On a picturesque farm in Stanford, surrounded by aged and majestic oak trees, a man shared to an audience how the roots of an oak tree, far below the ground, mirror its branches which stretch towards the sky. It is this configuration of roots that determines the health and future of the tree, and which serve as its anchor when winds buffet against it. With this profound formation, the oak tree withstands the test of time and produces little acorns which will grow to replicate the mighty stature and longevity of its parent.
Who we are
Acorn Private Equity was founded in June 2009 and was so named after one of its founders sat in the audience of a wedding, hearing about the oak tree’s remarkable structure. Acorn was formed in Somerset West, with three tenets at the heart of its operations: faithful stewardship, partnership culture, and a deep desire to provide for others. In a world that seemed to be increasingly driven with a hasty greed, Acorn planted the seeds of generosity, honesty and integrity into the soil of impactful financial services.
After more than a decade of investing, the Acorn team has produced a highly commendable track record and is now based across two offices in Somerset West and Durbanville. Our team members bring a rich variety of experience in various sectors together and it is the combination of these individuals with our strong partnership culture that we believe attribute to Acorn’s success.
Acorn provides a platform for high-net-worth individuals, institutions and funding partners to participate directly in private equity, which is currently done through an investment holding company, Acorn Agri & Food. Prior to Acorn Agri & Food, the Acorn General Fund One was a limited liability partnership that might be replicated in future investment vehicles.
As faithful stewards of our investors’ capital, we do not take on undue risk and we aim to make investments that have a relatively low risk in relation to the industry. We follow a robust and disciplined investment process based on sound fundamental analysis and in-depth due diligence reviews. Acorn has a modest fee structure on funds under management.
Along with our commitment to generating compelling returns for our investors, Acorn is also committed to its third key tenet of providing for others by giving back. We are passionate about the upliftment and development of those less fortunate and we place a big focus on seeing results flowing over into future generations.
During the 2021 financial year, 90% of the dividends paid out by Acorn Private Equity were allocated to our impact funding. Approximately 52% of our impact funding went towards Education as well as Training & Leadership Development programmes. The remaining 48% was directed to community support programmes which encompass a variety of support such as community upliftment, food provision, and caring for abandoned children. All our impact programmes are Christian-based.
Our team members bring a rich variety of experience in various sectors together and it is the combination of these individuals with our strong partnership culture that we believe attribute to Acorn’s success.
Chief Executive Officer
Pierre is the co-founder and majority shareholder of Acorn Private Equity. He is a qualified Chartered Accountant and has extensive private equity experience in southern Africa. Pierre has a rich network within the industry and serves on a number of portfolio as well as not-for-profit company boards. Pierre has an 11-year history at PSG Group where he held a number of CEO and board roles.
Chief Investment Officer
Carl is a co-founder and shareholder of Acorn Private Equity. He is a qualified Chartered Accountant with specialist private equity experience and a proven history of successful ventures. With his strong international networks and private equity experience in the US and the UK, he also heads The Health Food Group. Carl serves on a number of Acorn’s portfolio company boards.
Gerhard is the financial manager at Acorn and prior to joining us, had 16 years of accounting and financial management experience in the investment banking and private equity sectors. Gerhard has been an integral part of the Acorn team since inception and is responsible for the setup of fund structures, fund accounting, financial reporting and general administration of the funds.
JOHAN VAN ZYL
Johan is a qualified Chartered Financial Analyst with experience in private equity and corporate finance across a wide range of industries and sectors from his time at a niche corporate finance house. Johan has been intricately involved in the end-to-end private equity investment and portfolio management process at Acorn since his arrival in 2015. He now plays a crucial role in all new investment opportunities, ranging from deal origination to investment analysis and implementation.
Francisca holds both BCom Law and LLM degrees and is currently pursuing the Chartered Financial Analyst qualification. Prior to joining Acorn in 2017, she served as a junior lecturer and research assistant at Stellenbosch University. Francisca is intricately involved throughout the investment and corporate finance processes with special focus on legal input.
Emma holds a BCom Honours degree in Financial Analysis and is currently pursuing the Chartered Financial Analyst qualification. After joining Acorn in 2018, she is now heavily involved with Acorn’s ongoing portfolio management process and the Acorn Agri & Food integrated reporting process. She is also involved in different stages throughout the investment and corporate finance processes.
EDUARD DU PLESSIS
Ed is a qualified Chartered Accountant and is currently pursuing his Chartered Financial Analyst qualification. Prior to joining Acorn, Ed spent 3 years with Deloitte where he gained valuable exposure to various industries whilst serving several JSE-listed clients and growing his network. He has a diverse skillset and is involved throughout the investment process, including deal origination, investment analysis and implementation and ongoing portfolio management.
ANÉ VAN DER MERWE
Ané holds a BCom Honours degree in Financial Analysis and is currently pursuing the Chartered Financial Analyst qualification. After joining Acorn in 2021, she has been gaining invaluable experience in different stages of the investment process as well as in ongoing portfolio management.
Acorn endeavours to provide financial services to its investors and portfolio companies with the high quality, efficiency and diligence that is to be expected from South Africa’s strong and well-regulated investment and financial industry. We meet the high standards set by the industry in the following areas:
Effective corporate governance
Active and diligent
pursuit of leads
Focus on growing and profitable sectors
Seeking out exceptional risk-adjusted returns
Accurate and relevant reporting and investment analysis to our investors
Alignment with key players in these sectors to ensure deal flow of a high calibre
Where Acorn truly begins to surpass these industry standards is in the following areas:
Alignment of interest
Acorn is and will be a significant investor into each of its funds and will therefore have the same interests at heart
as our fellow investors.
Investment track record
Our two historical funds produced attractive returns for investors. Acorn General Fund One, focused on SMEs in Southern Africa, achieved a fully realised gross IRR of 46% per annum and 3.5 gross times money over 6 years. Acorn Agri, focused on the agriculture and food sectors in Southern Africa, achieved a gross IRR of 23.3% per annum and 1.6 gross times money over 4 years.
Acorn has elected to be an FSCA registered investment manager. This is not a requirement for Acorn, but serves as a strong governance process to provide comfort and security to all investors. Acorn is absolutely committed to doing business in an ethical way, and will act honestly and ethically in all of its dealings and negotiations with business partners. In addition, Acorn has also opted to outsource its compliance function to Moonstone Compliance (Pty) Ltd – an independent provider.
Strict risk management
Acorn endeavours to achieve returns superior to the industry standard without assuming additional or unnecessary risk through its investments. Acorn will not enter into potential high-return transactions if the risk is deemed to outweigh the potential returns of the transaction. All partners need to accept that a higher degree of risk is inherent
in the industry, but that Acorn will strictly manage and limit that risk, within reason.
Creative approach to acquisitions and operational expertise
The Acorn team has proven its ability and experience in being creative and innovative when it comes to the structuring of acquisitions, the disposals of investments and the closing of transactions. This ability is evidenced by our winning of the Catalyst 2019 Private Equity Deal of the Year Award for our exit of Bearnibbles SA, which was the then-largest division of one of our portfolio companies.
Our key individuals
The combination of their uncompromising values, in-depth private equity experience, strong understanding of southern African markets, formidable industry networks and their market timing and positioning skills, which have all been demonstrated and proven in prior ventures, is the heart of our success.