One of the first questions we got on Cost of Capital was how “realistic” it was.
Do Associates really get abused that much and suffer through so much crap, even in private equity?
Do characters like David, Byron, Todd and Leonard truly exist in real life?
Rather than answering all of those with text (the boring method), we decided to use an infographic that breaks down everything for you – just click the image below to get the large version:
Private Equity: TV vs. Real Life – The Infographic
Click the image below to view the Large version or click right here.
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What, You Wanted Text?
The short version: “There are some exaggerated elements here, but most of it is truer to real life than you might think.”
We could have “jumped the shark” by turning it into a John Grisham story and making the private equity firm secretly owned by the mafia.
But that would have been stupid and would have defeated the purpose of creating the series in the first place.
If you really want text, here’s a quick recap of what’s in the infographic:
Episodes 1 and 2:
The main exaggerated part here is how Jason “sources” the deal in the first place.
Most deals do not, in fact, get sourced via a coked-out banker crashing his car into the side of the road.
But we wanted to add some entertainment value / comic relief, and this whole car crash sequence is actually a reference to my own personal story of quitting banking to start this business (bonus points if you’ve read that story before… somewhere).
The rest of the points are “Yes and No” and “Possibly” territory: the pressure Jason is under, Nancy’s micromanagement and enticing offer, and Martin getting hired in the first place are possible but somewhat exaggerated.
Episodes 3 and 4:
In these episodes, by contrast, all the points have much more of a “Yes” or “No” answer.
The scenes involving the Limited Partners and the bankers diverge from reality the most here; sorry to disappoint you, but in real life you’re just not THAT likely to run into your boss in the VIP room of a strip club.
The parts about the market, the potential buyer, the quick flip, and so on are much more representative of what happens in real life.
But hey, could you really write and produce a finance-related web series without including strippers?
Episodes 5 and 6:
And then these final episodes are probably the closest to reality – from Jason getting screwed on his bonus to the bankers going “below the bar” to get a deal done and so on.
Yes, Jason should have been much more aggressive and “in your face” here, but hey, he’s just not that type of guy.
The parts with Nancy’s final deal terms ($60 million and 25% ownership – unrealistically high) and the Limited Partners trading favors behind the scenes are not entirely accurate, but they do give you a flavor of what happens in real life since that type of behavior is common.
Your Hints for Season 2… and More?
OK, so I said I would drop 3 hints about a potential Season 2 today… here they are:
Hint #1: Inspirational Works
One of my favorite “classic” books is Great Expectations. It’s a timeless story that resonates with you regardless of whether you’re 20, 30, 40, 50, or beyond because it speaks to basic human desires: advancing to a higher social class, finding love, and aspiring to climb higher than your parents did.
One of my favorite TV shows is Breaking Bad because… well, it’s just awesome and cooking crystal meth and killing children to protect your business readily apply to the world of finance as well.
Both of those works have inspired the story for Season 2.
NOTE: Please don’t take this as a sign that there will be a convict-turned-wealthy-benefactor who made his money by dealing drugs… or maybe there will be?
Hint #2: Write What You Know
Having done dozens (hundreds?) of interviews and interacted with so many people in the industry by now, I’ve seen some pretty crazy stories over the years – especially when it comes to relationships.
Traders who refused to get married after being engaged for 10 years because the fiancée would not sign a prenup… one woman who ran away 2 months before the wedding and stole everything… and, of course, men doing everything from “mildly shady” behavior (trips to Southeast Asia) to outright reckless affairs and shameless disrespect.
But my own story is the craziest of all.
It is something that could have literally been on a TV show or in a (dark) romantic comedy, and it involves several of the most disturbing people I’ve met in my entire life.
Elements of this entire story will make it into the next season as all the characters start to think about their own “romantic futures.”
Hint #3: The Ring
Finally, there will be a ring.
Or at least a circular object made of something like gold.
And Frodo may have to ask for Gollum’s help to throw it into Mount Doom.
For More Hints
You know what to do: sign up for the dedicated mailing list on the Cost of Capital page.
Thanks for watching, and hope you enjoyed this series!