We talked to Steven Weinstein on how Seismic Capital Company is turning Seismic ideas into disruptive successful investments.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Steven Weinstein: Thank you for asking. My wife and I haven’t seen our two sons since January, and that’s the longest time since either of them was born. One is away at Bard College, and the other one moved to Brooklyn after graduating from the University of Chicago in the summer of 2019. It’s turned out to be convenient to have their bedrooms for office space, but we miss having our guys around. So far, everyone is staying healthy.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Seismic Capital Company.
Steven Weinstein: After working on my college’s weekly paper, the Tufts Observer, I worked at AP and Reuters once I graduated. At Reuters, I was able to work across multiple departments, eventually landing on the deal team. I got to be involved in projects like making the first real-time implementation of data through MS Windows, AI to categorize news stories and later write them, and the first hypertext application for news — lots of things that have become normal now but were new then.
When I left Reuters, a friend and I started a data management company and grew it organically. Then after a series of leveraged buyouts, we sold it in 2000. Over the last 20 years, I’ve had the privilege of being involved and investing in a handful of other ventures and advising on diverse projects from real estate to real estate securities and patents to patent litigation.
As I worked with more and more companies, I started noticing some of the pitfalls inherent to the venture capital process. So, with my co-founders, we set out to create a firm that would allow us to truly work with early-stage companies to help them produce meaningful results and disrupt the industries in which they work.
How does Seismic Capital Company innovate?
Steven Weinstein: My partners and I formed Seismic Capital Company for two specific reasons.
First, we wanted to be a source of permanent patient capital for some young companies that we believe can be successful. We devised a strategy that will allow companies in our portfolio to focus on developing technology, building product, and acquiring customers. In turn, we try to take some of the burdens off of them when it comes to internal operations, providing them with resources for legal, accounting, HR, sales support, investment banking, as well as mentorship and connections through our vast network and stellar board of advisors.
Second, we believe in democratizing capital, and that’s why we built our corporate structure so that almost anyone can invest with us. Some so many people want to be investors in the ‘next big thing,’ but because they can’t write a check with seven or eight zeros behind the first number, they aren’t even invited to participate. Seismic has a minimum investment of $1,000, and we’re implementing a diversified strategy, so our investors get to be invested through us in a suite of exciting opportunities.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Steven Weinstein: So far, everyone in our company and our families is staying safe. We are very fortunate in that regard. Having said that, we believe it’s going to be a while before the economy recovers, and we’re building our business so our companies will be ready when it does.
We believe the massive economic displacement will drive invention in ways that we haven’t even anticipated yet. We are excited to hit the ground running in 2021 and pave the way for new innovators and disruptors to shake up the startup world.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Steven Weinstein: Every day, there are difficult choices to make. Understanding what’s important helps. So does not let oneself get whipsawed by other people’s priorities and agenda.
We know that some of the most difficult choices a company has to make can come when they’re first starting. That’s why we nurture our portfolio companies, offering meaningful advice and services so they can dedicate the time and energy to making those difficult choices.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Seismic Capital Company in the future?
Steven Weinstein: I believe in putting one foot in front of the other, taking things one day at a time, using patience to make sure we’re giving each decision the time it deserves. We try to afford the same luxury to our portfolio companies through a unique, patient capital approach. That way, we encourage our startups to grow strategically and organically, ultimately developing more meaningful products and services.
We find that by truly focusing on a company’s mission, rather than rushing to meet the needs of outside investors, we can better position our teams for success.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Steven Weinstein: We’re really doing something new here, in both how we invest in and incubate our companies and who we allow investing in the first place. It was incredibly important to us to welcome not just the well-heeled or well-connected, but to open the doors to the broader market. And our lawyers tell us we’re the first holding company incubator to raise money via Reg A. We’ll see who shows up to compete against us in our model. There are lots of avenues for companies seeking capital. We hope we’ll find some who like our methods and what we can bring.
Your final thoughts?
Steven Weinstein: This past year has certainly been tough. But with that, we’re also seeing people take leaps they would never have dared to before. Now more than ever, the industry is ripe for innovation. We’re excited to see what the next few years bring and look forward to fostering those future disruptors in the space.
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