IVCA Feature: New Member Profile of Agman

The Illinois Venture Capital Association (IVCA) is proud to welcome new membership into its ever-expanding organization. When the firms that join increase in number, the networking and opportunities for utilizing the many services and forums that the IVCA offers also increases. The latest new member is Agman, a family-owned and multi-strategic investment firm.

The following is a Q&A profile with Agman, which explores the firm’s background and their expectations for interacting with the IVCA.

New Member: Agman

Representative: Hans Pusch, Principal

IVCA: What is the background and history of Agman?

Agman: Agman is a family-owned multi strategy investment firm founded by the Silverman family. We are based in Chicago and Omaha. The Silvermans trace their family’s investment roots back to the 1920s...four generations ago, the family members started an insurance brokerage business in Omaha. From that, it grew into a real estate portfolio – mainly in multi-family, hospitality and retail – and a group of real estate related businesses.

An example of those businesses are the second largest furniture rental company in the U.S., a real estate investment group, an insurance brokerage, a commercial real estate brokerage business, and a hotel operating and development company. We are also invested as LPs in hedge funds, private equity funds and venture funds.

IVCA: Your website lists four types of investments that the firm focuses on – Real Estate, Private Capital, Public Markets and Partnership Investing – how does this diversity coincide with the firm's philosophy of a multi-strategic approach to investments?

Agman: We’re investing permanent capital with very long time horizons. That gives us advantages in the market, because we can look across all the current investment opportunities in those categories, and allocate capital into areas we think are most attractive at any given time. We don’t have to put any emphasis, for example, on early stage investing or a particular industry that may not be particularly attractive at that moment .

IVCA: Since the firm has a focus on real estate, what is the strategy regarding that focus, and what type of real estate does that encompass?

Agman: We focus our real estate investing in the Midwest primarily, in markets that are often overlooked by larger institutional funds. It’s a long-term view of the demographics and market dynamics of those specific areas, which are favorable to our strategy of holding those assets for a very long period of time.

We typically don’t take on large development risk, we’re typically buying existing properties and bringing operating expertise and our capital to improve the investment. With this long duration mentality, and the ability to control many different aspects through management and capital allocation, we believe we can increase the value of those investments.

IVCA: As the firm began to diversify into private equity investment, which industries sparked the most investment interest, and how do those industries continue to perform for Agman?

Agman: The family’s core activity historically is real estate investing and operating, specifically, multi family apartments, and in time they diversified into owner/operator companies that are tangentially related to real estate...what they all have in common is some line back to real estate and we are pulled into new areas, be it markets or industries. So for example we are invested in a hospitality development and management company focused on developing hotels in secondary markets – hotel management is very operations oriented and obviously related to real estate. So a different category of real estate in markets we are familiar with, but it operates hotels instead of operating multi-family apartment units. There is a correlation or relationship between those two types of holdings.

We also started our own real estate insurance brokerage business, so our properties all use that insurance service instead of having to go to an outside brokerage firm. We seeded it with our capital, then went out and did both third party brokerage services and used it as our own brokerage service.  It was a low risk way to get into a new-but-related space.

IVCA: What is an example of something that is outside real estate, but still related?

Agman: We purchased a furniture rental business recently, which provides furniture for corporate relocations or in cases of fire and water damages. Even that has a real estate aspect to it, because one of the motivations of that investment was expanding into markets that we already knew, because of our real estate activities there. The business also needs distribution facilities, which we are comfortable owning as a real estate investment. All of our operating activities are directly related to some of our prior investments, and as we are pulled into new areas, there will be some relation to something that exists in our current portfolio.

IVCA: That’s interesting that you say that, because your investment description emphasizes that you are ‘agnostic to industry and geography.’ With this approach, how do you concentrate your research in finding those types of investments that literally could be anything or anywhere?

Agman: We will go anywhere and look at almost anything, but it will also have to have some tie back to either core markets that we understand, or in core businesses that we understand. It also could be people that we’ve worked with successfully in the past, that are now doing a similar functional role, but in a new industry or visa versa.

We are open to doing pretty much anything, but we have to be able to understand the basis of ‘how and why’ we’re getting there. It is unlikely that we will start investing in bitcoin companies or go out and purchase an alligator farm. [laughs] We have to understand, in each investment, what led us there.

IVCA: What does Agman hope to achieve in their interaction with the IVCA?

Agman: We are based in Chicago, and we really want to support the area, here and in the greater Midwest. It’s important to support the investment ecosystem and networks in this region. Second of all, family offices are taking a more active approach to managing investments in a more direct manner. And as a family office it is beneficial to demonstrate this by joining the IVCA.

For more information on Agman, go to www.AgmanPartners.com