Cyrus Nikou is the founder and managing partner of Atar Capital, a private investment firm that specializes in acquiring and investing in lower-middle market companies that are socially and environmentally responsible.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Cyrus to learn more about Atar Capital and get his insight into current financial situations and trends.
#1: Can you share a bit about the types of companies that Atar Capital focuses on and why?
We acquire businesses that are underperforming in the lower to middle market that have clear areas for improvement through our operational expertise. We are industry agnostic, so companies are diverse and range from business services to industrials.
#2: What are the top two or three skills you possess that you believe aspiring entrepreneurs should acquire?
First, entrepreneurs need to possess financial literacy. At the very least, they should be able to read and prepare financial statements and have a basic understanding of how to manage a budget. Second, they need to master the art of networking. A lot of young people make the mistake of believing that networking is only successful when it is upward. In fact, networking laterally, especially with those right next to you, is equally as important. Many of the world’s best inventors and innovators are not yet billionaires. They are your peers. Learn something from them. Establish long-standing relationships, but also establish new and short-lived ones, too. Connect, connect, connect. Then never stop doing it. And third, maintain a growth mindset. There is always more to learn, and the moment you stop learning, you lose.
#3: What lasting impact do you think the pandemic, political climate and financial turbulence have had on the types of companies that you invest in?
Because we invest in all different types of companies, there is a wide array of how the pandemic and political and financial climates impact them. I would expect that the worst part of the crisis is behind us — fear and domestic isolationism. Coupled together, those can interrupt the flow of shared information and goods, ultimately creating logistical issues in supply chains and slowing down overall production.
That type of impact creates a ripple effect that is, quite literally, felt at every level within every type of business. This is true even for companies like Pathways and WinCup, which have a unique opportunity to mitigate the looming pandemic by providing necessities like behavioral health services and sustainable goods.
#4: What is something unique about your brand that sets you apart from your competitors?
Many of our competitors make good products. They, like Atar, focus on creating a more sustainable planet for ourselves and future generations. What sets us apart from those competitors is our dedication to making a great product rather than just a good one. It’s important for us to be forward-thinking and to meet the world where it’s growing. There are steps to creating a successful product. It requires not only the will to want to do the work, but also the discipline and innovation to get it done. Finally, it requires the commitment to make it happen again and again.
#5: What are the current attitudes toward private equity among policymakers and the public and how do these impact your company?
The current attitudes toward private equity among policymakers seems to be a positive one. Among the public, I’m not so sure. I think to the extent that people have a clear understanding of what private equity is and how it helps businesses and employees, they will feel positive about it as well.
#6: What has been the most inspiring part of your career thus far?
Every deal is inspiring because it’s a reminder that the sacrifices are absolutely worth it. In retrospect, appreciation for the grind is always easy because we’ve already reaped the benefits of hard work. But when we’re in the thick of it — going back and forth to meetings, constantly on calls, examining data and re-examining the data again — it can create an array of feelings that aren’t always positive. You have good seasons and bad seasons. I’ve been afforded the opportunity to witness those cycles of good and bad come full circle to produce positive outcomes. This gives me the energy to go for the next deal.
#8: We understand that philanthropy is one of your core values. Can you tell us about some of the organizations and causes you support and how you help them?
I donate to USC’s Marshall School of Business Scholarship Foundation because I deeply believe that all young people, regardless of their socioeconomic environment, should have access to adequate resources and Research 1 (R1) schools. Our greatest inventors and entrepreneurs are everywhere. And I think it’s important that we invest in them, everywhere.
#9: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers today?
Fall in love with the process of whatever it is that you want to accomplish. And always remember, you live with you your entire life. Make decisions based on your gut and intuition, while still taking advice from peers, family, and friends.