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Identifying the right influencer at the right time helped this serial entrepreneur scale his vision

By Verne Harnish

When Darius Mirshahzadeh asked himself whom he needed to “enroll” in the success of his business to “10x” its size, he wrote down one name: Joe Duran. 

Duran had built a wealth management firm, United Capital, which he sold to Goldman Sachs for $750 million. He became a partner at Goldman Sachs and served as head of the firm’s Private Financial Management business from 2019 to 2023. At the time, it had more than $120 billion assets under management, and he managed a team of more than 3,000 people.

Positioning registered investment advisors to scale up

Mirshahzadeh met Duran right after he announced he was leaving Goldman Sachs, and they teamed up to co-found Rise Growth Partners, a private equity-backed company in Austin, Texas, with three other parters. Rise Growth Partners acts as a “synergistic financial partner” to registered investment advisors (RIAs) to help them optimize their businesses to scale up. Close to a year prior, Mirshahzadeh had founded, a firm known as 7 x 7 Capital, which they renamed Rise Growth Partners when Duran joined forces with him. Rise Growth Partners now has 14 team members, seven of whom are partners..

Mirshahzadeh had realized Duran could be a key influencer in scaling his vision and jotted down that name in 2023, during the Gathering of Titans, where alumni of the Birthing of Giants program reconnect. At the time, Mirshahzadeh, a serial entrepreneur in the mortgage lending space, was looking to undertake minority-stake investing in a series of wealth management firms and then to help them grow using the best practices of Scaling Up. He had applied the Scaling Up platform since participating in the Birthing of Giants program, which I founded at MIT, in 2008. At that time, he was running Twin Capital Mortgage, which he founded in 2003, scaled to a 150-person mortgage retail bank and built into the 40th fastest growing company in the Inc. 5000 by 2007. He also used Scaling Up to grow his next company, The Money Source, where he was CEO and co-owner, to more than 1,000 employees and more than $200 million in annual revenue, exiting by July 2020.

Along the way, he wrote a well-regarded book called The Core Value Equation in 2019, looking at how Core Values can be the ultimate decision-making engine for an organization, and founded The Greatest Machine Podcast in July 2020, profiling top entrepreneurs, change makers, authors and other thought leaders. 

Spotting an opportunity in the marketplace

Through a friend at Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), Mirshazadeh connected to Duran. Though Duran initially balked at Mirshazadeh’s idea and wasn’t interested in launching another startup, he was willing to schedule another call. 

As it turned out, Duran agreed there was an opportunity in the marketplace. “We recognized there was a gap in the market – they need money and operational help from people who have scaled businesses before, not people who have only cut checks,” says Mirshahzadeh.

They soon found a way to work together, with Duran in the role of co-founder and executive managing partner. The executive leadership team at Rise Growth Partners now includes Terri Kallsen, a former chief operating officer at Wealth Enhancement Group; Brian Shenson, a former vice president of advisory technology solutions for Charles Schwab, and former Perigon Wealth Management executive Dan Newhall.

Building a pipeline

Mirshahzadeh is currently looking to invest $250 million in capital raised in September in high value registered investment advisors (RIAs) with $1 billion to $6 billion in assets under management. Rise Growth Partners–whose sole investor is Charlesbank, a middle-market private investment firm–plans to buy a minority stake in its investments. 

Rise Growth Partners has a letter of intent in progress for an initial deal, and two more deals approaching that stage, according to Mirshahzadeh. Meanwhile, the partners are building a pipeline of firms in the space that could benefit from business management optimization, using an enterprise readiness assessment to compare them against firms of their own size and firms that are 5x larger, doing a gap analysis to see what is different about them from a firm with $20 billion under management. 

Rise Growth Partners also makes sure the firms have the strongest possible talent bench. “We go into the market, find M&A opportunities and recruit advisors to join their firms,” Mirshahzadeh says. 

Making coaching part of the equation

If they lack an operating system such as Scaling Up, the partners will introduce the company to an appropriate coach. “We make sure they are using the best practices for a middle-market scaleup,” he says. That help may extend to connecting them to experts in building out tech platforms, such as one advisor who, as the former CMO of ZipRecruiter grew that company’s performance marketing operations. 

Ultimately, the partners aim to help these firms scale up, using the Scaling Up platform and other tools in their repertoire. Says Mirshahzadeh, “We want to make sure they are optimizing their organic growth.” Fortunately, the Scaling Up platform can be just as useful in helping investment firms scale as it was when he first began using it in his real estate lending endeavors.

Verne Harnish
Verne Harnish
Verne Harnish is founder of the world-renowned Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and chaired for fifteen years EO’s premiere CEO program, the “Birthing of Giants” and WEO’s “Advanced Business” executive program both held at MIT. Founder and CEO of Gazelles, a global executive education and coaching company with over 150 coaching partners on six continents, Verne has spent the past three decades helping companies scale-up. The “Growth Guy” syndicated columnist, he’s also the Venture columnist for FORTUNE magazine. He’s the author of Scaling Up (Rockefeller Habits 2.0); Mastering the Rockefeller Habits; and along with the editors of Fortune, authored The Greatest Business Decisions of All Times," for which Jim Collins wrote the foreword. Verne also chairs FORTUNE Magazine’s annual Leadership and Growth Summits and serves on several boards including chairman of The Riordan Clinic and the newly launched Geoversity. He is an investor in many scale-ups. A father of four, he enjoys piano, tennis, and magic as a card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.