Aumni Spotlight: Kim Mueller, Director of Customer Success
Q. Please tell us about yourself and your background.
My background is quite varied. Most recently I was CFO of Pelion Ventures and worked with them for five years. They're a great firm here in Utah that focuses on early-stage investments. Prior to that, I was at a fund of funds for eight years. I also happened to be their first employee, so I needed to implement a lot of processes and software. I had a short stint at a private equity firm where I managed finance and regulatory functions for the FINRA regulated broker-dealer, including compliance, reporting, and audits. Those were all great experiences, but what I have enjoyed the most is getting in a firm at its beginnings - the true emerging fund - and helping it grow from Fund I, Fund II and beyond.
Q. What made you decide to join Aumni?
When I heard of Aumni and its capabilities, I immediately wanted to learn more about the software. I knew it was a unique data management offering for private capital markets, but didn’t realize the true impact they would have on the industry until I spoke with several members of Aumni’s executive team. I immediately wanted to work there, so I jumped on the opportunity when the position opened. As Aumni’s Director of Customer Success, my hope is to provide best practices in data strategy to the finance teams in Aumni's customers, based on my years of experience as a fund CFO. During all those various positions, I felt I always had a desire to ensure we had the right analytics solution to benefit the organization, as I believe that finance is the intersection of operations and analytics. If I can show how Aumni can help another fund CFO provide faster and more accurate financial insights and empower the entire firm with data driven decisions, then I'll feel that I've succeeded.
What would you consider a primary challenge that funds face when it comes to data strategy?
One of the biggest challenges that fund CFOs face is convincing the other partners that they have a data problem. Fund GPs are, understandably so, heads down trying to either raise capital or negotiate the best terms on that next financing round. They're on the front lines of investment discussions that can change daily, if not hourly. Deals happen fast, so the information they are accessing needs to be accurate and up-to-date. If not, then this can lead to discrepancies between the exact terms in the final agreement and what was discussed. During the contract signature phase, each party (the general partners, the finance team, outside counsel, the portco) believes the other party has reviewed the agreement carefully to reflect the latest and greatest. It's an unfortunate "diffusion of responsibility" that ends up causing many fire drills later on.
"One of the biggest challenges that fund CFOs face is convincing the other partners that they have a data problem."
My experience has been in smaller firms where data strategies haven't been formalized, and everyone works in spreadsheets. However, I would say that even larger funds have these issues, but they have the ability to hire people to do reporting manually, as opposed to implementing systems to do this more efficiently. Those firms that have invested in analytics have multiple platforms to analyze various aspects of their business, but inevitably do not speak to each other. Even the largest funds may have started off with a finance specific solution like eFront or Investran, which are all good solutions for the finance team. But that software alone doesn’t answer the needs of the other teams - investment, legal, etc... When you have the resources, there may be a tendency to not give enough time for the technology solution to fully integrate within the operations of the firm. In my experience, it takes six months to a year to fully implement an analytics solution, which includes training the entire organization to use it optimally. For many GPs, that time frame may seem too long and therefore feel a new solution is needed.
Q. So implementing a data strategy is not just about the tech, but also a cultural shift in the company?
Absolutely. Cultural and organizational aspects of the firm need to be addressed otherwise you can’t get the most out of any data strategy. What is really needed is a data steward or champion in the organization that manages the data integrity and systems. Funds that establish this role - either informally via a finance or ops leader or formally via a CTO - will have a better chance of getting the most out of their data. Now you have a respected leader in the firm whose job is to verify all the deal documents and implement the data in the system of choice.
Q. Why would you recommend Aumni to other investment firms?
My desire to implement technology was rooted in breaking down information silos. I felt that even in small to mid-sized firms, each function had their version of the truth. This is the first issue that Aumni solves well. It’s not good enough to have your data in one place, which Aumni does. Its Aumni’s ability to quickly review every legal agreement of every financing transaction of a fund - both with legal venture experts and then again with proprietary A.I., - that is a game changer for both data accuracy and reliability.
Aumni also helps solve the second issue which is being a catalyst for a firm’s culture and organization to be more data driven. Aumni’s team of experts can educate all members of the firm on best practices in data strategy in general. Using their platform can provide a higher level of quality that partners and finance leaders can truly use with confidence. This adds immense value not only in current deals, but also as the firm raises new funds.
"Aumni also helps solve the second issue which is being a catalyst for a firm’s culture and organization to be more data driven."
The last issue that Aumni solves is the ROI on the software implementation. Aumni's offering does not take nearly as much time to implement compared to other solutions - even for a big group. The onboarding is part of the offering, and the Aumni team puts all of the deal details into the system making the process as turn-key as possible.