Joel Kallett is the CEO and Managing Director of Clearsight Advisors, an investment banking firm with offices in the DC metropolitan area and Dallas, Texas. Clearsight digs in deep to its work with its clients, emphasizing long-term strategic goals, tangible results, and insights that go above and beyond expectations. The firm has provided M&A and capital-raising advisory services to high-growth technology and software companies successfully acquired by organizations such as IBM, Accenture, and Ernst & Young. As of this writing, the latest company to benefit from Clearsight’s advisory services was Pivot Point Consulting, which was acquired by Vaco Healthcare in December 2016.
Joel Kallett spoke with citybizlist publisher Edwin Warfield for this interview.
EDWIN WARFIELD: You were active in a number of M&A firms before launching Clearsight. Tell us about the experiences that led you to your current company.
JOEL KALLETT: I graduated from business school out of Philadelphia in the late 80s and was recruited by Raymond James & Associates down in Florida. Great firm. I joined Raymond James down in St. Petersburg, and was there for about ten years. I took a small hiatus in the middle, and started a technology company—pre-Internet days, if you can imagine—and sold that and went back and re-joined Raymond James.
I was doing all things investment banking: real estate, financial services, technology, et cetera. In the latter part of the 90s, I started focusing on what at that time I called electronic financial services, which now everybody refers to as “fintech,” or financial technology. As a result of that practice area that I built at Raymond James, which was probably the first or second practice in that space that was built in the late 90s, I was ultimately recruited by Alex Brown, and Deutsche Bank Alex Brown after they were acquired, to lead their fintech efforts.
That’s what really led me to move up to the Washington, DC metropolitan area—to open up the technology office for Alex Brown here in Tyson’s Corner, and lead their fintech practice globally.
It was a great firm. We did a number of phenomenal transactions, but it was also the beginning of the technology crash in the early 2000s. So, as we downsized, and I was faced with the prospect of moving to Boston or San Francisco, Deutsche Bank had really changed the character of Alex Brown—which was a growth-focused investment bank, which is what appealed to me. I started looking around, and ultimately found a boutique firm with an office here locally and one up in New York called Updata Partners.
Updata was focused on exclusively M&A advisory as opposed to doing public offerings, as well as M&A and other things. I joined Updata, which is where I met two of my current partners, Greg Treger and Gretchen Seay. I was at Updata for about four or five years doing primarily tech M&A in and around this financial technology space.
Ultimately, I was recruited away from Updata by Houlihan Lokey, which is a large mid-market-focused investment bank. They had a gap in their service offering around business services as a segment area, of which financial technology was a part. And so myself and Greg and some of our other colleagues from Updata went to Houlihan and launched that business services practice area. I led that effort at Houlihan for five years, prior to launching Clearsight in 2011.
That’s the Reader’s Digest-truncated version of the last 25 years.