When Mark and I started Irwin, we were solving a very particular problem. We were building a company on the thesis that the combination of regulatory standards, industry conditions, and technological innovation was forcing significant change in how capital markets operate.
I had come from a career in investment banking and institutional equity sales, and Mark had built a career in enterprise software. We both wanted to create modern software that allowed capital markets professionals to build better relationships with the investment community and improve capital markets' transparency, accountability, and productivity.
As Irwin started growing over the 100-person employee count, attracting significant capital from investors, and with our client list also growing well into the hundreds, we realized that we wanted to improve investor relations so that companies could be better for all stakeholders involved. We have the resources, talent, and expertise to do more than just create great IR software, rather, we can create an entire ecosystem.
When you talk to anyone who has spent years in IR, the sentiment remains the same: it's changed and continues to change every day. From the coining of the term by General Electric (GE) in 1953 to a rise in the importance of IR post-Enron, the profession has transformed from one-way communication with investors into deepened relationships with the investment community, promoting management competence, communicating quality financial results, corporate governance, and providing quality, transparent, and credible information to investors and the capital markets at large. IROs are expected to possess extensive financial, economic, and legal knowledge, as well as organizational, relationship, and coordination skills.
Hoffman and Fieseler identified the quality of IR departments - their staff, instruments, and activities as one of the most important non-financial factors influencing the decisions of the financial community and their perception of a given company.
But investor relations is broken in some ways. Inefficient process, limited access to wider networks, archaic and limited tool sets, mundane, time-consuming tasks, limited line of sight into the relationships and tasks that matter, and in many cases, up to 25% of a management team's time is spent on investor relations tasks and activities. This is a significant problem and something that needs to be solved in order to accelerate innovation within a company's core competencies.
At Irwin, we believe that the capital markets are truly an amazing place, potentially one of the greatest human inventions of all time. This complex system, at its core, is amazingly simple. Humans are built to innovate, and innovation requires capital - which has a cost. The speed at which innovation meets capital in the public markets is truly incredible. Further, the investment product that can be built out of public markets securities is also an amazing innovation, allowing investors to build more efficient portfolios with the perfect possible mix of return and risk profiles for their unique needs and timelines.
The recently popular narrative around the private markets being a less archaic and less distracting option to the public markets, we believe, is misaligned. There seems to be a sense of waiting for the private markets to become more efficient so that opportunity can be chased with fewer rules, distractions, and costs. The reality, in our opinion, is that when the waiting is over, and the private markets do reach the level of efficiency desired, they're going to look a lot like the public markets do now: more participants, more public risk, more regulations, and therefore higher costs and more distractions.
Instead of trying to take away the public markets in favor of the best access to private companies, we believe that if we make investor relations better, we can build better companies focused on their most important stakeholders - their customers and employees. Whether public or private, the problem is pervasive, and the real focus should be on these stakeholder groups.
With better investor relations, companies can have more time to focus on their products, services, and employees to drive true innovation. Imagine the effect on the world if management teams no longer spent 25% of their time on IR but merely 10%. Better IR means giving time back to leadership to focus on building better companies.
Every decision we make at Irwin is designed to build better investor relations. This runs through our marketing and sales teams, our approach to account management and value-added services, the products and features we prioritize with our engineering and product teams, and our investments in database enhancement and research.
We have removed systemic barriers in hiring, bringing on the best team members across the globe with diverse and specialized perspectives. We believe that they all hold a building block of what the future of Irwin and investor relations looks like.
One of our most vital commitments at Irwin is the promise of constant innovation. Legacy tools and companies in capital markets often grow stagnant, and the capacity to innovate wanes over time. This has left the majority of IR teams with 2-5 inefficient tools to manage their program and workflows - over time, we hope to reduce that to one.
Another core priority at Irwin is our dedication to consistently providing value to our customers and the capital markets as a whole. Investment from us is not limited to the sole expectation of financial return, but an investment that provides meaning, context, and empathy to understand the challenges IR teams, management teams, capital markets participants, and companies and their customers face daily. This investment is evident in the content we create, our involvement in the community, our commitment to customer service excellence, and the increase in efficiency we provide to our customers.
We recognize fully that we are only in the beginning stages of this journey - and since 2017, we have seen substantial growth and validation of our product, approach, and the care we have taken to ensure our purpose remains strong. We're excited about what the future of Irwin and the future of investor relations will bring, and we hope you will join us in our mission to build better investor relations and, as a result, better companies.