HOBBIES: Tennis, Reading non-fiction. PEOPLE OFTEN DESCRIBE ME AS: Ornery. SOMETHING I'M REALLY PROUD OF: My Bookshelf. WHAT DO I DO WHEN I'M STRESSED: Work.
It’s not about being in business. It’s about owning the industry.
SCALE SEPARATES ENTREPRENEURS FROM DABBLERS. Jesse Horwitz isn’t interested in playing nicely with others, preferring instead to start and do his own thing. From founding trading firm Gadfly Capital to his current venture, Hubble Contacts, a direct-to-consumer contact lens e-commerce company, Jesse sees opportunity as not just something to be grabbed but created.
“I was always interested in creating things, even when I didn’t have the necessary resources,” Jesse says. Identifying the need and opportunity is the first part, and once you have the necessary passion to drive it, figuring out how to execute it will follow, he says. He recalls starting various organizations in school, including figuring out how to fund money for cameras for a film production project he started. “There will be plenty of obstacles, and your passion must be strong enough to bridge them, or it’ll be easy to burn out.”
After working for several years on Columbia University’s endowment investment team, Jesse turned his attention to assessing what unmet needs existed in the market. With Hubble, that need was apparent: it was a product category that people had to buy over and over again, it was a lightweight product that was easy to manage and ship, and it was cumbersome for people to obtain. In short, it was prime for direct-to-consumer disruption.
Partnering with co-founder Benjamin Cogan, who had experience in consumer goods startup companies, the two came up with an easily relatable pitch to get Hubble started with funding. Convincing investors that Hubble could scale, however, was more challenging. “People have this misconception that anyone who starts a business is an entrepreneur. I think there’s a difference between a mere business owner and an entrepreneur, and that difference is the foresight for scaling and growth even from the get-go,” Jesse says.
BUILDING A SPACE OF ONE'S OWN, BRICK BY BRICK. The investment world tends to be performance-driven, and people are less concerned by background differences so long as one provides the results, Jesse says. He is thankful that he didn’t encounter many obstacles for being gay. “This world might not be the warmest, but it is a good place for people who are excited by ideas, and it is ideas and results that will win people over to your side,” he says.
It is up to the LGBT community to start building homes for themselves, brick by brick, Jesse believes. “As founders and operators, we need to believe that we can put ourselves out there and not get banged down for it,” he says. It is important to be open and out as entrepreneurs, he explains, because then it paves the way for others; eventually you want people to find nothing remarkable about being a gay entrepreneur.
Living by example benefits not only how customers see your company’s values, but also how your employees see your values, which can empower them, Jesse says. Even things as simple as mentioning his husband when he speaks at a panel helps with naturalizing LGBT people into the investment community, he notes.