Want to Know How Search Funds Can Supercharge Your Acquisition Journey?

Team Acquira
-  May 16, 2024
What You’ll Learn
  • The foundational concept and operations of Search Funds.
  • The role and responsibilities of entrepreneurs in Search Funds.
  • How Search Funds compare to other investment vehicles like Venture Capital.
  • The diverse benefits Search Funds offer to both entrepreneurs and business sellers.
  • The inherent risks and competitive challenges within the Search Fund model.

Search funds are unique investment vehicles that allow entrepreneurs to acquire and manage companies and bridge financial means with entrepreneurial visions. 

Originating in the 1980s, search funds have evolved to become integral in acquisition entrepreneurship, connecting aspiring business owners with profitable small to medium-sized companies. 

Through this model, entrepreneurs, backed by investors, can seek, acquire, and operate businesses, often realizing substantial growth and delivering significant returns. 

Let’s look at how they operate, what benefits they provide and the inherent risks of the model.

Search fund entrepreneurs are resourceful, self driven people who want to be their own boss. 

What is a Search Fund?

A search fund is a specialized investment vehicle where acquisition entrepreneurs—individuals looking to acquire and operate a company—raise capital from investors to find, acquire, and grow a business. 

This approach is particularly relevant in acquisition entrepreneurship as it allows potential business owners to secure the financial means to undertake acquisitions beyond their personal financial reach, giving life to larger entrepreneurial visions.

The search fund model is closely linked to Professor H. Irving Grousbeck at Stanford Graduate School of Business. He is considered one of the pioneers of the search fund model in the 1980s.

His innovative idea was aimed at supporting aspiring entrepreneurs to raise investment to identify, acquire, manage, and grow companies. 

Read more: Why Acquira Capital Is The Best Thing To Happen To Small Business

This model has since gained traction and is acknowledged for its systematic approach in bridging aspiring entrepreneurs with potential profitable small to medium-sized companies, and it continues to be a significant focus at institutions like Stanford.

Notable search fund veterans include Jim Southern and Peter Kelly

How Does Search Funds Work?

The acquisition entrepreneur, or “searcher,” begins by raising initial capital from investors and embarking on a journey to find a suitable business to acquire. 

The raised funds are primarily allocated for the search and due diligence phase, and the searcher typically receives a salary during this period. 

Upon identifying a promising business, the searcher presents it to the investors, who may decide to invest additional funds for the acquisition.

In a typical search fund, the acquisition entrepreneur usually retains a significant portion of the equity (often around 20-30%), and the remaining equity is distributed among the investors. 

The searcher’s lower initial equity stake is due to the significant financial investment made by the investors in acquiring the company. However, the searcher can earn additional equity over time, based on the performance and growth of the company.

Let’s look at the sequential steps in the search fund model. 

  1. Initial Capital Raise: At this stage, aspiring acquisition entrepreneurs reach out to prospective investors to raise initial capital. This capital is primarily used to cover the search fund’s operating expenses, including the searcher’s salary  and any costs associated with identifying and evaluating potential acquisition targets. 
  2. Business Search & Acquisition: This phase involves the meticulous process of identifying, evaluating, and acquiring a suitable business. It demands extensive market research, due diligence, and often, negotiations with business owners. This phase is critical as the success of the search fund largely hinges on acquiring a business with solid growth potential. 
  3. Operations & Management: Once a business is acquired, the searcher assumes control, stepping into a leadership or management role to oversee the company’s day-to-day operations. The focus is on implementing new strategies, optimizing operations, and driving business growth. 
  4. Exit: The final stage involves facilitating a successful exit, which could be through a sale, merger, or another form of liquidity event. This is where investors realize the returns on their investment, and the profits are distributed according to the agreed-upon equity structure. The searcher may move to acquire the remaining equity from the investors. 

Comparisons to Venture Capital

While venture capital remains a well-known route for startups, the search fund model emerges as a distinctly impactful alternative. 

Unlike venture capital, which usually invests in early-stage companies with high growth potential (and high risk), search funds typically target established, profitable small to mid-sized companies, offering lower risk and stable returns. 

The structure of search fund financing uniquely aligns the interests of both investors and searchers, as both parties share a common goal of long-term business success.

The Entrepreneur’s Role in Search Funds

search fund model

Entrepreneurs leading search funds bear significant responsibilities and face numerous challenges. 

They are the linchpin of the search fund model, orchestrating the various phases from raising initial capital to managing acquired businesses. 

Success in this role requires diverse skills, including strategic thinking, leadership, financial acumen, and negotiation skills. 

The entrepreneur must navigate a highly competitive landscape, identifying suitable acquisition targets, conducting due diligence, and negotiating acquisition terms.

Searchers must also demonstrate resilience and perseverance, often reviewing hundreds of potential deals before identifying a viable acquisition target. 

They manage relationships with investors, maintaining transparency and managing expectations throughout the search and acquisition process. 

The Investor’s Perspective on Search Funds

From an investor’s standpoint, search funds represent a compelling alternative investment opportunity.

They offer a distinct model allowing investors to back individual entrepreneurs directly, rather than investing in specific companies or industries. 

This model provides exposure to the small to mid-sized business sector, offering diversification and the potential for substantial returns.

Investors are drawn to the hands-on approach of search fund entrepreneurs, who bring energy, fresh perspectives, and adaptability to acquired companies.

Investors often have the opportunity to provide mentorship and guidance, contributing to the success of the acquired business. 

Benefits of Search Funds for Acquisition Entrepreneurs

Search funds offer acquisition entrepreneurs several benefits, including credibility and broad-based access to capital. 

Entrepreneurs can leverage the backing of experienced investors to establish credibility when approaching potential acquisition targets. 

Financial support from investors enables searchers to pursue acquisition opportunities more effectively, covering the expenses associated with the search and acquisition process.

The collaborative nature of search funds allows entrepreneurs to tap into a diverse network of investors, benefiting from their experience, knowledge, and connections. This diversified collaborative experience can prove invaluable in identifying opportunities, overcoming challenges, and driving business growth. 

Benefits of Search Funds for Business Sellers

Search funds ensure business continuity for business sellers, as the acquiring entrepreneurs typically operate the acquired companies. 

Sellers benefit from an experienced board of directors, consisting of the search fund’s investors, who bring a wealth of knowledge and strategic insight. 

The longer-term investment horizon of search funds can also be appealing, offering stability and a focus on sustainable growth.

Business sellers may also have the opportunity to co-invest in the acquired company, maintaining a stake in the business’s future success. 

This co-investment opportunity allows sellers to participate in the upside potential while benefiting from the operational improvements implemented by the new management.

Risks & Drawbacks of Search Funds

While search funds present substantial opportunities, they are not devoid of risks. 

The success of a search fund is highly contingent on the entrepreneur’s ability to identify and acquire a viable business and to implement effective growth strategies post-acquisition. 

Investors face the risk of capital loss if the acquired company fails to perform as expected. 

The competitive landscape can also pose challenges, as searchers vie for attractive acquisition targets. 

Due diligence is crucial to mitigating risks, and entrepreneurs and investors must be aligned in their expectations and commitment to navigating the inherent uncertainties and challenges of the search fund model.


What is the primary goal of a search fund?

A search fund’s primary goal is to identify a prospective acquisition target, acquire it, and operate it to generate long-term value.

How are the returns from search funds?

Search fund returns vary depending on the quality of the target company that people invest in. The management team’s strength and the overall market’s performance also affect its performance.

What is a Search Fund PPM?

It is a private placement memorandum used to raise funds from accredited investors. The amount raised caters to all expenses for searching for a target company that people buy.

What are the traits of a successful Search Fund Entrepreneur?

To be a successful search fund entrepreneur, one must have strong business and financial acumen and be able to identify companies that can generate long-term value. One must also be a leader with management skills and a passion for entrepreneurship.

How is a search fund formed?

It is formed by a search fund entrepreneur engaging potential search fund investors and selling them the idea of identifying and investing in prospective businesses. One must be able to convince the investors to raise money that can be used to identify businesses to acquire and provide advice and guidance for the entire search fund journey.

What is the most effective way to search for a business to acquire or invest with a search fund?

The quality of a company, a search fund entrepreneur, buys and the industry in which it operates. One must focus on robust industries with tremendous opportunities for growth.


Search funds offer a structured approach for aspiring business owners to realize their visions. They uniquely align interests between investors and entrepreneurs, targeting established, profitable entities and aiming for stable returns. 

If you are thinking about becoming an acquisition entrepreneur, consider enrolling in Acquira’s Accelerator program. This supercharged, MBA-level training can give you all the tools to find, vet and purchase a seven-figure, cash-flowing business in as little as seven months. 

Fill out the form below for more information but space is limited!

Key Takeaways

  • Search Funds empower acquisition entrepreneurs with financial means.
  • Entrepreneurs play pivotal roles in managing and growing acquired companies.
  • Search Funds offer stable returns compared to high-risk Venture Capital.
  • Benefits for entrepreneurs include credibility and broad-based access to capital.
  • Due diligence and alignment are crucial to mitigate risks in Search Funds.
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