Hamet Watt has always had a passion for entrepreneurship. He has held down a job since the age of 14 and has always pursued entrepreneurial activities. As an undergraduate at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, Watt formed a company to move and store the furniture of other students over the summer. He also bought two single-family homes off-campus and rented them to students.
After graduating and doing a small stint at a boutique investment firm in Maryland, Watt, 32, became a partner in North Carolina-based venture capital firm New Africa Opportunity Fund, where he helped many black- and minority-owned companies secure much needed financing to start, grow, and sustain their businesses. And what’s more, the Washington, D.C., native has made it a point to support organizations that support black- and minority-owned businesses.
At this point in his life, Watt has a lot of personal entrepreneurial experience and has worked extensively with other business owners. He says that a lack of capital and a lack of mentoring are two of the most challenging issues facing minority entrepreneurs who are trying to build successful companies. “It’s surprisingly difficult to find mentors that have built successful businesses, especially technology-related businesses,” says Watt. “I think mentorship is a key aspect of building a business.”
Mentorship was important to Watt four years ago when he started NextMedium Inc., a company that provides information products and technology solutions to the entertainment and advertising industries and helps them respond to the changes in the way people consume entertainment. The company helps those industries respond to the challenges brought on by personal recording devices and digital recording devices, such as TIVO, which allows consumers to skip commercials. It also helps the industries benefit from product placement. Television is a $60 billion a year industry, so missed commercials would be an understandable concern. Watt believes he has a great opportunity to benefit from helping these industries deal with that problem. But he knows he wouldn’t have been so fortunate landing that opportunity had he not been diligent about creating relationships with people who have been valuable resources for his business. His goal is to help other business owners do the same.
Watt had a team of non-minority and minority professionals advise him when he started NextMedium and he continues to value their advice. He’s been careful to foster relationships that can help him and other black- and minority-owned businesses create value. When he worked at New Africa, he was an active member of the National Association of Investment Companies, an association of minority-focused venture capital funds, and he’s still “very close to the NAIC community.”
As an entrepreneur, Watt joined The Marathon Club, an organization of minority entrepreneurs, investment professionals, executives, IT professionals, and support professionals (lawyers, accountants, consultant, etc.). Its members meet twice a year to discuss major issues tied to the creation of strong, profitable, minority-owned businesses. “I participate in roundtables and discussions about what we need as minority entrepreneurs to make it,” says Watt. “[We ask ourselves,] ‘What do