Adam Pritzker is the co-founder of Assembled Brands which is a modern holding company providing a new way to finance consumer brands. Prior to Assembled Brands, Adam Pritzker cofounded General Assembly which raised $100 million from top tier investors. General Assembly was reportedly acquired for over $400 million by The Adecco Group.
In this episode you will learn:
- The three biggest challenges that new consumer brands have to deal with
- Ways to finance your startup
- The danger of popups
- The best use of offline distribution channels
- Why starting with wholesale has great profit margin advantages
For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.
The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks
Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
About Adam Pritzker:
Adam is the Chairman and CEO of Assembled Brands, a modern holding company.
He was also Chairman and Co-Founder of General Assembly a global network of campuses providing educational and professional development training.
For his entrepreneurial endeavors, Adam was featured in Forbes’ 30 Under 30, Vanity Fair’s The Next Establishment, Inc. Magazine’s 30 Under 30, and Business Insider’s Silicon Alley 100.
Adam holds a BA from Columbia University where he studied Anthropology and Economics.
Connect with Adam Pritzker:
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FULL TRANSCRIPTION OF THE INTERVIEW:
Alejandro: Alrighty. Hello everyone and welcome to the DealMakers show. Today we’re going to learn a lot about basically going through the full cycle as a founder. Then also, the life purpose of being able to help founders, creatives, and innovators not only from the educational side but then also the financing side. So, without further ado, Adam Pritzker welcome to the DealMakers show today.
Adam Pritzker: Thank you so much for having me, Alejandro.
Alejandro: Let me ask you this, Adam. How was life being born and raised in San Francisco?
Adam Pritzker: San Francisco is an amazing place to grow up. To date myself, I was born in ’84, and I left in ’03 to go to New York for college. As you can imagine, from ’84 to ’03 a lot happened in San Francisco. The tech people went from a fringe group to kind of the dead center of the culture.
Alejandro: Right. Especially because when you came here, probably the innovation and the creativity that is happening today, it was almost nonexistent. You had big companies starting to happen like DoubleClick and things like that, but it was still really premature compared to the Bay Area.
Adam Pritzker: Absolutely. In terms of the startup community, there was a wave or two of founders before me. General Assembly, the first company I started with a number of co-founders really kicked off in 2010. Flatiron at that time had kind of tumbleweeds going through the middle of it. We leased a 20,000 sq. ft. space for $30 a foot. I believe it’s like $90 a foot now. So, a lot has changed since 2010.
Alejandro: Got it. We’ll get into General Assembly in just a bit, but I wanted to ask you about the upbringing and growing up in San Francisco. Then also, coming from a family of people that have been very much deep in businesses that have also created very successful businesses. For example, the Hyatt. What did you learn growing up from the business side? Did you always know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Adam Pritzker: I did. Yeah. My aunts and uncles and cousins were all entrepreneurial. It was all around me and at the dinner table. I was so interested in everything people were building and wanted to build things myself at some point. I knew I obviously had to learn a lot before I went out on my own, but that certainly felt like a calling.
Alejandro: Talking about learning, you went to Columbia, here in New York City. What was your experience there, and why did you pick this school?
Adam Pritzker: I loved Columbia. I wanted to leave the West Coast. The West Coast can be a little bit of a bubble, and in fact, it’s such a comfortable and wonderful bubble that I never feared that I was leaving forever. I always knew that I would come back, but wanted a different experience, wanted a different city, wanted a different culture, wanted to really cut my teeth in a place I knew could make a real impact on me in which I would have a really accelerated learning curve. New York certainly did that.
Alejandro: Basically, how was the transition from graduating from Columbia to really making the dive into your first rodeo as a founder and also the process of meeting Jack, Matt, and Brad?
Adam Pritzker: San Francisco to the Upper West Side was not a huge transition. The Upper West Side to Downtown Manhattan was a massive transition. It was exciting and somewhat scary. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I studied anthropology and economics at Columbia. I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur eventually, but not really sure how to get there. I was applying to business school to Stanford, and I was applying to a job at IDEO. That’s where the idea for General Assembly started to come together. What if there was a combination of those two places? The learning by doing at IDEO, the education community of Stanford Business School, and what if it was a lot easier to get in? What if the cost was a lot lower? What if the people who were in that community were also practitioners? What if it was in New York and in a central area that everybody could come to? As I was thinking about this and bouncing the idea off of people, folks kept saying, “You should really talk to this guy, Matt Brimer. He’s doing the same thing.” So, we got together and decided that instead of “competing” that we would join forces and build it together. Matt had gone to college with Brad and Jake. We all joined forces and launched General Assembly which started as a co-working space actually. It did not start as an education company. It quickly turned into that, frankly, because that’s what all of the potential customers were requesting. So, we built our first classroom. The rest was history. Classes turned into courses. Courses turned into workshops. That whole world of education began to emerge. That’s when Fortune 2000 companies began approaching us, and we started developing that enterprise education product.
Alejandro: Got it. Four co-founders are typically the limit in my perspective. Otherwise, it just gets too crazy managing the egos. For the four of you, how did you decide to divide and conquer in terms of responsibility?
Adam Pritzker: I think, honestly, we got incredibly lucky in terms of what people’s natural skill sets were. We all focused on different things and were good at those things. That kind of emerged naturally. I would say we were all entrepreneurial, but none of us really had these systems in place to understand how to build a business, and those kind of came on the fly. I have a very distinct memory. I believe it was 2011, maybe ’12. A woman who is extremely well-known—I think she was just on at the time, Aileen Lee from Kleiner Perkins at the time came and said, “Have you heard of this idea called Objectives and Key Results? I said, “No. I’ve never heard of Objectives and Key Results.” She said, “Here’s an example we use at Kleiner.” The example was how to win the Super Bowl. It was actually just in John Doerr’s book. It showed basically like here are the objective of various team members. Here are the key results in terms of how you measure yourself on the way to achieving those objectives. All those things we learned as we went. Aileen went on to start Cowboy Ventures and coined the term Unicorn, and is not in the Time 100. This was long before that.
Alejandro: I remember when she actually went and started her own firm. For you, Adam, you eventually became the Chief Creative Officer of General Assembly. How would you define a Chief Creative Officer? What does that look like?
Adam Pritzker: My job was really trying to define the brand experience across various touchpoints and communicate those online and offline. That really excited me because it was both digital and physical, and I’ve always been interested in the intersection of the two. By the way, my job would not have been possible without my colleague Mimi Chun who was actually interviewing to hire me at IDEO and who we actually ended up hiring at General Assembly as our first employee. I really learned so much from Mimi in terms of what IDEO typically calls Human-Centered Design in terms of starting with the customer, understanding what the customer wants, and working backwards from there. That’s really what I would say is the gambit of the Chief Creative Office, but it is a very broad term and could mean a lot of different things.
Alejandro: Of course. So, for General Assembly, what ended up being the business model?
Adam Pritzker: General Assembly. We had a couple of different business models. The first was co-working, and that was essentially breakeven. The second was, what if the people in that co-working space started teaching classes, and we took a percentage of whatever revenue they generated so that the person teaching could make some money and we could make some money. We then started workshops in which we charged a little bit more, and finally ended up in courses which were essentially these two to three week all the way up to six-week boot camps in web development, immersive, front-end development, back-end development, user experience, design user interface design. The idea there was there has to be an ROI. People are going to pay for classes, and there needs to be some kind of outcome, a job for example. As we started to do that, that’s when Fortune 2000 companies started to approach us and say, “Hey, can you help us do this with our workforce?” That ended up really driving the outcome for General Assembly. The consumer business was larger than the enterprise business, but the enterprise business was growing much faster and obviously traded at high multiples because they’re a longer contract. It was more of a B2B business.
Alejandro: Talking about growth. You were leading the Global Expansion. When we’re thinking about growth, I think that growth is so critical, especially for a business like this. What were some of the tactics that you guys were using to really get people in the door? Like a tactic that perhaps you can remember that was very scrappy and very lean.
Adam Pritzker: Yeah. I really have to give Brad Hargreaves and Matt Brimer a lot of credit for the growth aspect of what we were doing. I think the brilliant thing that Brad and Matt realized was two-fold. One, if you can engage the community and get the community to promote itself. In this case, “Come take my class and user experience design.” You could do a lot of those classes. You would have the entire community promoting General Assembly. Then Matt was really just bringing all kinds of people through doing all kinds of events, happy hours, dinners. That really drove the marketing and growth of General Assembly.
Alejandro: As you’re thinking about community, Adam, and I guess this is like more of a question that comes to mind from all these different experiences that you have, how do you define community. What does a successful community look like to you in your eyes?
Adam Pritzker: I think a successful community is a group of people who have relationship to one another, ideally, a deep relationship and not just loose ties, we’re all interested in a certain subject, and empowering one another in it. That’s how I think about it.
Alejandro: Would you say that a community, when we’re thinking about retention and really being able to keep the customers inside the ecosystem, would you say that community was perhaps one of the aspects of General Assembly?
Adam Pritzker: Absolutely. Yes.
Alejandro: Got it. As we’re thinking about growth and also financing this, how much capital was raised prior to the actual acquisition?
Adam Pritzker: About 100 million in venture capital. That was a real learning experience for me, the venture capital experience. I was a customer of venture capital. One of the really difficult things about raising venture capital was that General Assembly was a very CapX intensive business. We had to build out a lot of CapX. We were using mostly equity to do that. That’s a really expensive thing to do. Jake, the CEO, did a phenomenal job managing that and being as capital efficient as possible. But that learning is one of the things that led to how we finance brands at Assembled Brands. I got incredibly interested in capital intensive businesses that were driven by online marketing and community, and trying to understand what is the best way to finance these kinds of businesses? It was really at that point that I realized that the future of venture financing was going to be reinvented because the world of atoms is very different from the world of bits. The way you finance those things should also be very different; but in the case of growth companies, at that point and to a certain extent still, there wasn’t and isn’t a difference. So, that’s when I started to get really interested in alternative kinds of financing.
Alejandro: Really cool. For General Assembly, you guys raised from unbelievable investors. The learning that you got was from top tier folks. That was, for example, Bezos Expeditions, GSV, Maveron, DFJ, IVP. Really, really great people. We’re going to talk about the outcome of this in just a little bit, but you also at one point were like, “Now it’s my time to build Assembled Brands, and I’m going to remain at the Chairman of General Assembly.” How was that transition for you because sometimes, it’s really tough because, at the start, it’s like your baby? To a certain extent, you may be thinking you’re leaving your baby behind. How was that for you?
Adam Pritzker: Certainly, always a difficult experience to go from operating a company to sitting on a company’s board for anybody who’s done that before. We were very lucky though. Jake is such a capable manager and leader. Our board was incredibly strong and diverse in terms of capabilities. It felt like the right time. It felt like General Assembly was on a great path. I had other interests. I had a particular interest in people who were not just developing digital products, but developing physical products to get back to this idea of bits versus atoms. I really wanted to understand that world of atoms better and the innovation that was going on in that world. That’s when I decided was the way I want to go about this is actually to develop a number of consumer products and brands. In doing that, I will learn what a value chain looks like. What the supply chain looks like. Where the greatest friction is so that I can build a business on top of that. That was a real learning from General Assembly was like picks and shovel businesses are great businesses. My goal was always to start another picks and shovels business, but to do that through the lens of a consumer experience because if you can get that consumer sizzle, and you can begin to build a brand name, the enterprise part becomes a lot easier. People critique this approach a lot by the way. They call it a bank shot where it’s like you start doing one thing and end up doing another. I personally feel starting enterprise businesses through consumer businesses is a really interesting way to build companies, and that’s the way I like to go about it.
Alejandro: Diving now into Assembled Brands, but just before doing that to close up the chapter on General Assembly. General Assembly was actually acquired, and it was reported that it was acquired by the Adecco Group for 430 million. The question that I have for you here Adam is how big was the business when the acquisition happened?
Adam Pritzker: How big was the business in terms of revenue. That’s confidential.
Alejandro: In terms of, for example, employees. How many employees did General Assembly have?
Adam Pritzker: I think it was 500 at that point.
Alejandro: 500. Really cool. So, let’s talk about Assembled Brands. Walk me through the incubation of the idea of Assembled Brands. Obviously, you were talking about you saw how inefficient it was the ways companies were financing, and you saw a real future on what would be next for financing companies. What was that transition until the day when you actually said, “Today’s the day I’m pulling the trigger?”
Adam Pritzker: In retrospect, I didn’t spend years doing research. I felt let’s just get started actually developing a number of brands, and the path will make itself a lot clearer. That’s exactly what happened. What I was seeing was that social media was driving a proliferation of consumer products because people could more easily discover them. At the same time, consumers wanted to understand the contents of those products, the supply chain of those products, where those products came from. Finally, factories around the world were allowing people developing brands to do smaller runs of goods to micro-target people, essentially using social media. Then finally, local brands could now be global because of e-commerce. I felt like there would be a proliferation of digital applications. There would be a proliferation of consumer brands, and that every product in every category would be reinvented. I really wanted to be a part of that. I didn’t know exactly how, but I did know that the enterprise infrastructure layer would have to undergo a massive transformation from the kind of incumbent infrastructure in order to power all of these new brands. Those were the kinds of businesses that I wanted to develop. That’s how we really arrived at this financing business because we had a number of brands. One, in particular, was growing incredibly fast, needed financing. Venture funding was not the right funding for it. The brand’s not going to be the next Uber, and banks were just very difficult to get funding from. There were a lot of covenants, and it was very slow, and it was very inflexible. That’s when we said to the Creative Director of this brand who owns a significant piece of the equity, “We’ll finance it. We’ll give you a loan, and you won’t have to dilute, and we can continue on this growth trajectory. That’s what we did. It turned out to be an expanding pie. She was incredibly happy. We were incredibly happy. It was at that point that we realized maybe there are a lot of other brands out there that are looking for this kind of financing. That’s really how the business took off.
Alejandro: Got it. In a way to provide the 30,000-foot view of the idea. Perhaps the elevator pitch of Assembled Brands. So that people that are listening can understand, how would you describe it?
Adam Pritzker: I would say that Assembled Brands is a new way to finance companies, and it’s a new approach to build brands. That’s really what we’re trying to do. I think that’s threefold. The first is financing in the form of credit because that’s a far better way to fund atoms than just equity. Now, you need some equity obviously, but if you use all equity, you’re probably going to get diluted out. Two, a lot of these kinds of businesses use the same technologies and the same metrics. QuickBooks and Shopify, for example. The types of metrics they’re looking at are cohort analysis to try to understand their repeat customers. They’re trying to understand the lifetime value of that customer. They’re trying to understand the cost to acquire that customer. They’re trying to build the most capital efficient business possible. You can take all of that data, and you can benchmark it against all the other brands in a category or in consumer good generally. You can provide business insights on one hand to the brands themselves as well as use that data to more effectively underwrite credit to those brands. Then finally, you can use those insights for specific brands to say, “These are the areas you can really improve. Here’s a network of vendors and growth marketing and manufacturing, etcetera, who can really help you improve those metrics. We think that’s really the flywheel.
Alejandro: Then the businesses that you guys get involved with, I find that one of the things that I really miss in the venture space is that many of the investors that are investing in those hypergrowth companies have the Wall Street mentality and background. They don’t bring the operational expertise to really help in building the brand on the long term because unfortunately, many of these investors, we have value but it’s just by a very small percentage of them that actually do. When you’re thinking about getting involved with these companies, how do you define value? What does that value that you guys bring look like?
Adam Pritzker: One, I think the value is in the kind of financing that we’re offering, and that kind of financing is now widely available. I think that’s a really valuable thing to help founders preserve the equity in their company and provide financing in a relatively flexible way. I’d say that’s number one. Number two, because we’ve looked at 3,500 brands over the last 18 months, we’ve got a lot of data on what a great brand looks like and what metrics and eligibility criteria define a really great brand, both from an operational perspective and an investment perspective. Then finally, because we’ve developed our own brands, we have a pretty vast network of vendors who can serve brands in growing their companies. When you combine those three things, we think that’s a really powerful combination.
Alejandro: I think there’s something really interesting that you point to there, Adam, and it’s the fact that you have analyzed 3,500 businesses. The data from that, I’m sure you were able to really get some good pattern recognition as to how certain things work, how certain things don’t work, and like some businesses have more potential than others. So, what does, according to those patterns that you’ve seen, a really good investment opportunity, what pattern does the opportunity have, or traits, or ingredients I would say.
Adam Pritzker: It’s probably relatively obvious. I don’t want to give away all of our secret sauce, but I would say that at a very high level, loyalty is incredibly important. Loyalty can be measured by a customer buying your product over and over and over again. If they’re doing that, your business actually looks somewhat like a subscription business. If you’ve launched that subscription-looking business in a capital efficient way, that’s a very powerful combination for value creation. That’s really what we see as the core of a fantastic business. It’s one that’s been extremely capital efficient that has a loyal customer base. If you have those two things, you’re going to grow organically, and you’re not going to spend that much money on customer acquisitions relative to the return on that ad spend.
Alejandro: I guess on your end as well as an entrepreneur, Adam, how different has your experience been from let’s say being the operator of a company like General Assembly where you’re raising money from VCs, then for example, the experience Assemble Brands where you have to raise money also from LPs or from whoever that is to invest in those different brands. How is it different from one another?
Adam Pritzker: Yeah. So, we don’t have LPs. We have investors. Our largest investor who wrote us a 100-million-dollar check is called Oaktree Capital Management. It was founded by a really well-known investor, at least in the finance world named Howard Marks and his partner Bruce Karsh. It’s been an amazing experience learning from the team in the culture at Oaktree. They’re very different from venture capitalists. They are a large global private credit company with a family of funds that together are about 100 billion dollars in Capital Under Management, and what we really wanted at Assembled Brands was a partner who deeply understood credit and how to build a company with a credit-oriented culture. That’s very, very different than a venture-oriented culture. We think that Assembled Brands is a combination of the two. It’s been fascinating to watch. One example, people who are doing venture capital are always asking, “What could go right to make this idea huge?” Credit investors say, “What could go wrong to make this thing wipe out?” That debate is always a really fascinating one in terms of how people look at risk. So, Oaktree would define a good investment as “You’ve got upside and limited downside.” I think that that later, thinking about the limited downside is often probably not thought about by venture capitalist.
Alejandro: So then, for example, in terms of structure, you said, “We have investors. We don’t have LPs.” For the people that are listening the LPs are the limited partners that invest in a fund, and the venture firm basically allocates the capital from that fund. So, in this case, you have investors. Why did you choose this structure versus the other one?
Adam Pritzker: I think initially, we really wanted to be a company, not a fund if that makes sense. There’s certainly value to both of those kinds of vehicles to finance things. We really wanted to be a company, and we thought that would give us a longer time horizon, potentially a lower cost of capital, and that those two longer time horizon and lower cost of capital could give us a long-term competitive advantage. That’s why we chose to start as a company.
Alejandro: Got it. I’ve seen as well, I’ve read that there are a bunch of people—and I don’t think that this is an accurate comparison, but perhaps you can tell us why. I’ve heard people that are comparing a sample brand, kind of like being a U.S. equivalent to LVMH which is this group in France and Europe that have been very successful there. What is the main difference?
Adam Pritzker: The main difference I would say is size. LVMH is absolutely massive. I believe its market cap is 100+ billion dollars. I would say that’s a big difference. We’re just getting started, and now I would say LVMH is a pretty mature company. Secondly, what I would say is, the LVMHs or conglomerates of the future are not going to look like the conglomerates of the past. Just like the technology companies of the future don’t look like the technology companies of the past. So, the next Microsoft didn’t look like Microsoft; it looked like Google. The next Google didn’t look like Google; it looked like Facebook. I think that’s true in almost any industry including ours. I’m obviously extremely flattered by the comparison. I think we’re quite different obviously first in both in terms of size, but also in terms of approach. We’re not a private equity firm taking controlled positions in brands and companies. We’re trying to provide the infrastructure and the financing to a very long tail of entrepreneurs looking to build businesses and help them create a community to succeed. I think those are pretty different approaches.
Alejandro: Yeah. Makes total sense. Consumer brands, for example, and based on all this data and these different companies that you’ve seen, what are typically the three biggest challenges that these companies have to deal with?
Adam Pritzker: I would say the biggest is managing cash flow because it’s really difficult to create product and inventory and sell that product and inventory directly to consumers because you’re not getting very many purchase orders necessarily from stores. Historically, the way that you could build a brand was essentially from credit extended by stores. So, stores would say, “Alejandro, I want to buy $100,000 worth of your goods.” You could take that purchase order, that promise, to pay you $100,000 to a bank or a factor. They’re called factoring companies. The factor would say, “Great. I’ll give you $80,000 right now to go produce your goods.” You go produce your goods. You put them in the store, and then when the store finally pays you that $100,000, that goes straight to the bank. But the factor, they make a $20,000 spread. You got your cash upfront to make your goods, and it’s a virtuous cycle. That cycle was broken by the destruction of retail stores and the emergence of direct-to-consumer marketing and distribution. That’s really how our opportunity emerged. What we believe is the greatest friction point for small brands. It’s not buying servers or building technology to sell your goods online. All of that stuff is pretty commoditized now and easy to access. The most difficult part now is figuring out how to finance and grow your brand.
Alejandro: Then how do you see online versus offline for these types of businesses.
Adam Pritzker: I think that brands should strive to be omnichannel. I think that offline does a number of things and it’s a way people can discover your brand. I think you still can get some of those purchase orders, and that in combination is a great thing because you’re essentially having somebody provide credit for you in the form of a store so that you can go get these purchase order financings like I described, and people can also discover your goods offline. If those goods are really good, they’re going to want to buy them again online. So, if you can get that offline to online conversion to happen, and then repeat purchases online, that offline strategy is a smart one to pursue. A lot of people don’t do that when you look at the metrics, and they love the idea of building a physical environment, but people don’t end up buying again. If that’s not happening, you’re actually burning a lot of money on popups. That’s something we see often is when people are burning a lot more money than they’re making and may not even realize it.
Alejandro: One thing that I’ve heard over and over again, and you tell me if you agree or disagree, is that having a physical store really increases the loyalty of customers.
Adam Pritzker: I don’t agree. I think that a product that people really love that achieves market adoption is the thing that creates loyalty and the distribution channels are the distribution channels. Certainly, you need a consistent brand messaging, and a consistent brand style guide if you will so that the message isn’t disjointed across various types of touchpoints. At the end of the day, it’s the product that has to be really, really good and that you have to love. Then your distribution should be every possible touchpoint.
Alejandro: I love it. That’s a good different opinion here. So, talking about distribution, especially for the folks that are listening, what kind of pointers would you give them in terms of how to build their distribution channels?
Adam Pritzker: I think that the thing that wholesale is actually great for is to get feedback from buyers, number one. Number two, I think it’s really helpful in pricing your product because one of the mistakes we see a lot is that people price their product to distribute direct to consumers online, and the margin is obviously a lot higher doing that. But if you try to go from that to offline wholesale, your margin can get crushed. So, if you start with wholesale pricing in mind, then when you build direct, your margin will have a lot of cushion and be much better. That’s just one example of how doing offline, and online can both be really helpful in terms of feedback and in terms of pricing, and, of course, in terms of marketing and discovery.
Alejandro: Got it. From a brand’s perspective, where do you see the world of consumer brands heading?
Adam Pritzker: I see the world in which every product in every category is reinvented. I don’t think that our children are going to be eating Smucker’s jelly. I think people care about what’s inside of whatever they’re consuming; what the contents are, where that good comes from. I think they care about the community around that product and the drive of people not unlike Indie music or Indie brands. I think that people are interested in consuming local brands from all over the world that are best in breed for whatever it is being sold. I think these big incumbent conglomerates of food brands or fashion and apparel brands or you name it are in a lot of trouble.
Alejandro: Why are they in a lot of trouble?
Adam Pritzker: Because people want a sense of community. I’m not as much talking about the heritage brands in Europe. I think that’s a slightly different thing. I think they’re in trouble for all the reason that I mentioned which is people care about what’s inside of what they’re consuming, where that comes from, who is making it, what those people stand for. They want more unique goods that may help self-identify them with a community of people who they feel aligned with in terms of values. They can now buy things from all over the world whether it’s in Sweden or Japan.
Alejandro: I guess that’s really consciousness. Why all of the sudden do you think that this level of consciousness from the people that are buying, where is this coming from?
Adam Pritzker: Wow. That is really well said and something we talk about quite a bit here on nights and weekends is that there is definitely a global consciousness that is emerging among a younger generation. Frankly, I think that’s probably powered by the transparency provided by the internet. I think this kind of era of giant runs of manufactured goods where people have no idea where they come from, and they have no idea who’s making them, and they show up in these stores as these gleaming objects totally disconnected from their production. I think that era is over. I think people want to know who is making whatever they’re consuming. I keep repeating this, but they want to know what’s in it. They want to have a connection with the people making it, and a connection with each other. That really is an expansion of consciousness. In a way, it’s kind of funny because having studied anthropology, it’s a return to a pretty ancient system of exchange and of gifting and of use value where people used to make things and exchange them with each other, so they had more meaning versus this big factory setup as I described it before. That is absolutely an evolution of consciousness, and it’s fascinating, and it shows up in the data as well. If you look at what Millennials really want to do with their careers, they want to be entrepreneurs. They want to make things. They want to be connected to their work and to the people who are consuming their work.
Alejandro: Yeah. 100%. We were talking about the future, and I would think that the listeners are also starting to see what that canvas perhaps looks like, either with some of the pointers that they’ve been getting from listening to this conversation or from whatever thoughts that they have. Adam, as we’re talking about the future, in a world where the vision of a sample of brands has been fully realized, what does that world look like?
Adam Pritzker: Wow. It looks like a world in which venture finance will have been completely reinvented to serve not only digital companies but companies developing physical products in the physical world. It may be powered in part by the digital world of course, but at the end of the day, that product might be a food product. It might be a quick-serve restaurant. It might be a shoe brand. It might be a razor brand. Anything in the world of atoms is going to be financed differently than the world of bits. I’m not sure that that infrastructure has been laid yet, and that’s the infrastructure we want to lay. The reason it hasn’t been laid is because the world of atoms has obviously been transformed by the world of bits. The incumbent financial system has simply not caught up and isn’t prepared for what is coming.
Alejandro: I guess as we’re thinking about immediate steps writing on your end to get there to really realize that vision, where are you guys today? What does that operation look like so that the listeners get a better understanding of what Assembled Brands looks like today?
Adam Pritzker: As I said before, we’ve looked at 3,500 consumer brands. We’re really studying those brands closely. We’re financing a number of those brands. We’re providing those brands business insights to improve their businesses and connecting them to a network of vendors. Again, we think that’s a real flywheel. That’s what we think of as the thin edge of the wedge if you will into this vast world of financing, CapX intensive businesses, and businesses that are making stuff if you will.
Alejandro: Got it. You’ve been through quite a bit, Adam. Obviously, this is your second meaningful rodeo. I always ask the guest that come on the show the same question, and I want to ask you this question too. Basically, knowing what you know now, Adam, if you had the opportunity to speak to your younger self and you had the chance to give yourself, that younger self one piece of business advice, what would that be and why?
Adam Pritzker: It would be to focus less on the outcome and focus more on the process and on the relationships. I think that’s a big mistake I’ve made in the past when I was younger—still am young. I started as an entrepreneur at 25, and I’m turning 35—and to really enjoy the process, and to build deep and meaningful relationships, and be a little less focused on whatever the ultimate outcome is.
Alejandro: Really cool. For the folks that are listening, what is the best way for them to reach out and say hi?
Adam Pritzker: Through our website, [email protected].
Alejandro: Amazing. Well, Adam, thank you so much for being on the Dealmakers show today.
Adam Pritzker: Thank you, Alejandro.