New Operator-in-Residence: Joseph Hall

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With a strong certainty of closing a third deal in the fourth quarter, GTE is happy to introduce Joseph Hall as our newest Operator-in-Residence. Joseph comes here having worked in a variety of industries from trucking (where he was the Director of Analytics and Financial Performance) to oil and gas (where he was the Lead Drilling Engineer). Joseph graduated with his Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from Pennsylvania State University in 2012, and then from Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper of School of Business in 2018 with a Master in Business Administration. Joseph is passionate about entrepreneurship and is dedicated to acquiring and operating a business that fits his prior background and experience. GTE is glad to welcome Joseph to the team and we look forward to his time with the organization.

Volunteer Day

On June 24, the GTE team went out of the office to give back to the local community in Pittsburgh by volunteering. We went to Open Hand Ministries and were tasked with fixing up a house.

Open Hand Ministries explained that they renovate old homes in the Pittsburgh area and resell them to families who they have been working with for years. Pittsburgh is becoming unaffordable for many individuals, so Open Hand Ministries works to provide families with houses within their budget.

GTE spent the day demolishing, installing new flooring, and measuring for an addition on the back of the house. The intern cohort learns skills such as company evaluations and financial modeling skills in the office and outside of the office they got to learn other useful skills such as how to use a nail gun, the most effective way to destroy a fireplace, and the best type of plywood and glue to use for subflooring. By working together as a team, we accomplished a lot that will hopefully make a lasting impact! 

Overall, the volunteering experience was a great chance for the team at GTE to work collaboratively on a project that benefits the community. Not only did the opportunity allow the summer intern cohort to bond with and get to know the GTE crew better, but it also gave us a moment to remember the importance of volunteering and corporate philanthropy, something that we hold close to our hearts here at GT Entrepreneurs.

GTE Guest Speaker: Tecum Capital

On Friday, June 28th, Tyson Smith and Husnain Safdar of Tecum Capital came into GTE to talk to the 2019 summer cohort about their investment banking and private equity experience. They both have an extensive background in the financial services industry and offered valuable career advice and guidance. 

Husnain is a University of Pittsburgh graduate who began his career working for PNC in several different roles. He eventually transitioned into investment banking at Harris Williams & Co for two years, before moving to PNC Mezzanine in 2016, and finally landing at Tecum.

Tyson is a graduate of the Mendoza College of Business at Notre Dame University in 2002. He began working in the private equity research department for RW Baird. After five years there, he decided to transition into business ownership. After his entrepreneurial experience, he moved back to Pittsburgh and began working at FNB capital corp until he became a partner at Tecum Capital in 2013.

Tyson and Husnain offered great insight into what Tecum does, as well as their own personal day-to-day operations. They also explained the importance of networking in the business world.  This has everything to do with their strategy when approaching potential clients because one of their main selling points is their industry connections. When acquiring a new business, they are able to identify industry experts within their network and reach out to them for advice, leadership, or even bring them on as a consulting role. This is key for them because they may go through hundreds of potential deals but only pick a few. So their clients can be assured if they are doing a deal, that they are bringing experienced industry knowledge to the table and will be able to successfully grow the business. 

They finished their presentation with the advice that not every career path is for everyone and explained that one must find the path that's right for them. While trying to find the right career, it's important to seize opportunities that present themselves. If you find yourself in a role that you don't think is right for you, learn from it and proceed in the direction that is right for you. 

We thank Tyson and Husnain for taking the time to come to talk to us.

GTE Guest Speaker: Amanda Gerstnecker

On June 14th, GTE held a lunch event with Amanda Gerstnecker where she shared her experiences about developing a successful legal career in the world of business. After receiving her law degree from the University of Pittsburgh, she worked as a Corporate Attorney at Meyers, Unkov & Scott LLP for five years and left to go to Cohen & Grigsby.

Amanda shared her experiences and emphasized the importance of building strong relationships with both clients and co-workers. She also explained the importance of finding a mentor in any industry in which one works, as it provides young employees with valuable knowledge and support that they might otherwise miss out on. A mentor can provide the encouragement needed to stand up for yourself in the workplace, as Amanda highlighted the necessity of asking for what you want and working with the team in charge before giving up. She described the relationship with a mentor as one that grows in tandem with one’s professional career, which would be a valuable asset that benefits one’s career for the long-term.

Besides mentoring, she also pointed out the importance of building relationships with others. Amanda revealed to the GTE team the need to forge strong relationships with the people who make up the workplace. During many of her legal transactions, Amanda discovered the importance of developing a sense of awareness between the different parties. Amanda believed the act of efficient communication was crucial to completing many of her works, and it is a skill that she believes is vital in any job. Through connectivity and understanding, Amanda demonstrated how a close-knit relationship with others can become a catalyst for growth in the business landscape. While being able to communicate in an efficient and succinct manner that anybody can understand is important in any industry, Amanda believes that attention to detail is particularly important to be a successful lawyer. She has worked on large deals and was able to negotiate the specifics of such a large transaction is what she says made the acquisition pass smoothly.

Another important item Amanda shared with us was about the importance of creating a quality work-life balance. She talked about her experiences in balancing the responsibilities of being a corporate attorney and a full-time parent. This struggle of her’s showed the need to find a harmonious relationship between the demands of life and work. One way she suggested tackling this issue is to identify both short-term and long-term goals for yourself. Amanda explained that at the beginning of each year she pinpoints what she wants to accomplish over the coming months and the next few years. While this is a relatively quick and simple task, it allows you to remain focused through what may seem like chaos. Whether writing a twenty-page report for a potential merger or raising a young toddler, Amanda wanted to highlight the need to accomplish things in an efficient and flexible manner. She showed that the development of these important tendencies would lead to rewarding results. Her willingness to transform and sacrifice for others has allowed her to strike an ideal balance between life and work.

We appreciate Amanda taking time out of her busy schedule to come to speak with the team at GTE.

GTE Guest Speaker: JJ Xu

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Entrepreneurship can be a difficult career path. Only those who are able to "follow their hearts" will succeed, according to Founder and CEO of TalkMeUp, JJ Xu. On June 7th, JJ spoke to the summer 2019 intern cohort about her career and journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur.  JJ knew from a young age that she wanted to be an entrepreneur and eventually be her own boss. However, knowing that this would not be an instant or easy journey to success, she took every opportunity she had to learn.

While working toward her Master's degree in microelectronics and solid-state electronics, JJ also worked in the sales industry working as a sales assistant making cold calls.  She later continued on to work at Groupon as Director of Sales and City Head. At both jobs, JJ was able to learn quickly and climb the ranks by applying innovative mathematical models to enhance their existing marketing techniques.

After her rapid success in business, JJ gathered the courage to follow her passion for entrepreneurship. In 2011 she co-founded HotAppMarket and worked on it for 7 months. She never got discouraged during the process, but instead continued to let her passion drive her forward. In 2012, she started working for Huawei Technologies.  After her time at Huawei, she moved on to be a marketing strategist at Magoosh, while working to obtain her MBA specializing in entrepreneurship from the Tepper School of Business. Upon getting her MBA, JJ once again decided to pursue her passion and started her second business, TalkMeUp.

An important part of being an entrepreneur is being open-minded and knowledgeable about the ever-changing world around you. Applying these skills, JJ was able to come up with the idea for TalkMeUp through a survey completed by her fellow classmates. The survey found that there was a demand for a tool that could assist students with their “real world” communication skills. Taking advantage of the opportunity in front of her, JJ created TalkMeUp. TalkMeUp is a unique and innovative software that uses AI to unbiasedly improve its users’ communication skills. It can detect flaws in its user's communication in situations like public speaking and interviews, and offer solutions. By doing this, TalkMeUp is more accessible and 90% cheaper than the conventional in-person interview and public speaking coaches.

JJ spoke about the importance of realizing that a detour is not always a bad thing in your career. It can lead you down a path and open new opportunities for you that may have never been possible before.  Any roadblock that arose in her career was never able to hold her back, she only saw it as an opportunity and took it as a chance to learn. JJ always let her heart guide her through adversity because sometimes it's the paths we don't expect that can lead us to success.  

We would like to thank JJ for her time and words of inspiration!

GTE Guest Speaker: Dave Edwards

On May 24th, GTE hosted Dave Edwards for lunch and a discussion about the asset management industry and current market conditions. After receiving his undergraduate degree in economics from Yale University, he went on to work for Highmark Health in their Corporate Development and Strategic Investments department. In this role, Dave helped identify many high-growth companies and the characteristics of a company that make the stock price go up. After getting his MBA from Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business, Dave was an Equity Analyst for a Dallas-based Investment Management firm.

Dave provided our intern class with plenty of first-hand knowledge and had a thought-provoking discussion about current market trends, stocks he likes, and what to look for when investing in a stock.

He mentioned that, in many cases, young people have an advantage over older “experts” in the investing world because they’re the first to identify emerging trends. He advised that some of the best investments have a clean balance sheet, revenue that goes up, and the company is able to get the asking price for their products. In the long run, almost all that matters when looking for a good investment is revenue growth and an economic moat that allows the company to protect its market share and profitability. On the other hand, stocks that go down often have financial leverage, operating leverage, and cyclicality.  

We thank Dave for taking the time out of his busy schedule to speak with us!

GTE Guest Speaker: Chris Cynkar

Never lose your sense of wonder. We are so often told to grow up and give up our childhood curiosity. We see it all the time – the kids whose eyes once sparkled with joy as they daydreamed about the endless possibilities dull over the years as they are taught to be realistic and get their head out of the clouds. Who said you can’t do both?

We were reminded of the importance of this balance between curiosity and practicality when Chris Cynkar came in for a guest lecture on May 31st to talk to the summer 2019 intern cohort about his life and career trajectory. Chris is a CPA by training, though his true passion shines through his entrepreneurial ventures.

Upon graduating from the Tepper School of Business, Chris began his acquisition search and acquired a commercial printing business. After 4 years, he divested and then closed on another deal for a business that makes MRI equipment. He sold this business after 4 years and then didn’t own another business for 2 years, until he acquired a medical staffing business. He then moved into franchising, on the side, and has been a franchise consultant for the last 6 years.

From these rich experiences, Chris tells us that it is so important to be a business owner because it means you get to determine your own outcome. He says, “There is never a right time to leave your job. It’s always inconvenient. You can make up a list of excuses… It’s like deciding whether to go to the gym in the morning. It’s good for you, so you do it.” Chris also described how many of the things people dislike about being an employee can be solved by becoming a business owner.

He left us with plenty of advice and reassurance and said that he hopes we find the courage and feel empowered enough to take the necessary steps to drive our own success. We thank Chris for taking the time out of his busy schedule to not only speak with us, but also inspire and remind us that our childhood dreams don’t just have to remain as dreams if we compliment them with practicality, financial literacy, and leadership.

GT Entrepreneurs Announces Summer 2019 Intern Cohort

Generational Transfer Entrepreneurs (GTE) is pleased to announce that 17 Private Equity Analyst interns and 3 MBA Search Interns have been hired for the summer of 2019 after an extensive search of some of the top academic institutions in our area. We welcome these new faces to the GTE family and cannot wait to see the positive impact they will have on our ever-expanding firm.

This cohort began their internship on May 20th, 2019 and were divided into three teams, each led by one of our Operators-In-Residence (OIR) and one MBA Search Intern. The undergraduate interns’ primary task is to identify potential acquisition targets and present preliminary proposals to their teams. If the initial proposal is accepted by the OIR, the team will proceed to analyze the company with industry research reports and financial model valuations.

In addition to this major task, the interns also have the great opportunity to learn from a number of different guest speakers throughout the internship program. GTE regularly invites guest speakers and industry professionals to discuss current events, relevant topics in finance and private equity, and provide their professional feedback to our staff. We hope that our interns will utilize the opportunity to gain valuable experience and insight into the world of private equity by developing their technical, networking, and interpersonal skills.

This is the seventh search team for GTE. These interns have ties to the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, and more. They each have their own unique backgrounds and the diverse perspectives they bring to our company will enable them to broaden their horizons. GTE looks forward to having our interns set and accomplish individual and career-related goals while generating leads, evaluating deals, and formulating initiatives to move the company forward.

GTE Resume and Interview Workshop

On Friday March 22nd, GTE held a resume and interview informational event for all interns. The event was led by Search Manager Robert Septak, Operators-In-Residence Gabriel Chick and Dave Jasnos, and MBA Search Intern Joe Hall.  

During this educational event, the GTE staff presented valuable advice on a number of topics related to aspects of the job-searching and interviewing process. They began by sharing resume templates used by Carnegie Mellon University’s MBA students, and told interns how to adapt them to highlight undergraduate experiences. In addition, the presenters discussed common resume mistakes, “action→result” bullet point layouts, and guidance for both tailoring resumes to a specific position and making your differentiating qualities stand out.

Once the resume discussion was complete, the conversation shifted to interview advice. Some points discussed during this segment of the program included preparation, etiquette, questions to ask, and follow-up communication.

The interns truly appreciate Bobby, Dave, Gabe, and Joe taking time out of their busy schedules to share their knowledge on these crucial aspects of professional development. Partially due to events like these, GTE’s interns have historically gone on to have very successful careers.  

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Acta Ventures Guest Speakers: Casey Totten and Andrew Yancey

On February 26th, 2019, Acta Ventures hosted Casey Totten and Andrew Yancey from PNC for a very informative discussion.  Acta Ventures and GTE are closely aligned and both looking to acquire middle market firms. Therefore, they frequently hold joint events to continue the growth of the CMU private equity community. Casey holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Notre Dame, and his current position at PNC is Relationship Manager. Andrew has a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Business from the Virginia Military Institute, and later went on to complete his MBA at CMU’s very own Tepper School of Business. His current role at PNC is Assistant Vice President of Commercial Banking Strategy.

After a brief introduction and discussion of their backgrounds, Andrew and Casey discussed the various responsibilities of their positions as well as a general overview of how PNC is structured. The pair then used their broad combined knowledge to field and answer questions from Acta and GTE’s intern classes about a variety of topics. They gave very interesting and detailed responses on a number of things such as PNC’s long-term strategies, the influx of new competition from both traditional banks and FinTech firms, new marketing and customer relations innovations, and the various departments housed within the bank.

Casey and Andrew offered the interns invaluable knowledge about working at a large bank and the corporate finance world overall. GTE thanks Casey and Andrew for their time, expertise, and advice.

Acta Ventures can be found at

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