In a downturn, customer retention is a real measure of value, explains Jerry Darko.

And, keep an eye on e-commerce in the B2B space, as decision making around enterprise software gets pushed down the organization.

Stream our full conversation with Jerry here.

Before starting his career as a communications technology banker, Jerry Darko was studying for a PhD in electrical engineering. After hours spent in the lab calculating complex equations, the self-described “tech guy” said he realized there was another side of technology, one that was a better fit for his personality.

“I discovered by happenstance that there were career opportunities in helping people understand technology and its impact on the world by telling those stories, raising capital and being an advisor,” said Darko, now a managing director at William Blair, a middle market investment bank. Among other things, he works with companies to help them raise capital, go public or navigate mergers and acquisitions.

When eyeing potential investments or acquisitions, Darko said the fundamentals don’t change.“We look for growth-oriented businesses and growth-oriented markets and the future,” he said. “As a technology guy myself, I’m very excited about what’s coming next as opposed to doing more of the same and some of the consolidation of the plays of yesteryear.”

After considering a business’ growth, innovation and whether or not its doing something fundamentally different in the ecosystem, Darko looks to the finances: How big is the business? Is it profitable? What are the unit economics? Is it acquiring customers in a cost-effective way?

What’s become even more important as the market gets “a bit choppy,” Darko said, is retention.

“The biggest proof that you’re doing something valuable for your customers is that they stick with you in hard times.”

The concept of gross and net retention and churn is a big focus area for anyone investing in the space, he said.

“When you think about the role of an investment banker in the world and in the capital markets, we are effectively the sort of lubricant to dealmaking,” Darko said.

Darko was involved in the deal that helped Impact raise capital from PSG Equity and said he’s been working in the affiliate space for years.

“When people say ‘affiliate,’ they mean something specific, but literally the internet runs on affiliate to a certain extent,” he said. “So anything you do in ecommerce has an affiliate angle to it. Anything you do in digital media has an affiliate angle to it.”

That speaks to the growth and increasing ubiquity of affiliate. Five years ago, Darko said, the concept of partnerships felt “really evangelical,” he said. Fast forward a few years, and large organizations are building teams dedicated to affiliate and partnerships.

Darko also said he’s watched the “consumerization of IT” in recent years.

“The role of a CTO in purchasing decisions has proven over time to not be the fastest way to drive innovation in your organization,” he said. Not only is that role moving outside the office of the CTO into other C-level offices it’s also moving down the categories of the organization and fueled by the idea of product-led growth.

Darko said those at William Blair believe that performance marketing is going to hold even amid a market downturn. It’s a resilient channel, he said, because “it’s the last thing that is turned off from a business that still needs to grow.”

When Darko started his career as a communications technology banker, the iPhone had just been released and mobile was quickly becoming its own category. That was an exciting time to be in digital marketing, but that continues to be true, he said.

Though it was a “long winding road” to his role today, he said his own technological background has helped him understand what is innovative and where the markets are going next.

Stream more Martech Record one-on-one's on-demand here:

Chris Goodridge, President & COO, Vertical Scope

Julie Van Ullen, Managing Director, Rakuten Rewards

Jerrid Grimm, Founder & CEO of Pressboard

Jon Leiberman, VP Content, Social & Influencer at Demandbase

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