the Board of Trustees of the Cincinnati Stock Exchange. He continues to serve as a public member of the Business Conduct Committee of the CBOE.

Mr. Bruder currently serves on the Board of Directors of Attainia Inc., a search fund holding in the portfolio of GMP.  He recently served on the Board of Directors of Out of Home Holdings Corporation, a GMP search fund portfolio company.  OOHH was one of GMP’s early portfolio Search Fund investments, which the firm very successfully monetized in a 2015 recapitalization. Mr. Bruder currently serves on the Board of Directors of Attainia, Inc., a GMP search fund portfolio company. Additionally, he is a Board Member of Hinsdale Bank & Trust, a $1.9 billion community bank and subsidiary of the $25 billion financial services holding company, Wintrust Financial Corporation (NASDAQ:WTFC), and he is also on the Board of Directors of Tricom Funding, Inc., a premier provider of payroll, administrative and funding services.

Mr. Bruder is a past Chairman of the Board and CEO of the USO of Illinois, and continues to serve on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee. He is also the past Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Ride 2 Recovery, a military focused non-for-profit, and has been a member of the Board of Directors of numerous other philanthropic organizations. Mr. Bruder received a BA with honors from the University of Southern California. He also attended a Doctoral Studies program at the University of Delaware.

Brad Brown is the managing director of Bradford Brown Capital Partners, a private investment partnership that focuses on search funds and profitable small-cap companies. Prior to that, he was a Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company, the world’s leading consultancy, where he led several practices over time in the areas of Digital, Big Data Analytics, and FinTech.

He has over a dozen years of experience in small cap growth investing and has acquired over 30 operating companies across many different industries.  He focuses his board work on tech-enabled companies, and is on the board of five companies:  Blue Sky Network, ISI Telemanagement, Attainia, CloudX, and D2C Brands.  Brad brings a unique mix of advisory expertise with growth capital. He works closely with op-co CEOs as an Active Board Member. In addition, Brad is involved in the tech startup community as an ongoing advisor to the management teams of five companies: Uncork, Blueteam Global, Afiniti, One Inc, and Skydeo.  He has professional expertise in business services, B2B sales, eCommerce, Saas, cloud, and data.

He is also a Senior Partner Emeritus of McKinsey & Company, the world’s leading consultancy.  For eighteen years, he was a senior member of the Digital Technology practice, and recently the global leader of the Big Data practice. He worked with clients to implement strategies around digital, automation, analytics, cloud, and agile.  He was central to the build-out of the McKinsey Analytics Nerve platform, Data Cloud, and analytics tools.  He also worked in Fintech and InsurTech. For seven years, he led the Global Insurance Technology practice, and is well know in the industry.

Prior to joining McKinsey, Brad was a partner in the Stenbeck Group of companies, where he was a member of the board of several companies and a working member of the top 30 executives worldwide. Prior to that, he was the Managing Director of Arthur D. Little’s North American information technology practice, with management and P&L responsibility for the United States.

He is also a member of the Board of Trustees at Connecticut College, since 2012, where he chairs the Committee on Trustees, and the Advancement Committee.

Brad is a graduate of Dartmouth College, receiving his bachelor of arts degree, cum laude. He received an M.S.E.E. in Computer Sciences from the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.B.A., with distinction, from the Wharton School.

Tomas Bergstrand is the founder of Archipelago Ventures, LLC a Boston-based private investment firm established in 2008. Archipelago Ventures serve as a vehicle for diversifying assets into privately held investments. Since its founding, Archipelago has made investments in search funds, search fund acquisitions and in select startup ventures in the United States and in Europe.

Prior to Archipelago Ventures, Mr. Bergstrand owned and managed a custom boat building business based in Massachusetts. He also served as chief financial officer at institutional brokerage Enskilda Securities, Inc in New York City and held operational positions for the Swedish banking group SEB in Singapore and the United States. Mr. Bergstrand holds a Master’s degree in Finance from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and a Bachelor’s degree from Bryant University in Rhode Island.