Office Hours: Blackstone's Jon Korngold On Their 'Unconventional Approach' to Growth Equity

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

Blackstone Partner Jon Korngold
Photo courtesy of Jon Korngold

Jon Korngold graduated with a liberal arts degree, and now works for the world's largest alternative investment fund. Although his road to the investment fund world may not be traditional, he has found success all the same.

On this episode of Office Hours, Global Co-head of Technology Investing and Head of Blackstone Growth Jon Korngold joined host Spencer Rascoff to discuss the private equity landscape and what he learned from Blackstone's first investment.

After graduating from Harvard College, Korngold worked in principal investing at Goldman Sachs for a few years. There, he worked on large-scale industrial buyouts in London, which he credits as his first "foray into the buy side."

"I'd strongly encourage anyone in their career to spend time abroad," Korngold said. "No one ever regrets looking back later in life saying, 'I really regret traveling too much when I was a kid.' Because now, especially, all asset classes speak to growth equity. It's so inextricably linked, it's so much more global — it's not regional anymore."

From there, he went back to Harvard — this time for business school, and then spent 18 years at General Atlantic before starting his role at Blackstone in 2019.

Blackstone Growth invests in late-stage private companies with an average check size of about $250 million.

"I think what resonates best with them is they see this huge base of resources, but more importantly, married to arguably one of the most curated portfolios in all of growth equity," he said.

The dating app Bumble was Korngold’s first investment with Blackstone and required a check of a couple billion dollars. But Korngold said Blackstone saw the benefits of that investment and went all in.

"Whitney [Bumble's founder] said 'Look, it would mean a lot if you can help me execute this vision I have in front of me in a way that I don't feel like I have the adequate resources to do that now,'" he said. "So we did. And we took the company public subsequently. But we did a lot of work together with Whitney to really professionalize that business."

Korngold said Blackstone is focused on building brands and businesses over the long-term, rather than relying on the kind of financial engineering that’s often associated with most typical private equity firms.

"Sometimes the very best companies don't need your money. They're looking for a partner rather than an owner," he explained, adding that two-thirds of the companies in Blackstone’s portfolio have never raised institutional growth equity. "And so they're looking for us to, I'd say, be more of a strategic [partner] in the skin of a growth equity firm."

Korngold said it's also important to him and to the rest of his team that all voices and opinions are taken into account, even those of more junior level staffers.

"I think one of the healthy dynamics that we have here at Blackstone is all voices are truly heard—junior and senior," Korngold said. "And we did allow the junior people to really push our thinking. And we did make investments that were not burdened by traditional paradigms, but we went in with eyes wide open about you are going to pay elevated prices on certain assets, but it's even more incumbent on us to identify tangible sources of synergies that we can uniquely provide that will that will buy down our entry multiple into these companies."

Want to hear more episodes? Subscribe to Office Hours on Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radio or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA Social and Engagement Editor Andria Moore contributed to this post.

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