Recent Graduate Returns to Dominican Republic to Launch Private Equity Fund Focused on Family Businesses
By Courtney Zerrenner
Roberto Arias, recent Darden graduate from the Class of 2016, returned to his home country, the Dominican Republic, to start Plataforma Capital Group (“PCG”), a private equity firm focused on supporting and growing family businesses. PCG partners with founders, family members and strong management teams to add value to existing family-run businesses in the Dominican Republic.
After completing his undergraduate degree at Bentley University, Roberto worked at his family’s business in the Dominican Republic for five years. During his tenure as Portfolio Manager for his family’s investment office, he noticed that the “family business lacked the necessary tools to succeed a very decentralized and inefficient organizational structure. The prevailing structure resulted in complicated processes and limited the firm’s ability to utilize available resources well.” These observations and lessons gathered from his family’s own business inspired Roberto to form PCG.
After experiencing first-hand, the complexities of family-run businesses, Roberto decided he needed “to take his career to the next level, and the key to that was a proper finance education.” When surveying the top MBA programs and visiting the schools that he was accepted to, Darden stood out to Roberto immediately. He cited “the people, the faculty, and the brand of Darden” that drew him in. “A lot of it had to do with the case method and the opportunity to learn through practical application,” but ultimately he “just fell in love with the Darden community.”
Roberto explained although “coming into Darden, I knew starting my own private equity firm in the Dominican Republic was what I wanted to do, you get drawn into the busy-ness of first year.” Throughout the first year of Darden, his focus shifted to internships and future job placements, rather than planning for the firm he hoped to start. After a summer in investment banking in the United States and an internship with a U.S. private equity firm, Roberto realized that his earlier dream of returning to the Dominican Republic was still his post-graduation goal. He spent his second year at Darden planning PCG’s inception.
At Darden, “it’s hard to pinpoint who had the most impact on me, because everyone enhanced my experience.” The diversity of background of each Darden student also allows “you to learn from your peers and their perspectives. For example, I had a former consultant in my learning team, and he taught me so much about how to think about problems and solutions.” Professors prove to be a guiding force as “during the second year you design your own curriculum, and Professor Susan Chaplinksy helped me refine my thinking. I’m pursuing private equity as a career in part due to her passion and commitment to teaching Private Equity.”
Building the ability to listen well, a trait that one of Roberto’s learning team members exemplified, was one of the greatest lessons from Darden for Roberto. “Before Darden, I talked more than I needed to, trying to prove myself. Darden allowed me to build confidence in my abilities and become a better listener. Now, I research and listen to others before I draw conclusions.” While Roberto has only been out of Charlottesville for two months, he has found that “as a Darden MBA, I have all the tools to make a meaningful contribution to my community, not only in terms of business but in terms of social change. And it’s incredibly important to remember that.”