Adams Street’s Gull on life after PE

As the investment firm's head of secondaries, Jason Gull experienced a daily adrenalin rush. He tells Secondaries Investor about how his life has changed since retirement.

Jason Gull with his two sons

How have you been spending your time since retiring from the industry?

I did a recent backpacking trip with my younger two sons through Capitol Reef National Park. It’s a bit harder to get to and there’s not much to see from the car. You have to go for a pretty lengthy hike to be able to really enjoy the scenery. We were out for four days and did not see another soul.

What do you miss most about private equity and secondaries?

I do miss the people. Private equity tends to attract a really high quality group of folks that are really smart and inquisitive, very high energy, and it’s fun and energising to be around those kinds of people. I miss those interactions. For many in the industry, I have very high respect for them as individuals and as professionals. I miss that regular daily interaction.

I don’t miss the 300 email messages, travelling constantly, rarely being home. I don’t miss the stress of deals, checklists of things that need to be done yesterday and you’re never off the clock. To be good you’ve got to be “on” all the time. I don’t miss that.

Are you still involved in investing?

I’ve been participating with a university-affiliated venture fund that is student-run. I’ve been acting as an advisor for that group on the investment committee. I’ve enjoyed that a lot – interacting with the students. The fund is set up as an evergreen charitable fund based on donations and the money is recycled. The track record is phenomenal – over 3.5x.

What advice would you give to young people starting out in private equity?

The difference between pursuing your passion versus pursuing something that you’ve heard others say is a great job. That is really important for young folks as they’re entering the workforce, to give lot of thought to what drives them, what their passions are.

The other is the importance of mentorship. Early in your career, find someone that is your mentor, that you think has good judgment, and that you can learn from. The wisdom of private equity, as an apprenticeship business, is learned through experience.

What did you learn from private equity that you apply to your life today?

Networking and the importance of meeting people and staying in touch. Be kind to everyone because you never know where your next deal is coming from or your next piece of information. That’s just something that I have always tried to live by. You never know. Kindness, transparency and integrity are paid back.

Will you ever return to private equity?

Certainly not in the same way that I was involved. Might I engage as a private investor in a particular opportunity? Yes. Do I see myself starting a firm, joining another firm? No.

Yesterday I rode 60 miles and then I ran seven. The day before I swam 3,400 metres and then did an eight-mile run. Today is a 15-mile run; tomorrow I’m going to mountain bike for two-to-three hours. That’s what I have to look forward to today – not email!

Do you see any Olympians around where you live in Utah?

Absolutely. I went out trail running last Saturday with a group led by the head training coach of the US Nordic ski team and one of his currently most decorated Nordic skiing Olympians. It was fun to go trail running with two elite athletes and have my butt totally kicked.