Michael A. Scharf

Michael is an expert at structuring the deal. Over the course of his career, Michael has been part of teams responsible for billions in transactions. He has partnering with, and faced off against, some of the biggest names on Wall Street.

As a corporate executive, Michael spent 20 years in the financial services industry working with companies as varied as Experian, AOL Beneficial Finance, American Express, Great Western Bank, First Interstate Bancorp and as an advisor to Visa USA

Since leaving the corporate world, Michael has founded or led companies in a variety of sectors including telecommunications, entertainment, and technology.

Like every other entrepreneur, some companies created better outcomes than others, but every transaction created value for both buyer and seller.

An accomplished business and brand builder, Michael has built his investment banking practice around creating and closing transactions for emerging and mid-size companies. Obtaining capital, finding and creating strategic partnerships, each transaction is fully evaluated, promoted, and negotiated.  

 

 

Alexander Austin

Alexander Austin is a strategic advisor that brings hands-on expertise in early stage/start-ups and small-medium sized businesses. 

As an entrepreneur / investor in Sports and Entertainment, Finance, and E-commerce for over a decade, Alex adds a depth of knowledge and transaction experience to main street and lower middle market clients.  Utilizing a unique and outside the box approach, he focuses on Exit Planning and Investment Banking services

Alex specializes in working with early-stage technology companies, 8a/MBE government contractors and family owned companies.

By leveraging his relationships with key channel partners (wealth managers, M&A attorney's, CPA firms), Alex is able to bring together a group of value add service providers and create a collaborative environment with client executive teams to implement long term growth and exit plans.

Antonio Barzagli

"We have a strategic plan. It's called doing things."- Herb Kelleher (co-founder of Southwest Airlines)

Antonio approaches engagements for Growthink clients with a blend of creative, strategic and financial skills. As an Engagement Partner, he joins clients' management in its strategic planning, agile plan execution, and capital raising in support of that plan.

Antonio joined Growthink directly following his tenure at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Europe. His career at PWC began in Public Accounting, with a focus on the Financial Services industry, but soon transited into strategic consulting. In this regard, he collaborated with the Sustainability & Climate Change Advisory team to develop and improve strategies for business sustainability for several Fortune500 companies in Europe.

Antonio is also an experienced entrepreneur: he co-founded and managed several start-ups in different fields including employee/customer engagement and utilities.

Antonio completed his Bachelor in Economics and Master's Degree in Finance at Universita' degli Studi di Firenze, Italy. During his graduate program, he studied at Santa Clara University, Leavey School of Business, and conducted a dissertation on private equity and venture capital partnerships in Silicon Valley. Antonio is fluent in Italian and English.

Antonio teaches Corporate Finance at the European School of Economics.

Notable Growthink projects include:

BUSINESS PLANNING: Fast-growing Singapore ISP provider (achieved JV and investment from technical partner); Start-up compiler technology to automate deployment of cloud solutions (raised $600K in Series A round); micro-finance company launching operations in Accra, Ghana (completed Seed fundraising and obtained authorization from Central Bank); Social network focusing on the creative industry (raised $3.5M in Series A round); Leading New York wine shipping company (approved for $2.2M bank loan for warehouse expansion);

BANKING / M&A: Through affiliate broker dealer Growthink Securities. Buy side mandate for £280M public company in the multi-redemption and closed-loop card business seeking expansion outside of organic growth and traditional markets; Private placement for SaaS technology platform for tourism industry;

FEASIBILITY STUDIES: Manhattan-based urgent care group assessing expansion through new locations; $30M billing and payment-processing firm seeking to enter the health care space; $10M cutlery manufacturer and wholesaler assessing relocation of Chinese manufacturing plant in the U.S.

OPERATIONS / SUPPLY CHAIN: Excel-based tool for a Mid-West filling and packaging factory to effectively monitor supply chain, manage inventory and A/R levels, and understand line of credit requirements

OTHER engagements include company valuation, gap analysis and KPIs tracking, sales-force implementation

Kevin Bates

As an Engagement Manager at Growthink, Kevin provides direct support in all areas of project management and strategic business planning engagements.  His passion for entrepreneurship motivates him to utilize his background to work with companies within the construction, real estate, professional services, restaurant, and a variety of other industries. 

Notable engagements include:

Business planning, valuation and investor presentation packaging for  growing insurance company 

Business planning and Private Placement development for commercial real estate fund 

Business planning for payment verifications company 

Prior to joining Growthink, Kevin worked as a licensed commercial real estate agent specializing in multifamily investments in Los Angeles.  Additionally, Kevin worked as a sales representative for a leading global manufacturer and distributor of power tools for the home improvement, repair and construction industries.  He also has experience in a number of customer service roles and is a proud Eagle Scout, the highest achievement or rank in the Boy Scouts.

Kevin graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor's degree in Entrepreneurship.  He was actively involved on campus, serving in leadership positions for a student-run professional organization. 

Ethan Bennett

"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now." -Chinese Proverb

As a Growthink Engagement Manager, some of Mr. Bennett's notable client engagements include:

Market research and competitive analysis for rapidly growing consumer health company with line of antibacterial and skincare products

Support for development of  Executive Summary, Financial Model and Private Placement Memorandum for a Midwestern community bank acquisition

Strategic growth planning for third party logistics provider servicing the U.S., Mexico and Canada

Business planning for startup fantasy baseball platform

Before joining Growthink, Ethan worked at Bay Federal Credit Union, which specializes in producing affordable loans and credit options for residents in the Bay Area.  Ethan also worked at Gesher Group, an undergraduate consulting firm that specializes in catalyzing the growth of non-profit and community organizations in Santa Cruz County.

Ethan graduated from the University of California Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Business Management Economics and a minor in Technology Information Management.

 

John Brown

John Brown brings to Growthink 25 years of experience in helping to build and grow companies as an analyst, consultant, strategist and thought leader. John’s range of expertise helps clients in the areas of strategy development, business planning, product development, market strategies, growth planning, mergers & acquisitions, partnership development, organizational structuring, innovation and project management. John has in-depth knowledge of the health care, power sports, and after-market industries.

John has the unique experience of working as a strategist in a Fortune 50 organization as well as an owner-operator of a small business. John spent 15 years on a strategy team that drove the growth of a regional Health Insurance plan into a Fortune 50 company. John and his family have owned and operated several small businesses throughout the years.

John earned a Bachelor's degree in Business Economics from Indiana University and a MBA from the University of Indianapolis.

David Burns

David has aided the business planning, start-up, and capital raising efforts of companies in the renewable energy, technology, and manufacturing industries. He has also consulted with small businesses, venture-backed and private equity-backed companies regarding mergers and acquisitions, partnerships, valuations, financing, and performance measurement/evaluation. David has worked in the middle market merger and acquisition group at Salomon Smith Barney, where he initiated, executed and closed transactions. He serves on the board of directors for RRE Regents Center TIC, LLC and Doorways, Ltd. David has an MBA from UCLA Anderson Graduate School of Management, where he was a Management Development for Entrepreneurs Fellow. He earned a Bachelor's degree in mathematics with minor in English and Chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania.

Troy Centazzo

Troy first joined Growthink in 2008 to help develop and lead an integrated investment banking and strategy consulting practice focused on rapidly emerging sectors and business owners seeking to exit.  He was responsible for sourcing, closing and/or overseeing more than 40 engagements & transactions, as well as generated a portfolio of 15 equity positions for the firm.   

Troy re-joins Growthink after spending several years co-leading a private equity-backed roll-up of family-owned consumer services firms in tier 2 – 4 markets from a start-up phase. 

Prior to Growthink, Troy assisted companies in all areas of business, including developing their strategies and raising capital.  A seasoned entrepreneur, he helped found, manage and invest in several start-up companies and organizations, primarily in the consumer products and services, technology, and New Media sectors.  Troy additionally worked as an Associate in the Investment Banking and Merchant Banking Divisions at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette (DLJ, now CS First Boston).

Troy earned an MBA from the Darden School of Business and a JD from the School of Law, both at the University of Virginia.  He won the Faculty Award at Darden for graduating at the top of his class.  Troy earned dual Bachelor’s degrees in Economics and Public Policy from Brown University, where he graduated with Honors and served as class Co-President.   He holds the Series 79 and 63 securities licenses.  

Q&A with Growthink Engagement Partner Troy Centazzo

What makes Growthink such a unique professional advisory firm in your mind?

I knew of Growthink long before I joined the firm.  There’s no other firm like it - it’s the Swiss Army Knife of strategic advisory firms.  Most companies don’t just need one service as they’re growing or thinking of a future exit.  They may need capital (and GT is a fully licensed broker-dealer) but they often also want to know where their best growth opportunities are. A business owner may want to sell to a larger company in a couple years, but may first want a strategic roadmap, such as a detailed growth plan, on how to maximize the results of the future transaction. Or, a company may need to develop a completely new online strategy due to rapid shifts in its industry.  

Growthink has worked with thousands of companies in virtually every sector on their advisory and corporate finance needs and can assist clients with a full range of the advisory services they need.   In my experience, most firms only offer one or two services.  

What do you think clients are looking for from their advisors in the current, rapidly-changing business environment?

Well first, clients are looking for the same attributes they always have from their outside professional advisors:  high quality, trustworthy advice that’s in the best interest of their organizations. It’s a great feeling when a long-term client considers you part of their corporate team, not just an outside advisor.   I’ve noticed that the executives we work with appreciate that Growthink’s senior professionals have started, operated, and exited businesses ourselves before.  We’ve been deep in the trenches and truly understand the challenges that business owners face.  

Also, let’s face it:  the pace of change in so many industries right now is mindboggling.    New business models have disrupted so many sectors, at times only within a couple years.  Business owners are trying to figure out how to thrive and survive in this environment.  The Growthink team closely tracks emerging business models and sectors, and is in an ideal position to advise firms at all stages of development on how they can take advantage of these rapid changes.     

Visit Troy’s LinkedIn profile Here.

Eddie Clay

"If you can dream it, you can do it." - Walt Disney

Eddie is passionate about partnering with business entrepreneurs and executives to help them become more successful.  He is dedicated to providing strategic and financial expertise for their companies' most pressing challenges and new market opportunities and is driven to deliver transformative, high impact results that exceed client expectations.  Eddie works with the firm’s innovation practice, along with the M&A practice of Growthink’s wholly-owned subsidiary investment bank, GT Securities.

Prior to joining Growthink, Eddie spent more than 15 years in investment banking and financial advisory services, most recently as Director of Mergers & Acquisitions and Business Development at Phillip Roman & Company,  a Los Angeles-based M&A advisory consulting firm specializing in private, middle market transactions.  More specifically, he focused on sourcing a robust pipeline of fully-vetted acquisition targets for private equity firms via directly engaging with CEOs of middle market companies with $10M to $1B+ in revenue.  Prior to Phillip Roman & Company, Eddie was an executive search professional serving Corporate America and Wall Street clients, as well as a Divisional CFO and internal corporate consultant at Countrywide Financial.  He also spent two years at Goldman Sachs in high net worth wealth management and three years at Intel Corporation as a manufacturing supervisor.  Eddie started his career as an officer in the U.S. Army at a munitions platoon leader.

Eddie holds an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business and a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Management from the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.

Paul Dickson

Mr. Dickson has over 25 years of international business experience in sales, marketing, law and finance.  He has negotiated over $500M in business transactions of various types on multiple continents (especially Asia), including business startups, product and service sales, intellectual property, licensing, financing and company acquisitions in various industries; including high technology, clean technology, manufacturing, services and software.  

Paul has considerable experience working with companies of all sizes, from Fortune 50 companies such as Intel, Hewlett Packard and Motorola, to startups. Paul started up his own high tech software company, built it and sold it to a large public company.  He also helped start a successful HVAC company. He has invested in, advised and served on the Board of Directors of startups. He has raised capital for and sold multiple companies and divisions of companies.  Paul has volunteered with several local entities in helping the local business community, including the CleanTech Open, Innotech and the Oregon State Bar.  

He holds a J.D. degree from the University of Oregon and undergraduate degree from the University of Santa Clara.  He is a member of the California State Bar, holds Series 7, 63 and 24 FINRA/Securities Licenses and an Oregon Real Estate license. In his free time he enjoys engaging with his kids’ competitive activities, skiing, fishing and exercising.

Barry Fay

“Entrepreneurs have been so instrumental in the improvement of everyone's lives that being involved with an organization like Growthink that assists entrepreneurs is an honor.”

As a member of Growthink’s Strategic Board of Advisors, Barry Fay brings high levels of strategic thinking, intelligence, positive attitude and team building to deliver optimal results to growing companies.

From 1992 to 2010, Barry was with Aqua-Flo Supply, which is a leading distributor of irrigation supplies and landscape products.  Aqua-Flo has seven branches in the California counties of Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara.  Barry served as President from 2000 to 2010 and he led the company’s 900% growth over a fifteen year period while maintaining above industry average profitability.  Barry was involved in all aspects of the company including operations, strategy, purchasing, sales, personnel, central control, quoting and pricing.  Aqua-Flo was awarded numerous awards including the National Distributor of the Year award from Weathermatic in 2008.  In 2007, 2008 and 2009, Barry served as a judge for the New Product of the Year contest put on by the Irrigation Association, which is the international trade association.

Barry received his MBA from The Anderson School at UCLA and earned his BBA from the University of Notre Dame where he graduated Summa Cum Laude.

Barry has served as a judge in national and local collegiate business plan competitions.  He has been involved with numerous local organizations, primarily in youth sports.  Barry has been a member of YPO (Young Presidents Organization) since 2000 and has served two terms as the Santa Barbara Chapter chair.   He has made numerous investments in emerging companies.  His interests include travel and many sports.  Barry lives with his wife and four children in Montecito, California.

Philip Frost

Phil has extensive experience in pay per click advertising, search engine optimization, sales conversion optimization, and lead generation for both B2B and B2C markets. Over the years, Phil has created and managed hundreds of successful direct-response online advertising campaigns using proven analytics and landing page optimization techniques.

Prior to working with Growthink, Phil managed a one million dollar Pay Per Click advertising budget for an affiliate marketing business. He tracked ROI down to the exact keyword level across multiple ad outlets like Google, Yahoo, and MSN/Bing, which allowed him to maintain a 30% overall profit margin. In addition to detailed tracking, Phil also continually optimized the ad campaigns by split testing ad text and landing page design/layout.

Phil's first Growthink project was to re-design the website in order to streamline the lead generation and Search Engine Optimization efforts. Once the website was live, he then developed a custom marketing automation and lead nurturing system for Growthink's sales team and centralized project management to a single platform.

Currently, Phil helps clients (and Growthink itself) with their online advertising. In the past year he has profitably scaled Growthink Publishing's advertising budget by 1,300% and this business unit is now on pace to generate more than one million per year in profit from his advertising campaigns alone.

When Phil is not working, he enjoys running "barefoot" (he wears minimalistic shoes since his wife no longer lets him run totally barefoot) in Central Park in New York City. He also is a member of the Determination running team where he raises money for the American Cancer Society by running road races in NYC.

Phil earned his Master of Engineering Management degree from Thayer School of Engineering and Tuck School of Business and his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Engineering degrees from Dartmouth College.

Darlene Fukuji

As an Engagement Manager Darlene is responsible for client and project management at Growthink. She also serves as Growthink’s social media guru.  Darlene has a passion for entrepreneurship and during her time at Growthink, has helped nearly 100 companies launch and grow their ventures in the following industries: construction, hospitality, mobile applications, mining, fashion, insurance, health and fitness, wellness, and many more.

Notable engagements include:

• Strategic growth planning for luxury mega yacht company based in Ft. Lauderdale, FL with operations in the Caribbean, Europe and South East Asia

• Business planning and KPI advisory for Fantastic Sams franchise with eight locations

• Acquisition plan for Hawaii-based e-commerce company, assisting to secure deal terms

• Business plan for startup  language e-learning platform

• Opportunity Assessment / Exit Planning for Chicago-based construction company

• Go-To-Market strategic plan for early stage energy drink company based in Miami, FL.

Prior to joining Growthink, Darlene has spent time in healthcare consulting; the U.S. Senate in Washington D.C working under Senator Pro- Temp, Senator Daniel Inouye, Chairman of the Department of Defense  and  at the law firm Vegari & Napolitano, specializing in business law,  trusts and estates.

Darlene holds a Bachelor’s degree in Entrepreneurship from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles where she was also a founding member of the Entrepreneurship Society at the Hilton Conrad School of Business.

Darlene has strong passion for the community and is an active member of Rotary International and a founding member of Westchester Rotary Young Professionals Club.  In 2014 Darlene was awarded the Paul Harris Fellow Award, the Rotary’s highest honor, in recognition for Darlene’s “service above self”.

Marci Glasgow-Haire

I love research. You start with an assumption and end up with a great foundation of facts on which to build, or rework, your premise. Sometimes the facts are as you expected, and sometimes the facts are surprising. JRR Tolkien said it best when he wrote, “There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.”

Serving as Growthink's Senior Market Research Analyst, Marci has worked with hundreds of companies across all industries to provide research support for business planning and strategic growth. She has worked with companies of all sizes, from startups to multi-million dollar international corporations.

Notable engagements include:

Marketing strategy deployment for global ATM software company

Opportunity assessments for real estate companies planning developments in key U.S. and international markets

Strategic growth planning for a major debt collection firm

Strategic growth planning for South and Central American waste management company

Before becoming a Growthink Market Research Analyst, Marci was a Competitive Intelligence Analyst with Fortune 500 Company, Kelly Services, where her research skills supported product development, strategic initiatives and executive thought leadership.

Marci began her career as a Youth Librarian in public libraries, where she combined her love of books and her fascination with research to inspire the next generation of knowledge-seekers.

Marci holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music and a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science.

 

Antonio Governale

Antonio has extensive experience in international capital markets, with an emphasis on advising small and medium sized companies on devising and implementing growth strategies and raising capital.

His experience covers the full spectrum of the capital markets cycle including: raising money for large public companies (at UBS), small and medium private companies (at Credit Suisse), acting as a regulator and managing strategy/ business development (at the London Stock Exchange) and launching, raising capital for and leading two trading platform start-ups.

Antonio’s experience is uniquely international having led projects and grown revenue on behalf of two Swiss banks, two British companies, an Italian start-up, an Indian conglomerate and two US funds in the UK, the US, Continental Europe and South-East Asia.

Antonio earned a Master’s Degree in Finance and Accounting from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Lauren Gulliver

Lauren is a Dashboard Developer at Guiding Metrics specializing in the creation and implementation of tools to complement entrepreneurs' business growth and efficiency.

Lauren brings to Growthink experience in account management, education and creative arts.

Lauren earned her Bachelor's degree in music with a minor in business from New York University.

Jim Hartley

"The passion with which Growthink pursues its mission makes me want to see them realize their dream: to spread entrepreneurial opportunity everywhere it can make a difference for a person, within a market, and for society." 

A member of Growthink’s Advisory Board and a Senior Advisor in their Strategic Consulting work, Jim Hartley brings extensive background in consulting engineering management and community board leadership.

In 35 years of consulting environmental engineering, Jim has established teams to serve local communities in San Diego, Los Angeles and Sacramento; as the Area Manager for CH2M HILL in Sacramento, Jim doubled the size of the office in 6 years (135 to 258) and reduced morale-based turnover to a new corporate benchmark.

Jim has also served as CH2M HILL’s California Governmental Affairs Director, and as the Program Manager for the largest utility client in his firm’s portfolio. Jim also continues as a Principal Environmental Technologist, mentoring staff and directing teams addressing underground contamination over four continents. In 2006 Jim was named a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

In the northern California community, Jim served for 9 years as the Vice Chair of Strategic Planning for the Reno-Tahoe Winter Games Coalition, an entity dedicated to bring a future Winter Olympic Games back to Lake Tahoe. He is active in his local area, serving as a Science Olympiad Coach, on the Editorial Board of Comstock’s Business magazine, and as a cantor and lector at his church. He also serves as an alumni volunteer for Stanford University, supporting the Haas Center for Public Service and the Undergraduate Admissions Office, and serving as an Alumni Mentor for engineering students.

Jim earned a M. Eng. degree in Civil Engineering from U.C. Berkeley, and graduated τβπ and φβκ in Civil Engineering and Italian from Stanford University. He lives in Fair Oaks, CA with his wife; their two children are both in graduate school.