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Results of Annual Semaphore PE Industry Confidence Survey

 Self-Confident PE v Congressional Follies

By Mark S. DiSalvo


The Semaphore Confidence Survey respondents are truly prescient.  If America had only listened to our results last year it would have saved the American people over a Billion dollars in advertisements and political machinations in the just concluded presidential campaign.  Exactly twelve months ago some 47% of our respondents had confidence in Mitt Romney (funny, that number).  Game over.  Then again, only 39% were confident in President Obama.   Let’s see what Nate Silver can do with this year’s results!

While Romney is off the political grid and despite the big re-election, only 33% of respondents expressed confidence in the President with 37% stating a lack of confidence in him. That is decidedly better than his principal newest political foe, Speaker John Boehner, who “enjoys” a 3% favorable v 64% unfavorable rating. Those abysmal ratings are only superseded by Congress as a whole with nearly 80% expressing no or little confidence in our elected officials laboring under the Capitol Dome with not a single expression of confidence by any respondent.

In contrast some 78% of our respondents are confident in themselves and 43% remain confident in the PE/VC Industry with only 18% expressing some lack of confidence in how they earn a living. Personal confidence slipped a bit from last year’s results of 81%. Confidence in the US economy has slipped from last year, 37% to 46% and degraded even more with the International economy as the preponderance of those with little or no confidence grew from 47% last year to 57% today.  This seems a bit counterintuitive in that the number and size of expected deals appear significantly up by those self-reporting their expected investment objectives.  Further proofed by the fact that 65% earned more income last year than in 2011 and fully 57% expect to earn yet again more income than in 2012 - they’re going to need it to pay higher taxes.

Continuing the reversal of a trend prior to last year, my industry colleagues continue to see the prospect of more income, more deal flow and high confidence in themselves, their peers, and industry. This clear read comparing the raw highlight data from the 5th annual Semaphore Confidence Survey with last year’s results affords some fascinating insight across business and politics.

And in what is the group investing?  Enterprise Software replaced Social/Community Technology for the top spot with the latter moving down to third and Financial Services moving from eighth to 2nd this year.  Health Care Services moved from third to 4th with Digital Media rounding out the top five.  For the second year in a row, Sustainable Energy/Cleantech (for the first three years of our survey in the top five) failed to make the top ten.  On-line Consumer Retail and Gaming went from 4th and 5th to 9th and 10th.

The distribution of respondents in the US stayed remarkably the same from past years - the top six were CA, MA, NJ, NY, CT, TX, with only NY and NJ swapping places. Our US respondents had reasonable confidence in their state governments with 28% expressing confidence - that must look like heaven to the US Congress even though it is down from 37% last year.   

International responses were quite different.  We had our widest ever distribution of respondents with only the UK remaining on top with 27% of all international survey-takers with  Canada, China and France rounding-out the top four.  Russia, Japan, Switzerland and Germany were knocked out of last year’s top five. International respondents had crushingly poor opinions of their governments with the same 74% having no or little confidence in their countries leaders, up 3% from the 2011 survey and more than double the 31% of three years ago. 

The over 470 who did reply this year, up slightly from last year, were weighted a bit differently than  prior years’ mix of VC (39%  this year v 28% last year), Buy-out pros (24% v 33%), Limited Partners (13% v 11%) operating executives (6% v 19%) and third party professional 18% v 12%).

Comments this year were generally policy oriented and in a serious vein.  Some can be viewed on the raw data highlight link below.  There was one comment I’ll share in full from either a jokester or savant – or both:

“I met a fairy who said she would grant me one wish.  Immediately I said, "I want to live forever." "Sorry," said the fairy, "I'm not allowed to grant eternal life." "OK," I said, "Then, I want to die after Congress gets its head out of its ass!" The fairy replied, "You crafty bastard."  12/26/2012 2:14 PM

Maybe this individual should run for Congress.

See you next year.

To see the highlights of the results of the 2013 Semaphore Confidence Survey please click here.  If you want to do your own comparison, the 2012 Semaphore Confidence Survey results are here.


Mark S. DiSalvo is the President and CEO of Sema4 Inc., dba Semaphore (, a leading global professional services provider of Private Equity and Venture Capital funds under management and diligence services. Semaphore currently holds fiduciary obligations as General Partner for six Private Equity and Venture Capital funds, is a New Markets Tax Credit lender and advises General and Limited Partners as well as corporations around the world. Semaphore's corporate offices are in Boston with principal offices in New York, London and Dallas.

Topics: entrepreneurs, equity, private equity funds, Semaphore, funds under management, general partners, limited partners, VC, investment, Business Operations

A New BOSS Comes to Town


We have all had a new boss in our life.  This is an announcement concerning a different sort of BOSS.  We here at Semaphore are excited to let you know more about our Business Operations/Strategy Service and the addition of David Friend, M.D., MBA as part of our advisory team.  Let us know how we can help – and say “hello Friend”.

Every now and then it’s healthy to get a new boss - someone who can lead a previously moribund operation. A person not weighted down with institutional memory and tired culture.  A person who can not only articulate a vision but is not freighted with excuses as to why a goal has not and cannot be reached.  Rather a person who understands and has the skills to get you across the success line.  Such success can only be achieved with the insights of senior, knowledgeable and committed leadership.  Success is determined by process and the unique skills of the person leading the effort.

 That is why Semaphore’s Business Operation/Strategy Service (BOSS) is expanding.  “We are thrilled to announce that David Friend, MD, MBA is joining our advisory team,” announced Semaphore CEO Mark S. DiSalvo. “David brings years of sterling hands-on and real-world practitioner skills to our already robust practice assisting companies and funds in our strategic/operational business advisory practice,” he noted.

 “Joining Semaphore’s Team allows me to bring diagnostic, operational and mentoring skills earned by decades of turning around troubled entities and accelerating success in working but stagnant companies,” noted Dr. Friend.  “As a trained physician and experienced turn-around CEO I can assure, along with my Semaphore colleagues, true and real change management in tying strategic clarity to sustained operational success, “ promised the long time work-out executive.

The Semaphore BOSS practice provides senior resources to assess recommend and mentor technology companies in the “Zone of Irrelevance “(ZOI). 

Dr. Friend has most recently served as CEO of The Palladium Group providing global strategy education and consultancy to world-class entities from the Middle East, Asia, Europe and North America.  He previously worked as a turnaround executive with Alverez and Marsal as Managing Director of Healthcare Restructuring and Watson Wyatt Worldwide as Division Chief Executive where he helped guide the business through its successful IPO. He was also COO at High Voltage Engineering and serves on a variety of boards and advisory committees as a qualified Audit Committee Chair.

The BOSS program augments the well known Semaphore Technology Diligence and Market Diligence Practices that offer investors and companies independent verification and validation of products, systems and markets.  Crispin Miller, Technology and Market Practice Leader said “we are excited to have David join our advisory practice team offering vital resources to PE portfolios, owner-run companies and other private, public or non-profit institutions.”

The BOSS practice will focus on companies that have entered the “Zone of Irrelevance” (ZOI).  These are typically companies who have launched, have customers and revenue but have plateaued.  

For many companies hitting this plateau after initial revenue means death.  The ZOI is an all too frequent malady and a difficult thing to avoid.  Very few venture backed companies reach their potential when they fall into the ZOI.   These are the companies who generally have revenue of under $5 million and have not figured out how to get to $20m+ (or companies in the $10m range trying to get to $50m).  Companies challenged by ZOI may have a variety of problems that are directly addressed by a combination of strategic thinking and tactical action.  “At this point employing BOSS affords the prospect of fulfilling the founder’s dreams and an investor’s expectation,” said Dr. Friend.

The BOSS practice provides senior resources to assess, recommend, mentor and/or pitch in with hands-on expertise with companies in the ZOI.  The key points addressed are the ability to link strategy, operations, finance, people and revenue attainment.

David B. Friend, MD, MBA, Business Operations/Strategy Service Practice, can be reached at 781- 296 -6300,

Crispin Miller is the head of the Diligence Practice ( at Sema4 Inc., dba Semaphore (, a leading global professional services provider of Technology and Marketing diligence, and Private Equity funds-under-management services.  The Semaphore Business Operations/Strategy Service (BOSS) complements both of its other advisory practices.  Semaphore currently holds fiduciary obligations as General Partner for seven Private Equity and Venture Capital funds, a New Markets Tax Credit lender and advises General and Limited Partners as well as corporations around the world.  Semaphore’s corporate offices are in Boston with principal offices in New York and London.

Topics: private equity funds, technology diligence, business advisory, market diligence, Business Operations, operations, Strategy Services, BOSS

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