- Mark Ein is a private investor and entrepreneur who started his career at Goldman Sachs.
- Over the course of his career, he’s done more than $10 billion in deals.
- Ein shared his story and the leadership principles he lives by with Insider.
Having closed over $10 billion in deals in over two decades, Mark Ein knows a lot about effective leadership.
The entrepreneur and private investor has spent his career upending the traditional private-equity model, working on a handful of projects at a time to make million-dollar bets on businesses with potential for long-term growth.
Ein, who invests in three or four projects at a time, doesn’t run the companies he invests in. But he often assumes leadership positions as a chairperson, strategizing with management teams to optimize operations and scale up.
“It’s a unique model. There aren’t that many people who do it,” Ein told Insider. “But I love it because it gives you the satisfaction of being deeply involved in the things you’re building.”
Ein is known for making early bets in mobile telecommunications ahead of the internet boom, investing in proptech, and even anticipating consumer mindsets shifting from materialism to experiential values. It’s reflected in his involvement in companies such as Kastle Systems (a proptech firm known for innovating private security) and Lindblad Expeditions (which brings travelers to adventure destinations in partnership with National Geographic).
Starting out as an analyst at Goldman Sachs — a job he called his “business bootcamp” — Ein went on to work in private equity at The Carlyle Group and later branched out on his own as a private investor in 1999, when he started his original fund, Venturehouse Group. In 2007, he expanded with two additional funds, Capitol Investment and Leland Investments, which have functioned as his primary investment vehicles since.
Drawing on lessons from his early career and utilizing principles that have served him well, Ein has shaped a winning leadership strategy with innovative intention. The entrepreneur, educated at Wharton and Harvard Business School, sat with Insider to share the three key methods he’s employed to strike success as a leader, philanthropist, and private investor.
During his time at Carlyle, Ein realized that he loved to work more closely with companies than the typical private-equity or venture investor.
“In typical private equity or venture, you have a big portfolio, you make a ton of investments, you sit on the board, but you have 10 or 15 portfolio companies,” Ein said. “So you can never get deep in things.”
He wanted to flip that model: “What I realized I wanted to do was roll up my sleeves and help the teams build. I thought if you do that, you can actually make a real difference in what happens to the company. No private-equity firm is set up that way.”
By 1999, he’d made lucrative bets riding the first wave of the internet boom. So he decided to branch out with his own fund, dictating his own strategy. He could invest in companies at any stage, with the common thread being that he and his team would work on just a handful, rather than a dozen at once.
The plan: “To be really close partners with the management teams to help them build really special, world-class companies,” he said. And it worked.
Stay ahead, in sync
Raising capital on his own, Ein quickly learned what it was like to work with large pools of investors.
“When you have a big fund and you have 40 investors, you’re never going to be aligned with all 40,” he said. He added that it only takes a few to make life miserable.
He learned the purpose of alignment, which helped him sharpen his future strategy: He didn’t want to operate primarily with other people’s money. “I don’t want to be whipsawed by sentiment changing,” he said. “If I’m going to work with other people’s money, I want to work with people I feel aligned with.”
What that boils down to is being in sync with partners, employees, and board members to the maximum extent possible, sharing common goals on project timeframes, objectives, and values.
“When you do that, that’s when magic happens,” Ein said. “Because when things don’t go as planned, you don’t start to get people pulling at the seams.”
The extra 20%
Transparency, trust, and thoughtful communication are key principles Ein lives by, but maintaining an ambitious work ethic is at the root of his empire.
His business is his lifestyle, and his typical day runs well into the evening hours, often involving projects — from philanthropy to his acquisition of the Washington City Paper in his native DC.
It’s a lot to juggle, but a mindset rooted in “continuous improvement” is behind it all. Ein demands an elevated level of effort from himself and his team, which enables them to do their best work and seek out the deepest possible understanding of the projects at hand.
“My first years at Goldman Sachs taught me how to be a professional,” he said. “They were maniacal, and I worked 18 hours a day for three straight years, and everything had to be perfect. It was a real unique experience, and it taught me how to do things at the absolute highest level.”
Ein continued: “We try in whatever we’re doing to have that same striving to the absolute highest level. It is all about the details and the difference between getting it generally 80% or 100% right. Greatness happens when you get closer to 100% and you’re pushing everyone on all fronts to get to the highest possible level.”