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Riley's Way Co-Founder Ian Sandler on how the foundation is helping the next generation of leaders

Ian Sandler, Riley's Way Foundation Co-Founder and COO at Insight Partners, joined The Final Round to discuss how his foundation is helping young leaders shape the future and how he is leading the COVID-19 response at Insight Partners.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: Welcome back to "The Final Round" here on Yahoo Finance. I want to bring in our next guest. We're joined by Ian Sandler, chief operating officer of Insight Partners and also co-founder of Riley's Way Foundation. And Ian, it's great to have you on the show. Thanks so much for coming on this afternoon.

I want to get your take on the markets. We'll get to that in just a bit. But first, let's discuss Riley's Way. It's a foundation that you founded alongside your wife, and it gives teens a chance to develop programs that positively impact their communities. Talk to us about the program and the more than $450,000 in grants that you have provided over 1,000 teens so far.

IAN SANDLER: Sure. Thank you guys so much for having me on. My wife McKenzie and I started Riley's Way in 2014 in memory of our 9-year-old daughter Riley. And the focus is really on promoting the next generation of young leaders. And what we do is we provide funding and mentorship to develop programs to positively impact their communities. And as you highlighted, we've-- since we started, we've now provided nearly half a million dollars and impacted over 1,000 students since we've launched.

SEANA SMITH: Yeah, and Ian, it's interesting. I was going through this, and you've named a couple of fellows. And of them, Wilmington Urban STEM Initiative, also Donate2Dance, Love Letter for Literacy. When you're trying to identify the next generation of leaders, how do you identify these programs, and then how, in turn, are the funds used?

IAN SANDLER: It's a great question. So we actually have our teens involved in the application process. And so we have winners. We have 22 kindness fellows from ages 13 to 19, and we're really looking for teens who are looking to come up with a program, either new or existing, that really is going to drive change in their community.

I'll give you a quick example of one called Urban Beet. And what Urban Beet does is it rethinks the whole nature of food security by starting a program called Fresh Little Farms. And they're going to underserved families and basically providing them with instructions, how to set up a garden, fast planting seeds, and really trying to get these families to a point where they can actually have sustenance themselves.

SEANA SMITH: Yeah, it truly is amazing what so many people, especially the younger generation, teenagers, are doing right now. So it's great to see that. Ian, I want to switch the conversation and just get your thoughts on what we've been seeing playing out over the last couple of months, of course, as it relates to the coronavirus and the impact that that has had on the markets and also the broader economy. And speaking specifically to Insight Partners, your portfolio companies includes seems like Twitter, like Shopify, also Nextdoor. So my question to you is how has coronavirus shifted your investment mindset over the last couple of weeks?

IAN SANDLER: Sure, it's a great question. I think right now, what Insight's trying to do, first of all, is look after our companies. We kind of do the same thing at Insight that we do at Riley's Way. The whole idea here is the companies are our stars and figure out how to promote growth there. So we're very, very fortunate in terms of where our companies play. They're primarily enterprise software SaaS companies.

And so a lot of the focus has been with both my investment team and the on-site team, which is our own internal consulting team, really working and providing tremendous amounts of information to those companies and making sure they're in the best position to deal with everything that's happening. We think that you're seeing, you know, 10 years of digital transformation happening in the span of a couple of months, given what's happened.

MYLES UDLAND: Well, and Ian, I guess in thinking about the approach, both to, you know, the investment side and then, you know, what you're doing at the foundation, I mean, are you reticent-- I mean, you talk about that change, the 10 years of change in a year-- but are you reticent to make wholesale changes in how you, whether it's organize events or organize your staff, given how quickly the situation has evolved? We've seen a lot of tech companies say, we're working from home permanently now. And I do wonder if they're going to get to October and say, well, maybe we jumped the gun a little bit on thinking everything is going to be different after this.

IAN SANDLER: Yeah, listen, I think at Insight, the focus has really been around, first and foremost, getting the right information out, and that's been trying to be thought leaders. And then as we look to our organization, really the focus has been protecting our employees. And what I think has been the big surprise for everybody is just how well we've been able to operate in this environment. I think that's been really amazing. And it's a testament to everybody at an organization. But it also really causes folks to rethink, like, a lot of things we had assumed was going to be the case, you had to show up in person to board meetings. I think you're going to see dramatic changes on that as people are realizing this works just fine.

RICK NEWMAN: Hey, Ian, Rick Newman here. Are you noticing that any of the companies you work with are in financial distress? Are any of them-- are you running into companies that feel like they do need to be making change but they can't afford to invest in it?

IAN SANDLER: Listen, we have a portfolio of over 200 active companies in our-- so they're-- you're going to have some companies that are clearly struggling with what's going on. But we've actually found our companies are doing remarkably well through this. And what we're seeing, if anything, is just some declines with respect to activities, in terms of growth forecasts just because you're going to see companies not being able to use some of the traditional channels. But on a relative basis, we think we're in remarkably good shape. And you know, as brutal as what's going on with COVID is, we think it really does put our firm and the sector we invest in in a really strong position.

SEANA SMITH: Yeah, Ian, what about deal flow, just in terms of as we've seen the markets bounce back quite a bit. We're up over 30% from those March lows. Deal flow in the VC space, has that bounced back at all?

IAN SANDLER: Where-- we are having investment committee every week. We're continuing to look at opportunities, but we're being cautious. We're really-- you know, I think it's-- we're doing a lot within our portfolio. There's opportunities to add to names we really like. And where we're looking at things we're investing in, it's going to be situations where we think we see positive COVID tailwinds.

SEANA SMITH: All right, Ian Sandler, chief operating officer of Insight Partners and co-founder of Riley's Way Foundation. Great to have you on the show. Thanks so much for joining us this afternoon.

IAN SANDLER: Thank you very much, guys.