Very few 26-year olds achieve such quick success they become full-time investors, but Michael Kmetz is not average.
Two years ago, Michael exited his corporate job with ambitions to be his own boss. Dark Horse Minerals originally started with two people in an apartment in Dallas, Texas. There were no banks, business loans, or private equity groups there to assist. The oil and gas land acquisitions company was self-funded with savings Michael and the founders accumulated from their first jobs out of college.
The initial months were tough: Michael and his team made 100 cold calls daily, constantly pitching deals to dozens of private equity-backed funds, grinding out 70-hour weeks, and staying in on the weekends. After expending tens of thousands in startup costs, he was rapidly heading towards being broke at the end of 2020. And then persistence and luck suddenly had a fortuitous intersection.
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 eight figures of revenue and a multi-million-dollar valuation.
Michael credits perseverance, a capable team, and God’s grace with pushing his company to substantial success. “I thought about giving up, but personally, 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 if you are hungry enough, you can always become a winner.
Michael officially became an accredited investor with Dark Horse's earnings, but he is no stranger to entrepreneurship. He created his first online business in middle school with his brothers in 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, Michael and his business partner Jake Swaney utilize the profits from their land acquisition company by expanding into commercial real estate and angel investing. One of his angel investments in an early-stage Silicon Valley startup, which uses quantum computing to streamline new materials discovery, has multiplied by 40X his original placement.
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 good strategy.”
Building on his startup successes, he was recently selected to be an early investor and founder of Integro Bancorp, Inc., a de novo bank catered towards small businesses and nonprofits. Michael believes that the developing bank will help emerging entrepreneurs receive the financial resources and expert guidance that many, including himself, need initially.
His original team has expanded too – he now works primarily remote with a group of about a dozen various employees and strategic partners.
Regarding future business plans, Michael wants to double down on startups and real estate. “It’s humbling to have this kind of opportunity so quickly.” As his business and investment portfolios expand, he wants to pursue more philanthropic endeavors in addition to investing in promising new entrepreneurs.
His advice to anyone considering entrepreneurship: “Make a plan and go for it when you are young, and the stakes are lower. You won’t regret chasing your big dreams, and you’ll be surprised how capable you are.”
With several promising active and passive investments and ventures developing, 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 only a shotgun-type approach to generating leads.
Employees are one of the most important players to succeed in business. What do you look for in an employee?
Someone willing to do whatever it takes to be successful. A person who treats others well and has a good attitude about challenges: I’d instead hire someone who wants to be successful to improve themselves over my company. Doing it for yourself is a much more powerful motivator.
What is unique about your business? Is there a competitive advantage that you have over the rest?
We 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 eight figures of revenue and a multi-million-dollar valuation.
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, and the stakes are lower. You won’t regret chasing your big dreams, and you’ll be surprised by how capable you are:
1. Be a student of life. Read as much as possible. This compounds dramatically over time when your peers are busy partying and watching TV.
2. It’s going to be more complicated than you think, and that’s good because you’ll grow more than you imagined was possible. Personal transformation is worth more than gold.