Can anyone name the seven wonders of the ancient world? There’s the pyramids, the hanging gardens of Babylon… and it starts to get a bit fuzzy after that.
Arriving in the port of Egypt’s Alexandria before the fourteenth century, a traveler would have come across one of the lesser known wonders. The city’s lighthouse, better known as the Pharos, would have greeted awestruck eyes at the height of 400-plus feet. At the time it was built, in the third century B.C.E., it was the tallest structure in the world.
A mirror at its summit reflected sunlight, while a fire guided sailors by night. Folklore said the tower would set enemy ships ablaze before they could come ashore, and that the light could be seen 35 miles out to sea. The word “pharos” has been adopted into several romance languages to mean simply “lighthouse”, and also adopted by one private equity firm seeking to play off of that theme.
Pharos Capital Group Co-founder and Managing Partner Michael Devlin said the name was partly spawned by Co-founder Kneeland Youngblood’s passion for Egyptian history and travels there. But generally, the idea of a lighthouse seemed to imply all the things private equity firms look for in a name.
“The idea is that you’re a steward of other people’s money. It’s a safe harbor,” said Devlin. The name Pharos also suggests a team that will keep investors out of the shawls, crags and rough waters of investing.
Asked if anyone recognizes the name, Devlin recalled that when Pharos was out fundraising just after it was formed, he was at one table with about 10 to 15 very serious looking potential investors, and one piped up, “I want to compliment you on your name. Obviously it’s a reference to the Egyptian lighthouse in Alexandria.” Pharos got the order and Devlin and his team saw a rose-lined path extend before them. “We got to thinking, all you need to do in institutional fundraising is get a good name. Of course, that’s the last time that happened.”