Interview With Charlie Tafoya: Sponsors for Educational Opportunity

Chronograph is sponsoring the 15th annual SEO Alternative Investments Conference (AICON) and joining a panel discussion on how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is shaping technology across private capital markets. This article features a brief interview with Charlie Tafoya, Chronograph’s Co-Founder and CEO, on his own experience and continued involvement in SEO.

Featuring: Charlie Tafoya

Alt Attribute

Chronograph CEO & Co-Founder
SEO Investment Banking Career Program (2008), Alum & Mentor
SEO Alternative Investments Fellowship (2012), Fellow & Mentor
SEO Junior Leadership Board (2018)

Chronograph (CX): Charlie, thank you for taking the time to discuss Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) and your involvement in the organization. To start, could you please describe to readers what SEO does?

Charlie Tafoya (CT): Sponsors for Educational Opportunity is a non-profit organization that provides educational resources and career support to young adults from underserved and non-traditional communities. SEO was founded more than 60 years ago and has helped countless students and aspiring professionals who may have otherwise been overlooked through traditional channels. Today, SEO’s programs help high school students pursue higher education and gain admission to top universities, alongside a number of career-centric programs that mentor young professionals seeking success in investment banking, alternative investments, technology, law, and more.

CX: How did you originally discover SEO, and what motivated you to apply?

CT: I’m incredibly fortunate in that I’ve always had great mentors, and one of my early career mentors pushed me to prepare and apply during college. The programs are incredibly selective and intensive, so it took a sustained effort to secure a position in the Career program class of 2008. It was an interesting year to be attempting to enter the investment banking industry, to say the least.

CX: What is your history of involvement in SEO?

CT: Since my early involvement in the Career program, I’ve gone on to be involved in a number of different ways, not least including as a mentor to other aspirants (in the language of SEO: “it’s about those who came before, and come after”). I was a private equity fellow in 2012 as part of the Alternative Investment Fellowship where I was fortunate to be mentored by PE professionals from KKR and TPG, and subsequently joined the Junior Leadership Board (JLB) in 2018. Throughout, I’ve supported the organization in any way I can with both time and money and would encourage anyone who is looking to give back to do the same.

CX: Looking back, how has this experience impacted your career in banking and private equity?

CT: SEO has been invaluable to my career. First is simply the network: you would be hard pressed to find a wider network of outperformers across all domains of professional services, and financial services in particular. I even met my wife through one of my SEO counterparts, so it’s quite literally part of our family history! In short, at every stage of my career – from banking to Chronograph – SEO has played a key role in encouraging and supporting the pursuit of personal and professional excellence and execution. I think it’s notable that the CEOs of KKR (Joseph Bae) and Summit Partners (Peter Chung) – among a number of other firms – are both SEO alumni.

CX: For readers who may not know about Chronograph, could you describe it?

CT: For anyone not familiar, I encourage you to visit our website at www.chronograph.pe to learn more about our technology for private capital LPs and GPs. If you work in PE and ever typed portfolio company data into Excel manually, we have some interesting solutions to save you time.

CX: We imagine that starting Chronograph must have been an extremely challenging venture. When you reflect on your founding experience, do you ever think about SEO’s contribution to your business decisions or leadership values?

CT: Most certainly. SEO believes (or at least it did at the time) in “tough love” – you have to earn your spot. Nothing is certain, and there is no safety net. That means putting your best foot forward at all times, and holding yourself to (and meeting) very high expectations. This is why the organization has had the incredible positive impact it’s had on so many lives over the last 60 years. We run Chronograph the same way: there simply is no excuse or room for anything less than “zero defect” as we call it. Beyond providing a true north in this sense, many SEO alum were early investors and clients, so I will be forever grateful for the opportunity they provided me as a greenhorn from rural New Mexico (and thereafter).

CX: What advice would you give to someone from a non-traditional background looking to get into banking, private equity, or finance broadly?

CT: SEO. Seize Every Opportunity. Put yourself out there. Commit and challenge yourself. Growth in any form – whether as a high-growth technology company or just as an individual intern – is hard, and it should be! It takes a lot to accept the discomfort of not knowing, of proactively asking for judgment, of working as hard as possible to learn as much as possible, and the myriad other challenges that one has to overcome to reach the next level. SEO can provide the sense of direction, mentorship, feedback, and community that you may not be able to access otherwise. If you get the opportunity, don’t hesitate or miss your shot!

CX: Charlie thank you so much for your time and we look forward to seeing you speak at the AICON conference next week!

The Evolution of Venture Capital Fund Sizes

Learn More

The Carlyle Group Case Study

Learn More

Subscribe to the Chronograph Pulse

Get updates in your inbox