Mario Nigro: Navigating the Complex Landscape of Canadian Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition (ETA)

portrait of Mario Nigro
Mario Nigro is a partner at Stikeman Elliott LLP and a key figure in the Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition (ETA) ecosystem in Canada. In this episode, he shares his experience as legal counsel, investor, and ecosystem builder. Mario provides insights into the world of ETA, discussing what to consider before pursuing ETA, the importance of resilience, and the evolving landscape of Canadian ETA funding. Listeners will gain practical advice on navigating the complexities of acquisitions and learn about the key traits needed for success.

5 Key Takeaways:

  1. ETA Isn’t for Everyone: ETA is becoming more popular in Canada and with social media glorifying it, people may think, “I can do that!” But ETA isn’t for everyone. That’s why it’s important to assess your values and skills and ensure it’s something you want. 
  2. Resilience is Key: Success in ETA requires resilience and the ability to persist through challenges. Finding the right deal can take months or even years, and having the determination to stay the course is crucial.
  3. Relevant Experience Matters: Having a background in commerce, finance, or business operations significantly enhances the chances of success. Prospective ETA entrepreneurs should build relevant skills and experiences before diving in.
  4. Community Support: The ETA ecosystem is highly supportive, with investors and mentors playing a crucial role in helping entrepreneurs succeed. Engaging with this community can provide invaluable guidance and resources.
  5. Focus on Smaller Deals: In the Canadian market, the most successful ETA deals tend to be with smaller companies. These deals are often less competitive and offer more opportunities for personal connection and value add.

Show Notes:

[00:01:09] Mario Nigro explains the core concept of ETA, emphasizing the entrepreneurial initiative to build and own, rather than just acquire.

[00:03:01] Mario reflects on his journey into ETA, beginning with his accidental introduction to private equity and the influential role of U.S. capital in the Canadian market.

[00:06:04] Discussion of the significant shift in capital sources with Canadian capital slowly increasing its share in the ETA space, as highlighted by insights from Glen Silvestri from Sage Capital Partners.

[00:09:25] Mario addresses common misconceptions among new entrants to ETA, emphasizing the need for proper understanding and the right entrepreneurial traits for success.

[00:13:16] The necessity for relevant backgrounds in commerce or finance for aspiring ETA entrepreneurs, stressing the importance of a matching skill set for the complex tasks involved.

[00:18:25] Exploration of the community and mentorship aspects of ETA, where seasoned professionals help newcomers navigate the acquisition process.

[00:21:20] Discussion on the key personal attributes necessary for success in ETA, such as resilience and the willingness to evolve.

[00:27:18] Mario highlights the challenges and long-term commitment required in ETA, sharing anecdotes of entrepreneurs who have persevered for years to find the right deal.

[00:32:41] Emphasis on the critical importance of full-time commitment in ETA, illustrating the disadvantages of part-time efforts through real-life examples.

[00:37:37] Mario provides insights into the common pitfalls and strategic errors made by new ETA entrepreneurs, particularly when interacting with sellers and navigating lower middle market deals.

[00:43:31] Closing thoughts from Mario on the future of ETA in Canada, stressing the dynamic growth and exciting potential of the sector.