"I left private equity aged 28. Now I am an entrepreneur"
Last time we wrote about Daniel Bulkin it was April 2021. He was 27 years old and working in private equity for HIG, a Florida-based private equity firm with $53bn in assets under management. Two years later, Bulkin is not only two years older, but has got out of finance altogether.
“The compensation in private equity is very attractive and gets better and better every year," he tells us. "There’s barely any other industry that will pay that. When you’re financially driven, it gets harder by the year to quit and carried interest kicking in makes it even harder.”
Bulkin was one of the stars at his year at the London School of Economics. He founded the LSE Business and Finance Society, graduated with a 1st class degree in management in 2017 and beat 1,000 other applicants for a graduate trainee position at Terra Firma Asset Management. In the process, he sidestepped banking jobs altogether.
Bulkin says he worked anything from 60 to 80 hours a week in private equity. “It was intense, but doable,” he says. “I had to sacrifice most weekends for quite a while.”
He left PE to become an entrepreneur. “I enjoyed my time in private equity, but I also realized that I wanted to build my own business and put my own visions into reality,” says Bulkin. “For me, impact and passion and the ability to build something from ground-up outweighed the stability and compensation that private equity provided.”
Bulkin is founder and CEO of Healistic, a pharma-based fast delivery service in the UK that’s the first of its kind in the UK. The company has raised $2.4m of funding. “Our mobile app provides medicine and personal care product home delivery, from medication and supplements to cosmetics and personal care - all in less than 45 minutes to the patient's doorstep,” he says. “The app is already live for iOS and Android in London, which means for users: no commute to the pharmacy, no queues, no risk of transmission, and no overheard intimate conversations when ordering at the counter.”
Healistic has five employees, and Bulkin - who's never been an engineer - hasn't coded the app himself. "The key skills you need are an ability to fundraise, to hire people aligned to the vision, to build the right partnerships, to make your product fit its target market and to put everything place," he says. "You're a conductor pulling everything together from different directions."
Starting in PE was a preparation for this. "You work a lot in private equity, but the exposure you get to finance and strategy at a very high level is incredible," says Bulkin. Even at Terra Firma, he says his role was very entrepreneurial. "I had lots of exposure and was taking part in board meetings even as a first or second year analyst."
While private equity isn't an easy option from a lifestyle perspective, Bulkin says it's worthwhile. "If you want to shoot for the stars and maximize the size of deals you work on and your and personal wealth, then it makes sense to work for a mega fund and to work your way through the hierarchy until you reach a good position" he advises. "Private equity gets better over time - once you're four or five years out of university, at senior associate level or above, you add more value, do higher quality work and the hours get better."
This is also the moment at which you typically receive carried interest, or a share of the profits made when investments are exited. Bulkin left at precisely this pivot point, and says he has no regrets. "I would say that I work 24/7 now, but that it's different," he says. "I'm in control of my hours, and I'm not reporting to anyone but my investors. However, the responsibility is entirely on me. I have 24/7 pressure to deliver, and one thing about becoming an entrepreneur is learning to live with that."
Living with the pressure means making time for small things. "In all high intensity professions, you can get so wound up with work that you cancel social events and prioritize working," says Bulkin. "But it's the simple things like walking with a friend, grabbing a coffee and sitting in the sun, that help you unwind."
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