Interview with Erik Huberman
Erik Huberman on Starting and Scaling a $150 Million Marketing Agency
Today, I’m speaking with Erik Hubermnan. Erik is the Founder and CEO of Hawke Media, the fastest growing marketing consultancy in the United States. His company launched in 2014 and is now valued at over $150 million!
In addition to Hawke Media, Erik successfully founded, grew, and sold two e-commerce companies by the age of 26. And he continues to strategically expand his business portfolio today…
He’s been a part of multiple acquisitions, launched Hawke Ventures in 2018, and in 2021 went on to launch Hawke Z—an agency offering brands the tools needed to tap into GenZ. He also created Hawke Capital, which offers revenue financing solutions to e-commerce companies.
If that wasn’t enough, Erik is the host of the popular podcast HawkeTalk and author of The Hawke Method: The Three Principles of Marketing that Made Over 3,000 Brands Soar.
In this episode, you’ll hear all about Erik’s entrepreneurial journey, including how he started and scaled Hawke Media, and then leveraged that success to expand into so many other verticals.
Featured on This Episode: Erik Huberman
✅ What he does: Erik Huberman is the Founder and CEO of Hawke Media, Founding Partner of Hawke Ventures, and author of The Hawke Method: The Three Principles of Marketing that Made Over 3,000 Brands Soar.
💬 Words of wisdom: “I’d rather regret what I did than regret what I didn’t.” – Hawke Media
🔎 Where to find Erik Huberman: Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram | Facebook
Key Takeaways with Erik Huberman
- Erik provides insight on his passion for living life to the fullest, which is summed up by his college graduation quote — “I’d rather regret what I did than regret what I didn’t”.
- What is the true cost of living an epic lifestyle? Hint: It’s generally a lot less than you’d think.
- The backstory and birth of Hawke Media.
- Laying the foundations that allowed Hawke Media to grow into the powerhouse it is today.
- How Erik has built a $50 million fund – half of which was raised in a week.
- Erik’s approach for successful venture investments.
- Forget the status quo: Setting your own rules when raising funds.
- Introducing The Hawke Method — a framework for the modern marketer.
- The biggest differentiators that have led to Hawke Media’s continued success.
- Numbers don’t lie — Some of the results Hawke Media has delivered for its clients.
Erik Huberman | How Much Money Does Your Dream Life Cost?
Erik Huberman Tweetable“I'd rather regret what I did than regret what I didn't.” - Erik Huberman Click To Tweet
- Hawke Media
- Erik Huberman on Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram | Facebook
- Hawke Ventures
- Hawke Capital
- The Hawke Method: The Three Principles of Marketing that Made Over 3,000 Brands Soar by Erick Huberman
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Read the Full Transcript with Erik Huberman
Justin Donald: Alright. What’s up, Erik? Glad to have you on the show.
Erik Huberman: Yeah, man. Thanks for having me.
Justin Donald: Yeah, you got a lot going on in your world. I’m excited to connect, talk about all things that you have under your umbrella, which is a lot, Erik. I don’t know how you get it all done, I will tell you that, but here’s one thing I know and I knew immediately upon hanging with you that you were going to be perfect for this audience for just– I mean, your whole life, I feel like embodies The Lifestyle Investor. You’ve got such a cool lifestyle. You and I had just a tremendous time staying at your place.
So, your place is, I should say, you had side by side gorgeous homes in Cabo. And we brought a group there, and it was the coolest thing because they literally were right next to each other, but you had two separate areas and you had this incredible event lined up with some of the best chefs that I’ve ever experienced, some of the best food coming to our home, preparing stuff for us, just topnotch. So, I just want to give you a shout-out for that. And I just know you live life to the fullest, man.
Erik Huberman: I try. It’s been fun.
Justin Donald: That’s cool. So, where did you kind of get this passion for just living life and having an extraordinary lifestyle and just inviting your friends along? I mean, you could easily do stuff yourself, but you’re so generous and so inclusive of your friends.
Erik Huberman: Appreciate it. In terms of the sort of thirst for life, I feel like it grew over time. I feel like I look back, my quote when I graduated college that I put on the board was, I’d rather regret what I did than regret what I didn’t. That was also the time when I had no means, so I couldn’t do that much. But I’ve always had this desire to try everything and do, I don’t know if it’s always, but it grew and grew. And then when business started to take off a few years in, it was 2017, I remember, I told my wife that I was like, “This is going to be my bucket list year. We’re just going to do all the things that we’ve been wanting to do.” And like, it turns out, when you’re doing, and you don’t have to be a billionaire to go check like there’s actually a pretty low threshold of income that allows you to do most of the things you’d want to do. And so, I’d started with a heliboarding trip, which actually I’m going on, what is it? Year five tomorrow for that trip.
Justin Donald: Nice.
Erik Huberman: And then we did the Monaco Grand Prix. We did all sorts of crazy stuff that year, and that kind of kicked off this idea. And I will say to rewind a little bit, a year in the business, we had an opportunity to sell the company for way more than it was worth like a real offer, but we knew that we could make it worth a lot more quickly. And so, my partner decided to turn it down, but we also discussed turning this into a marathon, not a sprint. Like, why don’t we just live like we would if we sold, but we do that now so that we’re never in a rush to get out of the business?
And for him, that was playing a lot of golf. And for me, it was going on two or three epic trips a year, and that was what was important in 2015 for us as three kids and both different life. And actually, my priorities haven’t changed that much in that sense. I have a wife now as well, but she joins me on those trips. And so, by doing so, we were never in a rush to get out of our business, but it also created this kind of thirst for trying things, doing things. And when you check off your bucket list, what was I at that point? 30. Now, you’re like, alright, well, what’s next? What’s the next cool thing we can do? And so, it just turns into a fun kind of self-perpetuating cycle of finding another cool thing to try out and do.
Justin Donald: Yeah, I love hearing kind of your framework around that. I remember having a really fun conversation with you in Cabo kind of about what does it cost? Like what is an epic lifestyle? What does it cost? But before that, I want to give a shout-out to Tony Delmercado, your partner, because it was funny, I didn’t know you guys were partners. And sure enough, he and I go way back years ago, and it was so cool hearing that you guys had partnered up. And so, he’s just an incredible guy, incredible family man, great human being. So, I just want to give some props to him as well.
Erik Huberman: I love the small world. And yeah, in terms of it, yeah, we’ve been offered to sell the comp– I literally have an email that just came in and I have a zero inbox guy. So, I think it literally came in at 10:08. It’s 10:14, saying, we would like to discuss acquiring your company. So, we’ve had these for pretty much the history of the company because we’ve also drunk our own punch from a marketing company. We market ourselves a lot. And so, the money’s always been thrown at me.
And so, this is several years ago, I decided to be like, well, what is enough? Like, I’ll have friends that have sold their companies for billions. I just got off the phone with a friend that sold his bootstrapped company for a billion dollars right before this. And you go, okay, so what does your lifestyle cost? And I started asking this of all these guys like, and I told them transparently, I’m trying to figure out like, does that change your lifestyle? And all these guys, and it goes up a little bit over time called inflation, but somewhere between one and two million bucks a year, and your kids are in private school, you’ve got a vacation house, you’re traveling private if you want to, like you’re fine. And like anything above that is kind of just a bigger boat, a bigger house, or a nicer car, I guess, but cars aren’t really a function at that point, like it’s actually a bigger plane. Those are the three things that change from two million to 10 million to 50 million, bigger or more houses, bigger or more boats, bigger or more planes. That’s what I see, that wasn’t really what was driving me.
So, then, you get to the point where you got that bottom threshold. You can make one or two million a year and you go, well, I can afford all the things I want to do. Now, you can make decisions on like, what do you want to do with your time, which is you call it the lifestyle investor, like there’s a huge amount of freedom in that. And myself, as an example, I like operating businesses. I know that if I sold my company and put a bunch in the bank, I’d invested in some conservative stuff to keep the cash flow going in appreciation, but then I’d probably want to go start another company.
And so, then the thing goes, well, do I have a better idea of a company to work on? Or do I currently have my best idea? And in my case, I currently have my best idea, so I’m sticking with it. And it gives you a lot of freedom to make those decisions. But yeah, $1 to $2 million is a lot of money a year. Don’t get me wrong, but when you see $40 million, $50 million, like these people that are top athletes, things like that, it’s like they’re not spending that. And if they are, like, it’s stupid, they’re doing stupid things with that money, that’s not making them any happier, so.
Justin Donald: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of truth to that. And you might have some listeners and some people watching this who say, “Wow, a million dollars is a lot of money.” And you might have other people watching this that say, “Wow, that’s not a lot of money compared to what I make or compared to my last exit.” And so, my audience is going to be pretty broad, but I do think it’s important to say that the lifestyle you desire is generally a lot less than what you think it is and…
Erik Huberman: It’s that hurdle that I think is important to know. It’s like everyone wants to be a billionaire. It’s like, I know many billionaires. Frankly, their life is slightly different than mine, but the gap in income versus the gap in lifestyle, it’s like they don’t live that differently.
Justin Donald: That’s right. That’s right. And so, there’s a lot of truth to this, and I’ve got a bunch of private clients that I coach on really just how to create cash flow and how to think about money and how to really create lifestyle instead of being trapped by the lifestyle you have or the money you make or the business that you own or the job that you have. And many of these individuals, they make a million, two million-plus dollars. I’ve got another one that makes a little under that. And so, this has been a very powerful exercise for many of them, just running the numbers, you can have an incredible lifestyle with almost anything and everything you could ever want for $750,000 to a million dollars, you really can. And though that you still got to get there and that’s a big number, but I think a lot of people think you have to be sent a millionaire, a billionaire to live this lavish life. Actually, I mean, it’s hard to spend more than a million dollars in a year. Some people are equipped to do it, and it’s amazing. I think most people would have a hard time spending more than a million dollars a year.
Erik Huberman: It’s not a hard time. You have to want to spend money. Like if you’re just doing the things you want to do, you’re not going to spend that. But if you’re doing the things, like if you’re just doing the vacation you want to go on, the house you want to own, the car you want to own, etc., you’re not going to spend that. If you’re now buying multiple homes and just throwing money around and buying a bunch of fancy cars and stuff and stuff you’re never going to use, then yeah, you can spend that. That’s really what it comes down to.
Justin Donald: That’s right. That’s right. Well, it’s such a fascinating concept because the whole idea of cash flow really matters here, and it’s not even $750.000 a year, it’s what does that break down to per month because you can own the things that you want for a lot less than most people think, especially if you get strategic on how to do it, especially if you hang with people that have some pretty cool hacks on how to get a certain lifestyle, and so…
Erik Huberman: My friend bought a $4 million plane but charters it, and so, he actually makes 50 grand a year owning a plane, which is not a lot on a $4 million plane, but he’s not losing cash flow on it.
Justin Donald: That’s right. That’s right. And we do live in a day and age today where, unlike any other time in history or at least my history, how long I’ve been alive, there hasn’t been such a premium in the used planes, cars, whatever market, like everything used now, kind of there’s a little gaming you can do where you can buy it. You can live a cool life with it, you can sell it, and you might be able to sell it for close to, if not more than what you bought it for.
Erik Huberman: Yep.
Justin Donald: Yeah, it’s cool. So, give me an understanding of like where you came up with this idea for your agency, you have an outsourced CMO and marketing team, right? You call your agency Hawke Media. Where did this name come from? And where did this business idea come from?
Erik Huberman: The name came from– I grew up in a small town called Ojai, that’s in Southern California, and the Native Americans there or the Chumash tribe, and a Native American chief told me when I was like seven years old that red-tailed hawks were watching over me. And so, they were always flying overhead. So, I always like, I took that to heart. And so, when I went to name my company at 26, my buddy told me to keep it simple. And I just always loved red-tailed hawks. And so, I called that Hawke, Hawk without the E was taken. So, I got HawkeMedia.com with the E and made it a red logo because of red-tailed hawks. And it was that simple because I didn’t think I was starting off to build something big. I was just naming my consulting practice something because if I ever wanted to scale it, I didn’t want it to be named after me.
Justin Donald: Yeah, that’s cool. And by the way, very smart, very astute as a 26-year-old for you to even be thinking, let me build a company with a name that is not my own. And by the way, no offense to anyone that has done this. I’ve got a lot of friends that have done this, but on the exit, it becomes a lot trickier because you are the face. It’s harder to sell something that has your name, has your image, and so, you’ve done a great job of this. How did you know that this early on?
Erik Huberman: I just assumed it was actually more on the operational side than the exit side. I was worried that if I built this into something, any time someone called the company, they’d want to talk to me, and I knew that at scale, that wasn’t what I wanted to do. And so, it took a few years, but pretty quickly, people don’t even know I existed. A lot of the time when they call Hawke Media, that’s great. Like, it should be a brand of its own. I don’t need it to be my brand.
Justin Donald: That’s awesome. And by the way, for a young founder to be at a place where you’re actually okay with that from an ego standpoint, that’s pretty rare because at 26…
Erik Huberman: You got to keep you go out of business.
Justin Donald: You do, you do. And it’s hard in your earlier years when you haven’t had these life experiences, life wisdom yet. So, I applaud you for that. That’s awesome. And so, talk about the growth that you’ve had here because Hawke Media has taken off. I mean, I see countless articles on your company, what you’re accomplishing if I pull up LinkedIn, if I just am scrolling, like I just see awesome things that you guys are doing in the world. So, talk about that a little bit.
Erik Huberman: Yeah. I don’t sit still very well, and I also have no problem delegating, like the whole idea of a control freak in terms of business, don’t have it. So, I loved hiring people and offloading things off my plate so I could go do the next thing. But I also like to work, so it allowed us to, and you mentioned Tony. Tony joined me really early in this and basically, after two weeks, was like, you just go run and grow the thing, I’ll handle the day-to-day. And as he put it, I made promises, and he delivered on them. And that was a first probably four years of the business was that balance, that yin and yang of me running around trying to figure out how to grow it and him making sure that we actually lived up to what I was promising. And we did it and we were able to get build a good reputation and all that. But I also realized the first four years, I set our goals for the first four years, like a month into business, and we literally came within 1% of all of them over or under right now.
Justin Donald: Wow.
Erik Huberman: And so, I realize like goal setting in that sense because then you manage things to those goals. If not, we were talking before this, January is a slow month for us generally, including this January, but I have goals for January. If I didn’t have established numbers that we were supposed to be hitting this month, which looks like we’re going to come slightly short of, but we got a week, we might make it. We’re going to be right there, but we won’t be scrambling right now to make it. We’d just be like, oh, well, it’s January where we’re slow, it’s okay. But no, we put a number down, we’re going to f*cking hit that, and that’s when you run things that way. And so that, combined with those goals were always, frankly, ambitious.
And so, we set ambitious but attainable goals, and then we committed to going for them and building a team. Early on, it was Tony and I driving it. Now, it’s having the executive team that is committed as you are and making sure that everyone’s aligned and going to make it happen, and basically, all hands on deck to make that happen. And so, when you do that, I mean, if we set our goal at 50% growth or 1000% growth, I think you act accordingly, you go for it. And I think the risk is if you set it too high and you go for it, you can end up blowing it because you going all in and you can’t make it, so there’s a balance there, but I think having those ambitious goals drives a lot.
Justin Donald: Yeah, that’s awesome. And it’s neat knowing both you and Tony and seeing your strengths and how well you guys have partnered and meshed together because you really don’t want to bog down someone that’s more on the visionary side of things with just day-to-day responsibility. But you take someone who’s really good at systems and efficiency and you plug them in to kind of make it rain, so to say. And that’s where the magic of the one plus one equals five kind of happens. So, very cool.
Now, you started as an entrepreneur at a young age. You’ve learned a lot. You’ve grown a lot. But you haven’t just stayed in your lane, you have really expanded into a lot of different ventures, a lot of different avenues. And I’d love for you to share kind of like how you have transformed Hawke Media into other verticals that really kind of help serve the whole company, but you’re able to grab at these whole market areas of specialty?
Erik Huberman: Yeah. So, it comes from a few places. One which we talked about already is I just have a desire to experience everything life has to offer. That’s personally and professionally. So, when I see other things I can possibly do, whether it’s expanding the company internationally and learning how to operate an international business or getting into investments, like all these different things, I was like I want to learn this. And I’m lucky enough to have exposure. So, about a year into business, a friend of mine was pivoting his media business to be an e-commerce brand and asked me to invest. At the time, I had this very strict thesis of I was going to cash flow Hawke, put that money into real estate, and build a real estate portfolio. Time on risky stuff, my money’s going into conservative investments. That was my plan. So, I told them, no, and he’s like, oh no, I’m not asking you. You’re investing, you just can write a smaller check as you want. I went, fine, wrote a small check into his company, which is now worth somewhere between $3 and $5 billion, and so, went well quickly.
Justin Donald: Nice job.
Erik Huberman: Yeah, better be lucky than good, let’s put it that way. And so, then I started investing in other companies that I was like, I realized I had access to some interesting deal flow. And so, I started investing in more strategic companies to what we were doing. And after a few years, I had an angel investment portfolio that had a Webex, and it was like, oh, that’s a good return. We should do more of this and we had brought on someone to help manage that. And I had also at that point, was I married yet? It was close to be. I’ve been with my wife. Probably, we were still dating, I think, but we were engaged at that point. So, we were engaged.
She’s in private equity. So I’d seen sort of behind the curtain of what happens in these finance funds. And like most things I’ve realized, like no one’s that smart, they just all run the same f*cking playbook, and not from an investment perspective, but how these things operate. It’s not that complicated. And so, then we started talking about the idea of launching a venture fund, and we did, and it took us two years to raise five million bucks for our first venture fund. But now, two and a half years in, we’re about 5x on that money as a fund, which is kind of unheard of for an early-stage fund.
And so, now, we’ve just closed the first part of our second fund and we’re raising a $50 million fund and raised almost half of it in a week. So, once you get that credibility in that network, it starts to happen a lot faster. And so, what we found was we built this marketing engine, we have all the access in the world. Every deal that we want to get in wants us in because mostly, what we want to invest in are companies we can be a strategic advantage to. So, marketing, technology, e-commerce tech that’s trying to reach our giant roster of clients, if we find something we like that our clients will find useful, we can onboard hundreds of clients immediately, be a market maker for these companies and, by the way, get in at the valuation before they got all those clients.
So, we get in early, get a huge markup right away in a few months. And then frankly, it’s just a job of making sure that they get to an exec because we already got our returns in the first few months. Now, we just need to make sure that we get cashed out, which can take a few years, but that’s the thesis behind it. And so, that’s what’s proven out so far and that’s opened up the whole world of finance to us and a lot of other creative ways, too.
Justin Donald: Yeah, that’s incredible that you have gotten the results you have so far. And I love investing in companies where I know that my network or my expertise can help that company scale or exit or whatever needs to happen because you’re de-risking it right there. You already de-risk right out of the gates, so it’s a very smart way to do it. It’s really neat to see that you 5x your portfolio in such a short period of time, but for our audience that doesn’t necessarily know what venture investing is, how would you describe venture investing to…
Erik Huberman: Yeah. So, what we invest in, venture investing, in general, is investing in early-stage companies, which is synonymous with venture, companies that are not mature, that are not necessarily even profitable yet, that are, Justin, starting to grow or in their growth phase, and it’s investing in them, hoping that you get to a point where they get to a value, whether it’s an IPO, an exit, or frankly, a great cash flow, it gets them into a point where they’re worth something. So, you’re their growth partner to get them to a point where they’re mature enough to be a real business. Our thesis is investing in early, early-stage technology. We like to be around $20,000 a month in revenue, which is nothing for these small businesses, but we want to see that they can make some money before we pump money in, frankly, and then again, where we can be a huge, unfair advantage. We always joke like we want their competitors to go sh*t when they see us invest.
Justin Donald: And one of the things I think is really important in this type of investing for anyone that’s invested in real estate or in a lot of other, in private equity, like you’re always looking for cash flow positive, positive EBITDA companies, but in this, because you’re early stage, there’s likely not profitability yet.
Erik Huberman: Right.
Justin Donald: I mean, hey, great if there is, but 9 times out of 10, there’s not. So, you’re investing based on a different set of parameters, the growth of revenue, the strategic partners, the customer base. What do you look for?
Erik Huberman: I look for unit economics, though, so I think that’s important. That’s where a lot of venture funds, I think, mess up. I look for the ability to be profitable based on their unit economics, even if they’re not profitable right now. So, we look at what their business model is. And well, let’s say we got 100 clients, could they be profitable? Now, if they want to reinvest that into development and expansion and all that, fine, but if we decided to pause for a second or the economy took a hit and we had to just ride it out, would the company sustain? And that’s what we look for because a lot of these companies don’t have the– Uber still doesn’t have the unit economics, they still don’t make money on rides, like it’s absurd.
But we’re always like that that is the case from the beginning that they can make money. And then if they want to dump that money and investment back into growth because they want to be the owner of their industry and their vertical, that makes sense to me. Like, our best investment fund has been Postscript, the SMS marketing tool, they could be profitable anytime they wanted to, but they’ve taken all that money and dumped it back into being the leader in Shopify SMS marketing. And that has been a win for all of us because now the enterprise value of the company is 100 times what we put into it.
Justin Donald: Yeah, and generally, with first funds, it’s hard to raise money or at least harder than at any other point because you don’t have the name yet, there’s not a lot of recognition of who you are or your track record, whatever it might be. A lot of times people are coming from a small shop, or they did something on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley or something, right? And then they’ll start their fund, and generally, you give nice terms because you are new. You need to attract this new money in. And now, you guys have a reputation. So often, the second fund, it’s way easier, people are throwing money at you. The terms generally change to be a little more advantageous.
Erik Huberman: We actually went the opposite, funny enough.
Justin Donald: Oh, did you? Talk about that a little bit.
Erik Huberman: Yeah. So, we were really strict about our terms in the first fund because it was so small. We had to charge it. We did it, it’s usually 2 and 20 as a typical fund structure, 20% of the upside, 2% annually of what you’re managing to fund the management. We had to do 2.5 because 2.5% of five million bucks, 125 grand a year is what we operated. It’s like that’s not negotiable. Like, we have to pay the guy running it. We have to pay our legal fees and our accounting fees, and that’s all we got. So, we literally just weren’t. That’s non-negotiable. That’s how we’re operating this.
And then when we did Fund 2, all the people that supported us in Fund 1, we actually gave a discount on that, 20% down to 15% because we wanted to say thank you. We’re like, hey, f we all make money together, you’re going to make a little more on this one to say thank you for supporting us when we had no track record.
Justin Donald: That’s cool. Yeah, that’s neat. And it’s interesting because one of the things that I look for when I invest in funds and I do like funds as a general rule, but of course, it depends on the thesis and who’s running it, who are the managers, what’s the track record? All that stuff matters, but you have some of these monster funds and pay attention to what their 2% actually yields. And in many cases, it’s so much, I feel like they may not be as motivated to work and get the job done. So, having a smaller total fund sometimes is nice because you know that they’re in alignment with you, like they need to see things through to the exit and they’re going to make decisions that way.
Erik Huberman: Yeah, I have a friend with the $10 billion fund. So, what is that? $200 million a year, they’re making in fees.
Justin Donald: It’s unbelievable, and obviously, everyone’s got to start somewhere and a lot of these big funds, they started as smaller funds. But that is something that I pay attention to because I want the alignment, I want to know that I’m okay with whoever I’m investing with, I’m okay with them winning. In fact, I want them to win, but not at my expense. I want us to win.
Erik Huberman: Which has been important for us. Like, I don’t take management fees from our fund currently. As we scale, that might change because it comes to a point where it’s like there’s a bunch of money sitting there, and we might take it, but currently, the first two funds, it’s all invested in infrastructure and team on the fund. It’s not me, it’s not Tony. We’re both partners in the fund, we get a piece of that Kerry, but the actual operating expense, Drew, who is our partner on the fund manages that, hires his team, pays legal fees, etc., and makes a salary off that. But we don’t because frankly, we have Hawke Media too, we cash flow that. So, we’re fully aligned with our fees and we’re also investors, we put our own money up for these funds.
Justin Donald: Yeah, that’s great. And then, so you have two funds, what’s the size of the second fund? And then I think you had another offering recently, right?
Erik Huberman: So, the first one was five. Second fund, we’re aiming for 50. We’ve raised, I think it’s 19, it’s what’s actually signed. And then, yeah, we also have what we call Hawke Ventures, which just gets confusing for everyone. Hawke Capital is our financing arm. So, we found that through growing companies. Companies that grow really fast have cash flow problems because they don’t necessarily make all the money back that they spent right away. And so, a lot of times, you get working capital lines of credit, you get credit cards, etc., but a lot of that can be expensive for early-stage companies. So, we found a way to partner up with a few banks and create a revenue financing solution, mainly focused on e-commerce brands at this point, that we can finance a company only doing 10 or 20 grand a month in revenue and give them a loan to help them keep scaling while they’re growing.
Justin Donald: It’s so fascinating to me that you’ve been able to take this first business, Hawke Media, where it’s outsourced CMO and marketing. You’ve been able to take a piece of that and Hawke Ventures and kind of get into the venture investing space with a couple of venture funds. You’ve been able to split off from there and you’ve gotten into the debt space like a debt fund in what I would consider a very unique and niche opportunity that with the boom of e-commerce, is going to prove probably to be pretty magnificent. And so, you at a young age have accomplished so much, and I know that the wheels just keep turning for you. Recently, you decided to put out your first book, The Hawke Method. So, I’d love for you to share a little more about that as well.
Erik Huberman: Yeah. So, the mission of our company and really what drove me to start Hawke Media was I was frustrated with my own businesses as well as ones I was consulting for finding great marketing. And so, our mission statement for Hawke Media has become accessibility to great marketing. Like how do we become the best at what we do but are super easy to work with, cost-effective, easy, flexible, nimble, etc.? And so, it just seemed like a logical evolution to actually take our marketing methodology that we’ve used to grow over 3,000 brands at this point successfully, that we have a pretty consistent method that works and put it into writing and give it out for 15 bucks in a book so that anybody that wants to, you’re welcome to hire us to help do your marketing, but if you want to learn for yourselves, and it’s been awesome feedback so far, and it’s called The Hawke Method, by the way, but it’s been awesome because we’re finding that sharing this with our clients, now, they actually understand what we’re doing. So, there’s a lot less contention. With our own employees, it creates more consistency, even though we talk about all these methods. Now, everyone’s on the same page, no pun intended.
And then, again, proliferating it, making it a book that people look at as a marketing method, like, for any marketers out there, they still talk about the four Ps in college versus anything modern or new. And so, we’ve actually already got Columbia, NYU, University of Arizona, and several other colleges picking up our book for their students. And so, the idea is to try to teach a modern marketing methodology that we’ve been using that has worked. And it’s a framework. It’s not something that will go out to lose time. And then it has things at our time, like how to actually leverage this framework to run Facebook ads and Google and all these things, the tools that we have now, which that’s the piece we’ll probably update over time, but the overall framework will exist and is something that I think has been around for 2,000 years. It’s something that we articulated.
Justin Donald: That’s so awesome. And what I see is like, there are a lot of people that understand that are in this space, they’re like, hey, I need these services, I need this business. But to a certain degree, part of what I think is great about the book is you can educate the market because people that don’t know that they need your services can learn that they can get your services or that these things actually exist. In some cases, they might not know they exist. In some cases, they might not know the full gamut of all the things that you can do or strong agencies can do. And so, it’s really neat seeing just all that you’ve been able to do but modernizing it, like what is practical and applicable today? That’s not like marketing theory, right? I mean, that’s what we took in college. It was like, yeah, let me give you the four steps.
Erik Huberman: Yeah, I hated marketing in college. And funny enough, I just joined my college’s marketing board, so.
Justin Donald: That’s pretty funny. So, what do you think is one of the biggest differentiators for your firm and what your team does for businesses that are a right fit?
Erik Huberman: Yeah, it’s pretty straightforward. So, I don’t know of an agency that has our success, our credibility, our track record, our size that still works for small and medium businesses. So, we’ve built a business and had success where I don’t know another agency that has at scale. The proof is in the pudding. We’re a month-to-month a la carte agency with 300-plus employees and hundreds and hundreds of brands. We’re currently managing marketing for, and they can fire us whenever they want. It would be an unsustainable business if we didn’t do great work.
And so, most of the time, what we’re competing with are five to ten person total agencies, and I always wow for them, I’m like, so you want to give your marketing and your growth to someone that can’t grow their own business, like it seems counterintuitive, but a lot of people go for that “boutique” agency. I get that on the creative side and on the ideation side when it comes to actually executing growth and performance, marketing, those kind of things. If they can’t do it for themselves, what the hell are you doing, giving them your money?
So, we’ve been able to differentiate ourselves and say, the mission is just we have to be really credible and really easy to work with, and we continue to do that and fulfill that, which has put us in one of the fastest-growing agencies in the world, which has been fun. And so, it really is just about doing great work but being easy to work with, in that combination, which I think most companies that do great work are not easy to work with, and most agencies that are easy to work with don’t do great work. And so, it’s just being both has been our biggest differentiator, as simple as that is.
Justin Donald: Yeah, it’s interesting, in the real estate construction space, there’s something simple of like, hey, if you can just do what you say you’re going to do, you’re going to go really far. And often there’s like a low bar, and I feel like that’s the case here in this space too because I’ve got a lot of friends in this space, a lot of friends that have companies, agencies, marketing arms, whatever it is. And I hear the stories all the time of like, hey, we got this client who is with this other group, and they said they were going to do this thing and never did it and just kept charging him. And then there’s a lawsuit pending or whatever the case is, I mean, it is mind-boggling how much people say they’re going to do and then like how short they fall from that.
Erik Huberman: Yeah, I’ve found that somewhere between 3% and 5% of people across the board are just a*sholes. So, it’s not a big portion but still one in 20 to one in 30 people just are not good people, so you have that piece that you have to deal with, whoever you are. And then from there, I think that there is a lot of communication problems. We talk about it all the time that, like the most critical part of our business is communication. We know we do good work. Like objectively, we’ve grown enough companies from nothing to billions of dollars like we know, we know how to do marketing. That’s not an issue. It’s do we communicate well and set expectations of our clients well? And are we dealing with rational human beings?
You go back to ego. Ego has been something that will always continue to be a challenge in our business because we have to check our own ego when we have an egotistical client. And we also have to deal with egotistical clients sometimes that aren’t rational, we talk about it sometimes where we’ll get a client that demands we do things their way. We’re like, okay, but then you can’t hold this to the result. It’s like telling your investment manager how to invest and then yelling at them when the investment doesn’t go well. It’s like, I’m sorry, what? But these are the things you deal with. But at the same time, again, for that 3% to 5%, there’s another 95% and 97% of people that are great, and it’s a really fun business to help people basically fulfill their dreams, create their companies.
Justin Donald: Yeah, that’s awesome. And how would someone who’s running a business know if they even needed services like what you guys provide?
Erik Huberman: We make it easy. I mean, we do a free audit for anyone, so you don’t need to know what you need, just have the idea that you want to grow, and we can go tell you, hey, and we’ll get feedback for free. Like, here are the things you need to be doing, here’s how much it costs for us to do it. If you want to run with it for a little while, go for it. Like we’re long term here, we’re going to wait. As I mentioned before, we’re not going to exit or sell this company so we aren’t in a rush on anything. Now, companies, sometimes, I think, one of the biggest things I see people fail with is not making quick decisions. So, if you know you need to grow and you know you can’t do it, probably move forward with something, but we’re also kind of here when you need us kind of thing.
Justin Donald: Yeah. And I read an article recently about you guys, and I can’t remember where I saw it, probably on LinkedIn or Medium or somewhere, right? And it was bragging about just the results that you guys have had. And I’d love for you to share just some of the growth, some of the big wins that your firm, your organization, your media company has had.
Erik Huberman: Meaning our own growth or client’s growth?
Justin Donald: Yeah, I mean, both.
Erik Huberman: Yeah, I mean, I’d say we’ve worked with a lot of huge brands, but the problem is like if I had $10, $20 million in revenue to red ball, like cool, it’s not really effective. If I create that from zero for another company, it’s life-changing, and we’ve done that so many times now, it’s awesome. We took a company that was selling sports bras at like 20 grand a month, had a broken website, we’re freaking out. We’re about to be on Shark Tank. We rebuilt their website in six months, launched them, and we worked with them through this year, and they were doing high eight-figure revenue. So, it’s one to take someone from literally 250 grand in revenue to 60, 70 million bucks. Like that’s the kind of things we’ve been able to do a lot of times. I mean, again, we were one of the first investors in Fab Fit Fun. I think they’re probably close to a billion in revenue. I don’t actually know their numbers, so I’m not sharing any proprietary information, but they’re probably between $700 million and a billion dollars in revenue now from when we started nothing.
And so, there’s a lot of companies we’ve been able to engage with that are life-changing is an understatement in terms of what they’ve turned into, and that’s super rewarding than our own company. No debt, no outside capital, we never raised any money and we’ve got over 300 employees making a living off this. Turns out I saw recently our average wage is somewhere right about the same as Apple’s, which is really a quarter now. And yes, we have people making a great living. We have hundreds of clients growing their businesses, but that’s a lot, they have been with us for years and have made their life off of it. And then we continue to grow. We grew about 70% last year. We’re hoping for a similar growth this year, expanding internationally. We opened in Canada last year. We’re soon going to be overseas in the next, probably a couple of weeks this year, so.
Justin Donald: That’s incredible. Man, Erik, it’s just awesome seeing things going so well. And then I also love just this idea of like, hey, for you, it’s like, I see companies, I see the inner workings of them, I see where they’re at, I see where they can go, I want to be able to invest in them, right? And then you can take that framework, that blueprint to these other companies. And so, there’s so much of this value add that you can provide obviously, having seen the landscape so much, but one of my other friends, I really encourage him to start this other fund because he looks at the financials and all these companies on the lending side. And so, it’s really easy for him to know kind of where they are. And so, if he could create some other fund where he gets to invest in the equity side based on having all this great info, it would just be incredible.
And I feel like you get to do that because you see the inner workings of these companies, you see them early, you see the trends, you see what worked for this other company and how similar they are, and you have an opportunity to maybe advise to most certainly invest and obviously, to help them grow. And I’m sure there are all kinds of different cool arrangements that can be made, but I just think it’s fun when you can be a pioneer in an industry and really have strong impact on entrepreneurs because I think entrepreneurs move the world, they solve the mystery of the world’s problems.
Erik Huberman: Yep, agreed.
Justin Donald: Yeah, that’s so cool. So, what’s next for you? I feel like you’ve got everything. You’ve got such a cool life. You’ve got lifestyle, you’ve got big business, you’ve got growth, you’ve got investments at work. You’ve had really just a wide array of success. What’s next? What keeps you inspired?
Erik Huberman: Yeah, it’s the next thing. It’s again expanding internationally. We’re currently trying to close a deal to buy a tech company that could become our whole backbone. And there’s a whole ‘nother thing there that we’ll be announcing that’s really cool. We’re trying to stay nimble and innovative in our industry. To still be the best is a really big driver. And then, having fun personally, I just got my pilot’s license, and to continue on that path of continuing the different accreditations and getting instrument-rated all that. So, I have the personal side, starting a family soon probably, got a wife, but kids, I’m sure, will be on the way. So, there’s plenty still left sort of in front of us and plenty of blue skies. So, it’s sort of continuing down that path, keeping everything fresh and interesting and fun.
Justin Donald: That’s awesome. Well, I’m just so thrilled that we’ve been able to hang here and just for people to hear your story. You’ve got an incredible story and you’re sharing so much of it in your book. You’re sharing so much of it with your clients. And I just want to thank you for sharing it with our audience here. Where can our audience find more about you and about Hawke Media?
Erik Huberman: Yeah. Well, the book is easy. It’s just HawkeMethod.com or Hawke Method on Amazon, Target, Walmart, so that’s easy to find. And then, for me, I’m on every social @ErikHuberman or/ErikHuberman, and HawkeMedia.com. It’s probably easy as well if you want to– and again, we do free audit, so anytime you want us to take a look at a business, happy to.
Justin Donald: That’s awesome. Well, I appreciate that. I feel like there’s a ton of synergies here, just based on the fact that I love investing in companies, and you love helping them get better. So, together we could be quite the one-two punch, but really, Erik, I appreciate you taking the time and appreciate you showing up and delivering some awesome content and wisdom.
Erik Huberman: Thank you for having me.
Justin Donald: Yeah, let me leave our audience the way I like to each week, which is pretty simple. Just take some form of action today towards financial freedom, towards living a life by design that’s on your terms. It’s not a life by default but think about one step, one thing, one aspect that you can change or move towards to make this impact in your life. Thanks, and we’ll catch you next week.