As part of my series about the “How to Navigate and Succeed in the Modern World of Finance,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Golomb, Founder & CEO of FanVestor.
Michael Golomb is a leader in the business community and recognized as an innovator in the world of business and fintech. As the founder of fan engagement and investment platform FanVestor, he has created a unique offering for elite talent, musicians, athletes and entertainment entities, as well as consumers.
Born in Ukraine, Golomb came to America as a teenager with the dreams of success that many immigrants bring with them to America, and today with a strong track record of maximizing shareholder value. He has had four exits, managed two IPOs, and has been a leader at several publicly traded companies (NASDAQ, LSE, AIM). He founded FanVestor at a time where disruption in the entertainment industry is explosive — with companies such as Netflix are changing the way consumers engage with television, and iHeart is bringing entertainment to millions of fans of sports and music — Golomb and FanVestor have arrived into the marketplace at the right time.
A hands-on company builder, Golomb’s background as an entrepreneurial executive boasts 25 years of senior management experience across a broad spectrum of industries. His expertise has been successfully applied across verticals ranging from startups to large public corporations, including telecom, blockchain, digital health and medical devices, consumer electronics and hardware, manufacturing, software/SaaS, and real estate. In addition to his knowledge-based experience across multiple categories in raising equity though variety of public and private equity/debt instruments, as well as in handling complex M&A transactions, Golomb also brings exceptional know-how of global capital markets, compliance and fintech to FanVestor.
Golomb is a graduate of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, where he earned a Master’s of Science in Management, with an emphasis on Organization Behavior and Entrepreneurship. He also received his MBA in Finance at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business. He attended Occidental College, where he earned a BA, double majoring in Diplomacy/World Affairs and Economics. He is a certified public accountant (inactive).
A recovering professional chess player, Golomb resides with his family in San Francisco, California, where FanVestor is based.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘back-story’ and how you got started?
I’ve been a successful executive with a strong track record of maximizing shareholder value, including four exits, managing two IPOs, and a leader at several publicly traded companies (NASDAQ, LSE, AIM). While visiting with a friend in Manhattan, I noticed a framed picture of the Green Bay Packers. My friend mentioned he was an investor in the Packers. That newly discovered knowledge that a major sports team was public, along with the recent changes in the ‘Jobs Act’ of 2016, it was clear that there is an opportunity to deepen the relationship and create a fiscal relationship between fans and media celebrities, athletes, teams and artists.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
At FanVestor, even though we are a startup, we’ve already had success in creating relationships with A-List celebrities and talent brands, such as The Jonas Brothers, DJ Khaled, and Hamilton-An American Musical. As an operator and CFO, I understand the pressures of a startup and limits on resources. I believed initially that celebrities would quickly jump on the platform, only to learn that no celebrity wants to be the first. Our great product ultimately won out, and we were able to form a multi-year agreement with iHeart and HSBC which provided the validation needed for other celebrities and their teams to listen to our story.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Having success in the corporate world doesn’t mean success as an entrepreneur is guaranteed. I understood this, and consumed knowledge that would help drive a successful company. When starting FanVestor, one of the books I read was called The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries. It really helps you focus on what’s required to get off the ground, product MVPs, and what is important to be successful. In addition to books, I also surrounded myself with a tremendous group of advisors. Their experience, advice, knowledge and willingness to provide guidance has been incredibly beneficial and is one of the reasons for the momentum we have achieved in our early stage. Our advisor team includes Marty Pompadur, former head of ABC TV Network and News Corp Europe, Anya Goldin, a former 17-year Latham & Watkins equity partner, Phil Quartararo, former CEO of Warner Brothers Music, EMI Records and Virgin Records, Bryan Goldberg, founder of Bleacher Report, Bustle, Gawker, Elite Daily, Mic, The Outline and The Zoe Report and Yobie Benjamin, former Global CTO of Citigroup and Chief Strategy Officer at Ernst & Young.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes. Although FanVestor is really coming to market at a perfect time, COVID has created tremendous suffering for individuals, companies, and realistically, the world. In particular, COVID has caused tremendous disruption and financial strain on the entertainment industry. Talent and artists are experiencing loss of revenue from touring and events, while also dealing with higher production costs to create a safe working environment. The media and entertainment industry needs to adapt to new realities, and must find unique ways to monetize fan bases. Talent brands recognize the need to diversify their income sources, and are now able to leverage their personal brand to raise capital for other business ventures.
FanVestor is here to guide talent brands through the complex world of fundraising, and to bring a closer connection between them and their fans that will last for years to come.
Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the central focus of our discussion. Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
To democratize capital markets. Fans are the most democratized group of individuals. No matter your background, socio-economic status, political affiliation, education, etc., if you are a fan, you are a fan. Billions of people watch sporting events, award shows, and consume content of their favorite media celebrities, artists, athletes and teams on social media every year.
Robinhood, a pioneer of commission-free investing, gave retail investors an easy path to invest in their favorite publicly traded brands, while Instagram gave fans a glimpse into the inner world of their favorite celebrities. FanVestor is the first platform to leverage these two concepts in harmony, providing any fan an opportunity to invest in their favorite celebrities and talent brands.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
I have a few. First, take care of your employees and always keep your promises. The customer should be your guiding North Star, which will keep you focused on doing the right thing. And finally, never give up — be scrappy, creative and innovative in the face of the most difficult challenges.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
FanVestor is a micro-securitization platform that plans to allow accredited and non-accredited fans to invest in their favorite talent brands. Athletes, artists and media entertainment celebrities have become super brands. The talent brands that we work with already have millions of fans and a tremendous sphere of influence. Together, we will leverage their social media following to activate their fan base in support of their personal projects and business endeavors — bringing the right audience, with a passion and desire to be closer to their favorite celebrity.
If a fellow CEO would ask you for advice about whether to bootstrap or to look for VC capital, how would you help them weigh the pros and cons of that decision?
It’s clear that funding is critical for any startup. If you look at the data, crowdfunding has seen tremendous growth in the past 12 months. It allows entrepreneurs to raise funds without giving up control. In addition, you also expose your brand to thousands of potential new customers in addition to investors — so it’s great as a marketing vehicle as well.
What measure do you use to determine the value of a company? What advice would you give to other leaders about how to get an optimal evaluation of their business?
We have performed a detailed comparative analysis, looking at the product, stage of development, customer base, market conditions, etc. I would suggest to anyone that it is important to understand the competition, other similar companies and their valuations, and to be realistic about your organization. Be sure to show what success looks like, timing and dependencies. That should give a team a good idea of their business, value and focus.
What would you advise to a founder who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
Your team is critical to your success. As the company evolves, and enters different stages, it’s also important to adapt your team, bring in new members from diverse backgrounds that can continue to propel your organization forward because of different experiences, etc. I would really say, never settle. Always strive to improve, and that means always evaluating your team for who can help take you to the next level.
I recently brought in Larry Namer, co-founder of E! Entertainment Television as our new COO. In just a few short weeks, we’ve already seen the organization take a giant leap forward. His experience and knowledge of our industry, and ability to keep the team focused has made him a tremendous addition to our team.
What are the most common finance mistakes you have seen other businesses make? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
The biggest financial mistake is that you believe that the revenue forecast will always come at 100%, and that you treat revenue like cash.
It’s also important to understand the market and be compliant with rules and regulations. And finally, IP structure, ownership rights should be structured properly from the beginning (legal and tax) if you believe you will have significant IP value.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to succeed in the modern finance industry? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Education — the world of finance is always changing. It’s important to keep yourself educated on best practices, learning from other organizations, and never get complacent.
- Compliance — be sure to keep up with laws, rules and regulations. This will help ensure that there are no issues down the line.
- Understanding KPIs for segment — this is critical to any business success. Adopting the right KPIs, understanding them and how they are achieved allows an individual to really support the entire organization and teams. It also allows you to anticipate and adapt accordingly.
- Cash flow for model — Cash is critical in a business — paying employees, vendors, and other expenses is how the business functions. Understanding when cash comes in and its relationship to revenue is crucial.
- Key players and comps — Be sure you don’t just look inside your own organization. Understanding their approaches, business, growth, etc. will help you both anticipate and adapt. For example, if the industry is experiencing rapid growth, you will be able to compare your own growth rates and identify opportunities or challenges.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I’ve been fortunate. I have a strong co-founder with 100% trust and respect for each other. Our skills balance each other out and as a team, 1+1 makes 3. Find trusted partners with complementary skills to join you along the journey.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
You never know what your idea can trigger. We’re democratizing investing, and able to make it accessible, fun and rewarding for anyone.
How can our readers follow you online?