Firm Launched by Alumnus Jon Molayem Provides Opportunities for Fellow Crummer Grads
Jon Molayem ‘02MBA started his own successful mergers and acquisitions firm after graduation.
At 12,000 feet of altitude on top of Mt. Fuji, the views are incredible.
The oxygen, however, can be hard to come by.
“I thought I was going to die up there,” admitted Jon Molayem, president and founding partner of Acquivest.
Just like during much of his career, Jon hasn’t shied away from challenges and taking the road less traveled.
When he had the opportunity to climb Mt. Fuji, he took it, and despite the altitude sickness, he finished.
When he realized there weren’t any companies willing to hire him in mergers and acquisitions in Central Florida, he decided to start his own firm.
From Dentistry to Starting a Business
An inherent trait of Jon Molayem is his tireless work ethic.
As an undergrad, he was focused on becoming a dentist.
“I spent my days memorizing and studying physical chemistry, some of the toughest courses you can take. My work ethic was at a very high level,” said Molayem.
He succeeded in the classroom, obtaining his chemistry degree and had dental school on his radar, but when he started volunteering at a local dental office, he realized it wasn’t his calling.
“I realized this wasn’t the life that I wanted to live,” said Molayem.
It was around 1999, and the dot-com bubble was in a full bull-run at the time. Molayem found himself heavily interested in the stock market and started considering business school instead of dental school.
He found Crummer through his sister, who was in the Rollins undergrad program at the time.
He had zero financial or business background prior to applying Crummer, but the Early Advantage program gave him the opportunity, since it offers recent college graduates a path to changing their careers.
Despite having no undergrad courses in business, Molayem adapted quickly.
“When you’re used to studying physical chemistry, it wasn’t too much to overcome the lack of previous business-related education,” said Molayem.
He credits Crummer for teaching him the building blocks of business that he would eventually use to launch Acquivest.
Throughout his time at Crummer, Molayem became more and more interested in mergers and acquisitions finance. He decided that’s the career he wanted to get into – without having to leave Central Florida.
His problem was that the few companies in the area that do mergers and acquisitions weren’t hiring. He realized his only options were leaving the area or looking into starting his own company.
“It’s funny how things play out, but if someone tells you no, you just have to move onto the next thing. My only option was to start a company,” said Molayem.
Molayem launched Acquivest straight out of Crummer in his mid-20s. With no skin in the game yet, he started focusing on smaller businesses and learning through experience.
“As a 25 or 26-year old with limited experience, the lowest hanging fruit with Acquivest was the smaller transactions. We focused on an area with small businesses, but without a lot of people paying attention to them. So, we went out to Polk County to get things going,” said Molayem. “They were receptive to someone like me as opposed to going to Orange, Seminole, Osceola, or Hillsborough counties.”
Today, Molayem is proud to report Acquivest employs 10 full-time employees, regularly takes in interns and routinely makes transactions worth tens of millions of dollars.
As someone who faced challenges breaking into the mergers and acquisitions field, it’s paramount for Molayem to give back to aspiring finance professionals.
He often looks to Crummer to take in new talent, not just taking the students with the highest grades or most relevant experience, but the students where he sees potential.
“Crummer has been a reliable source of talent for us,” said Molayem. “We are very selective, and it’s hard to qualify exactly what we look for, but we look at a lot of different considerations.”
His former Crummer interns, ranging from real estate professionals, to investment banking analysts, to current Acquivest employees explain his style of leadership and mentorship.
“He had clear expectations, he was fair, and was willing to take the time to explain concepts and address any questions I had. Although Jon is the President of Acquivest, he had an ‘open-door’ policy and was very knowledgeable and approachable,” said Andrew Mulick, an assistant vice president in real estate finance.
Joe Musumeci, an investment banking analyst at Lightning Partners, credits the Acquivest internship to his career trajectory.
“Acquivest sets the student’s trajectory and provides essential techniques at the cross-roads of finance, accounting, and general advisory practices. Specifically, the board exposure across the deal spectrum and also into niche markets/industries allows students to determine which areas of the business they would like to pursue,” said Musumeci.
Two of his current employees, Ray Al-Malt and Garren Work, both landed their jobs at Acquivest by interning there first.
“Jon is an excellent boss and an even better mentor. Not only is Jon a great listener, but he is someone I look up to as a role-model entrepreneur. Jon is extremely approachable and consistently offers excellent guidance, both in business as well as personal matters,” said Ray Al-Malt, an analyst at Acquivest.
Garren Work says the smaller atmosphere led to more real-world experience and eventually his full-time job with the company out of Crummer.
“Being a part of a smaller office provided me hands-on experience that also real value to the company and their clients. Acquivest was also very flexible with my needs while completing my MBA and working with my school schedule,” said Work.
Molayem has grown a lot professionally and personally since starting Acquivest in 2004.
He’s in a comfortable position in terms of the progress the company has made in the past 15 years.
“We are in a good place right now; if we were to stay where we are, averaging $10-15 million a transaction, we would be pretty happy,” said Molayem. “I wouldn’t say it’s our goal to get as big as possible. My goals are more personal, to achieve a good work-life balance,”
He does say, however, if there is a chance at a massive transaction worth $100 million, he will not shy away from the opportunity.
“We do keep pushing the limits in terms of our largest transaction,” said Molayem.
Molayem’s days of pushing himself to the limits, climbing Mt. Fuji are in the past. He’s now married with three kids.
“The idea of doing anything adventurous like that seems like a pipe dream now,” laughs Molayem.
“I will say the experience and the visuals are something I’ll never forget,” said Molayem. “I’m happy I’ve been able to do all of these things.”