I hope your Friday is going well. Welcome back to another Ask Ash post, in which I ask WatchMojo founder and CEO Ashkan Karbasfrooshan questions on various topics, ranging from what is going on in the news, to career advice for students and entrepreneurs.
Today, I wanted to talk about the Granicus Group. For those who do not know, Granicus Group is an investment, and holding company founded by Ash that manages his investments in media, real estate, and finance. Granicus Group seeded with WatchMojo’s first and only investment, which would see the company become one of the biggest media and entertainment brands in the world today.
I wanted to ask Ash more about how he founded the group, and how he separates interests and conflicts between Granicus Group and WatchMojo.
1) What led you to create the Granicus Group? What is its purpose?
Well, I set up Granicus Group back in 2004 when I published The Confessions of Alexander the Great which was my second book and written as the autobiography of Alexander. The purpose was to have a vehicle where I could centralize my interests in storytelling and entrepreneurship. Fast forward to 2006 I started WatchMojo, we lost a ton of money until 2012, got turned down by 100 venture capitalists, but once we broke even, I proceeded to reinvest aggressively in internal projects through the WatchMojo 2020 initiative – some of which were successful, some which were not. By 2018 it was pretty clear that innovator’s dilemma happened to companies of all sizes and stages and not every opportunity by and we wanted to pursue would make sense internally. Ideally, I would’ve preferred to pour resources through WatchMojo, hire employees and create jobs through WatchMojo, but it was clear that the profile and disposition of an entrepreneur differed from that of an intrapreneur, let alone employees (in fact, even not all employees are created equally).
It was a very expensive and painful lesson when I realized that not everyone shared an entrepreneur’s vision, ambition, drive, persistence, execution, and so on. Thus, I proceeded to invest in external projects, backing the next generation of entrepreneurs and storytellers. It made sense to flow that through Granicus Group. I’ve explained the significance of Granicus in Drive and Ambition.
2) What’s the relationship between WatchMojo and Granicus?
Granicus from an investment perspective is essentially a family office but the ambition and plan are to make it a full-fledged investment vehicle that has an interest in private and public equity, meaning startups and stocks. The reality is WatchMojo as a midsized media company has a very specific investment objective and thesis and the kinds of companies and individuals that make sense for us to support either through minority or majority investment or outright acquisitions, are relatively limited in scope and scale. Those would ultimately help us find other companies who have found product/market fit, or as I like to call it, platform/format fit, meaning someone who is either doing well in (for example) fashion & style on Instagram, or in e-commerce on Amazon and so on. Admittedly for WatchMojo to invest in a minority stake for food robotics may not make sense, but for me, it’s an area that I feel is exciting and can help many around the world…
3) How do you address possible conflicts of interest between Granicus and WatchMojo and how do you align the interests of the two groups?
Great and fair question. I love business law and ethics, organizational behavior, and all that stuff, so from the get-go,v I was very clear and adamant that this was a separate initiative to avoid distracting WatchMojo and its employees from our vision and mission. If and when Granicus makes an investment, WatchMojo would only pursue a commercial agreement if it made sense for all the parties: the startup we invest in, WatchMojo, and Granicus… The reality is it would be unfair and unethical for me to force WatchMojo and its employees to promote a venture solely because Granicus has invested. That said, as a perennial problem solver and statesman, I have thought of a plan to align WatchMojo with Granicus and its portfolio companies, making it a win-win-win, and it’s something that we will be presented shortly to the stakeholders’ involved! I’d love to dive in deeper today, but I have to run off for a soccer match!
Lastly, if you want to submit questions to Ash directly, you can do so by clicking the link here: https://watchmojo.com/suggest/AskMojo%20-%20WatchMojo’s%20founder%20Ash