Hamet Watt — Share Ventures

We had a chance to hear about Hamet’s newly launched venture foundry, Share Ventures, focused on human performance.  We talk about brain health, Hamet’s role at Upfront, and insights on early stage innovation.

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Hamet Watt is an all around L.A. innovation all star.  Hamet just announced his new venture foundry Share Ventures. Hamet has been a board partner at Upfront since Upfront was called GRP. He’s also a co-founder and former chairman of MoviePass and co-founder and former chairman of bLife, a wellness innovation company that sounds like it has some similarities to what he’ll be doing at Share. Hamet, thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Thank you so much for having me. So congratulations on your ventures. Thank you. Thank you. It’s been in the works for a little while. It’s the whole venture studio model has been of interest to me for a long time. So I’m really, really feeling good and excited about where we are. Cool. Great to see it happening, so yeah, so tell me about what it is. Yes, so I’ll give you the back story, I’ve always been sort of curious about being able to do more than one company at a time, and that pushed me into studying, you know, firms like Idealab and GoogleX and Pioneer Square Labs and others that are in the space in this venture studio space.

And so I met with as many people as I could in the world of venture studios and to some extent incubator that I say sometimes incubators are similar to the studios, sometimes are very different. But I think in this day and age, I felt like actually this was pre-Covid, but I felt like with the number of tools that we have to discover product market fit on new ideas and the speed that we can actually develop products, it kind of necessitates a new way of thinking about company building.

And I got really excited about just the timing being right to do this. And I was fortunate enough to be working with some folks that believed the time was right as well. And so we’ve been able to raise some capital, grateful to the Upfront ventures team, had just a great experience working with them and their early investors in Share along with Alpha Edison and several others. So, yeah, we’re off and running. We’re we’re focused on what we call human performance, which is a kind of a fancy way of talking about health and wellness.

I guess we’re looking at some big problems in how we live or trying to solve some big problems in how we live and how we work. And so things like sleep and mental health and nutrition are all super interesting to us on the future of living and then on the future of working. We’re thinking about teaming and culture and lots of things that we think will need to change in the way that we work. Well, it’s so so just pausing on a second on the studio model, the studio in foundry, I mean, obviously I know, but for my listeners who don’t know our studios and foundries kind of the same thing, you know what we start off with?

We like the word foundry. We like the word lab. But you know what? The term of art, I think is now like venture studio. I think most people refer to company building companies as studios. So I actually don’t know how to distinguish between a foundry and a theater, kind of the same kind of thing. But we’re definitely different than accelerators or what I guess people might think of as traditional incubators where you just have space and you invite, you know, companies to come in and they pay you a little bit of rent and you help them with a little bit of legal or finance.

That’s not our our model. We’re actually planning on staying with our company for a bit longer than many others. Some will experiment and and then, you know, immediately hire on a CEO and raise outside capital, I think. And, you know, we’re flexible in this. But I think so far we’re going to spend a little bit more time using the machinery that we’ve built to ideate and validate and launch. And we’re going to spend more time in that process before we’re then building out entire management teams.

And, you know, our goal is that we are de-risking these ventures a lot more and getting a much clearer line of sight, if you will, on product market fit. 

Tell me more about why human wellness.

I guess it’s a human performance. Is that what it when you’re calling, you know, is that not a good term? You know, you’re not the only one that here’s the connotation.

Here’s the tiny connotation. Like, I like to go on a run and maybe this just makes me old.

I don’t really like to know how far I went. I don’t want to know what my heart rate is. I don’t want to be maximized. But so tell me the goal of of the human performance focus.

Yeah. So human performance in in our definition goes definitely just beyond like quantified self. Certainly some quantified self things are very interesting, but we’re really looking at so many of the things that we do in our daily lives to make ourselves better that need to be reimagined. And so that’s I mean, there’s some big areas that we’re looking at. We really think a lot about brain health and. Yes, and being intentional and calling it brain health instead of mental health, because I think there’s going to be some some sort of nomenclature changes that hopefully address some of the stigma.

We know how big the problem is. We know how necessary it is for all of us in our daily lives. And so being able to think about that space in a new, well branded, design driven way is really interesting to me. Can I just go back there? Yeah, I want to learn about brain health. Do you think are there certain things in brain health that we should be doing today or what are the components?

I guess sleep is a big one, obviously.

How do you think is what we should be? We should be. Yeah. Yeah, I want some tips. That’s what I’m saying. Yeah.

You know what I think? Yes. The short answer is yes, especially in this day and age. And I know you are super healthy and thoughtful, so I’m sure you’re doing a lot of these things. But many of us need reminders and I think there’s so much there’s so much incredible opportunity to democratize some of the things that that that many have at their disposal, like therapy or executive coaching or even certain types of training. And I think there’s an incredible opportunity to use technology to democratize some of those things so that lots of people can can can do that.

You know, hundreds of millions of people one day will have. In our opinion, and so there those are the kind of opportunities that we’re talking about. We’ve also been looking at a lot about what’s happening in work. And, of course, all of us are looking at the future work. But you know what would happen to me when I was spending more time on the pure venture side is I would say, well, hey, how come no one’s doing, you know, blank for this company was doing something in this space.

It seems like there could be a really big market. I always have that feeling. And, you know, sometimes I find a team and they were great and they’d want like five hundred pre for their very early stage business or something. Or sometimes they just maybe they didn’t feel like they were taking the right approach on the product. And so that’s actually one of the reasons why I got so excited about the studio model. We feel like there’s something that needs to be done, we’ll do a very deep investigation into it, and we’ll look at all the players that are playing in the space.

And if we still don’t see something that is, you know, exists in the market in the way that it should exist, we’ll start that company.

That’s great. It’s kind of a dream, actually. I kind of want to start 100 things, maybe, you know, how many things would you start at once or by the way, because it’s the dream and it’s also the danger, right?

Yeah. Very careful on, you know, how many things we can do and do. Well. And so we have invested in some tools and some people on the team that are really focused on getting the infrastructure right at the studio so that we know what I’m putting in air quotes. The capacity of our plant needs to look like how many things we can do well at once. And one time we think right now it’s around two to four new ventures a year and it will take us a while to get towards the top end of that range.

We’re still building out our team now, and so that’s a big part of it to get to those two to four. We’re doing lots of experiments on many others. And, you know, we’re we’re choosing to take an approach. And it’s part of our value system and culture to be extremely optimistic about the future, but also extremely pragmatic in how we execute and how we do things.

No, I feel like you’re always very thoughtful, like you’ve sort of studied innovation a lot more than than most have.

In fact, did you tell me what is your podcast going to be on? You’re going to start a podcast, a rival podcast, right?

Yeah. And that arrival is synergistic. Yeah. Yeah, of course. Yeah. So we’ve been playing around and we have a number of neuroscientists that are advisors, have been mentors of mine or advisors over the years that really get into behavior change. And I would love to geek out on behavior change. And I always find myself calling on some of these folks. That is a guy named Bob Builder, who is the head of the neuroscience research lab at UCLA.

And he he has done some really cool research. And even when we were dealing with the George Floyd murder and and riots and all this stuff like I called him that like I want to understand the psychology of how people react to things.

But we want to talk about the psychology of shit that’s like. Psychology of stuff, the psychology of hiring, the psychology of firing, the psychology of innovation. So we’re calling Your Brain On, but it’d be like your brain on whatever. And most of the topics will be entrepreneurial topics and company building topics. But maybe we’ll delve into some other things every once in a while, too.

Very cool. Yeah, I mean, I’m super curious on how you get people to change. I know that’s a big question, but like just in my lifetime, the consumer norms of behavior, like, you know, I have this great photo of my mom smoking a cigarette nine months pregnant at the doctor’s office.

Right.

And you should think you should put a put a picture that at different times, different times, you know, like everyone wears, you know, helmets now or seatbelts or, you know, diet sodas are like not cool to drink anymore.

So, like, a lot has changed. I’m like, how do you have those changes that are the big changes for the better? Like, how can we move society towards towards more of those?

You know what a global pandemic doesn’t hurt to change? Yeah, it is. Obviously, there’s a lot of really bad things that are happening, needless to say, with this. But, you know, you think about the last crisis and the behavior change that that triggered and then what new opportunities emerged from that. And so I think that those kind of things that are happening now, we’re already seeing it.

Remember when it used to be like, I don’t know if you go to a partner meeting and the team would present and they say, oh, yeah, we’re all distributed. And then there was someone that was kind of like, oh, no one in the same room. And used to be a little bit like it used to be a very much a mark on a company. I don’t know that that’s going to be the case anymore. Like maybe we’ve changed our behavior for life on that.

I don’t know. Or just I mean, you know, I still am hearing, but I think we’ll get there. I’m still hearing people say, oh, we can’t fund a company that we haven’t met in person.

Maybe some might say that we’ll say we’ve just funded our first company that we never get. Like it’s happening now. Like we were experimenting with that.

Yeah, yeah. No, I think that’s that’s exciting.

And have you I mean you guys don’t a yet where you haven’t met the team in person.

Totally. But like I’m, I’m all I’ve done a lot of hiring actually.

I’ve hired people who I’ve never met in person and it’s gone really well. So yeah. No, I think we’re all going to get there. We just have to grumble about it a little bit more.

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, the thing is, like forced behavior change is always a good way to behave because when you like, you try and you’re like, you know what, it’s just not as bad as I thought it was.

Yes. Let’s keep let’s keep doing this. Yeah.

Are there any other things coming out of this crisis that you think have been like, oh, that was a really good for his behavior change for us all?

Yeah. I mean, it’s pretty amazing to see what’s happening in the digital fitness space as well. I mean, I think, you know, there’s some studies that were released. I think I want to say that MindBody did a study on just fitness and fitness behaviors, gym going behaviors. And the stat I remember is fifty six percent of everyone that has a gym membership is planning on canceling it because they have found digital alternatives that are more than sufficient for their fitness needs.

So that just as one example, another behavior change that is happening at that scale. But yeah, I think even things like the way we the way we think about teaming and the way we think about hiring and the way we think about what it takes to do that, I think all those behaviors are changing. The way we think about building our cultures for our companies is changing. When you can’t rely on ping pong tables and foosball and water coolers and nights out on the town, you know, you have to think about new ways possibly that are more deep around getting aligned on mission and purpose to really get at what’s important when we work and work together and we’re happy about.

Our work, that’s really interesting, I feel like I feel like I’ve seen people kind of take the old model and try to put it via in kind of the way you’d see like, oh, we you have theaters like performances now. We have movies so we can so but it hasn’t caught up yet. Like it still feels like you’re taking the old model and just putting it on zoom. But it’ll be interesting to see how that innoculation, that culture stuff happens online.

Yeah, it will be I think another area and I think you and I have talked about this before, but gosh, I hope that education has this is the catalyst that changes the way that education gets done. Right. Because it always bugged me that it felt like the online learning was just like trying to take a classroom setting, which most of the time was kind of messed up anyway and wasn’t as thoughtful as it could be and just putting it to a screen.

And now maybe we hopefully can get at, you know, more personalized approach to learning now that we’ve had this forced behavior change for online learning. Now, maybe we able to go to the next level of what that means.

Yeah, I also think I mean, it’s been interesting to watch learning change so much towards social emotional development. Like these things seem kind of linked human behavior and education, you know, in our education institutions.

Let’s talk about work for another second.

I kind of feel like and this is a I kind of feel like jobs increasingly are making people stressed out rather than, like, making them feel fulfilled or something.

You mean the whole zoom zoom daily? I mean, it more broadly unfolds. I just mean, like, work is not. Well, maybe it’s changed. I don’t know.

Tell me more about the future of work is a better question, you know, but I think you’re on to something about this. The stress. It wouldn’t tell me what you mean more about like this.

The way that I think it’s maybe the always honest like I sometimes like just like, oh, if only I were a dentist and I would come home and at six o’clock I wouldn’t have any more work to do.

Right. Right. Yeah. No, I guess I don’t know. I’m honestly I’m struggling with that as well. We have a couple of behavioral psychologists and organizational psychologists that are trying to help us think through all these spaces and the future work. And we that that’s one thing we’ll have to crack, which is how do you put a you know, put a line because everyone can intellectualize it and say, OK, you know, at a certain time, you know, it’s time to shut down and and not be accessible what have you.

But damn it’s hard. I mean, I don’t think this is what the science says or what doctors would say, but I tend to be. I really get immersed in the work that we’re doing. I have so much fun doing it. I just try to treat it like I try to treat it like a sport.

But I think the goal is just to make sure that there are other things that I really love spending time with my family. So I think just as I really love working, I, I need to when I’m spending time with my family, I just really enjoy that and immerse myself in that world. 

You’ve been innovative multiple times. You’re starting a studio to be innovative, you know, where do you think that? And you say you still love it. So. So where does that where does that come from for you or more broadly? Yeah, you know, I’ll talk I’ll talk more broadly, first of all, I also am a senior adviser over at BCG who does a whole lot of innovation, really innovation, work with big corporates.

And it’s fun to see them do it, too. So I’m sending it from many perspectives. And I do think that it starts with just being a curious person in general and being curious and oftentimes frustrated with the status quo, and sometimes that frustration drives you to frustration combined with that, curiosity drives you to say, well, why the hell isn’t anyone trying to design something for this? And I also asked, I think, about so many things that took forever to come to reality, that weren’t necessarily technologically break technological breakthroughs sometimes of just design breakthroughs that happen.

And so since I don’t code, it actually is inspiring to see some of these things, maybe design driven and it just requires the right kind of thought and experimentation to solve a problem. One example I would point to, and I’d love for someone, maybe one of your listeners has done some research on this, but it’s crazy. This is a silly thing. OK, the wheel has been around forever, right? The box that we carry, it has been around forever.

It took forever for someone to think about putting on a suitcase, having a wheeled suitcase, you remember before back in the day when you didn’t have the wheel suitcase you set to carry it, if your never used to have, like, a suitcase, just hold. Right. Someone put wheels on it. And then it took another 20 years for them to put four wheels on it so that you actually just had that roller and you don’t need to prop it up.

And I just use that as an example for so many things. That may seem obvious, but it took years for designers or product people to actually pull all together. So I still think there’s some of those innovation opportunities hiding in plain sight that that a lot of a lot of folks can go after. You know, one of our advisers, again, the same adviser I mentioned in this neuroscientist he got commissioned by this hedge fund guy to study the most innovative people in the world, the most innovative and creative people in the world, and to study their brains and their behavior.

So he looked at their journals and their diaries and their calendars, as well as putting them under an fMRI and looking at their brains. And so after he did, that sounds like Bob. What what what what is the secret? What’s what is it about the most innovative people in the world? And he said and he broke it down and he said some of the things were really obvious and some of the things were really not so obvious. The obvious things were things like the volume of work.

Right. So Picasso had, I think fifty thousand paintings or something like that, like this. The volume of work, the sheer volume allows you to pick out things that were innovative amidst all that work that you did. And then the other thing that was a little less obvious was the ability for people to combine seemingly disparate worlds to come up with something new. And so the example I like to use a little bit more simple, but it’s like fusion food, right?

You combine one cuisine with the next and all of a sudden it’s actually tasty or it’s a new flavor or new new a new sort of culinary innovation. And so he said that he saw that the pattern suggested that people, I guess, longer term memory for these disparate, disparate, seemingly disparate concepts, but they could pull them together in efficient ways to consistently develop innovative or creative works. And so I saw that as one that was really I think that’s a framework that I think about often when I think about innovation, I really like that.

I think it’s interesting. The prolific. Yeah, if you’re prolific, you know, it’s not about percent hits. It’s it’s absolute number. You know, you’re bound to do something innovative and it’s a muscle. Right. And I think I just had DA Wallach on the show. He talks about like musical creators, musicians, that’s what they’re called.

They listen to tons of music all day. And so, you know, you’re you’re you’re building that muscle by being innovative.

It’s interesting the curiosity thing, too.

You I mean, I think people have curiosity directed in different directions. Right. And you have a curiosity also around like business models or businesses. And design. I think I design I’m not a designer, but we have a lot of designers that are bringing we’re bringing in our firm and that in our ecosystem. And I just I have always found myself, you know, when I’m looking through an investor lens, being very attracted to design driven products and designer led companies.

And so that’s part of our our thinking and framework. 

OK, so scale of one to ten. How mentally fit are you? Oh, wow. On a scale of one to 10, how many I just thrown it out there.

You know what, I think if I break down what mentally fit is, I think a big biggest part of being mentally fit is being resilient and only we know how resilient we are. Which, by the way, was another one of Bob’s secrets to the most innovative people. They are more resilient. They have that stick to it even if they keep going and they don’t let themselves get taken out of their game. And so I’m a pretty resilient person and I think it’s because intentional about it.

I talk to myself when I when I’m when I’m being hard on myself. I talk to myself. I try to coach myself, do the right direction. So I would I still don’t think I’m I still think I’m in for some reason, seven point seventy five comes up really well.

That’s good. That’s good there. I would I would absolutely like to be nine and I think I’m working towards that.

But I still beat myself up sometimes too much. And I don’t know where that’s from.

I don’t know, you know, just, you know, being in industries where, you know, folks are tough or, you know, my dad is pretty tough. So I think when I do and we all beat ourselves up to some extent. But what I do do myself up. I just want to make sure it’s it’s the net outcomes are net positive out of that. And I think oftentimes when we beat ourselves up, the outcomes suffer because you’re not you’re not fully in the game.

And so that’s that’s really that’s really where I’m working.

Yeah. Yeah. It can be motivating to beat yourself up a little bit to to drive yourself harder. It was interesting. OK, so you interviewed Ice Cube on stage. I saw it. It was awesome.

And do you remember like I think it was one of your first questions was has gotten any easier and you know what he said?

What do you say?

He said, no, no, that would surprise me.

I mean, you know, you look at what he’s all the different things he’s done. You’d think you think he’s sort of at a pinnacle of success.

You think. But you know what? He’s he he like like others, I shouldn’t say like others because it’s not that bad. He would do what he does, which is just trying new shit is trying something that’s totally out of his comfort zone, like his you know, he’s, you know, jumped, made a few jumps and he started as a as a rapper. And then he said, I’ll try my hand at being a producer. And then he was I’ll try my hand at being a an actor and then I’ll try my hand at being an entrepreneur and then I’ll try my hand at being a sportsman.

It’s like all those things are new muscles that you have to build. Because you’re inevitably not going to be perfect when you’re starting something new.

You’re not going to maybe not even be good when you start something. So somebody is going to talk shit about you and say, what are you doing, dude? You’re not good at this. You have to be strong enough to be able to come back and say, you know what, I’m going to be better on the next one before you know it. They’re resilient, resilient muscles and stronger than could ever be.

I mean, that was that was a related question, which is like, why do you think people don’t bet on themselves.

I think it’s that it is that that that self talk that this was all a mind game. Right? Yeah, all the mind game. And so if you’re in your own head and you’re worried and your your your you’ve got too much negative self talk and you’re beating yourself up and not realizing that it’s making you less capable or less likely to perform and whatever you’re doing, or even worse, maybe you have that negative self talk and you’re not even fully honest with yourself.

And so you might have that negative self talk, but project a much different, more, more confident attitude than you actually are. And that creates the whole thing that you have to live up to. And then you won’t try new things because you’re worried about perception and that gets into a suit that’s not as fun to play in. And so, you know, I think that I think that’s a big part of it. Yeah, I also think I think there’s also like your friends can be can talk you out of things to like I feel like I’m very sensitive sometimes to someone saying like, oh, why are you doing that?

Like, yeah, maybe I shouldn’t do it.

One hundred percent. I completely agree. I should. That’s right. It should be. It’s either it’s either yourself or you’re someone next to you. And that’s unlikely to be a loved one. Right. I think even as I go through this this journey with Share and we’ve got all these new ventures that we’re working on. In some cases, they’re science driven. In some cases they’re design driven. We’re careful with who we talk about these new babies, if you will.

These new companies, they’re sensitive, they’re sensitive. You know, whatever you want to call your baby ugly at the wrong time, because it might it might it might impact how things go. And it’s just part of the journey. It’s not to say that, you know, these early things. Of course, there’s a time where you want someone to pick out all of the flaws and that you want those things to be the things that you laser focus on the floor.

But when you’re just getting going and I think this is relevant for anyone starting a company, when you’re just getting going, I think you have to be thoughtful on who you talk to and when. And people could be very well-meaning and say, oh, well, that’s because of X, Y and Z and. That might be helpful right here at the right time, but it also may not be helpful because you need to be in the right mind space to push past all those flaws. It’s kind of empowering, I like it, I have nervousness for me sometimes doing a podcast, like just putting your voice out there.

So OK, so but let’s stick with the entrepreneur journey, not me like.

So are you still affiliated with Upfront or. But you were you were Upfront for many years as a board partner or a venture partner as a venture partner.

Then I transition to a board partner and I’m still a board partner at an Upfront. And I have a couple of boards that I sit on for them. So part time. And, you know, really we’re upfront and and I are very aligned because they’re also invested in share. And so really all of my energy is going into share and the company that we’re creating. Then I also have very proud to be on a couple boards of companies that Upfront is invested in.

I couldn’t start a firm that was just a version, you know, a different version of I want to do something very different. And many people will hate on what we’re doing. And they’ll say it’s stupid for X, Y and reason or whatever, and that’s fine. We’ll embrace that. We have deep conviction that not only is the model that we’re focused on. Right.

But the location, the idea that our model can also unlock black and other underrepresented entrepreneurs, scientists, executives, designers, many folks that may not be as likely to participate in the innovation ecosystem or as able to participate from an equity standpoint in this world will now be able to do more of that.

I mean, I sometimes forget that this is an audio podcast and you’re black. I’m very white, you know.

Do you think we should just I think people can tell by the by the voice and maybe maybe maybe you’re black and I’m white.

I don’t know. I don’t think so.

I think they can tell. I think they have that. But, you know, I mean, we’re we’re clearly in a in a historic moment right now. I mean, hopefully historic moment right now. I also here’s a question.

Do you think more people notice or something that you’re black or care or like it’s a bigger thing? Like it’s changed a lot for me, just being female in tech and in business. Oh, hell, yeah.

I mean, I think and honestly, I’m surprised by it. Like I mean, if you would have asked me why, because the problem, like the problem that we see, the social justice problems have been front and center, obviously, for all my life. Right. I’ve always felt it and seen it and experienced it as a 6’2″ to African-Americans to to to an African-American person from Washington, DC. I’ve had a glock in my face more than one time, right?

Mistaken identity every time. I thought we obviously experienced that.

Yeah, this is an experience that everyone has had some very direct experience. So it’s not new. But if you would have asked me that one day, there would be kids in Japan protesting for Black Lives Matter. I would never have believed you ever, ever, ever. So the fact that we’re seeing that level of support feels great. It really does feel great. And I think I’m seeing it also with institutions that are tackling this head on. And so, yeah, I think there are many more conversations that that that we’re able to have now than ever before.

And frankly, when we do have those conversations, I believe that people are significantly more present than they were before as well.

You’ve left me very inspired by this whole conversation and just sort of.

Thank you. Up.

Yeah, it’s been really nice. I kind of think that’s a great note to end on unless we missed some big things on Share.

Now, it’s great, I enjoyed the conversation, as I always do with you, so I appreciate your inviting me on and let’s do this together. Maybe you can come on Your Brain On.

Great. Well thank you so much, Hamet.