How a Google Search Stopped the Elevator – and a Major Investment


The simple steps that could have ‘pushed the button’ to success


I recently met a major investor in hedge funds and private equity firms who told a harrowing tale about how a few taps on an iPhone halted a major investment in its tracks – or to be exact, in the lobby of an office building.


Traditional Reputation Due Diligence is No Longer Sufficient


The family office had performed traditional due diligence. It verified the hedge fund’s performance and investigated other funds with similar objectives. It even privately discovered and spoke with other investors – both larger institutions and other family offices – which had made similar approaches and had considered investing in the hedge fund. The fund checked all the boxes and the investment was all but assured.

The potential investors decided to visit the hedge fund, as the two firms were based only a few blocks from each other. After they had passed through security, signed the register, had their pictures taken and entered the main lobby to reach the hedge fund’s floor, the two paused to wait for the elevator. That was when the iPhone came out.


Brand Reputation and Credibility, Now A Click – Or Tap Away

On a whim, the assistant opened Safari on his iPhone to Google the hedge fund and the executives they were meeting. What he found stopped them in their tracks.

The first page of search results yielded listings of a lawsuit and a nasty divorce involving a principal of the hedge fund. The lawsuit was relatively old and was settled in a confusing, but apparently satisfactory, manner. The divorce citing was not pleasant, but in and of itself, was not disqualifying.

But, what disturbed both of the potential investors was that the hedge fund did not present itself well in that search. The divorce was clearly prominent and the lawsuit, while settled a number of years before, remained on the first page of the Google results.

The firm’s website, which was poorly constructed and appeared out of date, ranked in the second position, not the first. Only one relevant financial industry news story appeared on the first page and the most recent news release on the firm’s website was nearly a year old. There were no blogs, recent commentary or other relevant, recent content.

You can probably guess what happened next: the two potential investors never stepped on the elevator. They merely turned around, sent an email that they had been detained and never returned — and the firm will never know the real reason why.

The lesson is clear: check your own search results. A simple online search may not be the first step in operational due diligence for an investor. But it is almost certainly performed somewhere along the process for potential investors or potential clients of almost any professional services firm. Ensure your digital profile and reputation are what you want your target audiences to see, whether a small circle of potential clients or the public at large.

Whether or not you’re concerned about your online reputation, your potential investors, clients, vendors and recruits are. Basic “digital hygiene” makes it easier for them to push the “up” button.

More about the importance of your online/digital reputation:

To discuss how to build, protect, or repair your online reputation, please feel free to contact us.