The Art of Deal-Making and Business Growth With Jay Jung

Jay Jung is the Founder and Managing Partner of Embarc Advisors, a disruptive corporate finance advisory firm focused on supporting startups, SMBs, and middle-market firms. Over the past six to seven years, Jay and Embarc Advisors have become renowned for bringing Fortune 500 financial expertise to small and medium-sized businesses. An alumnus of the prestigious Wharton School, his career includes prestigious roles at Goldman Sachs, McKinsey & Company, and other leading companies across the globe. 

Jay’s entrepreneurial spirit was kindled by engaging in childhood business ventures. Before pivoting to corporate finance, he co-founded Evixar, a technology startup that raised capital from Softbank and other VCs. His journey from business owner to finance expert has given him a vantage point in financial advisory for cutting-edge startups.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • [00:00] Understanding how a child’s entrepreneurial mindset leads to a successful career in finance
  • [02:26] The fundamental role of unit economics in business and personal ventures
  • [03:27] Insights into a technology startup pivot that inspired a finance career
  • [06:30] The impacts of extensive travel on personal and professional life in consulting
  • [08:58] The joy of working with startups and underappreciated business sectors
  • [10:32] Innovative business models and the power of hourly billing in M&A
  • [13:07] The challenges of hiring for a remote, pioneering advisory firm in finance
  • [15:00] A company’s journey from almost selling for $30 million to a tactical $50 million exit
  • [17:32] How storytelling, coupled with data, can significantly enhance company valuations
  • [20:24] A tale of resilience: The company that sold after two failed attempts through traditional banks

In this episode…

Can childhood ventures reveal the blueprint of a future business mogul? From an early age, the knack for recognizing demand and seizing opportunity can set the stage for monumental success. How does a journey from selling pizza slices to advising firms on multi-million-dollar deals unfold?

Jay Jung, starting with his early entrepreneurial ventures, transitioned from a clever youngster leveraging unit economics to a financial wizard at the helm of Embarc Advisors. His narrative includes stops at prestigious firms like Goldman Sachs and McKinsey, where he developed his corporate finance and M&A advisory skills. Jay’s journey is not just about his ascent to financial expertise but also a reflection of his unique ability to apply his childhood lessons on value and investment to the complex world of business finance.

Tune in to this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast as John Corcoran interviews Jay Jung, Founder and Managing Partner at Embarc Advisors, about transforming early entrepreneurial instincts into a successful career in financial advisory. They delve into Jay’s unique background, the importance of unit economics, and how he pivoted from co-founding a tech startup to finance. It covers the effects of travel on consultancy work, the joy of aiding startups and niche sectors, and the efficacy of hourly billing in M&A.

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Related episode(s):

Quotable Moments:

  • “Going through the M&A process, especially a sell side, very much entails being a part-time therapist.”
  • “Having that Goldman tag gives you access, but what’s more important is what you do with that access.”
  • “If we’re talking unit economics, the hourly model worked much better for the startups and middle market.”
  • “Same facts, different stories – that’s where you can truly add value for a client in M&A.

Sponsor: Rise25

This episode is brought to you by EO San Francisco, part of Entrepreneurs’ Organization, a global peer-to-peer network of over 18,000 influential business owners. 

The Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) is a global, peer-to-peer network of more than 18,000+ influential business owners with 220 chapters in 75+ countries. Founded in 1987, EO is the catalyst that enables leading entrepreneurs to learn and grow, leading to greater success in business and beyond. 

If you lead a company with over $1 million in revenue and want to network with successful entrepreneurs, consider joining EO. 

Learn more at EO San Francisco.

At Rise25, we’re committed to helping you connect with your Dream 100 referral partners, clients, and strategic partners through our done-for-you podcast solution. 

We’re a professional podcast production agency that makes creating a podcast effortless. Since 2009, our proven system has helped thousands of B2B businesses build strong relationships with referral partners, clients, and audiences without doing the hard work.

What do you need to start a podcast?

When you use our proven system, all you need is an idea and a voice. We handle the strategy, production, and distribution – you just need to show up and talk.

The Rise25 podcasting solution is designed to help you build a profitable podcast. This requires a specific strategy, and we’ve got that down pat. We focus on making sure you have a direct path to ROI, which is the most important component. Plus, our podcast production company takes any heavy lifting of production and distribution off your plate.

We make distribution easy

We’ll distribute each episode across more than 11 unique channels, including iTunes, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. We’ll also create copy for each episode and promote your show across social media.

Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as being the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90xAtariEinstein BagelsMattelRx BarsYPO, EO, Lending Tree, Freshdesk,  and many more.  

The relationships you form through podcasting run deep. Jeremy and John became business partners through podcasting. They have even gone on family vacations and attended weddings of guests who have been on the podcast.

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:00

Welcome to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we feature top entrepreneurs, business leaders and thought leaders and ask them how they built key relationships to get where they are today. Now, let’s get started with the show.

John Corcoran 0:19

Welcome, everyone, John Corcoran. I am the co-host of this show. And you know if you’ve listened to previous episodes that we feature smart CEOs, founders, and entrepreneurs from all kinds of different companies on this show every week, and we’re always delighted to be able to share their stories with you. 

And this episode is brought to you by EOS San Francisco. EOS San Francisco is part of Entrepreneurs Organization, which is a global peer-to-peer network of more than 18,000 influential business owners across 200 chapters in 60 plus countries if you are the founder or co-founder, owner, or controlling shareholder of a company generating over $1 million dollars a year in revenues, and you want to connect with other like-minded, successful entrepreneurs, EO is for you, you can go to to learn more about EO San Francisco. And of course, this episode was also brought to you by my company, Rise25, where we help B2B businesses to get clients referrals and strategic partnerships with podcasts and content marketing. 

And my guest here today is Jay Jung. He is the Founder and Managing Partner for Embarc Advisors is an M&A and corporate finance advisory firm. It’s based out of San Francisco. And for about six years now, six, seven years now, Jay has and his company, of course, has carved out a niche in the financial advisory landscape by bringing fortune 500 level financial acumen to small and medium size businesses. He’s a graduate of the Wharton School. And he has had stops along the way in his career at Goldman Sachs and McKinsey and Company, and all over the globe, which we’re gonna get to in this story. 

But first, Jay, pleasure to have you here today. And you have an interesting background, you were born and spent a lot of time both in the United States and in Korea, your parents were studying for a doctorate. And so they came to the United States for that. But we’re chatting beforehand, and I love to hear stories about how people were as a kid and entrepreneurial side hustles they have, and you figured out a way to go buy a pizza and sell you get to eat one or two slices, and then pay for the rest by selling them off by the slice at the Boys and Girls Club. So tell us about that.

Jay Jung 2:26

Yeah, so you know, I would say, even now, unit economics is at the crux of everything I do. And you know, what I remember was the Boys and Girls Club. And you know, I don’t come from an affluent family. So, and some of the Boys and Girls Club, I would always like to have another quarter to play the arcade games. And on the weekends, my parents will let me buy a pizza. And the reality is, I can’t finish it. And I quickly realized there are a lot of people out there who actually can’t afford to, there was no place to buy pizza at the Boys and Girls Club. So there was a good amount of demand. And I could sell them off at a pretty reasonable price. But as we all know, a slice of pizza in Agra is a lot more expensive than buying a gold pan. So I would end up making my money back and then have some extra chance to play some arcade games.

John Corcoran 3:13

I love that. That’s so great. And so you said your parents were kind of academics, I guess they were getting their doctorate. So no entrepreneurs in the family that you had that you were looking up to? Or what was that like? 

Jay Jung 3:27

Well, my dad was an academic, kind of like molecular biology. And then in the late 90s, he actually left his role in academia to start a biotech startup. So I did have some inspiration from him.

John Corcoran 3:43

Yeah, and another thing you did as a kid is in Korea, on the weekends, you would go to a wholesale market and buy things and resell them. 

Jay Jung 3:51

Yeah, so I kind of love going to the wholesale market, you can see all kinds of things that you don’t get to see, kind of like your local retail stores. I love going there. And then there was this one incident where I brought something back that you just we didn’t have access to. And bear in mind, this is a really long time ago. So it’s not like you just go on eBay and buy something. And my classmates like, Oh, where’d you get that and they were ankle weights. And we don’t, we’re all young, and we’re trying to be athletic. And so I sold it to him at a decent premium. And then I just went back next time and bought a few more, figuring that there is a demand for that. And I ended up just kind of having like a small merchant business in that sense. And one day was ankle weights next, that next it would be something different like collector’s cards and, and so forth. So I had a little trading business. That’s great.

John Corcoran 4:41

I want to get into your story and you know spending time at McKinsey and Company and working at Goldman Sachs. But looking back on it now, now that you are an entrepreneur for the last six or seven years now. Was there a part of you that kind of knew that you would one day be a business owner you’d be an entrepreneur seems like they were the Inklings at least from your younger years. 

Jay Jung 5:03

Yeah. So, you know, actually, I did a tech startup in the early 2000s. Before I started to Embarc way before I started Embarc. So I was interning at Bain and Company, I hated it. So midway when a high school friend rang me up and said, he literally built something in his dorm room and needed someone to help raise capital and then sell it to the sales and marketing of it. I joined I quit my internship, I joined, we did that for a few years, raised money from Softbank, some other VCs, lost a lot of money from all the investors returned a little bit back, but ultimately liquidated and I realized, oh, you know what, I have no idea how to run a company. 

And so who knows how to run a company, supposedly McKinsey does. So I went back to consulting, I joined their corporate finance practice, I learned a ton there. And I found that as a non-engineer, M&A is a big way to drive value for a business large and small. So from McKinsey, I went to business school, and upon graduation, I want to really dive into the whole M&A and capital market side of finance, which is why I joined Goldman in their investment banking division.

John Corcoran 6:15

I want to get into kind of the story around what it was like starting to Embarc and everything. But first, I know when you were, I think it was when you were working for Goldman was that when you were doing over 300 days of travel a year.

Jay Jung 6:30

It wasn’t McKinsey, because I was a McKinsey Asia corporate finance office in Hong Kong. So I technically relocated to Hong Kong. But I don’t speak Cantonese. And most of the local clients prefer to speak Cantonese. So I ended up being stabbed everywhere from Singapore to New York, everywhere, but Hong Kong, and as a result, I really traveled over 300 days. per year, I was, you know, the top tier on multiple airlines, multiple hotel chains. And at some point, I actually got rid of my apartment in Hong Kong, because I just didn’t need one. And I stayed at a hotel even when I was back in Hong Kong. 

John Corcoran 7:06

Wow, and do you think back on that time fondly? Or was that? Was it burning you out? What? What’s your thought on that period of time in your life? 

Jay Jung 7:17

No, It was definitely fun being in their mid 20s, I think it was fun. It was interesting to kind of go to different places around the world, you know, all kinds of expenses paid. But coming out of the business school, I was kind of thinking about settling down and building a family. I didn’t think it was sustainable. And I know they travel less than the US. But you know, I think three years was sufficient for that. 

John Corcoran 7:42

Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, I’ve heard from some people saying that Goldman can be a great training and education. But then other people say that sometimes it’s just, it’s, it’s a difficult place to work, because it’s so competitive. And there’s very intelligent people there working long hours. What was that? You know, was that a similar experience to you?

Jay Jung 8:03

Yeah, I would say all that’s true. I think it’s a great place to learn and get trained. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing right now. If I didn’t spend those years at Goldman, I think it would be very competitive and tough. But if you think about it, so is everything else, right? If you want to become like a professional athlete, if you want to become like the best into like a SEAL Team Six in the military, or, you know, if you want to become the best lawyer, I think everything’s competitive, and you kind of have to put in that effort to be at the top tier. And I think those two go hand in hand.