Lane Mendelsohn is a second-generation entrepreneur and he’s an artificial intelligence (AI) expert. He’s had incredible success despite not having a college degree because he grew up entrenched in AI at VantagePoint Software. As a boy, he started doing the smallest menial tasks at his father’s company and has grown to be highly successful because of his ethics, hard work, and ability to seize opportunities.
We recently caught up with Lane to talk about his company and his entrepreneurial journey and here’s what went down:
Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?
I’m Lane Mendelsohn, 38 years old, and a second-generation entrepreneur. My father started our trading software company, Market Technologies, LLC, in 1979 when he broke ground as the first person in the world to develop trading software for commodities traders that did backtesting and optimization. Today, our software (VantagePoint) remains truly unique.
I’ve built on the strong foundation my father started. I started getting heavily involved in running the company in 2004 and have been fully dedicated to it since then. I love our company and have a strong affinity for commerce on a global level. From an early age, I’ve witnessed how our customers use artificial intelligence for stock trading and their incredible success created a passion in me to carry on this legacy.
When I was a child living in the suburbs of Tampa, Florida, I took in our next-door neighbor’s empty garbage cans from the curb on garbage collection days for a dime a can. After our family moved further from Tampa to a private horse ranch my parents bought, I raised all kinds of pets on the property including chickens and goats. I began selling fresh chicken eggs to neighbors and teachers at my elementary school. I also milked our two prized Nubian African dairy goats each morning and evening, and sold their milk for more than $8.00 a gallon! Basically, I started doing whatever I could to make money by providing products and services that I knew that other people wanted and needed.
In elementary school, I started a small business selling pencils and school supplies to fellow students. I bought supplies in bulk and marked up the prices to make a profit and kept my prices below the school’s student store. Free enterprise, right? Until one day the principal called my parents to tell them I had to shut down my business because it was undercutting the school’s business. I look back with amusement on this episode, but it was very formative for me. It’s clear that even at that young age, my entrepreneurial spirit was emerging.
As I got older, my dad opened an IRA account for me and paid me to take out the trash, vacuum, and clean the office. This gave me the valuable opportunity to come into the office and interact with my dad and other employees. He also allowed me to accompany him on business trips to industry conferences and trade shows. These experiences really exposed me to the satisfaction and success that can be achieved as an entrepreneur.
I think my dad knew all along that this was his way of getting me to become passionate and excited about the financial markets and his software company. As an inexperienced youngster, I wasn’t quite capable yet of seeing beyond making a few dollars. But, as I matured and continued to rub elbows with some of the top leaders in the commodities markets and overall financial industry (many of whom I still have now business relationships with), the more I realized I had been exposed to building the professional and social capital needed for great success.
To this day, I still think back to those childhood experiences and realize how important they were in shaping me into the businessman and entrepreneur that I am. Now I have two young daughters and they come into our office when they’re off school. They listen to customer calls and do little tasks around the office that give them that same exposure and opportunity I had when I was their age. Of course, the company has grown significantly now with more than 60 employees and operates from our state-of-the-art, 10,000 square foot office building just a few miles from our ranch.
Can you describe your journey to success? When did you start? Did you ever imagine you would become this successful?
I didn’t have preconceived notions about how successful I’d be, or how big and successful the company would become. I did know that I always wanted to work with my dad. As a child, I would carry around my lunch box and say, “This is my briefcase. I’m going to work.” I’ve always just had that sense about it, and that excitement. I never set a bar that I wanted to be this successful by a certain time. I simply always did the best that I could do. I give 100 percent every single day, and at the end of the day, I measure success by asking myself if I gave my all. If I did, then I was successful. If I look myself in the mirror and say, “No, I didn’t give my all today,” then I know tomorrow I must make up for it and may need to readjust or recalibrate.
What is your main source of income?
A base salary is my primary source of income. I also receive performance incentives from managing a financially successful business that generates millions of dollars through sales of VantagePoint Software. Our sales are very successful because VantagePoint creates significant wealth for our customers, and their lives are truly changed.
We’ve developed and licensed VantagePoint mostly to stock, commodities, Forex and ETF traders in over 140 countries. These traders benefit greatly from VantagePoint, which uses artificial intelligence to make highly accurate short-term forecasts of global financial markets. Because of the company’s success, we’re then able to sponsor a lot of culture-building events for our employees and also give back to our local community in terms of charitable donations. Our company’s financial success also allows us to pay 100 percent of our employee’s medical care and has allowed us to partner with Shriners Hospitals for Children to raise money for this very worthy organization.
I’m also an investor in the stock market and have been since I was 11 years old when my father first set up my IRA account. In addition to that, I have several real estate investments, both commercial and residential, that provide me with another stream of income.
What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?
We are continuously doing many things to grow and maintain the business. In terms of maintaining, it’s a matter of having quality staff members who perform well. It’s also a matter of continuing to excel with our application of AI’s machine learning and neural networks to the financial markets and providing software upgrades and enhancements to our customers, ensuring that they are getting the maximum benefit from our product. VantagePoint is an extremely powerful, analytic tool, but if we don’t continue to perfect it, as well as provide our customers with world-class training, then they won’t be able to gain the maximum benefit of its full potential. To keep our customers engaged with VantagePoint, we do more than simply sell them the tool. We continue to guide and assist them on an ongoing basis to ensure they are as successful as possible in reaching their investing goals.
We invest heavily and continuously in R&D. Our research and development team, known as the Predictive Technologies Group, is constantly testing new ideas and possible improvements to the software’s forecasting accuracy which is now up to 86 percent accurate at forecasting market trend direction up to three days in advance. The result of trying new ideas and discovering the ones that work best makes it worth it. You can’t maintain your business without continuously working toward growing and improving it. if you’re not moving forward, you’re going backward. There’s no such thing as standing still when it comes to business.
There will always be trial and error, and there may be many things you try that don’t work. It’s important to remember that we learn a lot from failure. You accept what doesn’t work, heed the lessons, and then try again with a new approach.
What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness?
We’re selling trading software to traders who are typically between the ages of 40 and 80 years old, so we utilize LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter because those platforms resonate with our demographic. That said, we’re always contemplating the future and technology changes very quickly. Things will look different in five, 10, or 20 years from now.
What is your experience with paid advertising, like PPC or sponsored content campaigns? Does it work?
Everything we do is digital because that works for us. Any type of paid digital advertising you can think of, we’ve probably done at some point. Digital marketing is a great way to reach a large audience while also being able to easily target and reach a specific demographic. If you’re going to invest money into advertising, it’s important to choose outlets that will reach an audience motivated to buy your product or service. Digital campaigns can be very effective. We tend not to invest in print media or other types of marketing strategies that are less targeted.
What is your main tactic when it comes to making more people aware of your brand and engaging your customers? How did your business stand out?
We do a lot with digital marketing. My father started our trading software company back in 1979 and was the first person in the world to develop software that performs strategy backtesting and optimization, which he released in 1983. A few years later, he was the first person in the world to combine the power of artificial intelligence, global market analysis, and predictive technical indicators into trading software.
Vantage Point, our flagship product, was developed by him in the late 1980s and released in 1991. He’s been a prolific writer in the financial industry since 1983, having written dozens of published articles on technical analysis, collaborated on numerous books on the subject, and authored several others on his own in which he addressed the globalization of the financial markets and the need to develop innovative approaches to finding and analyzing the hidden patterns and effects that markets have on each other.
My father was interviewed live on CNBC, CNN and Bloomberg television over the years. He’s recognized as an inventor, trading software pioneer, accomplished author, public speaker, and business entrepreneur. Just a few months ago, Marquis Who’s Who awarded him their
Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the financial industry over the past forty years.
What really makes us stand out is that we’ve got longevity. Next year will be our company’s 40th anniversary. Our software has industry credibility because we have so many customer success stories that we share with other traders. We stand out because we’ve been an industry leader for nearly four decades – and that’s not something you can buy with advertising.
What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?
Online and digital marketing works best for us. We do go to trade shows and meet people face to face, but I think that’s slower lead generation. While it’s advantageous to see your customers face to face, our customers are in 140 countries around the world and we’re located here in Tampa, Florida. We don’t get to see our customers often so we sponsor Power Trader seminars in Tampa twice a year for them. This gives us the opportunity for personal interaction and helps build strong relationships with those who attend.
How did your brand stand out from the rest of the other brands out there that are similar to your niche?
We were the first and are still the only trading software company to have a patented, fully-trained, artificial intelligence-based forecasting software that has harnessed the power of machine learning neural networks to global financial market analysis. We’re inherently a standout.
What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?
The toughest decision I made in the last few months was the discontinuation of one of our sister companies. It was focused on providing free education and news to traders and investors. The problem was that the time and effort being put into it outweighed the ROI. As an entrepreneur and business owner, you must be diligent and wise with time management and financial resources. When it became evident that this company was no longer a good use of our resources, we redirected our focus on developing higher quality training tools and videos for our software customers to instead expand our Power Trader seminars to twice a year.
What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?
Over the years, I’ve made a few mistakes with some large investments in technology that later became obsolete. Technology is tricky because it’s advancing at such a rapid pace. For example, we invested in a technology that archived emails and data. Within about a year, that technology was phased out because a newer and better performing technology was created. I should have exercised more caution, but hindsight is 20/20. Those kinds of risk exist, and you have to be willing to keep trying.
What have you learned in the process of becoming wealthy that others can learn from?
Always remain humble and always be open to learning more. You should never reach a point in your life where you reflect on your success and say, “Look, I’ve made this much money, or I’ve achieved this level of success, so I’m done learning.”
Some people reach a certain level of success in their life or career and start to believe that they have nothing to learn from other people who have not been as financially successful. That is not true. You can always do better, and you never know who can teach you something you didn’t know before.
Always keep an open mind. Regardless of someone’s income or status, everyone has something to offer, bring to the table, or teach you. This is a very important lesson everybody can learn from.
What new business would you love to start?
Frankly, there’s no new business that I would love to start because we have such an established and successful software company. Instead, I want to focus on creating new divisions and income streams within our current business. There are so many different avenues with great potential for us to pursue. I will focus on the implementation of some of those.
A few years ago, we decided to start doing in-person training events for our existing customers. Now, we do it twice a year and customers fly to Tampa, Florida from all over the world. The event helps them boost their trading skills and teaches them how to become power traders. What started as a concept has become a solid part of our business that’s both profitable and beneficial to our customers. I hope to continue turning new initiatives into reality. It’s all about building upon what we already have built as a foundation.
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?
I’m 38 years old and when I was just starting out working full time in the business, I was about 15 when I developed the company’s first internet website. If I could go back to that time, I would spend more time thinking about long term goals and thinking ahead 10 years down the road when making business decisions. That would have been more helpful in terms of forming a vision. I know it is easy to think only about what it is happening at the moment, especially while you’re young, but if I should have focused more on the future.
I wish I’d spent more time thinking about the “what ifs” and had the strategic perspective of looking years ahead, not just into the next week or the next year, and considered the bigger picture. If you know what your long-term strategic goals are, you can assess each of your short-term tactical decisions to ensure that they align with your longer-term vision.
Thankfully, my dad is a true visionary. We applied artificial intelligence to financial market analysis nearly 30 years ago when almost no one was even thinking about AI and its applications. Now, AI is becoming prolific and is reshaping and transforming industries and ultimately life as we now know it. The world is on the cusp of a transformative change. Some call it the fourth industrial revolution, in which AI is going to play a pivotal role. I’m very glad to know that our company will continue as a leader and help traders all over the world to improve their lives, build wealth and be more successful in the financial markets.
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were first making a name for yourself, what advice would you give yourself?
I would have told myself to be more open-minded when it came to learning from others. There are so many people who have much to offer, but when you’re young, you tend to think you already know it all and aren’t as open to listening to other people’s perspectives. My advice would be to seek out different perspectives and other people’s advice while truly taking it to heart. This is great advice not only in business but life in general.
Do you have any favorite business-related or personal development related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?
I highly recommend The Instant Millionaire by Mark Fisher. I’ve read it several times and even listen to the audible version when I’m on the go. It gives great perspective I never considered before. I listen to the book occasionally because it’s a good refresher and keeps things in perspective. If you ever feel like you’re not on track, or you’re in a lull, it can really help reinvigorate you. The book reminds us to think big, set goals and expectations for yourself, and not be afraid to ask for help if needed. All of these things are critical to being a successful person, and, of course, a successful entrepreneur.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
The best advice I’ve received is from my dad. He’s given me a lot of great advice throughout my life, but there’s one piece that comes to mind: He said, when you’re negotiating a deal with somebody, whether it’s a partnership or business agreement, make sure that it is truly a win-win relationship where both parties are getting a benefit out of the arrangement. If you ever make a deal where the other party walks away not feeling fulfilled or unsure, it won’t be a long-term, successful relationship. I’ve turned this advice into a standard operating procedure and make sure that whatever I’m getting, I’m giving a little bit more. This is why we have many valuable, mutually beneficial relationships that last decades.
What advice would you give to a newbie entrepreneur setting up their first business?
Before you start anything, you must ask yourself one very simple but very important question: Will the product or service I’m providing add value and help people to solve a problem? If you have a “cool” product, but it doesn’t solve a problem and it doesn’t help other people accomplish their goals, your business lacks the potential to be successful. Regardless of the industry, make sure whatever product or service you’re providing is adding real value for people, helps them change and improve their lives, and is something that solves a problem or fills a need that they have. That’s exactly what we’ve done in our business.