From Combat Boots to Investor Suits with Jason Lehtinen, Managing Director at Collaborative Capital
Thank you Alan, its a pleasure to be here.
So Jason, you have a unique background and I know in the in your past you’ve been more operations and behind the scenes but for the listeners to get to know you better can you walk us through your, your life path to start from school, college and into where we are today?
Sure, I was born in born and raised in Minnesota. You’ll hear some Minnesota accent I just can’t shake despite not having lived there and 25 years now. But what school greatly influenced younger, as a youth around international exchange students and studied international relations minored in Finnish and studied Spanish as well, and decided I wanted to pursue a career in the military right out of high school and attended ROTC. But his college and without active duty for six and a half years in the military.
My first duty station was here in Kansas, for Riley, Kansas, where I’ve served for three years as a tanker driving tanks around the Flint Hills. Concluding those three years I moved on to become an intelligence officer, and spent a few years with 10 Special Forces Group bought in Fort Carson, Colorado, I was a support guy wearing the red Ray, providing the intelligence and doing reports for the teams that would go on the ground and conduct their missions. After a few years of that I decided to get out.
At some life, life changed with my family, I had a two year old son, that it was a poor for me to be around in his life. And so I decided to leave the military did not have a plan. But was I’ve always been very entrepreneurial. I’ve always worked since I was 12 years old delivering newspapers on my bike and had decided to pursue an opportunity with General Electric is a blackbelt learning Six Sigma learning process which of course we learn a lot of in the military, leveraging my leadership skills.
I developed in the military learning process, how businesses work, how businesses make money at GE Capital, had gotten my MBA in finance while I was there. And this during the my MBA program, I decided I want to try to get into private equity somehow had no idea how to do it later in life. But after four years at GE Capital got mobilized, got to go to Iraq on an all expense paid vacation during the war there for more 2004-2005.
So I took a little break from my civilian career at that point came back spent a few more years running a 600 person off phone call center for GE Capital consumer finance. And then it was really, during those years, the last year and a half, especially right beside it to get my career back on track to getting into private equity, right and get into a kind of a continuous learning environment, learning how businesses work someday running my own business.
And I just so happened to have interviewed for a position with a local boutique consulting firm that needed somebody with Six Sigma background that had just been acquired by a relatively prominent family office here in Kansas City, I was able to jump in and provide intro consulting services on the family’s portfolio legacy businesses that they were transitioning from the restaurant industry into the wealth management industry. And then had made it known with the second generation family leader that I wanted to get into private equity somehow.
And my job initially was shutting down businesses going in figuring out what was wrong with them, making an assessment to see if we could fix them. If it was worth the money to throw more good money after bad or are we throwing good money after good something we could flip and after shutting down several businesses selling a couple of them, I transitioned to becoming the private equity point of contact for the wealth management firm that had grown from one office to 15 offices.
At this time today there at about 80 offices around the country, and started forming private equity funds, started a couple of businesses up and then started up a private investment program for all of our wealth clients where deals would come in. I’d evaluate them I do the diligence, do the analysis. If we decided we wanted off to our wealth clients, we form a private equity fund, raise capital from around the country from all of our wealth offices, and then I’d oversee the investments, keep the Wealth Advisors the our clients informed us what was going on with the investments.
So that’s kind of led me to where I am today where I’m joined a group called collaborative Capital Group of 54 High Net Worth families here in Kansas City. We just opened up a branch in St. Louis with about 30 members, and we’re starting a private equity fund for those members so we can co invest in each other’s deals and we’re currently in the process of scaling that funds scaling the group and seeing where things go.
In our Jason the whole landscape of investing in wealth management has really changed since COVID. Yeah, what do you see, we’re currently going to reward you see things heading.
I think it’s very similar to 2008-2009 When I was really young in my private equity career, but things kind of generally locked up back then because of the housing crisis. And what that brought to us. I think today, we’re just dealing with a lot of uncertainty, economically, where the people that have the capital that can deploy and invest into a lot number of different companies are holding on to their cash, being very cautious waiting for the big recession, the big dip again, to where they can redeploy their capital.
And so with interest rates on the rise inflation higher than we know, the Fed would like it to be, there’s, there’s just been a lot of friction and a lot of seizure, where companies that they did raise to three years where the capital early on and 2020 2021, they’re probably going to struggle. And I think where it’s going to take us is going to create a lot of great, cheap investing opportunities for people that have the cash. And so I’m looking forward to that.
How is artificial intelligence affecting the new and upcoming companies?
You know, I haven’t been exposed a lot to the artificial intelligence, but it seems like everyone’s trying to figure out how to utilize it and make it a part of their solution anticipating that that’s where the hockey puck is going, that every company startups, there’s going to be some kind of an expectation that they’re utilizing AI somehow, 567 years ago, it seemed like all the companies pivoted from Dodd BC or, or some domain like that, and they added crypto into the name of their company, or they started incorporating crypto technology that’s kind of come and gone.
Ai i think is going to be here to stay in some way. Because it’s driving productivity, it’s driving efficiency. And I don’t know, right now, where I’m at, I feel like it’s really not that different from robota, sizing all the automotive manufacturers in driving efficiency without using human labor, ai seems like it’s got the ability to impact more white collar labor, as opposed to blue collar labor.
So that’s kind of what we’re seeing, or we’re hearing coming out of San Francisco right now, with all the tech startups laying off people creating a lot of opportunity for AI to kind of step in and take over a lot of their jobs potentially,
is your step into the new relationship with collaborative, let’s talk a little bit about your model that vision and, and you know, who you’re who you’re seeking to, to work with.
My two partners, Joe and Mark started the group about six years ago. At the time they were trying to find ways to connect early stage companies with people that had the capital to make investments. And they formed a couple of held a couple of different events. And they were getting attendees, but they had no way of tracking who was really writing checks and making investments into these companies and with a couple of members of the group decided to kind of formalize a collaborative Capital Idea.
And the type of people that we want to bring into the collaborative Capital Group are individuals that are actively involved in investing, that are seeing deals around the country, not just in one particular region, or sub region in our country. And to bring people on our group that will write checks. We want to network with our members, understand what they’re investing in, what they like and who is going to be going out raising more capital?
And those companies that our members have invested in, that are raising more capital, are the types of deals that we’re going to be bringing to our group.
And so over the course of six years, the group have seen about 60 different investment opportunities, the members had invested in 28 of them deploying about $38 million of capital into these companies over their five or six years. And so I mark and Joe did a phenomenal job of really curating the right members into the group. And then the group members brought the right deals to the group. We’re investing in very early stage companies. So we haven’t had any big exits yet. We’ve got a few companies that are looking really good.
And the group is by nature of who our members are, where we tend to be investing in the series A precede seed type deals. And over time, as the group becomes more and more professional, and everything’s reach a state of maturity, we’ve got a number of members that haven’t been able to write checks, not because it didn’t like the deals, but because they just didn’t have time to do the follow up diligence meetings, etc.
And that’s where I created an opportunity for me to step in and partner with Mark and Joe, leveraging this experience I had in the financial services industry, creating a number of one off and venture capital funds for our wealth clients to form a venture fund for the collaborative Capital Group. And so that’s kind of where the group is going to.
We’re going to continue to look to bring in and high net worth individuals in the Kansas City area that are investing in companies that are willing to share the investments that they’re doing with other people so others can invest in investment opportunities where members have expertise in deals, we’ve now expanded that into St. Louis, where we’ve created a collaborative Capital Group with about 30 family members.
And we’re currently in discussions with some individuals in Ohio and Minnesota, to expand the group beyond the middle part of the country here getting into other parts of the Midwest, but it’s really all about having members that are deploying capital, that are willing to share their capital, their investment opportunities with other people, and really just collaborating. When I when I worked at a family office, we had an expertise in financial services. Now, as a member of collaborative Capital Group, I’ve got expertise in 20 different industries.
And our investment theory, working at a family office for a wealth management firm was always we invest with smart money, bring good people to the table, and get, you know, similar risk appetite, appetites at the table making investments in these companies and that’s what we’re doing with collaborative capital. If a member of ours has expert expertise in the chemical manufacturing space, that he sees a deal that he’s putting his capital into.
He sponsors the deal presents it to the group and other members of the group can make an evaluation on their own as to whether they want to follow that individual into that deal where he’s got expertise.
How should individuals that in interested in more info go about reaching out to you?
You can get on our website at CCAPkc.org. Or just look me up on LinkedIn. Jason Lehtinen.