I try to schedule all out-of-office meetings and appointments for either the morning or evening, so that once I’m in the office I am singularly focused on what needs to get done that day for CRAFT to take a step forward.
Omri Agam is an entrepreneur with well over a decade of experience in investment banking and private equity investing, as well as all aspects of deal and business execution. Omri co-founded Endgame Partners in 2012 to create a unique platform from which to launch and build businesses like CRAFT VAPERY, each of which benefits from the decades of combined startup, operational, finance, accounting, and legal experience of Endgame, as well as the broad and extensive network that Endgame utilizes to add meaningful value to its companies. Originally from Los Angeles, Omri attended the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, where he majored in Finance. He began his career as an investment banker with Lane Berry, a firm founded by senior ex-DLJ bankers that was subsequently acquired by Raymond James. He then worked as a private equity investor with Palladium Equity Partners in New York City before beginning his career as an entrepreneur, which eventually led to his co-founding of Endgame Partners with his lifelong friend, Matthew Winnick, and his brother, Lior Agam.
Where did the idea for CRAFT VAPERY come from?
Several years ago, my CRAFT VAPERY co-founder, Josh Krane, was working as Chief Marketing Officer for one of the first e-cig companies in the US (The SafeCig). He gave me my first e-cig, and as soon as I tried it, I just had one of those moments. One of those “this idea is SO brilliant but is executed SO poorly” moments that entrepreneurs live for. Here was a product that had a huge and very clear total addressable market, was set to explode, yet was plagued by countless issues related to quality and complexity. Josh and I set out to understand this market, both as entrepreneurs seeking to build something unique and lasting in the space, and as consumers who simply wanted the best experience possible. First, we made a bet that the “open system” side of the market — typically referred to as “vaping” — would overtake the “closed system”, “e-cig”, or “cig-a-like” side of the market (a bet that so far has proven to be accurate). Next, we realized that the single biggest element the vaping industry was missing was a trusted, expert brand, laser-focused on making every step of the vaping process as simple and enjoyable as possible, while emphasizing quality and service above all else. As seasoned entrepreneurs we simply saw a market we loved that was just so new and raw, and we wanted to help make sure it grew to be a responsible, professional, sophisticated industry that could survive and stand the test of time.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I try to schedule all out-of-office meetings and appointments for either the morning or evening, so that once I’m in the office I am singularly focused on what needs to get done that day for CRAFT to take a step forward. Once I’m at my desk it’s rare to see me anywhere else — I eat my meals here, take my meetings and calls here — I find I work at my peak when I can sit down and live/breathe what I need to get done with total focus. But most of my creativity and bigger ideas come to me outside of the office, so that unwinding time is critical to my productivity as well.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I love to brainstorm and collaboratively create ideas. Once the seed of an idea is in my mind, bouncing it off my partners and seeing where the conversation takes us is really always my first step. Almost inevitably I find that they have perspectives or insights or thoughts that I didn’t consider when the idea first entered my mind, and which really help me to fully think it through and determine whether it is worth pursuing. If at this point we feel that it is, my partners and I will typically next start conversations with people who we know have expertise in related areas, which further helps us hone our idea and start to develop an action plan. Then, it’s all about identifying and on-boarding the right team to execute against the idea, defining roles/responsibilities/timelines, testing and proving the initial concept, funding the business, and going full steam ahead.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Crowdsourcing. I know it’s all the rage these days so this isn’t really a novel trend to be excited by — but there are just so many reasons this gets me going. First, it’s inspiring to see how entire “entrenched” yet antiquated industries can get completely uprooted so quickly by better/faster/cheaper business models. Second, it’s amazing to think about the indirect consequences of such shifts — for example, I fully expect (and hope) to see a study in the coming years about how the launch and growth of Uber is correlated with a significant decrease in the rate of drunk driving fatalities. Third, I think that crowdsourcing will play an integral role in our future global economy, allowing anyone, anywhere to effectively become an entrepreneur. As more crowdsourcing concepts get launched, the barriers to being able to start your own business will continue to go down dramatically, and that gets me very excited, as I think it will provide new opportunities to an entire segment of the population who in the past was shut out (or at least felt that way).
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
One major key to my productivity lies in being able to envision the end-point I want to reach, and working backwards to create a detailed plan on how my team and I will get there. It’s amazing to me how close CRAFT VAPERY is today to the original vision we had for it. Of course, factors change daily that force reactions, pivots, etc. But we have not wavered from our major vision and mission, and I believe that this is in large part due to the tremendous amount of diligence and meticulous planning we did before we ever launched the company.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
The summer after my sophomore year of college I was a door-to-door home improvement salesman. The company I worked for would advertise and get leads from potential customers looking for free estimates on work done for their home, and my job was to try and close a sale while I was giving the estimate. For me, the whole thing never felt right. It was all about doing everything you could do to close a sale on the spot at the highest price possible, and nothing about delivering quality, value, etc. While it was fascinating to learn a myriad of sales techniques and strategies, my single biggest takeaway from the job was that I never want to run a business that is simply about making money — I seek to add value to the world with the work that I do, and to create businesses that inspire love and loyalty in their customers.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
After graduating from Wharton, my first job was in investment banking and my second was in private equity — two jobs that I pursued so I could learn as much as I possibly could before I set out on my own to build companies that could make a positive impact on the world around them. The single biggest mistake I made, I think, was leaving the security of a paycheck too early. I was so eager to start my own business that I left myself with too small a safety net and the result was that I struggled for much longer than I believe I otherwise would have, had I sucked it up and worked to start my first business in my free time while still doing my job and earning a consistent income. It takes time to learn how to be an entrepreneur and do things right — it’s a constant learning experience. At some point, of course, you have to jump in with both feet — otherwise it will never work. But if I could do it all over again, I would probably have given myself the benefit of more runway to fail and learn before completely removing my safety net.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
One of my first realizations as an entrepreneur was that a huge part of your life is learning how to deal with failures/disappointments and put out fires on a constant basis. It can be quite overwhelming and daunting, but you eventually realize that it just comes with the territory. To me, it has been essential to internalize the idea that things WILL constantly go wrong, but that EVERYTHING has a solution. If you wake up expecting this every day, then you learn how to roll with the punches and focus on solutions rather than problems, and then you start to find that less and less problems occur and when they do, there is nothing you can’t handle.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
This isn’t necessarily a business strategy — more of a mindset strategy. But I don’t think any realization has had more of a positive impact on my career than this. I realized it during my first month of investment banking — I looked around at my bosses and realized that the ones who were BY FAR the most successful, also happened to be the ones who CLEARLY loved what they did. They lived and breathed it, day and night. And not because they had to — but because they genuinely loved the work. This realization always stuck with me — in order to be truly successful at what you do, you must live and breathe it. And in order to truly live and breathe it, you must love it. So my mission was clear: find what you love to do, and do it. Over the long-run, if you are living this mantra, I don’t think it’s possible not to attain success (although it will of course still take plenty of failure, disappointment, patience, dedication, and hard work along the way).
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I think it’s common for new entrepreneurs to get seduced by the idea of “easy money”. For me, early in my career, opportunities presented themselves that seemed to be able to produce meaningful cash flow quickly and (relatively) easily. Because as I mentioned earlier I left the finance world without much of a safety net, I made myself even more susceptible to the allure of these types of businesses. The reality? There’s no such a thing as “easy money”, and there are no shortcuts. Successful people and companies often make it seem very easy, but that’s generally because they have significant experience learning how to do things right first. I had several major disappointments before I fully internalized this lesson. Thankfully, I was able to bounce back from these mistakes, stay the course, and ultimately find the right opportunities that allowed me to begin earning my success. Being prepared to fail, being prepared to work harder than you ever have before, knowing how to prioritize and where to spend your time, and understanding that you can only generate the results you deserve — those are just some of the many critical lessons I learned from these early failures.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I started riding motorcycles in the past year as a way to get away, clear my head, and unwind. Immediately upon beginning my research online, I realized how old fashioned this entire industry was. As was the case when we first launched CRAFT VAPERY, I just feel like there is so much room for disruption in the motorcycle market, along pretty much every vertical. One of the biggest areas for improvement is in riding gear and accessories, in my opinion. There are a handful of cool, modern, youthful brands popping up, but they all seem to have focused on developing a strong lifestyle brand and in my mind, are glaringly missing a focus on the protection that motorcycle gear is supposed to provide. One of the single biggest deterrents for taking up riding, of course, is safety. The fact that the vast majority of the truly protective gear in the industry lacks any sort of branding and style, and the fact that the vast majority of stylish gear in the industry lacks any sort of protection, is a major opportunity that someone needs to get right. I believe that there is a major gap in the motorcycle market that can be filled by a modern, youthful, high-tech, design-focused lifestyle brand producing fashionable gear and accessories that actually help make the riding experience significantly safer.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
We recently put all of CRAFT VAPERY on Asana, an incredibly powerful and flexible collaborative software system that costs us roughly $100/month for the whole team. It has changed the game for us in terms of project and team management/reporting/collaboration.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Asana! I also love Trello for the management of my personal tasks. I’d been waiting for years for software to come along that could completely change the way I organize myself and my businesses. Asana and Trello are by far the best two systems I’ve seen and used to date.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Hard question — there are so many! I read The Everything Store by Brad Stone as we were launching CRAFT VAPERY. It’s a fascinating book on the rise of Amazon that is full of interesting stories and insights on the path Jeff Bezos took, the wide spectrum of challenges he faced, and how he overcame them to build one of the most impressive companies on the planet.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
I’ve watched Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption pretty much every day since they went on air. I respect these two legendary sportswriters as much as anyone — to me, they are so brilliant, so entertaining and knowledgable, and so absolutely incredible at what they do. I don’t think anybody on television has been as consistently great for as long as Tony and Mike. This greatness not only informs and entertains me day in and day out, but also constantly inspires me to be as good at what I do as they are at what they do.
Omri Agam on LinkedIn:
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.