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Executive Diversions
Business Observer Friday, Jan. 8, 2021 9 months ago

Tech executive grows a new passion — on the farm

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In March, VantagePoint AI President Lane Mendelsohn bought a 75-acre ranch he'd been eyeing since he was a kid. Bring on the cattle.
by: Brian Hartz Tampa Bay Editor

Executive: Lane Mendelsohn, 40, is the president of VantagePoint AI, formerly known as Market Technologies, a Wesley Chapel-based company founded by his father, Louis Mendelsohn, in 1979. The firm pioneered the use of artificial intelligence to predict the behavior of global financial markets. Under the younger Mendelsohn’s leadership, the company did $12 million in sales in 2019 and $19 million in 2020. 

Courtesy. Lane Mendelsohn's daughters have taken to the ranching life. He has them raising chickens, like he did as a child.

Diversion: Cattle ranching. In March, right before the pandemic, Mendelsohn closed on a 75-acre ranch across the street from his home in Zephyrhills, paying $1.3 million for the property, which he says was being eyed as a potential housing development project. Mendelsohn has lived across from the ranch since 1987, when he moved to the pastoral, eastern Pasco County area as a child. Years later, as an adult, he bought 10 acres behind his parents’ house and built a home there. 

Deal Maker: Mendelsohn says the asking price for the land was initially much higher: $3.5 million. “He knew he was sitting on a pretty valuable piece of property,” Mendelsohn says. At first, the owner was reluctant to discuss terms with Mendelsohn — he was already involved in talks with developers and had agreed on $1.3 million as the price. But because the 75 acres was slated to be part of a larger project, they wanted a two-year option to purchase the land. “I went to the owner and said, ‘Hey, I'll give you what they're going to give you, — and I'll close now.’ He said, ‘OK.’”

Dream fulfilled: “As a kid, I'd always look at this ranch across from my house and I thought, ‘Man, I would love to have a property like that,’” Mendelsohn says. He raised chickens and dairy goats on his parents’ land and was entrepreneurial, selling eggs and milk to locals: He says his goat milk would fetch up to $10 per gallon. “I had always been involved in agriculture,” Mendelsohn says, “but more as a hobby, because I didn’t have the space for it; I didn’t have the land.”

Courtesy. Lane Mendelsohn has about 40 head of cattle at the ranch

Long haul: Mendelsohn’s decision to buy the ranch was more emotional than strategic — he has no intent to monetize the property, insisting it will be a hobby for him, his wife and two young daughters — but it also served to preserve a rural way of life and slow the relentless pace of development in his corner of Pasco County. “This property, I could probably flip it and make a good profit, or I could develop it and make a good profit,” he says. “I'm never going to do either of those things. I’m going to keep it in my family.” 

Blast from the past: Mendelsohn has had conversations with his daughters — one is 10, the other 7 — about the importance of keeping the past alive and being respectful and appreciative of nature. “Some of the values of being raised in a rural area that I’ve always loved are animals, farm life and open spaces — especially the stars filling the night sky,” he says. He already has his daughters, who are homeschooled, raising chickens and selling eggs. “I’ve said to them, ‘This property probably looks very similar to how it was a hundred years ago, 200, maybe even 300 years ago. Wouldn't it be incredible if 100, 200 years from now, it looks pretty much the same?’ They both think that that's a really cool idea.”

Cattle man: Mendelsohn has about 40 head of cattle at the ranch, and though it’s strictly a hobby, the property and its bovine residents demand a lot of time and attention. He’s able to balance the ranching life with his day job at VantagePoint AI by working the property before and after business hours and on weekends. He’s put some money into fixing up the barn and cattle pens but won’t say how much, because he’s not concerned about turning a profit. “My return is not financial,” he says. “I’m not running it like a business.” 

(This story was updated to reflect the correct revenue figures for 2019 and 2020 at VantagePoint AI.)

 

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