Karl Antle: Winemaking and Venture Capital
Karl Antle is a partner at ValueStream Ventures, a venture capital fund that invests in technology and data that can be used to solve urgent problems for financial institutions. In addition, Karl is a partner at Pour Management, a talent development firm that partners with emerging winemakers to develop, finance and distribute creative wine brands. Prior to these ventures, Karl was a member of the Corporate and Institutional Banking practice of Oliver Wyman, working across North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia Pacific, and holds a Bachelors and Masters degrees in Electrical and Computer engineering from Cornell University. Karl will be joining us in our New York Office on Friday September 22nd to share some of his wine for the announcement of the office Photo Contest winners, so we asked him a few questions about his time at OW and beyond.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career path since you left Oliver Wyman:
Oliver Wyman was a very formative experience for me. At Grad School I was on track to be a software engineer, but I realized I'd rather understand more about the business problems that technology was being used to solve for. The Financial Services practice at Oliver Wyman gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in strategic management issues in a very complex and quantitative industry.
I left Oliver Wyman in 2014 to pursue two side projects that eventually grew to be full-time businesses, ValueStream Ventures and Pour Management. While the two might seem unrelated, they've both built naturally – if not unexpectedly – from my early training and experiences at Oliver Wyman (more on that below).
Our goal at ValueStream Ventures has always been to be a strategic partner to large institutions, building a portfolio of companies solving major industry challenges and then connecting those companies with the right teams inside an institution. Today we have a portfolio of 14 companies and just made our first close on a new fund backed by a leading algorithmic hedge fund.
My other venture began seven years ago when my best friend and I launched our initial wine project,Iconic Wines, out in California. In that time, we've scaled the brand to over 10,000 cases distributed across 14 states. While growing Iconic, I experienced firsthand how plenty of amazing winemakers struggle to grow because of a lack of access to capital and national distribution, so we launched Pour Management to back these emerging winemakers and now have projects in development in Italy and South Africa. We also have a unique sales technology in development that we're hoping will ultimately change the way that new brands launch and scale.
What skills did you acquire at Oliver Wyman that have helped you throughout your career?
My experience at Oliver Wyman provided a strong set of problem solving skills—from problem identification to creative solution and strategy development—that have been immensely helpful for both ValueStream and Pour Management. Each technology company ValueStream invests in or winemaker that Pour Management backs is essentially a miniature strategy project. We have to evaluate the market, build a clear and compelling story, develop a viable business strategy, and manage a complex set of relationships.
The people management skills that I learned as a management consultant have also been invaluable in building the right connections and understanding the drivers of our strategic partners.
Have there been challenges in your career that surprised you? How have you met those challenges?
It is impossible to understate how hard it is to raise capital – whether for an investment fund, an individual company, or a wine brand. You can spend hours crafting PowerPoint presentations, building financial models, and fine-tuning messaging, but in the end a lot of it comes down to trust, previous experiences, and human connections. It's one of the reasons that despite how advanced the asset management industry has become, it still seems at times to be highly irrational.
Across ventures, I've learned that capital raising almost always comes down to perseverance and connections. The more meetings you take, the higher the likelihood you'll find someone that sees the same opportunity you do.
What do you do when you're not working?
I take any opportunity I can to get out of New York and enjoy the outdoors. In the summer, that usually means climbing, hiking, or mountain biking out in Utah or Colorado, while in the winter I'm probably snowboarding or ice climbing. I'm also an avid scuba diver, though that requires traveling a bit further from the Hudson River to see the good stuff.
What advice do you have for former and/or current consultants and staff?
It can be easy on a project to focus too much on just getting the deliverables handed off to the client, but it's also incredibly important to take the time to understand your client as an individual with their own personal and professional goals and motivations. Ultimately, success in a client services relationship is about helping your clients achieve their goals—spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations are just intermediate tools to help guide that process along.