Louis Hernandez Jr. is the founder, managing director, and CEO of private equity firm, Black Dragon Capital, as well as a philanthropist and author. Before founding Black Dragon Capital, Hernandez founded, operated, and advised companies of all sizes from startups to large multi-billion dollar global enterprises. Louis has a passion for building great companies through partnering with entrepreneurs, emphasizing diverse teams, and providing strong operational expertise. His focus and mission is to advance technology initiatives that specifically enable the active collaboration and connection between individuals, teams, and businesses to improve the communities they serve.
Louis is the author of three books, Saving the American Dream, Too Small to Fail, and The Storyteller’s Dilemma as well as numerous articles. He has received professional distinctions for his expertise in business and technology and has been a featured guest on Fox Business, CNBC, ABC News, and Bloomberg TV discussing technology, economics, strategic planning, and globalization.
Through his philanthropic organization, For A Bright Future Foundation, Hernandez actively supports underprivileged and underrepresented children’s equal access to healthcare, education, the arts, and leadership development.
Where did the idea for Black Dragon Capital come from?
Black Dragon Capital was born out of my experience as an entrepreneur. When I founded my first company in the mid-90s, one significant obstacle was identifying and partnering with investors who possessed relevant experience. To many investors, my company was also just another investment whereas to me, it was the culmination of my passion, hard work, joy, and commitment to build something I ardently believed in. It’s challenging for the average investor to truly understand and support the spirit of an entrepreneur unless they too have poured their soul into founding a company.
That sparked the idea for Black Dragon Capital. I wanted to bring together a diverse team of operators and investors who not only possess financial smarts, but also have intimate knowledge of what it’s really like to put together the nuts and bolts of a company. All investors have financial knowledge, but not all of them have entrepreneurial wisdom born of experience, and I believe that this field experience is what enables entrepreneurs to succeed. At Black Dragon Capital, we provide these types of partnerships I’d always wished I’d had earlier in my career.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’ve found that professional success often results in an imbalanced life. One where you decide what’s most important and eliminate other distractions out of necessity. My priorities are three-fold: spending quality time with my family, improving my health and fitness, and building organizations that solve significant issues.
This third priority is largely dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs with Black Dragon Capital, and empowering those less fortunate through my foundation For A Bright Future. Both professional and philanthropic works require a great deal of research, education, coordination, and collaboration with globally dispersed teams. I have no other hobbies or activities besides these causes, and it is a very satisfying life that consumes most of my time.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I believe the best new ideas are those that seek to address the question: “How can we make life better for others?” Making life better for others first begins with identifying a problem that we think we can solve in a unique and compelling way. This might manifest itself in a number of ways, such as launching a new company, transforming an existing company, upgrading a company’s management, or investing in new technologies. It’s all about helping a company or individuals break through obstacles in order to fulfill their mission, and how we can make life better for others.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I believe technology can be used to enhance a person’s life by building deeper connections, a sense of community, and facilitating decisions. For much of my career, I’ve been tasked with convincing different market segments of this idea. During the past few years though, there has been a trend of greater acceptance of the role that technology plays in business and the social landscape. This trend emphasizes the need to ensure that technology is designed to improve life in a safe and sound way, and it has enabled people to adopt new ideas faster than I experienced early on in my career, which is very exciting to see.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I think with entrepreneurialism, there is the tendency to focus on goals and objectives. What do I want to accomplish today? This week? This year? Where do I want to be in five years? I feel this tendency is counterproductive for me because it detracts from the overall mission of the organizations I build. Whether it’s with Black Dragon Capital or my charitable foundation, I prefer to cultivate the habit of focusing on the needs of others.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to nurture gratefulness and appreciation, specifically for those who put their faith and trust in my ideas, and who made a commitment to help me bring those ideas to life. Today, I’m incredibly grateful for the people who believed in me along the way, and I wish I would have told them so more often.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Compensation is not the ultimate driving force for top performers. To create, retain and recruit top performers, they have to genuinely believe in the company, people and products they are involved with. No amount of compensation will convince them to stay at the organization if they don’t believe in what we are doing.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I value and attribute much of my success to hard work and education. I always recommend becoming a student of what you want to excel in or the problem you are trying to solve. You have to understand the business or industry that you’re investing in and that requires an intense commitment to educating yourself.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
All entrepreneurs face obstacles along the way, ranging from securing startup capital to finding the right team. Being a successful entrepreneur requires a set of unique attributes. Among them is being able to embrace the intensity, passion, loneliness and joy of staying true to an idea when others can’t see the same vision. You can never quit on an idea that you believe in.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I’ve had many, but I consider each of them to be an opportunity to learn and grow. The most important lesson for me is that not everyone is participating in an initiative for the same reasons or with the same intensity. I always assumed everyone wanted to shape industries and make lives better. This isn’t always true, however, and it’s ok. I’ve learned to surround myself with the type of people who are truly committed to a higher purpose.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
As we continue to digitize every aspect of our lives, cybersecurity will continue to be increasingly important with every year that passes. We need a single, trusted ledger-based payment system, ideally one that is globally regulated.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best money I’ve recently spent was on a donation to a children’s hospital to enhance their community garden area. As I’ve worked with children’s hospitals, it’s always hard to see the faces of parents as they’re dealing with the challenges of their child’s health and recovery. I wanted to do something to lift the spirits of the families, and this helped improve the garden to be an area where the kids and parents could enjoy the garden, music and relax.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I love collaboration tools, particularly Microsoft teams. It’s always exciting to see how technology enhances our working lives, and I believe that digital collaboration tools in particular are the future of work.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Self-education is a priority for me, and so it’s hard to choose just one book to recommend. I don’t actually read a lot of business advice books because I prefer industry-specific materials. Lately, I’m focused on data science research and Spanish history.
What is your favorite quote?
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.” – Mother Teresa
- Embrace purpose in your business and your personal life.
- Work hard and work smart.
- Give back. We all share the same world, and it’s up to us to make it better.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.