Grant Haas is a savant. In modern times, the term “savant” has taken on a complex and dualistic meaning. As the word passed from Latin to French to English, it was always used to emphasize the intelligence, wisdom and knowledge of the person to whom it is being referred. Essentially it implied genius.
But an interesting thing happened along the way. As society became more familiar with the geniuses of the world, those with incredible abilities in some areas, often appeared to struggle in other parts of their lives.
Whether it’s the stereotype of the shy, socially-deficient nerd, or the tightrope walk between genius and madness seen in people like chess icon Bobby Fischer or mathematician John Nash of A Beautiful Mind fame, somewhere along the line terms like “savant” and “genius savant” began to lose their true original meaning.
While the extreme Savant syndrome, clear connections with the autism spectrum and the examples described above are certainly genuine, significant and worthy of study, lost in this widespread belief is the blatant falsehood that genius and extreme abilities must come with a cost or deficiency, and proof of this are people like Grant Haas.
Grant Haas is a savant, in the truest, oldest sense of the word. Genius without compromise. The managing partner of family office Haas Portman, Haas is a literal genius, with an IQ above 180.
The 39-year-old is responsible for dozens of projects and investments, and owns a track record of success in investing that would make almost all of Wall Street jealous. He’s a mysterious figure in the investing community, with countless requests for his time, attention, advice or investment.
But in the age of social media, self-promotion and brand-building, Haas is exceptional. He has chosen to remain out of the spotlight, maintaining a close circle of trusted partners and friends, and allows his success and the loyalty and admiration he inspires in those around him to provide all of the business development he could ever need.
If this is the first time you’ve heard Grant’s name, don’t be surprised. He has purposefully kept himself relatively unknown to the public for years, and even this profile required many of his closest friends and confidantes to push him to agree to participate.
It is instantaneously obvious that speaking about himself publicly is not a favored activity for Haas. You can sense the confidence, the pride and the purpose in everything he says, but with an “aw-shucks” nonchalance that both reinforces his humility and belies the competitive nature within and the successes he has achieved in his professional and personal life.
When asked simply what he does, Haas first gives a standard, corporate-speak answer. “I help businesses grow,” explained Haas. “A lot of companies hire me for strategic reasons…a lot complement each other. Sometimes I’m able to bifurcate them and other times they’re very much synergistic. Advising strategic business health is the majority of my professional life. We use our strategy and our unique network to enhance the company’s success while mitigating our risk.”
But the next words out of Haas’ mouth might be the simplest, yet most accurate description of what makes the man a true savant. “But really, I’m a problem solver. I’m an expert at getting in and out of situations. Give me the problems, the challenges, the hurdles. I can very quickly come up with the who, what, when, where and why in the best possible way, and then execute upon that to win.”
While getting Grant to speak about his own accomplishments is arduous, the same cannot be said for those with whom he surrounds himself. It isn’t just that one struggles to find someone who isn’t a fan of Haas’, it’s nearly impossible to find someone in his sphere who doesn’t speak about him sincerely in simply glowing terms.
Haas’ best friend, professional investor, entrepreneur, poker icon and prolific philanthropist Jamie Gold (yes, the loquacious 2006 World Series of Poker champion) has spent more time with Grant over the past dozen years than anyone else, giving him both insight into the man’s genius and a desire to share his friend’s story with a wider audience.
“I've known him now 12 years,” explains Gold. “And it's certainly been an incredible 12 years. I mean, he is so impressive in so many ways. He’s profoundly gifted, he has an IQ over 180. Any kind of a mind game, he can crush it. He has a photographic memory. He has this...superhuman kind of brain.” Gold tells tales of playing credit card roulette at dinner to determine who pays, only to have Haas throw all of the cards on the table and recall every card number by memory, as easily as the common man remembers his own phone number.
“It's just unbelievable that he has this combination, compared to most people whose brains can operate on that high level. He thinks on ten levels, where he'll get to the solution of a complex problem faster than anyone I've ever met. He uses hundreds of data points in milliseconds, kind of like what I do in poker, but he takes it to a whole other level. Whereas the average person would think on one or two levels, he's thinking on countless levels and he narrows down the options and his best course of action, in seconds.”
Even their first meeting was an insight into Grant’s mind, as they first crossed paths at a private poker event at a mansion in Beverly Hills. With his fame in the poker world, Gold was an in-demand participant in poker events, both public and private. “I was invited as a guest because of my history in poker,” explained the former WSOP victor.
“And he was probably invited as a person of wealth. As it turned out, I was being used to scam other players, and Grant, who I had never met, saw it. He walked in the room and figured out what was going on very quickly with his incredible mind. He figured out a way to not alert anyone other than me as to what was happening because he didn't want to make a scene, but to kind of help me extricate myself from the situation unscathed, and we’ve become best friends since then.”
As for his friend’s business acumen, there’s little doubt in Gold’s opinion, as he points out, “I believe I’ve seen him make around 65 investments. He's only taken a loss on two of them and they weren't a complete loss. We can't say that the two of them were wins for him, but 63 out of 65 investments that I've personally watched him make is just incredible. I mean, the way that he vets companies, his thorough approach, and the speed with which he does things is really impressive. There are people who can vet companies as well as he does, but it would take them months to do what he's doing in a week. So, it's about speed, and time is one of those things that we can never get back and he's really learned to value his time and help others value theirs.”
Another member of Haas’ close circle of partners is the opposite of anonymous, Hall of Fame basketball legend Tracy McGrady. With his fame and wealth, there were no shortage of people looking to partner with TMac, or in many cases, take advantage of him. But even to someone with no shortage of available partners or business opportunities, Haas stood out.
“I met him through an old high school teammate of mine, who was college roommates with Grant,” explains the former NBA All-Star. “My former teammate kept talking about his friend, and how we’d be a lot alike. I just think there was great chemistry between the two of us, and he felt like he could add value to my brand, and I felt like I add value to him.”
McGrady continues, “It's very rare that you meet somebody and then instantaneously become business partners, because there's so many layers you have to go through when teaming up with guys to do business. There's a lot of sharks and snakes out here. I felt in my spirit that he was a genuine guy, and from the conversations it wasn't about just him. Grant cares about other people and he loves helping people, and that's who I am. We love to elevate those around us, and having those discussions with him, that's what I got from Grant…He's the type of business partner that you just have to work with, because he checks off all the boxes, and you could just put your trust into him.”
One of Haas’ current projects is UrbanStems, an online gifting company specializing in flowers, plants, and décor. Co-founder Ajay Kori met Grant the same way many people do, as a mutual friend suggested he had to meet Grant. “Now, five years later. I understand why that investor pushed me to call Grant,” explains Kori. “He's been amazing. Grant has an incredible eye for what consumers want…and what they may not even consciously know what they want.”
“I know everyone can put Grant on a pedestal for his ability to bring capital to a deal but honestly what I've found most valuable is his ability to anticipate what our consumers are going to love and push us to implement features that support that. If you win the customers, getting money is easy.” As for the loyalty Haas inspires in those he commits to working alongside, Kori doesn’t hold back, proudly admitting “You’ll run through a wall for him if he asked you to within days of meeting him.”
In multiple interviews, those close to Haas compared his competitive nature to one of the all-time most fearsome competitors, Michael Jordan. The same way Jordan is renowned for his need to win no matter the contest or the stakes, Haas is seen in the same light by his peers. Whether it’s ping pong, a math puzzle or an equity round for a startup, Grant Haas is renowned amongst those who know him for having an unmatched competitive nature.
But again, Grant is different. Rather than overcoming obstacles that frustratingly block his path, he intentionally chooses to attack the most challenging of routes, confident in his own abilities to conquer what lies ahead. This is where the core of Grant’s success in business, and much of his daily motivation, is rooted.
He doesn’t choose challenges in the hopes of success and the subsequent external celebration, recognition or validation that so many people desire from their competitive exploits. With Grant, these are internal motivations. He sets a goal, or sees a challenge, and he wants to succeed for his own internal reasons, not to prove anything to anyone.
Celebrity trainer of Biggest Loser fame, entrepreneur and author/speaker, Dolvett Quince, has seen multiple sides of Haas’ competitive nature and internal drive. Haas has helped Quince grow his diverse entrepreneurial empire, but has also shown Quince how Grant’s competitiveness can extend to places like the gym, where Haas has set a personal goal of becoming the pound-for-pound strongest person alive (Yes, you read that correctly. No, he’s unlikely to publicly promote his achievements on the road to this goal.)
According to Quince, “He's fucking crazy. ‘You can bench what? You do what?’ He's truly someone who is abnormally strong. He's a guy who pushes his limits, but some people push their limits just based on feeling. Grant's the type of person who attacks his goal not only through feeling, but also through education. He will nitpick the muscle fiber and its ability, as well as the supplement to compliment the time period in which he can make sure that he will maximize and optimize his results.”
“So in other words, let's say before he bench presses 650 pounds, [Grant’s] done so much research to determine, on his body, that he’s ready for it. ‘This is what I've done and this is why.’ So, it's a very thought-out process. Meticulous is the best way of putting it.”
As for the business side of their friendship, Quince appreciates both Grant’s genius and humility. “I'm inspired by him. He’s a very meticulous guy and not overbearing. Sometimes when someone is super intelligent, super smart, they tend to look at others as peons. They're not on their level. I think he holds a lot of weight in terms of intellect and being very thought out, with the things that he pursues, especially on the business side. But at the same time, he humbles himself, conversely, to ‘dumb it down’. Thus, he allows a non-genius partner to feel very much in the room and in the moment, not disconnected from it.”
If you’ve noticed a theme throughout Grant’s business success and competitiveness, you’re not wrong. In speaking with Grant and people in his life, the greatest thing about Grant isn’t his incredible brain…but his heart. Words like empathy and humility, and phrases like “elevating others” seem to arise constantly in discussions regarding Haas.
According to Gold, “Grant’s very careful about where he gives his time and energy, but he'll also bond with his Uber driver and the janitor in a building and just about any person that he meets that has a certain kind of energy. He'll figure out a way to change their life and how he can help them, kind of in a magical way.”
Jamie also knows about Grant’s philanthropic side. Gold himself has become known as the Poker Philanthropist for helping raise some half billion dollars for charity in his career, an astonishing feat in its own right. But he also knows that Grant is always willing to do whatever he can to help lift up others. “He's always the first one offering to support whatever charity event that I'm doing, whatever cause that it is. He's always the first one that wants to be there to support anything charitable or philanthropic.”
McGrady finds himself philosophical on the topic. At times the superstar ponders, “’What have I done in my life that I deserve this guy to be my business partner? He is phenomenal.’ With this partner, I can elevate myself to elevate other people around me, and that's what I love about Grant.”
Quince also projects a combination of admiration and awe for the way in which Haas views true success as shared success. “With Grant, no project or offer is only an opportunity for him. Every time I speak with Grant, he's focused on ‘I wonder what we could do together. I want to present this to you because even though it has been presented to me, I can see you in this. I guess his gift is that of a visionary. He will see angles, angles, angles…and not only does he see the angle, he also sees how it can best benefit all parties involved.”
However, this selflessness and desire to help everyone he meets elevate themselves and their circumstances doesn’t come out of nowhere. Grant had a difficult, even tragic, upbringing, but one that has strongly molded the man he is today and the impact he has on the world around him. Less bashful about speaking about his mother than about himself, Grant opened up about the impact his mother had as his hero and role model, and the seemingly impossible task of living up to her humanitarian, and human, legacy.
Haas shared the influence of his parents, and especially his mother, explaining that, “My mom has always been my hero. Both of my parents were very charitable in giving, though my mother has passed away. My mom would spend 12-plus hours-a-day on charitable activities. She raised millions and millions of dollars for almost every charity here in Atlanta and a lot of big ones nationwide. That was her passion.”
Haas recalls with both sadness and pride, “She had stage four cancer and they gave her six months to live…she lived 10 years. Meanwhile she was still assisting daily. My mom would go in on her off-days from chemo and go minister and give hope and faith and wisdom and kindness and sit there with other men and women while they were getting chemo. And I thought ‘This is the most depressing place ever. How on earth can you even stand to come in here?’”
The message he took from the experience, “Spread joy and love.”
Truth be told, this account may only be peeling back the outermost layers of who Grant Haas is, both professionally and personally. But certainly, there is already much to celebrate and aspire toward when it comes to someone who uses their incredible abilities not only for the benefit of his friends and partners, but for anyone with a good heart and positive spirit, whose path to a better life just needs a little intelligence, wisdom or knowledge.
You remember those three traits, right? Seems like Grant is not only a true savant, but the world is a much better place because of him. Not that you’d ever catch him saying it…