Lyle Hauser, CEO of The Vantage Group, a South Florida-based private equity firm and specialized business consultancy, has been praised for his “almost guru-like” ability to identify compelling investment opportunities since entering the finance field in 1994.
Those who know him best also call him “an advocate on steroids” for those companies in which he chooses to invest. Lyle Hauser, who founded The Vantage Group in 1998, focuses his energies on early stage companies, especially those aiming to make a positive impact on the world. He offers not just capital, but advice. He bankrolls such companies, and he rolls up his sleeves, working alongside these entrepreneurs and offering them a roadmap to success.
Lyle Hauser’s portfolio is varied, but at present he is geared toward such verticals as Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT), Cannabis and the Internet of Things (IoT)/Connected Devices.
DLT, he believes, will be even more disruptive than the Internet has been, impacting every sector of the business world. The IoT will likewise have a wide-ranging impact, and cannabis, no longer stigmatized as it once was, is poised for a similar breakout.
A New York City native and graduate of the University of Miami, Lyle Hauser has always adhered to the idea of staying true to those things that inspire and motivate him, while pushing negative influences off to the side. All they do, he believes, is divert your attention from your goals. Better to just forge ahead and keep your eyes on the prize.
He has applied a similar philosophy to his business endeavors. Like everyone else in the field, he is not foolproof. Not every deal has hit big. In those cases, he knows when it is time to cut his losses and move on in search of the next opportunity.
He communicates that single-mindedness to those who head early stage companies. While most of them are eager and energetic, they don’t always know where to apply that energy, much less the capital made available to them. Lyle Hauser provides vision and direction, and does so in a way that associates describe as “elegant.” He doesn’t talk down to CEOs, but he helps them focus on the matters that are most important, matters that will ensure their success.
More than anything else, he has what associates describe as “a demand for excellence.” While it is certain that not everyone will meet your expectations, those who know him best say it’s almost as if he refuses to accept that. He believes that by pushing the envelope, people in general — and entrepreneurs in particular — will break through and become the best versions of themselves.
Our Interview with Lyle Hauser, CEO and Founder of The Vantage Group
Question: How would you describe your approach to finance/consulting?
Lyle Hauser: I’m relentless, and ultimately, I’m always looking to further the company’s business plan and help them execute, because I, of course, have a vested interest in the company. I always put my money where my mouth is, so I’m never involved in any businesses I’m not personally invested in. And I’m always looking for the right people to help execute that business plan, and for the right opportunities to potentially merge or acquire companies within the businesses and industries with which we are working.
Question: What is the biggest key to consulting?
Lyle Hauser: Part of becoming a skilled advisor is learning to trust your gut. I’ve learned to do that and to make a point of never second-guessing myself when I commit to a project. I may suggest shifts in strategy to address unanticipated hurdles, but I never quit. That has served me very well.
Question: What is your best piece of advice for entrepreneurs?
Lyle Hauser: I highly recommend that people read and invest time in learning about new technologies that are positively impacting how we live, work and play. This valuable investment spent on learning and expanding/enhancing your knowledge base goes a long way when you are forced to tackle future obstacles to your success. So, read everything. Listen to smart people – even those who may have different points of view from you. And endeavor to always be learning and growing.
Question: You have described your late father, Milt, as a big influence in your life. How so?
Lyle Hauser: My dad was in television production while I was growing up. In anything he ever got involved with, he was very passionate about it. That is probably where I get some of what I have in me. … He was a marketing executive, and he owned different businesses while I was growing up. He created and produced advertising campaigns for Fortune 500 companies. In building the various businesses that he was involved with as I was growing up, I suppose that inspired me to do some of the things I’m doing today. He looked at things from an outside-the-box perspective, and was always looking at different types of cutting-edge situations. I guess that’s where I get my inspiration and why I approach business investing in the ways that I do.
Question: What continues to excite you about your job?
Lyle Hauser: Every day, I continue to be inspired and challenged by the many business ventures with which I’m involved. I wouldn’t want to do anything else. Why would I? I love what I’m doing, and it brings me great joy.
Question: What excites you the most about your industry right now (and why)?
Lyle Hauser: The long-term impact of COVID-19 on our lives and how we live, work and play has yet to be fully realized. But, what is becoming glaringly evident is that COVID-19 has created an environment that is inspiring entrepreneurial thinking to solve problems and challenges that, until COVID-19, we didn’t know we didn’t know. Opportunities fueled by the need for ‘contactless’ engagement with businesses and consumers has given rise to reinvention of traditional business plans that leverage advances in technology and new approaches to business-building. Emerging trends and fundamental behavioral shifts in how we work and interact have ignited the imaginations of technologists, business professionals and investors, alike – with billions of dollars and resources pouring into opportunities that provide the framework for quickly and efficiently evolving industries to better address today’s B2B and B2C challenges and demands. Simply put, opportunities with potential windfall returns abound, presenting smart investors with the option to “cherry pick” exciting investments in a broad range of industries.
Question: What concerns you most about your industry right now (and why)?
Lyle Hauser: Because of the voluminous number of investment opportunities that are emerging as a result of COVID-19 response and anticipated post-COVID-19 needs, it is becoming even more imperative to conduct in-depth due diligence beyond just reading a business plan or information memorandum and/or liking the leadership team’s presentation. Fear caused by COVID-19 has attracted a whole host of bad actors looking to capitalize on unsuspecting investors. Never before has it been more imperative to affirm and attain necessary comfort that the technological breakthrough or new digital application is indeed addressing real needs and demands; and the opportunity itself is supported by legitimate, ethical business people. Because there is no such thing as a crystal ball, the risk/reward must be carefully assessed before hard dollars are committed.
Question: What’s the greatest risk you’ve ever taken?
Lyle Hauser: Eating Fugu, Japanese puffer fish.
Question: What did you waste the most time on when you were first starting your career?
Lyle Hauser: Looking back, when I first started my career I think I wasted time trying to get involved with deals that “looked” good. Deals that sounded trendy or popular or had a big name attached to them were attractive to me. In hindsight, some of those deals were designed to look that way for the exact purpose of enticing investors but lacked real substance. As I learned early on in my field, I needed to do a much more extensive deep dive into any potential business opportunity before committing my capital.
Question: What tips do you have for getting a seat at the table?
Lyle Hauser: It will depend on what the opportunity is and what is the nature of the investment – angel/seed stage? Series C? Public Offering? Since I invest my own personal funds in opportunities, I first determine if the people involved with the opportunity share the same values I have – what are the desired objectives and are they dedicated to achieving them? I then ask myself whether or not I can provide additional strategic value over and above just my cash — can I leverage my sphere of influence and knowledge base to help the Company accelerate the timeline to which they’ve committed to achieving certain progressive milestones? If I feel that the opportunity is right for me, then I get a seat at the table by simply asking for it. If those leading the investment opportunity do not believe that I can provide any strategic value over and beyond my checkbook, then I move on. As noted earlier, compelling investment opportunities – particularly companies in their early, formative stages — abound.