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George Hornig of The Seed Lab: “Stay positive, test negative”

The work-from-home model adopted during the pandemic is here to stay, so I would recommend investing in products and services needed by remote workers in their home and home office spaces. That’s where my investment fund is putting effort because we believe the virus crisis has fundamentally and permanently changed the world we knew. The […]

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The work-from-home model adopted during the pandemic is here to stay, so I would recommend investing in products and services needed by remote workers in their home and home office spaces. That’s where my investment fund is putting effort because we believe the virus crisis has fundamentally and permanently changed the world we knew. The ‘new normal’ has arrived.


As a part of my series about “Investing During The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing George Hornig.

Co-Founder of Wasserstein Perella, George is a former C-Suite Leader at Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse and PineBridge (AIG Investments). An active early-stage investor for over three decades. George was co-founder of Office Tiget (sold to RR Donnelley for 250M dollars in 2006), Cloud Blue (sold to Ingram Micro for 45 million dollars in 2013) and Xometry (most recent capital raise at large multiple). George is a director of the US Calition on Sustainability as well as an early Investor/Advisor in Babiators, Ready Set Jet, Stojo, StoryFile, Syntax, Trinity Cuber, and VNTANA.


Thank you for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance industry?

Growing up I always imagined I’d become a lawyer. I worked for a couple years when I was young at a law office. That all changed when I was accepted to Harvard. I received my BA in Economics from Harvard College, my MBA from Harvard Business School and my JD from Harvard Law School. My first job was as an attorney at Skadden, Arps working on M+A transactions. My clients were investment bankers. It didn’t take long for me to realize that they worked much less hard than lawyers and got paid much more. So when one of my clients, Bruce Wasserstein at First Boston asked me to join his MAA group, it didn’t take long to jump at the chance.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

I once invested in and became Chairman of a 20-somethings business that wound up selling for 250 million dollars seven years later. That reinforced a lesson that I had been learning for some time: that listening and learning from young people is the smartest thing you can do. They always seem to have the newest and freshest ideas in emerging industries such as cybersecurity and social media.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I recently founded a consumer impact fund called The Seed Lab with two partners focused on investing in companies addressing the needs and interests of millennials and Gen-Z consumers. This demographic cares about authentic, cause-related, sustainable brands on the cusp of cultural change that will have an impact on a post-COVID world. Our investments so far have included:

  • Terra Caffe — a bean-to-cup coffee machine company that eliminates single-use plastic & aluminum pods
  • Sanguina — an at-home wellness testing platform that reduces doctor visits
  • Vantage Point — a virtual reality and sexual harassment and gender and racial bias training program
  • Stojo — a replacement for single use plastic cups

I am also working hard for one of the NYC major candidates, Ray McGuire. Ray is the global head of Citibank’s corporate and investment banking. He is leaving Citigroup to make a play to fill de Blasio’s seat for mayor in 2021. I believe that he will have a positive impact because he will bring not only his business skills to New York City’s monumental budget deficient, but the compassion of someone brought up by a single mom with limited resources.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’ve worked with many people, but the #1 influence in my life is my wife. We have been married for 45 years, and I wouldn’t be where I am without her. She always makes it easy to come home and forget about the ups and downs of the workday. But if you are looking for business mentors it would be Joe Paella and Bruce Wasserstein who gave me my first shot at an investment broker and later as C.O.O of their own firm. And for the holdup my mantra is “social distant but emotionally close”

Let’s shift a bit to what is happening today in the broader world. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty and loneliness. From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our families and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

I have been giving people good advice to “Stay positive, test negative.” Listen to the scientists and experts. Wear masks, social distance, and take advantage of free testing. Don’t be afraid, but don’t be stupid.

Ok. Thanks for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. As you know the stock market and the economy in general have become extremely volatile and uncertain. Many people “dollar cost average” and put aside a monthly sum into a long-term savings plan for retirement, college, or a home purchase. If a loved one or a client came to you and said, “I have been saving and investing 500 dollars every month in an S&P 500 index fund. Over the next few months until the dust settles, should I be doing something else with my money?”, what would you say to them?

In a post-covid world there will be a resurgence of pent-up demand of travel, so airlines and hospitality should recover. However, malls and offices will not return to their pre-pandemic densities because of Amazon and Zoom. So that would mean to stay away from investing into those sectors.

Eventually the economy will recover and rebound. Certain sectors, like travel and hospitality might be hurting for a while. But other sectors, like technology and healthcare, might do very well. If someone wanted to prepare today to take advantage of the future recovery, what would you suggest they do?

The work-from-home model adopted during the pandemic is here to stay, so I would recommend investing in products and services needed by remote workers in their home and home office spaces. That’s where my investment fund is putting effort because we believe the virus crisis has fundamentally and permanently changed the world we knew. The ‘new normal’ has arrived.

Can you please give us your favorite” Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Never let a good crisis go to waste” is a quote that has been attributed to Winston Churchill in discussing how World War II created the conditions for the formation of the United Nations. It’s an apt quote for today’s environment and one of the factors that is driving The Seed Lab’s investments. Trends that were emerging before the pandemic have been amplified during the current crisis, and we are putting our money behind them.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

In 2018 I went back to my high school to participate in a program called PENCIL, where I was “Principal for the Day.” There I learned that 400 out of the 1,200 seniors — a staggering one-third of the class — would enter the world without a high school diploma. With fewer manual labor jobs than ever before, these students were bound to be at a distinct disadvantage. Many like them have wound up in prison — which now holds 2.3 million incarcerated people, making it the 5th largest city in the U.S.

The answer — and the necessity — is to improve public education. Investments in this area have lagged over time. Reversing the trend would literally change the lives of millions of people and perhaps heal some of the divisions in the country that undermined trust in our public servants.

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