03 November 2021

Robert Leonard chats with Zachary Conway & Adrian Grenier about their partnership between Seeds and DuContra Ventures, what impact investing is and why it’s important, what Ducontra looks for in companies wanting to raise capital, how Zach and Adrian ensure their goals are aligned, and much, much more! 

Zach Conway is the founder and CEO of Seeds Investor, which he created in 2018 to help financial advisors deliver values-based investing portfolios to investors who want solid financial returns from investments that align with their values. The Seeds Investor software platform powers the value-based investing conversation financial advisors need to have with their clients and allows them to auto-deliver customized impact-investing portfolios that align client values, risk tolerance, and time horizons.

Adrian Grenier is co-founder of DuContra Ventures, which blends impact investing with transformative experiences and personal development. He is better known to audiences worldwide as a producer and actor who has appeared in more than 40 movies and television programs including HBO’s “Entourage,” Netflix’s “Click Bait” and movies such as “Drive Me Crazy” and “The Devil Wears Prada.”

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  • How Zach got Adrian’s attention in order to start working together.
  • What DuContra Ventures does.
  • What impact investing is and why it’s important.
  • Why Zach started Seeds, and what types of investors work with Seeds.
  • What DuContra looks for in companies wanting to raise capital.
  • What questions you should ask financial advisers if you’re looking to align your personal values and financial goals
  • Why Zach and Seeds decided to partner with Adrian and DuContra Ventures.
  • What Adrian considers a success when partnering with and investing in companies.
  • How Zach and Adrian ensure that their goals are aligned.
  • And much, much more!


Disclaimer: The transcript that follows has been generated using artificial intelligence. We strive to be as accurate as possible, but minor errors and slightly off timestamps may be present due to platform differences.

Adrian Grenier (00:03):

So I’ve been doing environmental work for a long time. I’ve started at least two nonprofits. So I’ve always come at life as wanting to help, wanting to be constructive and do something good in the world. And it wasn’t until recently that I realized at the end of the day, nonprofits are great, they do serve a purpose, but in a world that’s run by money, the way to really make change is through money.

Robert Leonard (00:32):

On today’s show, I chat with Zach Conway and Adrian Grenier about their partnership between Seeds and DuContra Ventures, what impact investing is and why it’s important, what DuContra look for in companies wanting to raise capital, how Zach and Adrian ensured their goals are aligned and much, much more. Zach Conway is the founder and CEO of Seeds Investor, which helps financial advisors deliver value-based investing portfolios to investors who want solid financial returns from investments that align with their values.

Robert Leonard (01:01):

Adrian Grenier is co-founder of DuContra Ventures, which blends impact investing with transformative experiences and personal development. He’s better known to audiences worldwide as a producer and actor who has appeared in more than 40 movies and television programs, including HBO’s Entourage, Netflix’s Click Bait, and movies such as Drive Me Crazy and The Devil Wears Prada. If you’ve been listening to the show for a while, you know that we’ve been searching for a co-host. And a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that we did find one. And his name is Clay, and he’s going to be starting to co-host the show starting next week with an episode with Simon Erickson.

Robert Leonard (01:38):

And then weeks after that, you’re not going to hear a ton from me on the Millennial Investing show. I’ll still be here from time to time co-hosting, but for the most part, Clay is going to be the main host of Millennial Investing going forward. You’ll still have me as the host of the Real Estate Investing show, but if you want to stay connected with me as I slowly transition out of the main host role of Millennial Investing, you can connect with me on social media, mainly on Twitter and Instagram at the Robert Leonard. I break down how real estate and money and stock investing works. And I’d love to connect with you all, hear about what you guys got going on, and stay in touch. Now, without further delay, let’s dive into this week’s episode with Zach Conway and Adrian Grenier.

Intro (02:21):

You’re listening to Millennial Investing by The Investor’s Podcast Network, where your hosts, Robert Leonard and Clay Fink, interview successful entrepreneurs, business leaders, and investors to help educate and inspire the millennial generation.

Robert Leonard (02:42):

Hey everyone, welcome back to the Millennial Investing Podcast. As always, I’m your host, Robert Leonard, and with me today, I have two guests, Zach Conway, and Adrian Grenier. Welcome to the show, guys.

Adrian Grenier (02:54):

Yeah, thanks.

Zachary Conway (02:55):

Great to be here.

Robert Leonard (02:57):

Tell us a bit about yourselves and also introduce yourselves so that people who are just listening to the audio version can put a name to the voice since they can’t see you like I can.

Zachary Conway (03:08):

So, yeah, thanks, Robert. To sum it up, I’m a dad of two daughters who are four and one years old. So that’s kind of most of my life, is chasing after the kids and being a hopefully good husband. That’s most of my life. But on the work side, I’m a financial advisor by background and I’ve actually grown up in the business because it’s a family business. My dad has been an advisor. We’re going on 40 years, so I’ve seen over many years how he’s built a business and how he works with clients. And I joined him in that business almost 10 years ago at this point. And what I love about being in that business is about how much… It’s really about people. I think people think a financial advisor, it’s about the dollars and cents, it’s about the math, and it’s really about understanding people and being a good listener shaping guidance around your understanding of who your clients really are.

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Zachary Conway (04:04):

And so in that business, we continue to have that be the focus. Really deeply understanding who a family is and what matters most to them. And that comes in the form of really understanding who they are beyond the balance sheet. So we need to understand where the money is and how it’s invested and how they’re saving and what they’re doing from a tax perspective and all of those traditional things. But for us, it’s always about understanding who they are in all of the other areas of life. And we arguably spend more time talking about that than the dollars and cents. So your health and your relationships, and you may be making a lot of money in what your job is, and that’s great from a financial planning perspective, but you actually find fulfillment in what you do for a living and quantifying satisfaction in those areas and hopefully delivering the right support across all of those areas of life.

Zachary Conway (05:03):

And as part of that, the conversation is often centered around values and understanding for families in particular, what kind of legacy do you want to create. How do you view the world and what do you want to empower your children to do, and what courses do you care about. And then create a plan around that. Historically in the business, that comes in the form of your nonprofit giving and maybe impact investments that you make. And we were supporting that in the business. And we had this moment several years ago, where we recognized this weird disconnection with what we were empowering those families to do with nonprofit giving that was really value-centered and particular impact investments, and then their long-term stock and bond portfolio. And those two things or three things were arguably pointed in different directions.

Zachary Conway (05:53):

So we’re helping to support you over here from a values perspective, we’re pointed in the other direction or misaligned in the portfolio that we’re delivering to you. So in that business and working with my dad and working with these client relationships, understanding that we need to fix that, how do we create alignment. After we understand who this family is, how do we make sure that all those buckets of money are actually pointed in the right direction? So that has been my career arc to lead me to building this company, Seeds, to support ourselves as advisors, and then hopefully other advisors in solving that fundamental problem.

Robert Leonard (06:32):

Go ahead, Adrian.

Adrian Grenier (06:33):

Hi, my name is Adrian Grenier. You may know me as an actor. I’ve been an actor for two decades or so, but what people may not know is that I’ve also been investing for about 15 years as well, casually for the most part until recently when I started working with my partner, Ba Minuzi, at Umana, and we started being more intentional about how we were investing and more active. Instead of passively receiving offers and opportunities, we were out there pursuing them. And we created DuContra Ventures, whose mission is to seek yields beyond money.

Adrian Grenier (07:15):

So we want the deeper aspect of business. We want to make money, which we’re doing quite well if I may, but really looking for businesses and companies like Zach. And I think very apropos that Zach started his conversation with his kids. He was talking about his children, and that really is our approach. Its creating relationships, finding the depth and the importance of what we’re actually trying to do in the world. Not just make money, but we’re trying to actually shape a world that our hearts know is possible. And so for us, it’s about working really closely with founders and making sure that they align with our values.

Adrian Grenier (08:01):

DuContra and Seeds really work really well together because we both have the same mission, which is to redefine wealth and realign our money, the value we have in the bank with our values that we have in our hearts. So we are very happy to invest and support Zach and the team in what they’re doing, which is creating tools that empower financial advisors to empower the people with money to actually do the things that they want to do anyway, they just don’t necessarily know-how. And so that’s the relationship in a nutshell and it’s been great so far.

Robert Leonard (08:38):

I know a bit about both of your backgrounds individually, a lot of what you just told us, but I don’t know how you guys met or even the full extent of what your relationship is today. So tell us a bit about how you two came to meet and what your relationship is like today.

Zachary Conway (08:53):

So it’s an interesting story, but it’s a simple story. I actually reached out to Adrian on LinkedIn. So we found each other on a social network platform. And I was one day thinking about building the business and obviously what we’re trying to do in the world and how to empower advisors, and Adrian’s face popped up as I’m scrolling through the platform-

Adrian Grenier (09:16):

And he swiped right. Let it just-

Zachary Conway (09:18):

Yeah. Exactly.

Adrian Grenier (09:19):

[crosstalk 00:09:19] of the day he swiped right on me.

Zachary Conway (09:20):

Exactly. I saw his face and like, “Man, this guy looks very, very familiar. How do I know this person?” And then obviously realized who it was. But it was also a realization of… I had, I think a general understanding of what Adrian was doing in the world beyond his acting career, but seeing that more deeply in just looking at the platform and what he’s been up to, and just having this realization very quickly as Adrian just pointed out that there was very clear exciting alignment with what we were doing. So obviously DuContra being in the venture space, thinking about values alignment from a venture perspective and Seeds more from a long term diversified portfolio perspective and just having a shared vision for if we can shift capital in these two different verticals in the same way at the same time and obviously have nonprofit giving the third pillar to that, there was a lot of alignment. So I was excited about that and yeah, swiped right, and we connected and just started the conversation and took it from there. And here we are.

Robert Leonard (10:28):

From your perspective, Adrian, I’m curious to hear, before we even get to why you invested, which we’ll talk about in a little bit, why’d you even respond? I know for me, I have a lot less “fame” than you do and I get tons of DMs. So I can only imagine that you have tons coming. So what did Zach say or do or overall what made it stand out?

Adrian Grenier (10:50):

This may come as a surprise, but I’m actually quite accessible not to give anyone listening any ideas, but also to give you ideas, I’m ready to work. So I’m ready to meet people and work on my mission with anyone who is aligned. So when I heard about what Zach was doing, it was like, oh yeah, of course, this is… At first blush, it seemed like, yeah, this could be something interesting. And I’ll be very honest, I’m not the business mind, I’m the visionary overall. But I have people working at DuContra that can really drill down into the business aspect and make sure that it is a viable pursuit financially and that we’re actually not going to lose our shirts on this, but we’re actually going to do well. Because if we don’t make money, we’re not going to be able to continue to do the good work we’re attempting to do.

Adrian Grenier (11:38):

So at first, it was all nice to it’s like, oh yeah, we want to make the world a better place, sure, sure. But now let’s drill down into the business aspect. And when we looked at the business, it was undeniable what a solid business concept it was and how Zach and the team were approaching it and their experience level and their commitment, it wasn’t just ESG for the sake of it to look good or to feel good about themselves. They’re really actually quite adept at this kind of business as well as their hearts are in the right place. And so it’s all those metrics that we look at before we say yes.

Robert Leonard (12:19):

For somebody that’s listening to the show that’s in a similar spot to Zach, who’s trying to get in contact with somebody such as yourself, what can they do to stand out and maybe get the attention of people like you? Maybe whether it’s investors or even potential customers, what can people do to get people interested?

Adrian Grenier (12:37):

I respect everyone who’s trying to start a business. First and foremost, I mean, whether it’s a values-aligned business or not, it’s not easy, but I think we need as much innovation as possible. We need a lot of people starting businesses, not from the ego just because they want to be a CEO, but people who have great ideas and actually want to make something in the world. So I support all young entrepreneurs and business people. I’ve started businesses myself. I know how hard it is. So I respect that. And then when it comes down to the things that I’m trying to do when mission alignment, I say just reach out to me. That’s fine. I’m happy to take a look at what you’re doing, but I’ll just say, I say no way more than I say yes. And that’s just the nature of the beast.

Adrian Grenier (13:24):

I mean, there are so many people, so many businesses, we can’t say no to all of them, obviously. And in fact, we’re only going to say yes to about 30 companies in the next couple of years. So we’re being very, very conservative. And that gives us the ability to focus on the companies and the entrepreneurs that we do make bets on. So feel free to reach out, feel free to pitch, but just know that it most likely we’ll be a no. That’s just the nature of it.

Robert Leonard (13:56):

Zach, from your perspective, I know it was kind of happenstance or happenchance, but what did you do to make sure that your message was seen by Adrian? Did you do anything creative? Did you even give that any consideration? Were you just sending a random message and hoping that it got through?

Zachary Conway (14:10):

I think I put some thought into it when I sat down and tried to think of the words I wanted to use and how I wanted to communicate what we were trying to accomplish as a business. But I think the focus in what I wanted to communicate was that alignment. Sort of, even from a business model perspective, we’re on similar paths and certainly have a very clear north star alignment in what we’re trying to do in the world, so speaking to that, here’s, you will have a very viable and incredible venture platform through this lens and we also think we’re going to have an incredible, very viable business model around long term diversified portfolio investing and financial advisors that sit in front of a lot of the wealth that exists across the country who are desperately looking for a solution as it relates to having a conversation around values and delivering the right portfolios. So I think speaking to both of those things, we have business model alignment, we think of what works in the same way, and obviously, philosophically we’re right in parallel as well.

Robert Leonard (15:18):

So what exactly is impact investing? You guys have mentioned impact investing ESG. What exactly is it and why have you made it a focus of both of your companies, the investment company, Adrian, that you have, and then also Seeds Zach.

Adrian Grenier (15:33):

So I’ve been doing environmental work for a long time. I’ve started at least two nonprofits. So I’ve always come at life as wanting to help, wanting to be constructive and do something good in the world. And it wasn’t until recently that I realized at the end of the day, nonprofits are great, they do serve a purpose. But in a world that’s run by money, the way to really make change is through money. And then I started looking at money. I read a couple of books, one of them in particular by Charles Eisenstein called Sacred Economics. And I started to realize that we all have a baseline education, a conditioning of money, and sometimes it’s not that healthy. So I do believe that we need to look at our own relationship to wealth and value and money and heal that on some level so that we don’t get distracted by a rat race trying to make money.

Adrian Grenier (16:27):

So for us at DuContra, we really want to redefine wealth and heal our relationship to money. And so we have a category that’s the future of finance, one of our verticals. And that is really to look at tools of equity and access and ways that people can have more access to the tools that build the world, which is money so that they can start to put them into action in the world and build the kind of businesses and build the kind of world that is aligned with their values. So that’s where Seeds comes in, really. They’re perfectly aligned with that particular vertical.

Zachary Conway (17:06):

I would just add, we think about terminology a lot, all the semantics that get thrown around as it relates to values in line investing, and I think the term impact investing sort of stands out. I think people kind of know it best. And I think almost as a result of that, that’s what they implement best to some extent, so you know what it means. In the same way that what it means when you kind of give a dollar to a nonprofit and see the effect of that dollar when you make an impact investment you’re investing in a full profit business that business hopefully has some sort of game plan beyond profit. What are they actually changing in the world in their very business model? And so in our business at the time, again, we were seeing families who were doing that.

Zachary Conway (17:50):

So they were solving a nonprofit side and we were supporting that. They were solving [inaudible] impact investing side and we were supporting that. But when you look at, as Adrian said, the then long-term diversified portfolio, all the rest of the money was antithetical. So that’s where we think of the term, ESG integration, where you can still have a more traditional exposure to companies that we all know that are household name companies and have a risk profile portfolio that’s in alignment with your risk profile as an investor, that’s arguably a little bit less risk than what you may be doing on the impact testing side, but have it be ESG integrated.

Zachary Conway (18:32):

So owning blue-chip companies in a diversified portfolio where corporate behavior is not the opposite of what you’re trying to do on the impact side, making sure that you have this baseline of values in that long term diversified portfolio by way of ESG integration, and then keep doing your impact investing, keep doing your nonprofit giving. I remember Adrian being on the first call, us speaking for the first time. Adrian used the analogy with those free buckets of driving with the parking brake. Because you’re trying to solve all these things over here, but your long-term portfolio again is doing the opposite. So that’s what we want to fix.

Adrian Grenier (19:12):

Look, there are a lot of catchphrases that make their rounds from time to time in each epoch. There’s sustainability, regenerative, impact, ESG, all these terms, and a lot of times they can be vague, especially when we’re talking about the intangible. A lot of times we understand zeros and ones, we can measure them, we know money, we can calculate it. You know how much you have in the bank, you know what it’s worth. That’s one of the benefits of our current monetary system, our currency is that it really can be measurable. But when it comes to the human experience and the things that really make life worth living that can often be a little bit vague. And unfortunately, some companies do use that ambiguity to get away with some really gnarly greenwashing and the like, and they throw around the words’ impact and don’t really.

Adrian Grenier (20:12):

And so we have this challenge also making sure that we’re not doing the same thing. So we say impact, but what is impact? I mean, you can have a positive impact or negative impact, right? And I think at DuContra, we’re very… I like to think we’re very mature and we’re not naively Pollyanna about it. We really want to make sure that we’re looking at the whole picture and understanding the trade-offs. Not everything is going to be absolutely perfect. There is no absolute fantasy or a solution to any one problem and anything we do is going to have some impact, both good and maybe some bad. So we have to really find that balance. But when you look at tools like Seeds, they’re actually able to start to tweak and drill down into the minutia and the details of those levers so that we really can get a more accurate picture of what impact means.

Adrian Grenier (21:07):

So these companies are really helpful to us because we like to remain relatively agnostic and hands off and say, look, we don’t know exactly what impact is. We want to empower people, give people the chance to decide in a sovereign way what impact is so that they can apply their money in that way. If we start to dictate it, nobody has one right answer. So these tools empower the individual to actually make those choices and then help to give the tools, to put a little color to what impact really means and what ESG really is.

Robert Leonard (21:42):

Other than just seeds. What are some other companies that might be able to give us some color that you guys have invested in at DuContra?

Adrian Grenier (21:50):

We have four verticals. One, as I mentioned, Future of Finance, one is commune tasks. So tools that bring people together, businesses that allow people to commune and work together, and then human flushing, which is the up-leveling of the individual. So tools of health, wellness, mental health, so that individuals can be at their optimal performance so they can make the most sense of the world and make the best decisions and then do our consumer goods. So what we consume and how. So across all of those four verticals, we think that we can actually empower people to be their best, do what humans do that is different from all other animals, which is work together, collaborate and work on things together, and then be a little bit more responsible of what they consume and how, and then most importantly, the tool of money, making sure that we get that right so that they have the tools they need, the access they need to that cash to go do the good work.

Robert Leonard (22:54):

Zach, what are the questions that investors interested in aligning their personal values and financial goals should ask their financial advisors?

Zachary Conway (23:03):

It’s a great question. And the macro answer is to ask your advisor or really ask yourself, why hasn’t this been put in front of me yet? Why isn’t this part of the default experience? When we think of what we’re trying to solve for the financial advisor, it’s, as we’ve talked about, how do you frame up this conversation so you feel empowered to go through an assessment process and investors really understand who they are and then give them the right portfolio solution that aligns. And our thesis is, again, that should be a default conversation that you’re having. And so if you have an existing advisor and that first meeting was agnostic of values and was still just about, hey, what’s your risk tolerance and your time horizon, and here’s your model basket of ETFs and mutual funds that you’re going to pay me to manage, I think that paradigm is going to shift dramatically.

Zachary Conway (24:03):

And so I think as the investor thinking about, shouldn’t my advisor, maybe be asking me these things and understanding me in this way more deeply than arguably they have before. So getting past that point. So assuming that the advisor has engaged in that conversation to begin with, I think understanding as the investor, again, that alignment across values, what the advisor can do as they understand who you are understanding as the investor, if I’m doing this over here with charitable giving, making impact investments, how do I see and understand the collective impact across all of those buckets of money. And so asking your advisor to shape that story for you to really more deeply understand what you own today. So that’s part of the first part. What do you own today and where can I go in a long-term portfolio? And then how does that long-term portfolio, again, align with everything else that hopefully the advisor is supporting you in doing from a values perspective.

Adrian Grenier (25:08):

I really resonate with that. I see from a storytelling perspective, from a filmmaking perspective. Each business you invest in is a plot point on a story, and what story are you telling? And so in many ways, giving the financial advisors the opportunity to start to articulate and communicate that story in a way that an investor can see, oh, I’m not just arbitrarily, randomly investing in businesses to make money, but I’m actually telling a story with where my money’s going and how that actually plays out in the real world. It’s the ultimate story ever told. It’s our lives that are unfolding before us. So yeah, I respond to that.

Zachary Conway (25:52):

I would just add to that story. If you can tell that story as the financial advisor, what that means for you in differentiating your value proposition is massive. Because again, if it was about, I’m just going to understand these financial metrics about you and your risk tolerance and your time horizon. And then my value proposition is to give you a portfolio that arguably millennial investors could go open on a robo platform for maybe even a smaller cost you need to reshape the value proposition around. I’m actually going to more deeply understand you in a way that a robo platform never could and then create this story around that. And then that story and your understanding of that person is at the center of the relationship forever. When you go into those review meetings as an advisor, it’s not just, hey, what has the performance been versus benchmarks because I’m the smartest asset manager on the planet. It’s more about, hey, remember when we built this thing together because I really understand who you are and what makes you tick as an investor, and here’s the impact we’re creating together and how this thing remains in alignment with who you are. So creating that story and delivering that story is, I think, fundamental for advisors going forward.

Robert Leonard (27:10):

Have you found, Zach, that there’s a lot of people who historically haven’t connected the importance of money and doing things that historically people haven’t considered taking money? Being in the position that I’ve been in, I’ve talked to a lot of people about money and I’ve come across quite a few people who say that they don’t care about money. They think I don’t care about money, I don’t need money, I don’t need to invest et cetera. And then we start talking and I’m not a financial advisor. I’m just having conversations with these people as my friends or even family members or people that have just been in my life. And they’re like, I don’t care about money. And then we start talking about the things they do care about. Just one example is somebody wanted to open like a shelter for dogs. And I’m like, that’s a great mission goal, whatever you want to call it, but how are you going to do that without money? I understand you don’t care about money itself, but you need money to actually open that dog shelter or whatever it is you want to do. So do you find there’s a lot of people that you’re trying to help see and connect the dots between their more philanthropic adventures and their investment goals?

Zachary Conway (28:16):

I love that question because I think what they’re communicating when they say that they don’t care about money is [that] they don’t like all the negative aspects that come with money. All the problems that can be generated from money in so many different ways, obviously. And again, going back to the value proposition for a financial advisor to literally reshape the definition of money for that investor client and for them to better understand how they can feel empowered to use money as a tool and to push away those negative issues that they’re coming to the table with and have them understand that no, this is about if we can map out a game plan together around who you are and what matters to you, all those things, Robert, you just mentioned, then we can make it happen. And money happens to be part of how we solve for that. But we think about it through the lens of it being a tool, as opposed to this just mechanism for transactions. It’s a thing for us to empower us in the things we want to accomplish, but it goes back to that blueprint. Understanding who that person is, the legacy that they want to create, what’s most important to them, and then you reshape the definition of money and become useful and hopefully not as detrimental as it can be for all the reasons we know.

Robert Leonard (29:32):

Adrian, what did you set as your goal with your investment in Seeds? What would you consider as a success for this type of investment for your fund?

Adrian Grenier (29:43):

We do have our investors to look out for as well and they want to see good returns. We have a pretty good track record, but for us, this is a long-term relationship by nature. So over the next eight to 10 years. We want to see seeds grow healthy and of course, we want to make our money back and then some. And frankly, we’d love to be able to reinvest and help with their growth. We’re not in it for a short-term gain, we’re not looking to pump and dump, so to speak. We understand that entrepreneurs that mean it are in it for the long term and have to… they need the support to overcome many of the challenges that entrepreneurs have to face when they’re starting a business and they’re growing. So success for us is obviously a healthy return, but most importantly, being able to support our entrepreneurs.

Robert Leonard (30:45):

How do you guys make sure that your goals are aligned? I think you probably have the same incentive structure, but you might not necessarily have the exact same goals, whether it’s from the entrepreneur’s perspective and the investor’s perspective. So how do you guys ensure that the company’s goals, Seed’s goals, are aligned with that of the investor, such as DuContra and maybe other investors that there are. How do you make sure that everything is aligned?

Adrian Grenier (31:09):

Don’t sell us, Zach.

Zachary Conway (31:12):

That’s it. Done.

Adrian Grenier (31:15):

Yeah, that’s it. That’s the answer. I think it goes back to what we were talking about earlier in that north star alignment. So you’re never going to have perfect symmetry in… perfect alignment from an incentives perspective. We hope to not be in business relationships, have an economic structure like the one we’re seeing play out with Facebook. So we hope to be much further away on the spectrum toward alignment, but it goes back to, again, that north star. So DuContra as a venture platform is extremely hands-on and supportive in the day-to-day and how we’re going to build this business in the Seeds elements of what we’re doing. But if you’re not aligned in what is this bigger picture goal, which of course includes the return. So we’re certainly on the same page when it comes to that and the financial success we want to have with this business over many, many years. But if you’re not aligned with that bigger picture, you create friction with that more day-to-day discussion.

Adrian Grenier (32:21):

So in my opinion, there’s never going to be perfect symmetry, but it’s a pretty incredible relationship where philosophically we’re on the same page. From a business perspective we are very much on the same page in what we’re building and the paradigm we’re trying to change and obviously the returns that we’re trying to create together. So I really couldn’t ask for better symmetry.

Zachary Conway (32:46):

Yeah. And look, I don’t want to get to woo woo, but there is an instinct and a feel like you meet people and you get to know them and yeah, sometimes you just have to make a gut decision about who you trust. And these are the people you’re going to be working with for a long time. And we reserve the right to work with people we like. I mean that’s part of it too. I mean, you want to find a job that you enjoy, so you don’t have to work a day in your life, as they say, and also surround yourself with people that you admire, that you trust and that you believe are not going to stab you in the back and they’re going to actually do what they say. And a lot of that is instinctive. A lot of that is feel, and don’t discount that. You work with a lot of stuff sometimes, and there’s something that you just don’t trust about them, and I think life is too short.

Robert Leonard (33:40):

One of the problems that I have with podcasts is that too often times people just listen to content and they just keep churning through it and they just go on to the next episode. And I think education and learning about everything we’ve talked about today are super important. But I think actually taking action on what you’re learning is even more important. So I created a segment of the show called the Action Plan, where I asked the guests three questions to give everybody listening to the show three things to go do when they’re done with this episode. So the first question for you both is what is a habit or principle that you follow in your life that you think has had a big impact on your success?

Zachary Conway (34:19):

I have a simple one. It’s not too complicated. Although implementing it as with anything, it can be a struggle, but getting more sleep is a simple habit that I’ve been trying to implement myself a little bit of a struggle when you have a four and one-year-old and are running a startup, but just trying to take care of yourself and reading about sleep more and more and how important it is, and to be able to get up every morning and actually go implement all the things that are rattling around in your brain. And I think it’s one of those things that strangely people discount and short every day. So a little bit of a random answer. That’s my answer.

Adrian Grenier (34:58):

Not random at all, but closely related to mine, which was going to be meditation. Just taking the time to reflect and sometimes you get in the rhythm of things and it’s hard to stop and you forget what you’re not seeing. You may not notice a solution or an opportunity that you’re driving past. So take the time to really observe. And as I was saying before, like, I’m accessible because there are so many opportunities out there that will benefit me. Sometimes people can get ahead of themselves and ignore the little people because at first glance don’t seem to have an opportunity, but when you take a step back, you pause, you meditate, you start to see, wow there are opportunities that are ahead of the curve that I could probably get involved in. And I speak to a lot of diplomats, a lot of celebrities, a lot of people with stature, but it’s the people that you meet on the street, or at a bar that often bring a lot of value to my life.

Robert Leonard (36:02):

So there you go, everybody listening. There are two habits that you can implement, get more sleep and practice meditation. For the next one, Adrian and Zach, what has been the most influential book in your life? And I always like to distinguish, it doesn’t necessarily have to be your favorite. I think there’s a difference between your favorite and what maybe had the most impact on you. So what has had the most impact?

Adrian Grenier (36:24):

I mentioned it before, and I’ll just say it again, Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein and that’s relevant to this conversation. It helps shape my thinking around the creation of DuContra and how we’ve approached finances and impact and in investing. So check that out. Especially if you’re working in money, anybody who deals with money, which is 100% of us, have a read.

Zachary Conway (36:50):

My answer, general answer. I don’t have a specific book title, but I was thinking about… I’ve read a lot of books and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to become a better writer, which again, may sound a bit random, but I think we’ve discounted the importance of the written word when we’re just dropping it down to how many characters are in a tweet and that’s the way we communicate with each other. And I think writing well is a bit of a lost art and if you’ve mastered it, it translates into a lot of powerful things within a business and how you communicate what you’re doing as a business and how you communicate with your team and the outside world. So yeah, pick up a book on how to write better than maybe you do today.

Robert Leonard (37:33):

When this episode is over, other than implementing the habit that we talked about and those two books, what is one action that somebody listening to the show should take to improve their life, career, or business?

Zachary Conway (37:48):

So I’ll take it back to what we’re trying to do, the values-aligned investing. I would say kind of do a gut check on what you own. You really have clarity on where your money is. And I think arguably, most people don’t. So they know what they’re doing, again, they’re non-profit giving these proactive things, but in these passive long-term portfolios, now we see investors who care about criminal justice issues, for example, and then if you own a broad index ETF and you own private prison companies that are in business to put and keep people in prison. So you’re out in the world stressing about very important values-related issues, and I think often unwittingly doing the opposite in your portfolio. So I think the core takeaway to that is, and Adrian speaks to this often and it’s important. This is a way to reduce your stress as it relates to what you worry about.

Zachary Conway (38:50):

In other words, having values alignment in your portfolio is arguably the easiest, most passive thing you can do that arguably at scale, as other investors do it will have the largest back. So I worry about when I forget to recycle something, but knowing that I make sure that my money is doing what I need it to do and reduce that overall stress about what’s going on in the world and what I care about. So that’s the takeaway. Gut check. What do I own? And yeah, go knock on your financial advisor’s door or look at yourself and try to assess that.

Adrian Grenier (39:27):

I would say, take up permaculture. Changed my life and I highly recommend it. There are principles within permaculture and a whole system’s thinking design theory that will help you in all aspects of your life. Not just if you’re a farmer or building a garden, but if you’re doing anything, really, [it’s] how you manage teams, how you manage your business, how you cultivate resiliency within your business, I highly recommend taking the permaculture course.

Robert Leonard (39:59):

Before we give a handoff to where people can find you both, I would like to wrap up the show by turning the tables and letting the guests ask me a question. Instead of me just asking all the questions the whole time, I’d like to let the guests ask me something. So since we have two of you today, you can both ask me a question. What question do you guys have for me?

Adrian Grenier (40:20):

Gel or mousse?

Robert Leonard (40:22):

I don’t know the difference. I just picked gel. It looks good and I go with it. And I’m just teasing it for all you podcast listeners, you can’t see, we have great hair in this crew. The only problem with my hair is I’m balding, but medium shine, medium hold is what I go for. Go ahead, Zach.

Zachary Conway (40:44):

Yeah, I would ask you as you think about your audience, that core, my generation millennial generation, what do you see as, as you talk to these types of investors, as maybe being a roadblock or a bit of a hindrance to wrapping their heads around this idea of values alignment in portfolios. So the ability to kind of bring to life, all the things we’ve been talking about today, what’s that first hurdle you see when you go into conversations with people?

Robert Leonard (41:15):

I really haven’t found much of a hurdle at all. I think our generation and even generations behind us, Gen Zs, typically what they’re called, they and we seem to be a lot more accepting of it. When I first… I’m only 26, so I’m super young, still, or relatively. But when I first started studying investing, when I was like 14, 15, you never heard anything about impact investing or ESG. It was very minimal. And now tons of people reach out to me all the time talking about how they want to make sure their investments are aligned with their values. And you hear about it on social media and you hear about it on the news and you hear about it all over the place. So I really don’t think there’s much of a hurdle for millennials and Gen Z who are trying to align their values with their investing.

Robert Leonard (42:01):

Now, if I did have to pick one, I think the one thing I do here is, and this is more from people, I think they’re a little bit more educated on investing rather than just completely beginners. But sometimes they have a hesitation towards returns. They want to invest in a way that is aligned with their values, but they don’t want to sacrifice returns. They understand compound interest and they understand how important that is. So they don’t want to sacrifice that in order to just buy companies that are aligned with what they see as the right way to view the world. So I think if I had to pick one I would say it’s that, but I don’t think it’s a major, major issue for millennials, new investors, gen Z investors.

Zachary Conway (42:41):

And if I could speak to the returns question, because of course, that is the answer. That’s what you hear as maybe hopefully the only hurdle. And we think of it as what people have anchored in as the conventional wisdom that there is this required give up. You’re not going to be able to reach the same returns if you want to bring value into your portfolio. And what’s interesting as the industry has evolved is now really the opposite. This is now a framework to assess companies through a different lens that still comes down to a fundamental analysis of companies.

Zachary Conway (43:21):

In other words, if you’re terrible to your workforce or you make a product that hurts the consumer, as a pragmatic investor, I would hesitate to invest in that company. Agnostic of values. But if I also care about people and I want to make sure that companies are behaving appropriately as it relates to the product that they make and how they treat their workforce, well then, hey, I get that too. There’s an investment thesis now behind assessing companies through this lens and we just have this incredible secondary benefit of how it can, at the same time, align with what you care about. So I appreciate that answer because I think hopefully we can reshape that a bit as people better understand that that was the conventional wisdom. Unfortunately, we’re kind of breaking through that going forward.

Robert Leonard (44:10):

Yeah, I think it’s interesting. We’re seeing the gap close between companies that are purely profit-driven and those who have a bigger mission and Starbucks is a good example of that. I think there’s a lot of research that’s coming out too that’s showing companies that take better care of their employees and provide better benefits and things like that actually can provide even outsized returns because the company ends up performing better. So I think we’re closing that gap in terms of people’s concerns about investing in companies that are doing good and also achieving satisfactory returns. Thank you both for joining me on the show today. Zach, where can people go to learn more about you and Seeds and, Adrian, where can they go to connect with you, learn more about yourself, and also DuContra Ventures.

Zachary Conway (44:56):

So like I found Adrian, feel free to find me on LinkedIn. I love to talk about people, how they think about this industry, and the future of investing. And in terms of what we’re doing with Seeds, come find us just at our website seedsinvestor.com, and yeah, love to talk.

Adrian Grenier (45:12):

Yeah. I’m also on LinkedIn, of course, Instagram at Adrian Grenier, and then ducontra.ventures, while it’s @ducontra.ventures, as well as ducontra.ventures, www.ducontra.ventures as the website. So check us out.

Robert Leonard (45:30):

I will be sure to put links to both of their resources and some of the other resources, some of the books that we talked about throughout the show in the show notes below for anybody that’s interested in checking those out. Guys, thank you both so much for joining me.

Adrian Grenier (45:43):

Hey, thanks a lot.

Zachary Conway (45:44):

Thank you.

Robert Leonard (45:45):

All right, guys. That’s all I had for this week’s episode of Millennial Investing. I’ll see you again next week.

Outro (45:52):

Thank you for listening to TIP. Make sure to subscribe to We Study Billionaires by The Investor’s Podcast Network. Every Wednesday, we teach you about Bitcoin and every Saturday, we study billionaires and the financial markets. To access our show notes, transcripts, or courses, go to theinvestorspodcast.com. This show is for entertainment purposes only. Before making any decision, consult a professional. This show is copyrighted by The Investor’s Podcast Network. Written permission must be granted before syndication or rebroadcasting.


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