Very few 26-year-olds achieve such swift success that they become full-time investors, but Michael Kmetz stands above the crowd.
Two years ago, Kmetz exited his corporate job with ambitions to be his own boss. When he first started, there were no banks, business loans, or private equity groups available to assist. It was just two people in an apartment in Dallas, TX. Originally, the oil and gas land acquisitions company was self-funded with savings Kmetz and the founders accumulated from their first jobs post college. The initial months were unrelenting: He and his team were making 100 cold calls daily, constantly pitching deals to dozens of private equity-backed funds, grinding out 70-hour weeks, and foregoing weekends. After expending tens of thousands in startup costs, Kmetz was rapidly heading towards being broke at the end of 2020. And then suddenly, akin to many familiar success stories, persistence and luck had a fortunate convergence.
Despite the pressures from coronavirus and the worst market crash in a century, his fledgling company eventually beat the odds by remaining lean and creating a proprietary lead sourcing platform that identified landowners who were statistically more likely to sell and intersected them with areas where his company could pay premiums. By the end of 2020, the company notched over eight figures of revenue and a multi-million-dollar valuation.
Kmetz credits perseverance, a capable team, and God’s grace with pushing his company to substantial success. “I thought about giving up, but quitting was never an option,” said Kmetz. “I’m proof that you don’t have to let youth or lack of resources prevent you from achieving your dreams.” He believes you can always become a winner if you are hungry enough.
The newly minted accredited investor feels he’s just getting started; however, he is no stranger to entrepreneurship. Kmetz created his first online business in middle school with his brothers selling Nerf darts on eBay. As a senior at Texas Tech University, the Texas Business Hall of Fame Foundation honored him with the prestigious Future Texas Business Legend Award for demonstrating exceptional entrepreneurial potential. Since receiving that award in 2016, he has remained active in the foundation’s scholar alumni group and is grateful for their inspiration and consistent support.
Currently, Kmetz and his business partner, Jake Swaney, are utilizing earnings from their first company to expand into commercial real estate and angel investing. One of their angel investments in an early-stage Silicon Valley startup, which uses quantum computing to streamline new materials discovery, has multiplied by 40X the original placement as of August 2021.
“With high risk comes high rewards. Sometimes, you have to put it on black. It’s scary and can be risky, but that is the fastest way to achieve life-changing results... It doesn’t have to be solely a financial risk. You can start a business with next to zero capital if you dare to try and have good strategy,” said Kmetz.
In addition to his startup successes, he was selected to be an early investor and founder of Integro Bank, a de novo bank catered towards small businesses and nonprofits. Kmetz believes that the developing bank will help entrepreneurs receive the financial resources and expert guidance that many, including himself, need initially.
Regarding the future, Kmetz plans to double down investing in startups and commercial real estate. “It’s amazing to be blessed with this type of opportunity so soon.” His original team has expanded too – he now works primarily remotely with a group of about a dozen various employees and strategic partners. As his business and investment portfolios grow, he wants to pursue more philanthropic endeavors along with investing in up-and-coming entrepreneurs.
With several promising investments and ventures blossoming, the rising 26-year-old entrepreneur is not showing any signs of stopping. Why would he? The sky is the limit for Michael Kmetz.
What motivated you to start Dark Horse? How did the idea come about?
I had heard about the industry from working and going to school in West Texas. The idea came about from chatting with a buddy over drinks. I saw that there was room to be more targeted within the space, rather than using a shotgun-type approach to generating and closing deals.
Employees are one of the most important players to succeed in business. What do you look for in an employee?
I’m always looking for someone who is willing to do whatever it takes to be successful, treats others well, and has a good attitude about challenges. I’d hire someone who wants to be successful to improve themselves first over my company. Pursuing excellence to better yourself is a much more powerful motivator than doing it just for someone else.
What is unique about your business? Is there a competitive advantage that you have over the rest?
We achieved success by staying lean and developing a lead sourcing platform that identified landowners who were likely to sell and merged them with areas where our company could pay above market value and beat out competition. That was definitely the business niche which allowed us to thrive in brutal external market conditions.
What are the three best pieces of advice that you would give to anyone starting a business? What do they need to know from the very beginning?
Make a plan and go for it when you are young with lower stakes. You won’t regret chasing your big dreams, and you’ll be surprised by how capable you are.
Be a student of life. Read as much as possible and never stop learning. That mindset alone will compound success dramatically and elevate you in all aspects of life.
It’s going to be more complicated than you think. View challenges as an opportunity to grow. Personal transformation is worth more than gold.