Lodestone Advisory Group focused on helping communities transform their economies
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Lodestone Advisory Group is a nine-year old Nashville-based consulting firm founded in 2013. In its early years, over 70 percent of its clients were outside the U.S. as Lodestone helped them capitalize on global market opportunities.
Today, the global versus domestic mix has shifted to the point at which most clients are U.S.-based, and the firm is placing an enhanced emphasis on helping communities, including Nashville, transform their economies through a variety of strategies involving innovation and venture capital, internationalization, and overall strategy.
Through a renewed connection with Clinton native and former Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development staffer Patrick Baird who is Lodestone’s Engagement Manager, we had the opportunity to learn more about the firm during a recent interview with Amr El-Husseini, Founder and Chief Executive Officer. Before founding Lodestone, he was involved in investment banking, management consulting, and private equity around the world.
Today, El-Husseini is more involved than ever in the city where his wife was raised, serving as a Master Mentor at The Wond’ry, Vanderbilt University’s Innovation Center, as well as a member of the Entrepreneurship Advisory Council within Vanderbilt’s Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization.
“Nashville has lots of potential,” El-Husseini says. That optimism has resulted in the firm’s plan to launch Lodestone Ventures, a venture capital arm that will invest in early stage technology companies. To do so, he explains that they will offer a proprietary growth and de-risking program that the company has developed, tested and refined over the years.
How did Lodestone Advisory come about?
El-Husseini explains that he became concerned about “the focus, value, and approach management consulting firms were using to conduct and offer their services” during his early years in the business. “We tested and refined the concept for several years before launching Lodestone,” he says, adding, “We wanted to help companies understand and make sense of global markets and capitalize on significant business opportunities across new markets both nationally and around the world. That was a major missing niche in the industry we all saw and experienced leading up to our launch.”
Those concerns and needs have only increased with the geopolitical environment today.
As Lodestone was helping larger companies grow and transform, El-Husseini was also involved in the entrepreneurship and early stage venture worlds. That interest was only enhanced when he supported the launch of international business accelerators in Europe and the Middle East and North Africa regions. “We wanted to help these smaller high potential companies and ecosystems grow and see the world as a potential marketplace they could belong to and win in,” he says.
Over the next few years, Lodestone’s clients ranged from investment firms and universities to government institutions, and from start-ups to larger corporations, focusing almost exclusively on accelerating and sustaining growth through the two “I” words – internationalization and innovation.
By 2015-16, investors became interested in deploying capital with Lodestone, and the results were positive for all parties as they invested in early stage deals. Then, about two years ago as the COVID-19 pandemic encompassed the world, El-Husseini and his team began contemplating what they saw as systemic challenges with venture capital and possible solutions that they envisaged.
“The management fee that general partners charge is incentivizing the wrong behavior,” he says, explaining that the Lodestone Ventures model aligns incentives and eliminates the traditional management fee component, while offering strategic and growth support to its portfolio companies.
El-Husseini and his team are currently in the planning stages of their first venture fund with an unstated goal.
As he looks to the future, El-Husseini cites the impact of innovation hubs on communities that want to transform themselves and the synergy that Lodestone can leverage between its consulting and investing arms. He talks about the dynamic growth that is occurring in Nashville, bringing in diversity and skill to the breadth of new leaders at the companies that are relocating to Music City as well as positive leadership changes at two of the city’s educational institutions – Vanderbilt and Belmont Universities.
“We can help anyone from a start-up to a corporation to a university to a government entity,” he says. “It’s extremely rewarding and becoming a mainstream discussion topic.”