5 Questions for Rackspace SVP of Corporate Development Jesse Burros

Former investment banker Jesse Burros, who established and led the cloud services investment banking practice at BMO Capital Markets, joins Rackspace this week as Senior Vice President of Corporate Development.

He brings with him a more intimate view of Rackspace’s financial and market positions than most new hires, having served as an advisor to Rackspace on two of its largest acquisitions. Working with Rackspace impressed Jesse enough to leave a career he loved when Chief Financial Officer Louis Alterman asked him to join his team.

Alterman described the “extra layer” to Jesse that made him stand out: “First, that he had taken the initiative to start a cloud practice, and then build a deep understanding of our business and the value we bring to customers. Over the years we worked together, I could also see that, despite the suit and tie, he had the spirit of a Racker. I knew he belonged here because it was apparent he wanted to build something and personally help it thrive.”

Born and raised in New York City, Jesse spent the early part of his career focused on technology and media investing, working at Time Warner Investments, MTV Networks, and Jefferies. Last month, he celebrated his second wedding anniversary with his wife Jill. They live in Brooklyn, where they are expecting a puppy!

Jesse will be based out of Rackspace’s New Jersey office, but will travel to Rackspace offices around the globe, meeting with customers, companies and prospects. He chatted with the Rackblog about the white-hot cloud services industry, what Rackspace has in common with investment banking and why he enjoys reading and travel.

How did you come to launch the cloud services banking practice at BMO Capital Markets?

I’ve always been somewhat entrepreneurial, so part of it was a desire to build something new. I’d been advising IT services clients when, about four years ago, I started to see all of the growth in the cloud services sector. Not only was it intellectually interesting for me to see how rapidly cloud infrastructure providers were growing, but all of that transformation and disruption creates an ideal environment for capital raising and mergers and acquisitions — and no one at my firm was dedicated to it. I saw a big opportunity for BMO to become a leading advisor to the sector and our singular focus on the cloud really resonated with clients. I can’t share exact numbers, but just in the last couple of years, we worked on something like $4 billion in transaction volume.

The derivative of all that is what the cloud enables other companies to do. It sounds cliché, but every company is becoming a tech company and every product is becoming tech enabled — even the way we interact with each other now is enabled through the cloud. The market opportunity is everywhere, and that makes it a really exciting time to be in this industry.

What made you want to come work for Rackspace? 

Well as you know, Rackspace was a client; I advised the company on its acquisition of TriCore Solutions and helped finance the acquisition of Datapipe. That meant I not only followed the company’s growth initiatives, but I also got to know CEO Joe Eazor and Louis really well. I think they’re both exceptional. I’m inspired by them personally and by what they’re doing with the company. I see really good alignment between Rackspace and the industry as a whole, and so I’m very bullish on where the company is headed.

To be a successful investment banker, you need to have a trusted advisor relationship with your clients, because what we do is mission critical to the health of a business. Raising capital, selling an asset, making a big strategic acquisition or merger — these are some of the most transformative, important things a CEO or management team will ever do, and you’re with them, guiding them through it. I love doing that. Client service has always been really rewarding and fulfilling for me. I think I absorbed that service ethos from my parents. My father was a social worker and my mom an educational administrator, so their careers were built around providing services for other people.

When I first considered this role, my knee-jerk reaction was, but I love investment banking. But when I considered what I appreciated most about it, I realized it was client service, earning that trusted advisor status — providing what Rackspace calls a Fanatical Experience for its customers. I knew that working for Rackspace would allow me to continue to live my values, with the same dedication to customers.

I’m also really looking forward to spending time in San Antonio. I’ve been several times already, visiting Rackspace headquarters — you call it the Castle, right? All the Rackers I’ve met have just been so friendly, and really dedicated. I just love the culture.

What will you be doing as head of corporate development at Rackspace?

I’ll be primarily responsible for leading the company’s mergers and acquisitions activity and working with the rest of the management team to set corporate strategy. More broadly, anything I can do to help the company continue to grow and better serve its customers. That can mean expanding our capabilities and the types of services we offer, growing our geographic reach, or finding the right strategic partners to help us tackle new markets. It means maintaining access to capital and working with the investor community to make sure they understand where the company is headed. All of which will leverage the relationships and experiences I am excited to bring to Rackspace from the time I’ve already spent working with the company.

What are you reading?

I’m an avid reader, and my work involves a lot of travel, so I always have a book with me. Lately I’ve been reading biographies; I just finished “Eisenhower in War and Peace” by Jean Edward Smith. What I like about biographies is how they illuminate history — you know, in school, you learn about history as a series of almost predetermined outcomes, immovable forces, monolithic institutions. But when you read biographies, you realize nothing is a foregone conclusion; you come to understand how people, or teams, make decisions, why things happened a certain way. You learn about how people’s paths in life are shaped, and the broader context in which they lived.

What’s a passion for you outside of work?

Jill and I really like to travel. It’s important to me personally and professionally — given the nature of working in a global economy, for a global company — to see and experience different cultures and communities. We went to Japan on our honeymoon. It was my first time in Asia. It was just incredible to see what makes the culture unique, but also the similarities. We recently spent a week in London; we stayed in an Airbnb, which really allowed us to take in the city in a different way, not just as tourists. While we were there, I became addicted to Indian food! My favorite city to travel to is Paris. It was the first vacation we took together, very romantic and now always special for us. I traveled to Toronto a lot for work, and Jill would often meet me for a weekend. We really got to love the city. I’m fully expecting that we’ll fall in love with San Antonio, too, and I’m really looking forward to it.

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