Escape Technology had reached an inflection point. Founded in 1985, the company had grown into a leading provider of ERP software for K-12 schools in California. But the founder was ready to retire. Chief operating officer Ramona Marshall, who had taken over day-to-day operations, knew the company could be so much more. “I wasn’t interested in the status quo,” she said. “I wanted to go big, or go home.”
Of the more than 20 buyout offers Escape received, Alpine’s wasn’t the biggest check. But Alpine promised to respect Escape’s domain expertise and to care for its people. “You hear nightmare stories about private equity firms firing everyone and milking the company for the profits,” says Marshall. “Our founding team built an amazing, family-oriented business, and it was important to us for that to continue.”
Just as importantly, Alpine came with a vision for what Escape could be. With the transition, Marshall was slated to become the company’s president. Other buyers pledged to make her chief executive and to fund the update of Escape’s software from a client-server model to a web-based platform. For Marshall, that wasn’t enough. “I wanted to go national, to do all of these things, and I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. I needed some help.”
Alpine’s partners envisioned Escape as part of a national family of firms that will chart the future of education technology. “Other [bidders] were asking us about the school business,” Marshall says. “Alpine came in and educated us on the national footprint of education technology.”
The deal closed in mid-2017. Alpine brought in Ali Jenab, a seasoned software executive and PeopleFirst leader, as CEO. Other PeopleFirst leaders now work on Escape’s acquisitions and business development. Under Jenab’s leadership, Escape’s holding company, Perennial EdTech, has acquired three more businesses and is planning to offer its product in more states. The firm also hired a new vice president of engineering and web development team to update its software.
“We’ve been able to hire top-flight talent, not only because we have the capital, but because we can excite people about the opportunity to become a larger player in the Ed Tech space,” Marshall says. “We couldn’t have done it without Alpine’s help.”
Escape’s original founder, Robert Towery, has reinvested in the company since he retired and sold it to Alpine. A member of the original team, Chad Guest, remains as chief technology officer and has also reinvested. “When we decided to bring in a partner to help continue Escape’s legacy,” Towery says, “we knew we’d found something special in Alpine Investors.”