As founding principal of Inference Ventures, Michael Kotlarz serves clients with the skill and experience gained over a successful 25-year career in institutional investments with unique expertise in technology and a reputation as a recognized thought leader in the space. Based in the Greater New York City area, the firm advises for, and invests in, companies to enable their businesses to utilize and benefit from important emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and block chain technologies. As a former Oppenheimer Funds portfolio manager for eight years, he led a $7 billion large-cap growth strategy and a group of sector specific analysts. His philosophy and process focused on technology, innovation, and capital discipline which is a quantitative quality metric that measures how efficiently companies deploy capital relative to their growth opportunities. “I have been passionate about technology since I was a little kid, and I was fortunate enough to make that passion my career,” he shares.
As a highly accomplished technology investor with a long track record of predicting industry value creation at major infection points, and a unique holistic view of the markets and technology trends, Michael focuses solely on helping clients benefit from the value of technology. “I love tech and I love to learn, and there is no more dynamic sector than technology. But it is also important to know that the success is fleeting, so you have to be diligent, you always have to be looking for the next transformation, because disruption can happen quickly,” he explains. “I have covered all elements of technology over many cycles, so I’m comfortable with disruption because of my extensive experience in the space.”
Melding his passion for technology and finance, Michael founded Inference Ventures in 2017. As an institutional investor and portfolio manager for 25 years, Michael had the benefit of talking to tech titans and CEOs, Bill Gates and John Chambers among them, and had the benefit of learning how these thought leaders approached their strategies. He now provides that same wisdom to his clients. He has a holistic view of the entire technology ecosystem. This has allowed him to really understand a coming trend, and its importance, as well as the differentiation of the players in the market—“is a company succeeding in the marketplace because they’re ahead or is what they’re doing truly different and divisible.”
Michael helps his clients understand the implications of current tech trends and the potential impact on their markets. Making the correct decision to ignore or embrace these technologies could have dramatic impacts on future corporate success. One great example is AI. It has become a buzzword, but people do not understand the complexities and value of AI. The true value is in the enterprise data they are delivering to these complex mathematical models, because AI is essentially nothing without the data to learn from,” he explains. He also sits on advisory boards and helps venture capital run analyses on exactly what potential investments or start-ups have and how differentiated it is from competitors. He works with companies to understand where their value is, and then helps them create a business model around it and modifies existing business models to increase enterprise value.
Michael’s approach to everything in life is empirical. He doesn’t just assume something behaves or acts as it is commonly described. He thinks differently. He does the work to collect and analyze the data and usually finds that the answers aren’t often what people assume them to be. In his experience, he finds things are rarely a given. He used this unique process in his role at Oppenheimer Funds, and he tries to instill it in the companies and managements he works with today. “We were very early in understanding both the importance of the Internet, but also in understanding when the market’s perception of the Internet was ahead of its functional use, allowing us to step back at the right time. However, we also take note when market disproportionately penalizes market participants equally, even the advantaged players,” he shares.
Michael discusses two important trends that he sees now: “First, artificial intelligence and neural networks are an architecture that will have a lasting, durable impact horizontally across industries. Companies need to understand their own business data is the fuel for this and need to take advantage of it. Second, I believe that quantum tech is poised to have a breakthrough moment in the next few years, and that promises to be another transformational technology for many industries.”