The U.S. government is a behemoth, sprawling across a myriad of agencies, departments and organizations. The government contracting (GovCon) community, by comparison, is a relatively small segment of that. The big players within that narrow segment are well-known. The smaller businesses, on the other hand, face intense competition to prove themselves and gain recognition.
Over the past decade, one firm in particular has been steadily increasing its share of the federal contracting market and is now positioned as one of GovCon’s giants. Veritas Capital, a New York City-based multi-strategy investment firm run by Ramzi Musallam, is the parent company behind some of the largest, fastest-growing government technology companies, including Peraton, Cubic, Guidehouse and others.
More than 40 winners of Executive Mosaic’s prestigious Wash100 Award — which annually recognizes an elite class of the top 100 executives across the federal landscape — are or have been affiliated with Veritas throughout the award’s nine-year history. That alone speaks to the sheer breadth of the firm’s investments and the quality of the leadership culture that drives them.
Since taking the helm at Veritas in 2012, Musallam, a seven-time Wash100 Award winner himself, has grown the firm’s assets from a little over $2 billion to approximately $40 billion as of Dec. 31, 2021. In 2021 alone, Musallam spearheaded 10 acquisitions with an aggregate transaction value of $21 billion. But despite his firm’s skyrocketing success in both public and private sectors, Musallam, from his office overlooking New York City’s Central Park, remains somewhat of an enigma to the government technology world.
Musallam, the CEO and managing partner of Veritas, is a member of the rarified Forbes 400 list. His strategy is driven by a deep desire to make a positive impact in the vital areas Veritas focuses on. Veritas invests in technology-focused companies and is guided by an overarching mission of leveraging technology to effect positive change in three critical areas that impact each and every one — healthcare, education and national security.
“We have consistently focused on that mission, and meaningfully so,” through significant investments in people, research and development and business development, Musallam told Executive Mosaic. The impetus of this mission, he shared, stems partly from the devastation of the September 11th attacks. After his close friend was killed that day, on the historic flight from Boston, Musallam was galvanized to make a difference in the world and serve as a steward of national assets. Today, that same mission-focused approach still steers Veritas’ investment strategy, which has set the firm apart from its competitors.
“We really haven’t patterned ourselves after anyone,” posited Musallam. “From a business standpoint, we’re focused on what we do and not necessarily focused on what others are doing, or how others are competing or thinking about us. I believe we are unique in what we do and how we approach it. We chart our own course, and that’s ultimately why we have created this unique perch in the markets that we’re so deeply engaged in.”
Across all the markets in which Veritas is active, the most idiosyncratic is GovCon. Many in this arena are aware that the U.S. government is not known for speed; being a vendor in the federal market requires constant calibration around government budgets, processes and timeframes.
“The government marketplace is not for the faint of heart,” Musallam said. “If you just come in and come out, you will face certain consequences which are unfavorable. But if you immerse yourself and if you go through and face the issues, problems and complexities that we’ve faced over the last 25 years — and they include everything from market to technology, to regulatory, to political — you learn from those, and you’re able to navigate, at least on the part of your portfolio companies, whatever path they’re on.”
For Veritas, the federal contracting market is not a new one, and the firm has survived (and thrived) within its constantly changing landscape. Throughout Musallam’s career, he’s learned that the most important asset a company can possess in GovCon is a keen ability to understand, and ideally predict, specific government — and therefore, commercial — needs and requirements.
“We’re good listeners, and that’s not only amongst ourselves and our investment teams, but also our management teams,” he explained. “Understanding what those customers are trying to achieve, not today necessarily, but a year from now, five years from now, 10 years from now, is very important to us.”
“That’s been the tack we’ve taken, and understanding the peculiar and idiosyncratic government market, understanding each agency and the procurement processes therein plays a big part in that,” Musallam added, noting that the government is “not a monolithic organization.”
Ultimately, Musallam uses this comprehension to make Veritas’ portfolio companies more disruptive, more strategically important and more valuable in their respective ecosystems and to their customers.
Part of the firm’s strategy for accomplishing this goal is fostering, and in some ways, requiring collaboration among its portfolio companies, which are often situated in the same competitive markets.
“While we are a financial firm and a private equity investor, we view ourselves and, quite frankly, are viewed by many as a strategic investor in the marketplace because we have all these companies who are engaged in a similar ecosystem,” Musallam explained. “So, we use that to the advantage of the businesses we invest in, and importantly, their customers, in that we work from where we sit to pair companies together, to go after opportunities that they themselves would not have, or could not have been able to pursue on their own to enhance and optimize outcomes for our companies customers.”
As the son of a civil engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Musallam grew up in emerging markets around the world, and he attributes much of his enterprising approach to his family.
“My father built a business when he came to this country, my brother has built a number of technology companies, and so I try to bring that entrepreneurial mindset to the firm,” Musallam said. “And as a result of that, there are many of us who have put a stamp on the success we’ve had. It’s not necessarily one person; it’s the environment and culture that we’ve built and continue to build on that drives the success that we’ve had, and many at the firm today have played and continue to play a meaningful part in it.”
With 13 companies currently in its private equity portfolio, Veritas oversees nearly 70,000 employees, whom Musallam credits with perpetuating the firm’s strong entrepreneurial culture and helping to drive its investment strategy.
“Investment without talented and driven people doesn’t get you anywhere,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate to align ourselves with folks in the government technology market who are exceptional. But if you have a strategy without teams who can obviously execute against that, you don’t really have anything.”
“At the end of the day, we view ourselves as custodians of national assets, and we want to make sure we conduct ourselves as such. That’s why our reputation is first and foremost, meaning we strive to do the right thing always. We have a zero-tolerance policy as it relates to questionable conduct, not only for ourselves, but also our portfolio companies,” asserted Musallam.
While Veritas’ higher purpose is protecting and bettering American assets, the firm is, at its core, a financial institution beholden to its investors, as Musallam mentioned. The firm’s reputation, and the zero-tolerance policy that helps define it, is part of what attracts people to invest in Veritas. As the head of the firm and its portfolio companies, Musallam is accountable to the many individuals whose retirement accounts rely on the strong, consistent returns for which Veritas is known.
“We provide value to pensioners and investors across the globe, and that’s what drives our efforts to generate the types of investment returns that are unmatched in the industry,” he said of the motivation behind Veritas’ investment strategy.
But going even further than just delivering these stellar returns, Musallam wants to see the firm, its investors and its customers succeed, and he’s personally willing to get his hands dirty to make it happen. Upon the death of his partner, Robert McKeon, in 2012, Musallam made personal visits to each of the firm’s investors in an effort to sustain their business and keep Veritas afloat.
Now, Musallam makes up for the physical distance between New York City and Washington, D.C. with his top government security clearance — an asset not many financial firms, nor their leaders, have. He has spent much of his time in sensitive compartmented information facilities, known as SCIFs, meeting with military, intelligence and government officials and gaining a deeper understanding of the classified community.
On a more personal level, looking past the challenges of business, the intricacies of government and the volatility of the market, Musallam prioritizes enjoying the journey. “It’s not about the destination,” he said. “It’s really about appreciating the time, the effort, the ups, the downs you have to go through and the challenges to value the meaningful things that can come out of it. Enjoy the journey and take advantage of your opportunities.”
Looking toward the future, Musallam is keeping his head down and focusing on “the right things” — specifically, providing consistent and strong returns to Veritas investors, delivering on Veritas’ mission and leading an investment strategy that’s taken the federal market by storm. Keeping their place at the top of this market, though, will require Musallam and Veritas to continually adjust, center around agility and stay one step ahead of their competitors. As Veritas continues its expansion, the GovCon world watches on for Musallam’s next move. But what exactly that move will be is just another element of the enigma.