Len Giancola
Aug 13 · 10 min read

I had the pleasure of interviewing Nishant Reddy and Simmon Saraf. Prior to Co-Founding Satya Capital, Nishant founded NMR Capital, a full-service investment firm focused on real estate development and early seed investing in the technology sector. Through NMR Capital Nishant has had extensive experience in building, funding, and launching several mobile applications, and technology based ventures. Prior to NMR Capital Nishant spent over a decade in investment banking and private equity between J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo. Nishant holds a B.S. in Finance and Economics from American University, a Master’s in Real Estate Finance & Development from a joint program between American University and Georgetown University. Currently, Nishant is pursuing a degree in Horticulture from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Prior to Co-Founding Satya Capital, Simmon was the COO/CCO at Fort Hill Investment Partners LLC, a ~$600MM credit fund. Prior to Fort Hill, Simmon worked at the CIT Group Inc., where he helped establish the firm’s Sponsor Finance platform, originating, structuring and underwriting credit transactions. Prior to CIT, he worked in the Equities Division at Goldman Sachs & Co. in NYC and he worked at Farallon Capital Management LLC in San Francisco. He holds a B.S. in Agricultural Economics from the University of California, Davis and an MBA in Finance and Management from the NYU Stern School of Business.


Can you share with us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?

For both of us, it was following our passion. We each made the leap to the cannabis industry for different reasons but both realized what a great opportunity it was. It was a chance for us to build something special. I’ve always been passionate about the plant and have been enjoying its benefits for many years. My personal journey with cannabis has evolved over the years, and through this evolution I really started to understand the true potential of cannabis. As I gained more exposure to using cannabis to complement and enhance my wellness, I began thinking about the future potential of cannabis as a consumer business and the rest is history. Simmon on the other hand, was not originally a consumer, but first became exposed to the plant through his mom’s cancer treatment. Fortunately, she made a full recovery, and Simmon was instantly intrigued. He knew he could bring his years of experience from the hedge fund industry to help lead the cannabis industry, an equally regulated space. Likewise, he was driven to play a part in helping others benefit from medicinal cannabis. This led us to start Satya Capital.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

It’s definitely been a unique journey to get to this stage, and looking back at it, it’s very surreal to be where we are today. With that being said, we are both extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished and where we are headed. When we got into the space several years ago, we were focused on building best-in-class cannabis businesses, and creating a new standard for what defines high quality products. We’ve been fortunate to be able to accomplish that, and continue to innovate, but we never expected to have the opportunity to advise a person running for President. That truly was a humbling and empowering experience. It’s incredible to share your work and expertise alongside one of the country’s great leaders and if we’re lucky future president. Likewise, it’s incredible to see his passion and belief in the industry. It was a tremendous opportunity to get to help Senator Cory Booker learn more about legalization, the opportunities the industry can create, and the tremendous good we can achieve on a social justice platform. As a minority led company, this was a new found passion and professional highlight for both of us. It truly was the first time we were able to combine our professional skills, and entrepreneurial success to promote widespread good, and really make a positive impact on society.

Are you working on any exciting projects now?

Absolutely. We are in a period of rapid growth across all of our companies, so everyday is full of exciting new expansion efforts. I would have to say the project that excites me the most right now is Satya Capital’s venture raise. We’re in the process of raising $75MM to be invested across the entire cannabis vertical, including growth capital for our existing portfolio companies. Sitting in the seats we both sit in, we’re at ground zero for the cannabis boom. As a result, we often have a first look at really incredible investment opportunities. Likewise, because of our tenure and track record, we really understand how to source and vet highly lucrative opportunities. It’s an exciting time, and we are very much bullish on the industry and what we as an investment fund can achieve for our investors.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?

Excite:

  1. The ability to pioneer and help innovate within a movement far greater than ourselves
  2. To continue pushing to be the very best operators of cannabis companies, and never lose focus on why we started in the first place; and to create the highest quality cannabis products for the consumer market place. The goal has always been to create products we would be proud to use ourselves.
  3. Using our roles as leaders within the industry, and our platform of best-in-class companies to inspire and promote social justice. There has never been a more stimulating, purposeful professional drive for the two of us. We want to use our continued success to help share the wealth, and empower all those would could use a friendly hand.

Concern:

  1. Limited license programs that favor the very wealthy and connected, that result is continued economic and social inequality. The legalization movement is far greater of an opportunity than simply dollars and profits, and we as leaders within the industry have to continue to fight to use legalization as a way to stimulate positive impact.
  2. Lack of a reliable banking system. It’s no secret that the industry is growing, and several states have already realized tremendous economic stimulus. However, state governments haven’t moved fast enough to provide the banking solutions that cannabis enterprises require. In order to sustain continued success of the industry, we need to solve this problem as soon as possible.
  3. The black market. As states continue to legalize, they need to conterminously lay the groundwork to support the industry. In California, for example, we have three times the number of illegal dispensaries as legal dispensaries. This is obviously a huge problem for several reasons, including making it extremely difficult for tax paying, licensed, legal operators to stay in business.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

The most stimulating movement today is utilizing legalization to promote social justice. The cannabis rush has everyone focused on profits and tax revenue; however, not enough people are talking about the social responsibility we all have to use this once in a lifetime opportunity to do good. It’s no secret that unfair, racially bias cannabis laws have been destroying minority communities for decades. There is a known problem with a clear channel to promote change, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that this change happens.

Cannabis is set to bring billions of dollars of tax revenue. States could use this revenue to invest in their public schools, inner cities, vocational programs, drug education & rehabilitation, and felony expungements. There are countless causes that need attention and resources. As a result, it’s a core value of Satya Capital, to create a positive impact for all the communities we work within. We hope that this will motivate others in the industry to do the same, and hopefully find it as rewarding as we have.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

Great question, they can follow us at the following Instagram handles and websites:

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’m not sure a mistake is ever funny in the moment, but fortunately hindsight allows for levity towards any situation. Personally, the most comical situation I can remember was during our early days of fundraising. We had secured a potentially lucrative business meeting with a former NBA All Star who was trying to get into the cannabis business. He had already invested a significant amount of money into the space and was intrigued by our business acumen and proposition. We schedule the meeting at 11AM on a Tuesday, as we were focused on trying to pack our schedule and maximize productivity. However, our so called meticulous planning was quickly thrown off course. Before we knew it, our meeting had morphed to include a group of his childhood friends excited to see the amazing cannabis we produce. They begin rolling NBA sized blunts, including lettuce wraps. As far as we were concerned we were still in a marketing meeting, and wanted to connect with these guys, so partake we did. But let’s just say the remainder of the day was not productive and we decided to no longer take mid-day meetings with any athletes when samples were present.


None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I think we can point to many different people throughout our lives and careers that have been inspirational and helpful. But as it relates to this particular venture, there is one person that stands out greater than any other, Ravi.

Ravi is a successful entrepreneur who provided us encouragement and support throughout our entire journey. He supported us with a seed investment, by introducing us to his friends who became investors. He provided a steady hand during rocky moments, letting us know that every new beginning has its rough moments. His voice helped us find the poise we needed to effectuate the plans we put in place.

Throughout our process, Ravi would make the right introductions as we needed them. We did not always follow the advice or use the services he offered, but this allowed us to provide a reality check and a point of reference, which is invaluable, especially when you are building a company and a brand.

This industry is young dynamic and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?

Given the nature of the industry, we are not allowed to use the same traditional marketing strategies as large legacy companies. Additionally, a large segment of our consumer base is still learning about our products and the industry. Because of regulations limiting our strategy and our ability to educate consumers, we have had to focus on how to directly communicate with them. Our approach was not to rethink the wheel, but to keep it simple. We did a lot of research to determine who our target market was and how best to communicate with them. Once we had that information, it was easy to put a marketing plan in place, and really allow our brand, A Golden State to come to life.

The one thing I would tell larger companies, is to refocus their efforts. Through our process, we began to see how much wasted marketing takes place everyday. Just because a company has the budget, does not mean they need to spend the money, or marketing effectively. People want to connect with brands that they relate to, so determine how to connect with your consumer base in an authentic way. Nothing is more valuable than the trust of your customers.

Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business”? Please share a story or example for each.

This is not a ‘5 Things’ kind of question. There is really just 1 Thing. I wish someone had told us that it will be more difficult and take you significantly more time to do every single task just because you are in the cannabis industry. Some examples include:

1. Setting up payroll, benefits, workers compensation for your employees — the normal service providers are not available to us, so we have to find alternative providers.

2. Insurance — same issues as above, finding the right coverage with a reputable firm is a lot different than calling GEICO or State Farm.

3. Banking — one of the greatest challenges in this industry is simply being able to pay your bills and your taxes. In many cases, service providers and tax collectors will not accept large sums of cash for payment. Navigating how to pay everyone when you are running a legitimate, tax paying business, without the support of a checking account is a time consuming process.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Too often, a founder or CEO gets wrapped up in their own tasks and falsely believing that everyone else has a clear picture of what the person at the top is trying to accomplish. The best thing any CEO or manager can do is to make sure your employees have a clear path to growth. If your employees have a clear understanding of what success looks like for them on an individual level and what success looks like for the Company, your employees will always know which direction to run towards. Clear communication of goals is the key to helping employees thrive in any organization, at any stage.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Len Giancola

Written by

Founding Partner of MJ.com

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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