We invest in exceptional people to create exceptional companies. Since 2001, Alpine has believed that inspiring growth in people is the most sound way to build growth and revenue. We start within our own offices, and share our learnings with our portfolio companies. Here are some of our favorite stories about heroes being unleashed.
Beth Berger traveled the world for Google before GSB led her to Alpine. Now, one year into her role as CEO of Exym, the Brown graduate shares why she’s passionate about software as a way to make a major impact, the value of varied perspectives, and the endless possibilities that come from introducing more diversity into the CEO role.
Alpine is a middle market private equity firm focused on software and services businesses up to $500m of EV. We closed our seventh fund at $1 billion in November 2019. Our CEO-in-Residence (CIR) model allows proven operators to step into leadership roles within our portfolio while our CEO-in-Training (CIT) program has helped more than 20 newly graduated MBAs from the world’s top business schools accelerate into the CEO chair. Alpine has deployed 35 CEOs in total since 2013.
Did you always know you wanted to become a CEO one day?
No, I never thought about becoming a CEO. Historically, when you mention the title of CEO, people have an image in mind, and I never felt like I fit that image. Today, I think it’s motivating to be part of a community of people who break that model a little bit and I want to create more opportunities for a wider range of people to imagine themselves as CEOs.
Today, I think it’s motivating to be part of a community of people who break that model a little bit and I want to create more opportunities for a wider range of people to imagine themselves as CEOs.
How did your background prepare you to lead companies?
I have always been interested in how the world works and how things fit together. In college, I studied international relations while spending 40 hours per week making theater. The combination might not make sense until you realize both diplomacy and acting are about understanding people. I also worked for the computer science grad school as a writing and public speaking coach. That’s where I discovered technology.
In college, I studied international relations while spending 40 hours per week making theater. The combination might not make sense until you realize both diplomacy and acting are about understanding people.
After college, I landed a job doing AdWords sales in Google’s San Francisco office. I ended up spending six years at Google in a range of roles, from moving to Toronto to help build out the Canadian market, to working on Google’s mobile app advertising suite as part of the global product team. I sat between the product engineering teams, the global sales teams, and marketing. I even moved out to the Google Singapore office for a bit. In that last role, I spent two and a half years traveling to Google offices around the world, working with the teams in places like Seoul, Berlin, and Tel Aviv. The best part was working with local customers who were adapting their business models—or building a completely new business. Being on the leading edge of new technology was satisfyingly creative, because we were problem-solving for our customers using new tools and technologies. During a trip to Jakarta to meet local entrepreneurs, I started reflecting on how many of the things I had learned at Google that are helpful at organizations of all sizes. I got interested in what it would be like to be part of a smaller organization.
Why business school?
I knew I loved technology, and I loved being in early business development because in both cases you’re building things that don’t exist yet. In talking with friends and mentors, I realized that business school would be a good place to build out the skills that would make me impactful in many kinds of technology businesses. At the GSB I met all different kinds of people who had experienced different types of work, from doctors and lawyers to people who came from the oil and gas industries to people who had run family businesses or started their own companies. The GSB broadened my sense of the world and showed me many ways to make an impact.
What set Alpine apart, and how did you decide to join?
I took Graham Weaver’s class in my first year at GSB, and I was interested in how he talked about running businesses with a very clear set of cultural values. But I viewed myself as a tech person, not a private equity person. Once I started meeting more of the team and went through the interview process, I was impressed by Alpine’s consistent set of values. Alpine believes that great value is created when you have great culture underlining it. I got excited about the idea of taking some of the best practices I had learned at Google and using them to build a great culture and high-performing team in one of Alpine’s portfolio companies.
You spent time in residency at Alpine before you matched with Exym. How does that experience benefit you in your role as CEO today?
I spent just over a year in residence at Alpine, doing what I would describe as an unexpected postgrad investing internship. I split my time between working with the investing team, looking at new deals, and looking for ways to add value to other ASG companies. Unlike many other Alpine CITs, I don’t come from an investing background. I come from product, and sales and marketing, so I’m grateful for the time and the repetition of looking at deals alongside the investing team. The way that an investor looks at a business is different than the way an operator looks at the business. Learning both the language and what the investing team cares about has made me more impactful in the CEO seat. That understanding has also helped me put on a different set of lenses when looking at the drivers of the business, not just at purchase, but also thinking ahead to an eventual exit.
How did you know Exym was a good fit for you?
I believe that technology can make the greatest impact in many parts of our world. When Exym came along, it felt like a perfect fit. Exym is a software company that serves agencies that deliver Medicaid-funded social services, like counseling and foster care, for children and adolescents. We make the software that those organizations use to track and get reimbursed for the services they deliver; our software also helps organizations evaluate the quality of care that their clients receive.
I believe that this space, mental health and social services, is incredibly important to society and very under-technologized. I was excited to have the chance to think about how technology can help kids and adolescents who are receiving desperately needed services.
How did past experiences help you build connection in your first 90 days?
At the end of the day, businesses are just people serving people. You have to start with your team. I spent a lot of time with the founder of the business, learning why he started the business to begin with, how he thought about things, and what he saw as opportunities. I also spent a ton of time with the team, understanding what they loved about their jobs, what was hard about their jobs, what they wished they could do more or less of. In my first 90 days, there was a lot of transition in the company. The founder left to start his next venture, so I focused on making sure everybody felt stable and had a lot of clarity about the future.
I also spent a lot of time with our customers. Early on, I flew down to LA every week and logged some crazy road trips to visit as many of our customers in person as I could. I was new to this industry, but I knew that a genuine desire to serve would help me build trust, just as it had during my Google days. I would say, “Hi, I know I’m a new face. I know I’m not a social worker or clinician, and I know I’m not an expert in the history of delivering world-class social services to the children of Los Angeles like you are. But I have deep respect and admiration for the work you’re doing, and the expertise that I can bring to your team is the ability to build software that makes your life easier. So, how can I help?”
I came out of those conversations with a pretty clear sense of the things that were most important to our users. We want to be in long-term relationships with our customers, and I wanted them to feel a sense of stability and optimism, which has ultimately turned out to be even more important than I had dreamed in a year full of change like 2020.
How does Alpine support you as you continue to grow and develop in the CEO role?
I have a terrific coach through the Alpine coaching program, who is experienced in our type of business but also experienced in true, whole-person coaching. And I can’t say enough about the community of other CEOs I’ve met through the CIT program. In this role, the problem set that you’re dealing with looks pretty different depending on the size and stage of the company that you’re running. The community of peers who are also working on businesses in similar stages and scales is something that I tap into every single day.
A big part of the PeopleFirst section of the Alpine Playbook is focused on hiring and great hiring processes. When you hire well, you build teams that are more diverse, more inclusive, and have a higher impact in the long run. The impact part is so important because there’s nothing more expensive than getting a hire wrong. We’ve pulled Alpine’s hiring process into Exym, and it’s working. Almost half of our company has joined in the last year. And those new hires have been able to make an impact right out of the gate.
I’m focused on what the future of our business should look like. When you think about the impact that data can have on delivering better healthcare outcomes, it’s pretty exciting. We can help our customers use data they already have to inform better care and better outcomes for the clients that they serve. We’re in a moment right now where more and more people need mental health services. There will need to be real innovation in the way these services are provided, and Exym can be part of the solution. I’m spending a lot of time talking with customers and other folks in the industry about the kinds of tools we need to build to get there.
Internally, I’m working with the folks at Exym to walk that long-term vision back into what we need to do in the next year or five years, and more specifically what needs to happen this week. Our team is an incredible collection of individuals from a range of backgrounds. Many joined Exym because they worked for one of our clients and loved Exym’s tools and technology. They joined to help build tools and bring services to more users. They deeply understand our customers, the clients they’re serving, and the need that this space is serving. We also have several people from really strong tech backgrounds who see Exym as an opportunity to solve complex, large-scale problems.
My most important role is to help everyone use their unique skills and knowledge to make the biggest impact on our customers and business. Some days I’m supporting somebody with deep expertise in Medicaid so that they can help our customers find ways to provide more services; other days I’m working with our head of sales—a former clinician herself—to help our product team define product features that allow clinicians to communicate better with their clients. Each person has a really big role to play in Exym’s longer-term vision. And my job is to work with them and get them into the seats where they can excel.
Each person has a really big role to play in Exym’s longer-term vision. And my job is to work with them and get them into the seats where they can excel.