An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
If you aren’t passionate about your idea, then don’t go for it. If the idea isn’t burning you up inside, then you may lose steam during the long haul of implementation and execution of that idea. I’ve had other startup ideas before and toyed around with them in my spare time for a bit, but I ultimately lost interest in them because I wasn’t especially passionate about them. When I got the idea for Humankind Investments it basically consumed me.
As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing James Katz.
James is a veteran quantitative equity analyst and data scientist with a passion for socially responsible investing. He founded Humankind Investments in order to bring a more analytical and metrics-based approach to the field. Before founding Humankind, James worked in the ETF industry as a quantitative equity analyst and data scientist for Vanguard. He holds a PhD in Business Administration from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and a BA in Psychology and PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) as well as a BAS in Computer Science from the University of Pennsylvania. James is a CFA charterholder.
Humankind Investments is a quantitatively driven investment manager focused on socially responsible investments that was founded on the premise that it would be better for all of us if we widened our perspective and paid close attention to how our investments impacted humankind. Our mission is to give investors concrete and measurable ways to invest in a manner that generates rewards for themselves and for humanity. We offer socially responsible portfolio management services for high-net-worth individuals and institutional clients as well as exchange traded fund products.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
My mom was born in Colombia and my dad was born in Hungary. I was born in Miami, FL. Neither of my parents were American so we never celebrated thanksgiving until one day when I was old enough to realize I told them that since we lived in America we really should celebrate. My mom agreed. I was excited. Finally, Thanksgiving came around and we sit down to dinner. Turns out my mom made duck instead of turkey. When I asked why she made that choice she said that duck was a tastier bird than turkey. I actually agreed with her on that, but of course that wasn’t the point.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
It’s hard to pick a favorite, but one that I really like is: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” The message that I think is relevant to me, and probably lots of people, is that in life things don’t move forward linearly from success to success, leveling up as you go. So, when you meet the inevitable failures in your life, if you take them in stride and keep moving forward, looking for ways to continue learning and growing, then you can be successful.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
When I was in middle school, I read the book Foundation by Isaac Asimov. The premise is basically that there’s this guy who uses science to understand the world’s problems and ultimately save the world. That book initially inspired me to pursue a career in academia, but ultimately led me to found the firm that I’m currently working on — Humankind Investments.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?
Often having a good idea for a business is like looking across a canyon. You can clearly see the other side, and it looks beautiful, you just don’t know how to get there. The key is to design and build your bridge, bit by painstaking bit, so that you can reach the other side. It can take years to build that bridge. During that time many people might give up on their idea. But if the idea is good enough, and your will to execute it is strong enough, then you might have a good chance to build that bridge.
Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?
These days a quick google search should do the trick.
For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.
Once you’ve got the idea, and you know you want to pursue it. I think creating a business plan is a key first step. A business plan basically is an outline of how you will operate for the first few years — how many people you will need to hire, how much money you need to start, and what the steps are to making your first sale. Then you need to secure startup funding for your idea, whether you’re self-funding, getting help from friend and family, or going to VCs. Then you can go about executing your business plan step by step until you’ve made your first sale.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
I can’t think of 5 right now, but I’ve got one big one that I think is worth 5 little ones. If you aren’t passionate about your idea, then don’t go for it. If the idea isn’t burning you up inside, then you may lose steam during the long haul of implementation and execution of that idea. I’ve had other startup ideas before and toyed around with them in my spare time for a bit, but I ultimately lost interest in them because I wasn’t especially passionate about them. When I got the idea for Humankind Investments it basically consumed me.
Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
I think speaking with friends and family about it, using them as a sounding board is super helpful early on. They can give you honest feedback on whether you’ve got something worth pursuing and may be able to introduce you to people in that field who can give you advice that can be helpful in starting your company.
There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?
I have no experience with invention development consultants.
What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?
Some ideas are so complex and long term that you pretty much need venture capital to get it off the ground. Others are simple and straightforward with quick turnaround times — those might be easier to bootstrap first. The longer you can hold off on using venture capital the more developed your company will hopefully be and you may be able to get a better deal from VC firms later with a better developed company to show them. On the other hand, bootstrapping can be slow-going; VC money can act like gasoline for your company.
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I hope that Humankind Investments helps make the world a better place every day by working to help people invest in the manner that’s best for humanity. That’s the mission of our company.
You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire 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.
I honestly hope that Humankind will bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people. Money seems to make the world go round, so I think that choosing to invest it in companies making a positive impact on humanity and engaging with companies to improve their impact on humanity has the potential to make a big positive impact for lots of people.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Nobody comes to mind immediately, but if any of those big names that you’re talking about want to get lunch with me after reading this interview I’d certainly be happy to make that happen 🙂.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
Making Something From Nothing: James Katz Of Humankind Investments On How To Go From Idea To Launch was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.