Founder of RUF. President of FORA.
Founder of RUF. President of FORA.
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Mihai was born in Cluj-Napoca, and grew up in Zalau, a small town in Transylvania, Romania. He emigrated to the United States in 2002, at the age of 21. As a young boy, he was passionate about Mathematics and Computer Science, and he won multiple awards in regional and national olympiads in Romania.
After graduating from the Academy of Economic Studies of Bucharest with a degree in International Business in 2001, he moved to the United States to study Computer Science. He got his Master's Degree from the University of Chicago and started working as a Software Analyst in the Credit Default Swaps division at Bank of America in 2004.
In 2007, Mihai joined Allston Trading, a medium-size proprietary high-frequency trading shop in Chicago, becoming a Partner and joining the Board of Allston in 2012. Mihai ran a highly successful team of traders and quants at Allston for over a decade, becoming a global player in the financial futures markets and making a name for himself in the secretive world of high-frequency trading.
In 2014 he founded his own family office, MDL Investments. MDL Investments is active in venture capital and private equity, owning a diverse portfolio of companies in high-growth fields, especially in tech: fintech, health tech, agrotech, biotechnology (including immuno-oncology research), medical devices and cryptocurrencies. MDL also invests a significant portion of its capital in real estate across the United States and in Romania.
In 2021, after 19 years of working in finance, Mihai retired to focus on community building and contributing to the success of the Romanian diaspora, becoming the President and Executive Director of Romanian United Fund. In 2022, Mihai was elected the first official President of the Federation of Romanian American Organizations, FORA.
- Founder and President of MDL Investments, a private family office with a wide range of investments, including venture capital, private equity, real estate, and cryptocurrencies
- Partner at Allston Trading, for a long time one of the most successful high-frequency trading firms in Chicago
- President of the Board (2022 - 2023), FORA, the Federation of Romanian American Organizations
- President of the Board (2018 - present), RUF, Romanian United Fund
- Member of the Board (2014 - 2019), Allston Trading
- Secretary of the Board (2003 - 2012), RTS, Round Table Society
- Founder of RCFC, Romanian Community Foundation of Chicago
- Founder and President (2022-2023) of FORA, the Federation of Romanian American Organizations
- Founder and President (2019 - present) of RUF, Romanian United Fund
- Founder and President (2005-2019) of "Fundatia Zalauani la Chicago" and romanilachicago.org
- Founder (2003-2012) of RTS, Round Table Society
- Ambassador of Via Transilvanica in the United States
- Ambassador of Repatriot, Romanian Business Leaders, in the United States
- Ambassador of ROCO, the Romanian Community Center of Chicago
Ambassador of ROCO, the Romanian Community Center of Chicago
"I have a dream! Chiar am :) In fiecare dimineata ma trezesc si ma gandesc cum o sa facem un Community Center la Chicago. Ce sa fac, fiecare cu visul lui. Numai ca io stiu ca nu ma las pana nu rezolvam anul asta. Si voi ma stiti, cand am promis ceva, nu mai e cale de intors. Vin-o alaturi de noi! Say 'I'm in!'"
Mathematics and Programming Teacher
"Growing up my teachers instilled in me a love of Mathematics and Computers. I reached Olympiad National level 6 times, and got 3 national awards (top 3 and 4). I started teaching Mathematics and Programming as a volunteer in 2014. I've been teaching young kids ever since, mostly as a way to keep my own kids engaged, but also because I love teaching. I believe the best gift you can give someone is to open their eyes to the joy of learning. I don't think I will ever stop teaching."
Lead Strategist/Allston Trading
Mihai joined Allston Trading in 2007, one of the best times in the high-frequency trading industry. In 2010, Mihai and Michael Cordaro cofounded the Jacks group, one of the most successful groups in the history of the firm. By 2015, the group became one of the world leaders in the space of Eurodollars futures trading, at one point trading over 1 Trillion dollars worth of notional in a single day. By 2020, the group expanded to over 30 people, trading liquid fixed income futures, most notably Eurodollars, Treasuries, Euribor, but also equity index and eurodollars options.
Founder of MDL Investments
In 2014, Mihai started MDL Investments, his own family office, initially with a focus on real estate, and real-estate connected activities: self-storage, senior living, student housing, real estate development, airbnb and short term rental. Since 2015, the firm is highly active in the venture capital space, most notably with investments in high growth industries, such as healthcare (immuno-oncology, biotech, medical devices, novel treatments), tech, fintech, robotics, CPG, business intelligence, blockchain & cryptocurrency, AI and virtual reality. Since 2016, Mihai and MDL Investments have been members of Keiretsu Forum Midwest, one of the most successful chapters of the Keiretsu Forum, a global investment community of accredited private equity angel investors, venture capitalists, and corporate/institutional investors.
President of Romanian United Fund
"I strongly believe the Romanian American community, and the Romanian Diaspora in general is quite capable of achieving great things. In order to achieve this, we need to create a decades-long development plan, well-thought and ambitious, and then we need to set out on the course of executing it. We need leaders, business people, and professionals to stand up together and support a common plan of development that takes into account our own future, our businesses, and our children before anything else.
I know Romanians are smart, intelligent, conscientious, creative, and highly dependable individuals. As teachers, doctors, construction workers, business people, or IT professionals, we touch the lives of so many, ab-so-lu-te-ly e-ve-ry day. We are our own ambassadors, as well as the ambassadors of our communities and of our country. We have a uniquely interesting heritage and we carry the flag of previous generations of illustrious Romanians that left their mark on history. But individualism will only take us so far. In order to achieve greatness, we need to learn to work better together and trust each other more.
There's a lot to be said about the break-neck speed of development of Romania and Romanians in the last 3 decades - as a nation, we had to come out of communism and transform ourselves into a capitalist, democratic society in a matter of decades. This has not been achieved without a significant human cost. Today, the Romanian diaspora is the fifth largest worldwide and a fifth of our workforce lives abroad. Moreover, as of 2020, more than half the children of Romanian descent worldwide live outside of Romania.
There is nothing more fascinating to me today, than the dream of showing that our generation, of young, determined, successful, intelligent Romanians can leave its own mark, during one of the most marvelous and interesting times in history: the century of technology and globalization. Are you with us?"
Community Leader and Philanthropist
Mihai is the Main Sponsor of the Romanian United Fund. In each of 2019 and 2020, Mihai made a $50,000 donation to finance the operating account of RUF and he made a pledge to match dollar-for-dollar any amount raised by Romanian United Fund up to $50,000. This allows RUF to be a 100% pass-through organization. For a clear picture of RUF finances, please see our Transparency section.
Mihai’s involvement in organizing and representing the Romanian community started when he moved to America, in 2001.
First as a founder of one of the first Chicago Romanian Community online groups, with 3,000 members, started in 2002.
Next, as a Founding Member and a Director of Round Table Society NFP, a Chicago-based nonprofit that promoted Romanian culture and upheld Romanian traditions, and provided community services, a film festival, and organized cultural and traditional events in Chicago between 2003 and 2012. When RTS closed, its remaining funds of roughly $13,000 were donated to a Romanian orphanage.
Third, as a founder of romanilachicago.org, a free “Craig’s list”-like directory website, that lists thousands of small businesses and initiatives as well as job listings in the Romanian community. At its peak, before the advent of Facebook, the “Romani La …” network included romanilanewyork, romanilahouston, romanilalosangeles and others, and served over 30,000 users in the United States. Today, only the Chicago server is active and boasts over 15,000 active users and over 15,000,000 views.
Mihai is also the initiator and supporter of the “Zilele Zalaului la Chicago” annual festival, with 17 annual editions, which, at its peak, brought together over 2,000 Romanians from the Chicago land to celebrate the annual “days of” Zalau, a small town in Transylvania where Mihai grew up and went to school.
In 2018, Mihai started volunteering as a member of Ro100, a civic engagement platform, which later formed the foundation for creating Romanian United Fund. RUF is a fundraising organization that focuses on providing financing to nonprofits and grassroots initiatives in Romanian communities in the United States and Romania, while building the largest diaspora network of philanthropists, business people, community leaders, experts, professionals, and other do-gooders in the global Romanian diaspora.
In 2019, Mihai became the single largest financial supporter of Romanian United Fund, and its first Founding Angel, with a minimal financial commitment for 5 years of $250,000. He is the running Executive Director and President of the Board of Directors of RUF.
In 2020, Mihai started pitching the idea of creating a national federation of Romanian American organizations to a group of community leaders from all over the United States, and today he is a proud Founding Member of FORA, the Federation of Romanian American organizations, and a member of the FORA Founding Team Workgroup that made FORA a reality.
In 2021, Mihai promoted, pushed, and turned into reality the idea of ROCO, the first entirely broad-base community-supported Community Center of Chicago, with no religious and no political affiliations. He also donated the ROCO building for 5 years to make the entire project possible. ROCO is currently being built and will be launched on March 31st.
In 2021, Mihai was recognized by Repatriot for his role as a Community Leader and Serial Investor and for his efforts to connect the Romanian Diaspora and Romania by being invited as a guest speaker at the Annual Repatriot Summit where he was awarded the Top 100 Romanians award. He is also the recipient of the "10 Romani de 10" award.
In 2022 he became a Founding Member of the Romanian Community Foundation of Chicago, a broad support coalition of the Chicago community, including the support of the local businesses, artists, churches, and local community leaders.
Mihai is a former Mathematics and Computer Science Olympiad participant in Romania with 3 national awards under his belt. He is a former trader, senior strategist, and former Partner at Allston Trading, a Chicago-based high-frequency trading outfit.
Piggybacking on his expertise and experience, since 2014, Mihai has been teaching multiple Mathematics, Computer Science, Computer Animation, Computer Game Design, and Financial Education to children between 7 and 18 years old, at local public libraries and schools, and currently as part of RUF’s learning center.
Mihai is also the Founder of RUF’s Learning Center, an online and offline teaching platform that provides technology and financial resources, a teaching methodology, and free curriculums to teachers from all four corners of the United States and Canada, with weekly courses from Monday to Saturday. He is a natural teacher and continues to teach weekly today, finding constant inspiration and happiness in connecting and providing mentorship to bright young minds.
I'M FUNDRAISING FOR RUF
survey question responseMihai Lehene answered 2021-03-20 14:48:03 -0500Q: PROGRAMS PERSON: The most important thing for a center is to be alive, active, fresh, serving the community. What are your thoughts on budgeting and accounting for at least one paid-personnel that would be responsible for activities and running the center as an open facility?
A: I like the idea, I think that would be valuable