Garnet Heraman | Lessons from Past Economic Downturns for Today’s Coronavirus Pandemic

Garnet Heraman is an investor and influencer with over 25 years of experience at the intersection of different brands, innovation, and technology. He started his career in 1987 working on Wall Street and he has been through different ups and downs over the years. He is a frequent speaker at innovation events around the world and his work has been featured in Time Magazine, BuzzFeed, Forbes, Bloomberg, HuffPost, Thrillist, WSJ, Institutional Investor, Inc., Entrepreneur, GMA, Travel+ Leisure + O, and the Oprah Magazine.

Garnet is a Managing Partner at FUEL OZ.Capital, an opportunity zone fund focused on inclusive development. He is also Chairman of PodCo Media Networks, a business podcast publisher.



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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Learn:

  • Garnet recalls his experience at Wall Street and the rollercoaster of events he has seen during the span of his career
  • The factors that are affecting the reactions to the events of 2020
  • What smart investors are doing given the current state of the economy
  • Garnet shares the success story of a currently thriving cannabis company
  • Companies and industries that are worth looking at given market volatility
  • Garnet’s advice to CEOs who need to make hard business decisions
  • The challenges and lessons that Garnet learned from the companies he has worked with
  • How Garnet managed to invest in many diverse industries
  • How will the coronavirus pandemic affect multicultural and female-led companies?
  • How to survive and thrive in business despite the economic uncertainties
  • Garnet talks about FUELOZ.capital and what they intend to accomplish

Resources Mentioned:

Sponsor: Rise25

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Episode Transcript

John Corcoran  00:40

All right. Welcome everyone. JOHN Corcoran. Here. I’m the host of the smart business revolution podcast where I talk with CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs of companies and organizations like YPO eo activation, Blizzard lending tree, Open Table x offer and many many more. I’m also the co-founder of rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects and referral partners and I’m excited Because my guest is carnet Herrmann. He’s an investor and influencer. He’s got over 25 years of experience at the intersection of different brands and innovation and technology. He’s got an amazing perspective. He’s a great person to talk to, at this particular moment in time because we’re heading towards the end of March 2020, which has been a crazy roller coaster ride. We’re in the midst of all the coronavirus craziness that’s happening right now. And he started his career in 1987. Working on Wall Street, he’s been through all the different ups and downs and, you know, different roller coaster that you experienced over the years.

And so we’re going to be asking him about that and he’s got some really good perspective. But first, before we get to that this episode is brought to you by rise25 media which I co-founded with my business partner, Dr. Jeremy wise, our mission is to connect you with your best referral partners and customers. We do that through a done for you podcast solution, I believe. If you have a business, you should have a podcast period. It’s one of the best things I’ve done hands down. It gets to talk to smart people like Gardner Right here today and get to pick their brain and really get their perspective on what’s going on in the world. And there’s nothing that’s quite like that, that I know of today. So if you want to learn more about that go to rise 25 media.com. Alright, so carnet, First of all, we were talking beforehand, and you graduated from college in 1987. You go to work on Wall Street, and you had kind of a crazy experience. The course that was a famous year when we had a big drop on the market, but tell me about that, and also some of the other roller coaster years that you have lived through.

 

Garnet Heraman 02:36

So thanks for having me. And this is gonna be an exciting discussion because it is happening during some very strange times, right? Like the Chinese say, may you live in interesting time. This clearly qualifies. Yeah. When I graduated, I was lucky enough to get a job on Wall Street and working for an old old boy White shoe law firm called David spoken word well and I just sort of, uh, you know, hapless 21 year old or whatever, 20 year old I graduated a little bit early, but um as I was walking on my lunch hour one day has this incident happened that conditioned a lot of the way that I think about business going forward. And it’s a sort of catalog the things that have happened afterwards but what happened was someone jumped off the roof of the Federal Reserve building on Wall Street, I think that’s NASA to NASA or john and hit the car in front of me as I was walking on the pavement. And you know, as you can imagine, all sorts of Mayhem ensued and all sorts of strange things, but it was you know, it’s, it’s a real story, but it’s also very metaphorical about the level of fear and panic that was happening in the market in 1987. You know, that’s a real learning experience, and it wasn’t something like that sticks with you. And as it turns out, I’ve had to live through multiple challenges in the market place and downturns, you know, 1998 2001 2008. And if you look at that trajectory, you know, more wealth has been created from 2010 to 2019. And pretty much the 50 years before,

 

John Corcoran  04:24

right. And then one thing that’s kind of, you know, Stark for me is, it’s, it’s all kind of in perspective, you know, if you look at now, it might get worse, it could certainly get worse. Oh, but, you know, but each time there’s been a drop, you know, if you zoom out a little bit, it’s like, Hey, guys, okay, it just dropped back to where we were like two years ago. And if we, if I went and I asked you three years ago, imagine if the market was at this point, you know, two years ago, then you would have said, that’s great, but instead because we were At the level we were at when we dropped down, you know, it creates some crazy hysteria. What do you think that the reaction today in 2020 has been? What it is?

 

Garnet Heraman 05:14

A good question. Um, I think I think there was a lot of good because fundamentally, it’s a psychoanalysis question and i’m not i’m not really highly trained as a psychologist or a psychiatrist or a psycho analyst. I think there’s probably a bunch of contributing factors and you probably have some that you saw coming. You know, I feel like the press and the short sellers and the and the sort of long term of bears and, you know, people with that mindset that I can make money off chaos and I can make money off, you know, downturns. I feel like there’s a lot of lead up to this in the press in terms of like preconditioning people’s psyches to x expected downturn, on the one hand, Yeah, I don’t see, I see certain excesses in private equity, that that have that are long term that happened actually, you know, post 2008 right after 2008.

 

John Corcoran  06:15

I see what do you mean by that? What kind of excesses? The excess

 

Garnet Heraman 06:17

is this? Basically, I think that, you know, like early-stage private equity has changed dramatically. And the funds that have, you know, typically that we’re typically doing that have changed, and it’s largely due to the availability of a lot of money in the money supply. And so a lot of a lot of funds that historically would have been investing in earlier stage companies are really only wanting to invest in later stage companies. And that’s the dirty little secret of VC in the decade, you know, from like, 2009 to 2019. Is that really, VC is no longer an institutional, no characterization is actually in the hands of things like Angel networks. individuals.

 

John Corcoran  07:01

So is that a good thing or a bad thing?

 

Garnet Heraman 07:03

No, I I, I don’t know, to be honest, because I think that having that that pressure coming from the from the top down, so more and more money at the top wanting to get into later stage deals versus, you know, pushing from the bottom. I on a very macro basis, I feel like that pressure is bad. Because it creates a it creates a lot of pressure to push companies forward when they’re not, you know, forward meeting up to venture value chain, right. When they’re not necessarily ready, because the

 

John Corcoran  07:36

angels need they don’t have as much assets as a venture capital firm and they need to they need a home run more than a VC firm. Yeah.

 

Garnet Heraman 07:45

Experience. Yeah. Or the, or the ability to manage through downturns. Mm-hmm. I think that’s where it starts to, you know, that excess and that that macro shift. That’s where that starts. To connect up to some of the challenges of coronavirus, right, you could begin to see, there will be a reaping diplopia you know, a winnowing, you know, that leaves a lot of blood, you know, I would say for the rest of this year and next year, right, I believe, an 18 month to 24 month, like ripple effect, not well, not the not that it will last that long. But I think this will be over August, September. But I think the ripple effects are gonna last a solid 18 to 24 months. Right, right.

 

John Corcoran  08:38

Yeah. Well, you know, historically, it seems like a lot of the other downturns that it did take a couple years for

 

Garnet Heraman 08:45

the audience to come back up again. Yeah, only,

 

Garnet Heraman 08:49

you know, several years. Yeah, I would say I, God willing, it’ll be like a shorter 12 to 18 months, whatever. Let’s see. You know,

 

John Corcoran  08:58

yeah, so for instance, Esther now, what are investors doing as we speak right now? And what are smart investors doing sitting on the sidelines waiting?

 

Garnet Heraman 09:08

How do you mean public or private? I mean, private. Okay. Yeah. So from firsthand experience, I can tell you that, you know, I have a fairly diverse portfolio across like legal cannabis all the way to like e-commerce and, you know, clothing and e-commerce. And I can tell you that, basically, it’s triage at this point, you know, none of the thankfully none of my companies are going away altogether. But they, across the board, they’ve had challenges over the last month, let’s say, yeah. Interestingly enough. A couple of the things that I’ve been involved with that are historic that historically have been outright cash cows, just throwing off cash constantly have been the hardest hit. Interesting by this. A couple of the companies that Were a little bit, you know, maybe before the uptick, you know, a little bit, just, you know, struggling with profitability kind of company

 

10:11

have taken off.

 

John Corcoran  10:12

Yeah. It’s interesting. It’s really interesting. The company’s, you know, in the, the ways in which companies aren’t diversified or are diversified, you know, you would think like, there’s like companies that had multiple different restaurants in different types of restaurants, but they’re completely not diversified right now. You know, or a mentor of mine has got a medical billing company. And you thought it You think he was diversified, had a lot of clients, they had 50% of their client fulfillment work was handled by one company in one country that was shutting down that because they were hard hit and then the other, the other company who was doing the fulfillment and the other 50% of their clients was about to shut down. So in retrospect, I’m sure he would have rather had five different companies doing all the fulfillment diversified across The Globe but you know, it’s not something you think about beforehand.

 

Garnet Heraman 11:03

I’ll give you a perfect example of cannabis. So, you know, I was very careful to get involved with cannabis companies because I’ve been around them for you know, at least five or six years. And I made a decision fairly early on I only wanted to get involved with essentially like the financial aspect of legal cannabis and the brave new world that that was gonna, you know, usher in and one of my colleagues that I was involved with early on with one initiative that didn’t actually you know, go where we wanted to but she went on to do something really interesting. And she founded a cash transport company called Imperial logistic EMP y r L. And you know, the interest in a business that’s grown slowly but you know, maybe not fast enough for like traditional, you know, VC type perspective but still growing and then all of a sudden You know, she was at risk for a period of time, maybe about a couple of months back because of what everyone was expecting from Coronavirus. And then something happened where basically legal, you know, all legal cannabis in most states was actually deemed an essential service. So in you know, they’re based in Colorado, and Colorado came out and said, it’s an essential service and I think there’s like a copycat effect around the country. Yeah. And all of a sudden, the incoming calls, you know, taking off and, you know, businesses moving and, and I, if, if you would ask me, you know, if it’s that company was vulnerable for some kind of, like, extreme market event, I would have said, Yes, absolutely. Just because of the nature of how they were growing, right, you know, stumbling towards profitability type way, right, or, you know, growing incrementally toward profitability. As it turns out, they’re gonna end up being One of the companies that really benefits from this whole thing.

 

John Corcoran  13:02

Yeah, I was talking to someone with a cannabis venture fund this weekend, who was saying the same thing in San Francisco. Same thing happened, it was deemed an essential business. Ah, was she’s I mean, everyone could use some right now. Right to chill out a little bit.

 

Garnet Heraman 13:20

The market in general, could you sell? Yeah. If you could make a bond big enough for the for the entire market to have a hit? Yeah, right.

 

John Corcoran  13:29

What, what, what industries or companies are interesting right now, given the volatility in the market, you know, zoom in slack and companies that, you know, help remote workforce are kind of going crazy right now. What else?

 

Garnet Heraman 13:45

I would imagine. Yeah. You know, anything like that? I, I, I would prefer to answer that from a public like stock perspective, actually, because I have a couple of things that I am fairly bullish on that I can illustrate easier. Thank you. is now public but I think that one of the sort of hidden beneficiaries are going to be anyone who does any company that provides like hard tech backbone for video streaming

 

Garnet Heraman 14:13

because he’s on much

 

John Corcoran  14:14

demand right?

 

Garnet Heraman 14:16

stuck you’re stuck home whether you’re playing you know, it’s got to involve streaming of data of some sort probably video and yeah, you know, there are companies like Twilio that you know, historically have been underlooked and actually were you know, losing they were losing statistics, their price, their price, share price was sliding in the months leading up to the actual coronavirus taken off again, I would argue payments companies, you know, you know, online payment company whether it’s square or anything like that would be

 

John Corcoran  14:52

online payments. Yeah.

 

Garnet Heraman 14:54

My all-time favorite, you know, the thing that was sort of a surprise was Roku Roku. Roku is the only streaming company that both the software company, you know, meaning they have software but also content. And they have a little gadget widget that’s hardware that can be sold. So, you know, Roku was in in a pretty steep slide. And you know, I think the last time the market was open, it was shooting back up. Well, I know ours are Roku has been in overdrive lately. You know, you before you were an investor, you are CEO of a number of different companies. What do you have to say to CEOs are out there right now or having to make gut wrenching, hard decisions? Right now? What advice do you have as you toggle backwards from whether or not it makes sense for the organization to survive? You know, so that that really if you’re at an early stage and developing a new venture or startup, whatever you might want to make a very serious decision about whether this is the venture that It’s worth. It’s crazy.

 

John Corcoran  16:01

It’s crazy how quickly those decisions seem to have been made this time. And I don’t know if it’s because of the wisdom of the 2008 was kind of like a slower burn. But it seems to me like a lot of there’s a lot in the news of CEOs and companies that just like, made a quick decision, like laid off three quarters of their staff or something like that.

 

Garnet Heraman 16:23

Yeah, I think Yeah, and I can’t speak to that, you know, been involved with anything at the moment that that has to kind of scale where, you know, you’re laying off hundreds of thousands of people. that’s a tricky one, right? Because you do that and you’re for sure gonna lose either valuation, you know, money and if you’re private, or for sure, you’re gonna lose share price, you know, if you’re public, you know, that just the act of doing that it’s gonna it’s going to tank your stock. So I can’t speak to that. 100% I can speak to the early-stage venture perspective on that, you know, you have to make a real decision about whether this is a venture that’s that’s worth making the inevitable sacrifices, or whether it’s time to basically figure out, quote, you know, ways to live and fight another day. Right, right. Yeah, we’ve had, we’ve had one decision like that to make and, and we kind of kind of split the two parts to the big data, you know, and one part and continue the other part. So, right.

 

John Corcoran  17:28

Right. That’s a must-have been a tough decision, I imagine.

 

Garnet Heraman 17:32

Yeah. Yeah. But, but maybe to your point about the general level of entrepreneurship, you know, and, and sort of managerial wisdom being higher now than it was a decade ago. You know, all the founders and investors involved were pretty straightforward about the decision, and, you know, came to a consensus really quickly, like within days, so, just, it is what it is. So You have more

 

John Corcoran  18:02

items on your LinkedIn profile than most people I’ve met so many different. You’ve been board advisor, you know, advisor, the CEO, you’ve been an instructor, a CEO, yourself co-founder, all these different things, right? As you look back on these different companies you’ve been involved in, especially ones that you’re not involved in anymore. And you look at the crisis we’re going through now, are there any that you think if I was running that today, I would have been in major trouble. And you know, are there like in in light of that? Do you think back and think like, oh, man, we should have done this in order to insulate us and protect ourselves against some kind of eventuality like this?

 

Garnet Heraman 18:42

Yep. Yep. Yep. So uh,

 

Garnet Heraman 18:45

I think that I mean, most of the challenges that I’ve had with companies that didn’t do well, believe it or not, are all human. No, no, all the problems are human-based. I have a saying that sort of picked up over years, five by one of my mentors, actually, which is that all business is pretty simple, made complicated by people. And so, you know, there’s no rocket science involved with, you know, the vast majority of business models. You know, if you’re in the rocket science launching business or the intergalactic travel business, maybe you could repeat the statement, but, you know, by and large, most business is not that complicated. So, when I look backwards, I, you know, and I’ve definitely learned along the way, right, so there are people issues and their partnership issues. And, you know, you try to understand them at the outset, try to be realistic about the people that you’re dealing with, or that you’re involved in partnerships with, and then try to anticipate things that could go right and things that could go wrong. And in the scenario where there may be things that could go wrong, you know, another sort of axiom that I live by or die by, I don’t die by anymore I almost died. Earlier from somebody, but, um, it’s basically never getting into something that you don’t know how to get out of. Right? So that’s a contract. That’s a partnership, that’s an investment. And so, you know, maybe some of that inform some of this, like willingness to, for people that like fold up tend to, you know, maybe some of these people had that perspective, like, you know, what, if or what would happen if that kind of thing I don’t know, for me, I’m super careful about all that stuff. And I try to understand it as much as possible. Don’t make my preferences and my concerns and my, like, exit strategy. From from things well know that everyone who is a party to feel the contract the agreement, whatever, yeah,

 

John Corcoran  20:48

yeah. How do you think so that’s following up on that particular line of thought? You know, you’ve been involved in so many different companies. You’ve been on boards now. Even advisors, how do you think that you’ve managed to work with those interpersonal issues? Because you’ve come across so many different people and you’re involved actively in so many different companies? How do you think that you

 

Garnet Heraman 21:12

guys? Uh, well, because I do have basically my lot to curse on this or no?

 

21:20

Sure, go ahead good.

 

Garnet Heraman 21:22

I do, uh, basically, you know, fuck you check at the beginning of every new engagement, you know, so if, if, if I don’t feel like I like you or we have like a basic rapport, you know, basically Fuck you. You know, it’s not it’s none of my business. I wish you well but you know, kind of did not it did not for me. Yeah. I, I’m lucky because I have I’m an old timer so I have enough. I have enough of a relationship base and a network. So I come into contact with A lot of people like you were you were making, you know, making light of, um, and I try to be super upfront about the folks that I feel like I have some kinship, fellow feeling, you know, a mutual understanding. You know, and it’s it again, back to that thing about business is simple people are complicated. I, if I spend, you know, 80% of my time trying to understand the person that 20% of my time trying to understand the business. So interesting. And that explains one of my other questions, which was going to be how you managed to invest in so many different diverse industries. Oh, it people-driven. And so the big what your what’s not evident, you know, at the highest level of the taxonomy, not actually not evident when you look from the outside in is that there’s a single common denominator, which is the personality type that I do well with. You know, one of the things that So I’m obviously brown I’m, I’m, you know, I have a certain perspective on American society and racial relations and this sort of thing. So, you know, as I got older and was able to do things, you know, with companies, you know, whether investor advice, I tended to support people that I felt like I understood, and inadvertently, I ended up investing in a lot of female founders. You know, I’m, I grew up the product of a single mom who is an immigrant. So I tended to be you know, people tend to confide in me who, you know, really understand and respect my background, my personal background, and for whatever reason, I ended up you know, being a diversity investor or you know, an advisor of diverse and multicultural ventures without really setting up to be you know, today, you know, I’m involved with three different females. Founder companies

 

John Corcoran  24:01

long come a long ways from that white-shoe law firm that you started.

 

Garnet Heraman 24:05

Oh, absolutely. But think about it, right? Even that white-shoe law firm was realizing that the world was changing, right? Because they have you, they were wanting to invest their resources in India. And, and the big shift in India was that, you know, Indians would leave India and then come to Silicon Valley or New York or Boston or Philly and stay here and build companies and great, you know, create this American success stories. Now, you know, most of the most Indian entrepreneurs and techies are not actually leaving, you know, a large percentage of staying there and like, building ventures and in some cases building unicorns.

 

24:47

Yeah, right. Right. Yeah. It’s fascinating.

 

24:50

The world is changing. And, you know, if we’re getting anywhere near the end of this, this discussion, I really one thing I want to make sure we explore is this notion of like diversity. multicultural, you know, feet, you know, female lead ventures, I, I’m convinced that is going to be a large wave and a macro trend in private equity going forward.

 

John Corcoran  25:15

And just to touch on that as we are running down on time.

 

Garnet Heraman 25:20

So how do you think and to wrap up the discussion, the coronavirus? How do you think the coronavirus is going to affect that diverse multicultural and female-led company the same way that affects everyone else except that, you know, to date, you know, on a macro basis in this country, there’s been a severe relative underfunding of those groups. And so, you know, I suspect that, you know, diverse and multicultural and female adventurers are going to have a harder time of it on a relative basis, weathering the storm only because, you know, their access to capital historically has been In a very, very limited,

 

John Corcoran  26:02

yeah. Any final thoughts as we wrap up the idea of, you know, here we are the end of March 2020. And final thoughts on how to survive and thrive in the midst of this economic uncertainty? Absolutely.

 

Garnet Heraman 26:17

You know, cut, cut expenses as quickly as possible. If you’re experiencing challenges. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, make sure that you know, your supply chain is still you know, 70 greased and ready, they’re ready to restart at the appropriate time. You know, maintain goodwill with like people relationships in key aspects of the supply chain. And, you know, expect positive things to happen when you get to the other side of the, you know, the coronavirus curve, right?

 

John Corcoran  26:54

Right. I couldn’t agree with what you just said more and that’s why you know, talking to you that’s why I do the podcasts that I’ve done for as many years as because I know of, you know, no better way to survive any economic downturn but to, you know, to deliver value to other people, and to keep you know, as many relationships as you can for people that you jive with, you know, close to you, so I can recommend it to everyone. We’ll wrap things up, Garner, this has been great. We’ll wrap things up with a question I always enjoy asking, which is let’s pretend we’re on awards banquet, much like the Oscars or the Emmys this year, that award banquet is being held via zoom, which is cool and everything but um, you know, if you were to walk down to that podium, instead it would be virtual, but you know, who do you think who is the family, not just family and friends, but who are the mentors? Were the peers are the business partners, who are the CEOs who are the people that you would acknowledge in your remarks?

 

27:48

Oh, well, I mean, so I have twin perspectives on that right. And the first thing I’d like to mention and I don’t really want to mention it But actually encompasses both aspects are both channels of the advice that I consider very valuable. So, you know, this notion of managing closely and, you know, and, you know, managing fiscally, you know, with discipline and with, you know, progress and that there’s, there’s one person that I encountered early in my life, you know, when we were launching our first company, he was my CFO, thankfully. And he ended up being my investment partner in our first fund and been a friend and a colleague for you know, 25 plus years, I think. But he’s also this same guy is also very, um, I think he would consider himself religious. I’m not a big fan of any particular organized religion. So I’m going to, I’m going to give him credit for being spiritual and just being you know, he a humanist and being very empathetic and compassionate towards people. And I think those two those two threads of advice you know how to be a hardcore numbers-driven fiscal you know disciplined you know manager in combination with the ability to focus in on you know, a set of a simple set of limited principles you know, driven by their spirituality or driven by humanism or driven by common decency I think those two threads of advice have been super important to me and that that one person that I actually had I work with for many years is someone that I would think it’s great for to leave him unnamed at this point. I just I don’t want to have to get too big. That’s great. Well, Garnett, this has been great. You know, where can people go to learn more about you? I’m sure there’s a lot of different websites, your LinkedIn profile Go to the go to the LinkedIn profile. But you know, the thing that’s taking up most of my time is our opportunity’s own fund. And we didn’t even talk about that. But that’s fuel. f LOZ. For the opportunity’s own capital.

 

John Corcoran  30:14

Yeah, I’m sorry. We didn’t have a chance to talk about that. Do you want to say a couple more words about that?

 

Garnet Heraman 30:18

Sure. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, go ahead. Go ahead. So we launched fuel Oh z capital as an independent sponsor. Not a true fund as it were, but it we rapidly went for 16 $17 million deal that we are managing in Kansas City. And then we are currently working on a deal with a partner that I can’t name, unfortunately, because we have finished all the paperwork, but it’s a maybe a deal that’s worth you know, somewhere between 50 and $60 million in Atlanta. And, you know, opportunity zones are good To be a big source of future entrepreneurship and future early stage investment opportunities. And we’re trying to basically create a model that is, you know that that does the real estate investing part of it, which we are doing, but also is doing it with a very specific notion of creating an entrepreneurial opportunity for the folks who are in the neighborhoods that are receiving these real estate investments.

 

John Corcoran  31:31

That sounds like a great mission, and that’s fuel Ozi. capital is the website for that one. So check that out. Cool. All right, Garnett, thanks so much.

 

Garnet Heraman 31:41

You’re welcome. Thank you.

 

31:42

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