May 26, 2022
The Inveniam team is full of bright, innovative thinkers who are striving to move the industry forward.
To put the spotlight on Inveniam’s stellar cast of characters toiling day in and day out to build out a new financial system, we launched a three-part blog series. In this second post, we’ll delve into the story of Rob Luft, Inveniam Program Manager, whose career has taken him down some roads less traveled.
(See our first Inveniam Insights post about Inveniam Sales Associate Jenna Koppinger here.)
Keep reading to learn more about Rob and how he propels Inveniam’s reach and advocates for small businesses.
You spent your early career in the military, could you walk us back through your path?
Rob: I joined the Army as a combat engineer right after high school in 2001. I served on multiple combat deployments to Iraq conducting route clearance operations. We were the guys that identified and removed the improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
I was deployed originally in 2003 as part of the initial entry into Iraq and I returned in 2007 and 2008. After these combat deployments, I transitioned to a Department of Defense (DoD) initiative between the US Army and the Saudi Arabian military. This involved a deployment to Saudi Arabia operating in a liaison capacity between the organizations. This broadened my understanding of the military and enlightened me to its business operational capacity. As previously, I had only experienced the military as a combat organization. .
So how did you onramp to the private sector after your 16-plus years of service?
Rob: It was always a desire to start my own business, so when I saw the opportunity, I decided to take the leap into entrepreneurship. The military with the level of needing to be away for long periods of time to conduct training or deployments wasn’t ideal conditions to start a business. So, I had decided that it was my time to focus on starting a new chapter and focusing on the private sector.
While I was in business I knew I needed to build my network outside of just trying to gather clients. I needed to build a network. So I decided to join the National Small Business Association (NSBA) to assist in small business advocacy on federal policy. While attending an annual member meeting, I met Congressman Steve Chabot. He was the Chair of Congress’ small business subcommittee. We had a discussion on cybersecurity and concerns surrounding small business. He asked if I’d like to testify in front of Congress about cybersecurity issues in small businesses. This led to my speaking at the Wall Street Journal’s cybersecurity event and advising on small business programs.
So the timeline was I went into business in 2016, joined the NSBA in 2017, testified before congress later in 2017, and started doing the work with the WSJ in 2018.
At what point did Inveniam come across your radar?
Rob: In 2021, [Inveniam Asset Management CEO] Jeannette Spaulding and I met at a conference. At the time I was negotiating power agreement deals for bitcoin miners. Jeanette and I started talking about power and utilities which led to her introducing me to [Inveniam CEO] Pat O’Meara.
After joining Inveniam, I met with [Inveniam International President] Sanjay Vatsa, who immediately saw the value in expanding the platform to the small business segment. Due to my understanding and connections within the small business community, it made sense to start building a product offering to this segment. There are a myriad of programs available to small businesses, and understanding how to provide a product that is not currently available to small business is an ideal fit for Inveniam. Small business comprises 47% of the U.S. GDP, so this is a powerful market segment with tremendous room for growth.
Our Valuation as a Service (VaaS) product has incredible capacity to be tailored to fit a small business’ need for data organization and to provide a current valuation of the business. We recognized there was a market for this product that currently is not being offered. Inveniam’s infrastructure was already set up to take on that market so we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel.
All small businesses have a problem: access to capital. Valuation as a service doesn’t just help companies get valued, but can help prepare companies for liquidity events and what’s on the other side — expose them to potential capital lenders and future equity partners. Also, to help them prepare for the world of tokenization and how they can best position themselves in the digital marketplace. This is how Inveniam addresses the age old problem of access to capital with an innovative solution for small businesses.
Even broaden this out to ESG. A lot of private equity firms are looking at “Where is my diverse spend?” and “How am I aligning with small businesses?” Inveniam’s work with small businesses is a way to connect these dots.
Stay tuned for future installments of our Q&A series.