Ms. Harman is Founder & Chairman, and former CEO, of Avante Capital Partners. Based in Los Angeles, Ms. Harman’s responsibilities include fund strategy and management, Investment Committee, portfolio management, investor relations, and brand management.
Ms. Harman has over 30 years of financing and M&A experience, involving well over $1 billion in aggregate investments. Prior to founding Avante, Ms. Harman started-up and led the Los Angeles offices for two multi-billion dollar publicly traded private equity and mezzanine investment funds – American Capital and more recently Allied Capital, where she was also a member of Allied’s Investment Committee. Earlier career highlights include various senior-level positions with Prudential Capital.
Over the course of her career, she has held (as an active board member or observer) Board roles in over 20 private middle market companies across the U.S. in a variety of industries, including healthcare, business services, consumer products, and industrial. She currently sits on the board of NN Inc., a publicly traded manufacturer of highly engineered components and Engineered Performance Technologies, a private manufacturer of automotive performance aftermarket products and solutions.
She has received numerous recognitions over the years including most recently being named to the Los Angeles Business Journal’s 2018 and 2019 LA 500 Most Influential People in Los Angeles. In January 2016, Ms. Harman was on the cover of Mergers & Acquisitions magazine and named one of the Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A, a recognition she again received in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. In March 2017, she was recognized as one of 15 Trailblazers by Buyouts Magazine. In 2015, she was named one of the Most Influential Private Equity Investors in Los Angeles by the Los Angeles Business Journal (LABJ). In 2013, the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Los Angeles inducted Ms. Harman into their Hall of Fame.
Ms. Harman is a Co-Chair of the Association for Corporate Growth – Los Angeles Business Conference, an Ex-officio Board Member and Past Chair of the Small Business Investor Alliance, Executive Advisory Board member of JGSI (Jewish Graduate Student Initiative), and a Steering Committee Member of PEWIN. In 2018, Avante Capital Partners was named Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) of the Year by the U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The firm was also named Women-Owned Firm of the Year 2018 by Private Equity Women Investor Network (PEWIN).
She received a MBA from the University of California – Berkeley, and a Bachelors’ degree in Business from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (summa cum laude).
Ivelisse Rodriguez Simon is the Managing Partner of Avante Capital Partners. Based in Los Angeles, Ms. Simon is responsible for identifying, executing and managing investment opportunities. She currently manages the fund’s portfolio and new deal activities. Ms. Simon joined Avante in 2009 as a founding member of the firm.
Ms. Simon has over two decades of middle-market debt and equity investment experience. Prior to Avante, she held positions at Palladium Equity Partners, Reliant Equity Partners and various investment banks including Salomon Brothers. Ms. Simon serves on the board of several companies including Quest, LLC.
Ivelisse is a longtime advocate and champion for women, minorities and the underserved and underrepresented. She holds leadership roles in several local and national non-profit organizations, including The Robert Toigo Foundation, The Hispanic Scholarship Foundation and Westside Family Health Center in Los Angeles. In 2019, the Robert Toigo Foundation honored Ivelisse with their prestigious Leadership Award recognizing her leadership in the advancement of diversity and inclusion in the financial industry. Ivelisse was also named to Mergers & Acquisitions magazine’s 2020 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A. In addition, Ivelisse and her two sisters launched a philanthropic organization called We Will to support and empower underserved women and minorities in the areas of healthcare, education and financial literacy.
Ms. Simon graduated with honors from the University of Illinois and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School. She lives with her husband and four children in Los Angeles and enjoys taking adventurous trips with her family to far-flung places.
Paul Hayama is a Partner of Avante Capital Partners. Based in Los Angeles, Mr. Hayama is responsible for identifying, executing and managing investment opportunities. He currently manages the fund’s deal execution, due diligence and portfolio management activities. Mr. Hayama joined Avante in 2009 as a founding member of the firm.
Mr. Hayama has over two decades of lower-middle-market debt and equity experience. Prior to Avante, he held positions at Allied Capital and Houlihan Lokey. Mr. Hayama serves on the board of Katahdin and holds numerous other board observer positions.
Paul is an active supporter of the Association of Asian American Investment Managers (AAAIM) and a founding member of its Southern California Chapter. He is also a frequent speaker on a variety of investor panels ranging from mezzanine debt to consumer products to aerospace and defense investing. He is also a recurring lecturer on unitranche and mezzanine debt as part of the Certificate in Private Capital Markets program at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio Business School.
Mr. Hayama graduated magna cum laude from the University of Southern California. A native of Hawaii, Paul lives with his wife and two children in Manhattan Beach. When he isn’t coaching his kids’ sports teams, you can find him cheering loudly in the stands.
Cliff Lyon is an Administrative Partner at Avante Capital Partners. Based in Los Angeles, Mr. Lyon serves on Avante’s Investment Committee. Mr. Lyon joined Avante in 2009 as a founding member of the firm.
Mr. Lyon has over 35+ years of professional experience in accounting and finance. Prior to joining Avante, he was CFO and Investment Committee Member at Celerity Partners where he was involved with portfolio management and served as a director of several private companies. Prior to joining Celerity in 2000, Cliff was the CFO of Fotoball USA and Director of Finance of RemedyTemp, Inc., both publicly traded corporations. Mr. Lyon previously was employed at The Walt Disney Company and with the accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche.
Mr. Lyon graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, and holds an MBA from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. He is a CPA (inactive). Cliff lives in Pacific Palisades with his wife and two children and enjoys playing softball, running, golfing, pickleball and skiing.
Richard Strait is an Investment Committee Partner at Avante Capital Partners. Based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Rick serves on Avante’s Investment Committee and advises on portfolio and other strategic matters. He joined Avante in 2019.
Mr. Strait has over 40 years of private middle-market debt and private equity investment experience. He joined Avante after a 35-year career with Northwestern Mutual Capital (NMC), the private debt and equity investment arm of The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company. During his career, Rick and his portfolio teams completed more than $18 billion of private debt, direct private equity co-investments and private equity fund commitments. Rick also served as a senior member of NMC’s Investment Committee which approved more than $11 billion in aggregate mezzanine and private equity co-investments during his committee tenure. He represented NMC on numerous private equity fund advisory boards and as a director or observer on private company boards.
Mr. Strait is an independent director of G&L Holdings, Inc., a privately-owned food ingredients company, and Bellacor.com, a privately-owned ecommerce company specializing in lighting and home décor products.
Mr. Strait lives in Wisconsin and is actively engaged in his local community. He serves on the board and chairs the Investment Committee of the Jewish Home & Care Center Foundation (Milwaukee). He is a member of the Alumni Advisory Board for the University of Wisconsin – Madison, Department of Economics and is a former board member and officer of COA Youth and Family Centers (Milwaukee).
Mr. Strait graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and holds an MBA from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
John Ritter is a Senior Advisor at Avante Capital Partners. Based in Hartford, Mr. Ritter advises the firm on strategic matters. John joined Avante in 2019.
Mr. Ritter has over 30 years of experience providing debt and equity capital to both small and middle market businesses. John started his career as an attorney in Connecticut, first as an Associate with a small law firm in Hartford, and then as General Counsel to an energy company with a focus on cogeneration projects. In 1988, Mr. Ritter co-founded First New England Capital where he was a partner in several funds and later co-founded Balance Point Capital Partners in 2008.
In addition to having served on numerous portfolio company boards during his career, Mr. Ritter has also served on many non-profit boards, including the Hebrew Home and Hospital of Greater Hartford, University of Connecticut School of Law Foundation, University of Connecticut Foundation (where he served on the Investment Committee for a decade), as well as the Northeast Regional Association of Small Business Investment Companies (NERASBIC).
For 26 years, Mr. Ritter served on the board of the Connecticut Housing Investment Fund (now Capital for Change), including twice as chairman. CHIF was founded as a non-profit organization in the early 1960s by Mr. Ritter’s parents to help African American families purchase homes in the Hartford suburbs where they were being prevented from buying homes. Mr. Ritter is active in politics, having served as Councilman on the West Hartford, Connecticut Town Council and as State Representative in the Connecticut State Legislature.
Mr. Ritter graduated from Macalester College with a Bachelor of Arts degree with Highest Honors. He holds a Master of Arts Degree in Religion from Yale University and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Connecticut School of Law.
Mr. Ritter currently sits on the Board of Trustees of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame located in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Susan Black-Beth is the Chief Operating Officer of Avante Capital Partners. Based in Chicago, Ms. Black-Beth is in charge of various responsibilities, including spearheading Avante’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, recruiting, deal sourcing, due diligence, and supporting investor relations/fundraising. She also spearheads Avante’s women’s initiatives and Avante’s Small Business Investing Scholars (“SBIS”) diversity internship program.
Susan has over 20 years of experience as a founder, operator and entrepreneur. Prior to joining Avante, Susan served as the COO of NRD Capital, a private equity fund focused on investing in franchise and multi-location businesses. Her impressive track record has earned her numerous accolades, including being named one of the “Most Influential Women in Middle Market M&A” by Mergers & Acquisitions magazine, recognized as an “Emerging Leader” by The M&A Advisor, and honored as a “2018 Influential Woman in Business” by The Daily Herald.
Ms. Black-Beth graduated from Augustana College with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and Communication.
Brianna Wener is the Chief Financial Officer of Avante Capital Partners. Based in Florida, Ms. Wener is responsible for the loan operations, accounting and financial reporting of the firm.
Ms. Wener has over 18 years of experience in financial reporting and accounting. Prior to joining Avante, Ms. Wener was the Chief Accounting Officer – Investment Funds at Monroe Capital, where she was responsible for developing accounting policy and overseeing financial reporting and accounting for all of the fund products. Prior to joining Monroe in 2016, she was a Controller at Greenbriar Asset Management, responsible for the accounting and financial reporting of an event driven special situations credit fund. Ms. Wener was a Vice President in Financial Control at Northern Trust Hedge Fund Services, formerly Citadel Investment Group’s fund administrator Omnium, overseeing the financial accounting and reporting for third party clients. Ms. Wener began her career as an Audit Senior at Deloitte.
Ms. Wener earned her B.S. in Business from the University of Kansas. She is a licensed Certified Public Accountant and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
Sylvester (“Sly”) Burley is a Principal at Avante Capital Partners. Based in Los Angeles, Mr. Burley is responsible for identifying, underwriting, executing and managing investment opportunities. Sly joined Avante in 2019.
Mr. Burley has over twelve years of investing experience, across both private equity and private credit. Prior to Avante, Sly worked at Bregal Investments where he advised on the origination, execution, management and operation of investments across the mid-market infrastructure and energy sectors. Prior to Bregal, he held private equity positions at Basalt Infrastructure Partners and Riverstone Holdings. Sly started his career in investment banking at J.P. Morgan in the natural resources group.
For several years, Sly has volunteered with non-profits including America Needs You, Apex for Youth, and Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO), which provides educational opportunities and career training to underrepresented students.
Mr. Burley graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University. Sly lives in Los Angeles and enjoys traveling, engaging in sporting activities, and playing the piano.
Amanda Kim is a Principal at Avante Capital Partners. Based in Los Angeles, Ms. Kim is responsible for identifying, underwriting, executing and managing investment opportunities. Amanda joined Avante in 2016.
Ms. Kim has over twelve years of finance experience. Prior to Avante, Amanda worked at Goldman Sachs in the Alternative Investment & Manager Selection Group where she was responsible for evaluating external managers, with a focus on environmental, social, and governance “ESG” and impact investments.
Amanda is passionate about mentoring women in finance and launched Avante’s Small Business Investing Scholars Program in 2019. Additionally, Amanda serves on the board of the nonprofit Community Health Councils (CHC) which seeks to collectively build equitable systems.
Ms. Kim graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Bowdoin College. She lives in Los Angeles and enjoys singing, going to church, being a mom, and supporting her husband’s entrepreneurial ventures (check out @KOBUNGA Korean Grill and @3VERY cashmere).
David Ng is a Principal at Avante Capital Partners. Based in New York, David is responsible for identifying, underwriting, executing and managing investment opportunities. David joined Avante in 2022.
David has over 10 years of middle-market debt and equity experience. Prior to Avante, David worked as a VP in Partners Group’s NYC office, where he was responsible for originating, underwriting, structuring, and managing middle market credit investments across a diverse range of industries. Prior to Partners Group, he was an analyst at Nomura, a middle market investment bank. David began his career at KPMG.
David graduated from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business with a B.S. in Finance and Accounting, and subsequently also earned an MBA at the Kelley School of Business. David lives in New York City and enjoys travelling, scuba diving, and learning new languages.
Nicole Vatter is a Vice President at Avante Capital Partners. Ms. Vatter is responsible for identifying, underwriting, executing, and managing investment opportunities. Nicole joined Avante in 2021.
Ms. Vatter has ten years of finance experience. Prior to Avante, she worked at Partners Group, a Direct Lending fund based in Denver, CO, where she was responsible for underwriting, closing, and managing middle market credit investments. Prior to Partners Group, she held positions at PIMCO and PwC.
Ms. Vatter graduated cum laude from the University of California, Irvine, and holds an MBA with honors from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. She lives in Newport Beach with her husband and enjoys hikes and road trips.
Victor Villalpando is a Senior Associate at Avante Capital Partners. Based in Los Angeles, Mr. Villalpando is responsible for identifying, underwriting, executing, and managing investment opportunities. Victor joined Avante in 2022.
Victor has 5 years of collective experience across middle market investing and investment banking. Prior to Avante, Victor worked at Alignment Credit where he led sourcing and execution of investments in late-stage venture and middle market companies. Prior to Alignment Credit, Victor was an investment banker at MUFG, covering private equity sponsors.
Victor graduated with honors from St. John’s University and holds a B.S. in Finance. Victor lives in Las Vegas and enjoys traveling, hiking, and scuba diving.
Karel Ignacio is a Senior Associate at Avante Capital Partners. Based in Los Angeles, Ms. Ignacio is responsible for identifying, underwriting, executing and managing investment opportunities. Karel joined Avante in 2019 as an intern in Avante’s MBA Internship Program.
Karel has over 7 years of collective experience across finance, entertainment and tech. Prior to joining Avante, she held corporate roles at Hyperloop One, Warner Brothers Entertainment and Paramount Pictures.
Karel graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, and holds an MBA from USC Marshall School of Business. She lives in Los Angeles and enjoys traveling, photography, discovering new music, and hanging out with her rescue puppy, Jasper.
Emily Yin is an Associate at Avante Capital Partners. Based in Los Angeles, Ms. Yin is responsible for identifying, underwriting, executing, and managing investment opportunities. Emily joined Avante in 2020 as a summer intern in Avante’s Small Business Investing Scholars Program.
Prior to Avante, she worked as a Strategic Planning Intern at Gilead Sciences and as a Research Assistant at ANP Technologies and the USC Keck School of Medicine. Emily graduated magna cum laude from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Science degree in Global Health.
Danielle Williams is an Analyst at Avante Capital Partners. Based in Los Angeles Ms. Williams is responsible for identifying, underwriting, executing, and managing investment opportunities.
Danielle joined Avante in 2019 as Ivelisse’s Executive Assistant and supporting the firms marketing efforts. Prior to Avante Danielle was an Office Services Assistant at Latham and Watkins in San Diego.
Danielle graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology. During her undergrad, she was a student-athlete on the Michigan Women’s Basketball team for four years. Ms. Williams also holds a Master of Management degree from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.
Gabriella Rodriguez is the Manager of Community at Avante Capital Partners. Gabriella is responsible for the SBIS Internship Program, assisting with WON (Women’s Operating Network), and maintaining external relationships involving community outreach. Gabriella started at Avante in 2020 part-time to help with the internship program and has since moved to Avante full-time as she enjoys helping create opportunities for students.
Prior to Avante, Gabriella worked at a B2B Marketing Agency where she gained experience in project management and social media management. Gabriella graduated from Marquette University with a Bachelor of Communications degree in Marketing and Advertising.
Chau Nguyen is the Office Manager & Marketing Coordinator at Avante Capital Partners where she provides administrative and technical support to the entire team. Chau joined Avante in 2014.
Ms. Nguyen has over 15 years of experience in office management and administrative support. Prior to Avante, Chau held positions at U-Haul, Hawaii Marketing Company and Brett Hill Construction.
Danielle Rosales is an Executive Assistant at Avante Capital Partners where she provides administrative support to the entire team.
Danielle graduated from the University of Southern California. Prior to joining Avante in 2021, she held administrative and coordinator roles in the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music and Donaldson Callif Perez, LLP Law Firm.
A native of Los Angeles, she enjoys continuously exploring the city, taking spin classes, baking, swimming, and traveling abroad.