Founder & Partner Dark Horse Investments Group
Founder Integro Bancorp, Inc.
TBHF Scholar Award Recipient, 2016
This month TBHF is spotlighting Michael Kmetz, a 2016 Alumni from Texas Tech University. We asked Michael, a multi-business entrepreneur based out of Dallas, to share some of his best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Tell us about Dark Horse Minerals and your inspiration for starting the business.
I became acquainted with the idea from working in West Texas in the field during 2017. I was always interested in energy and real estate, so it was a natural choice. My degree from Texas Tech was in petroleum land management, so it made sense to find a way to combine that background, my sales experience in the oilfield, and my real estate interests into one venture.
As for how we got started, it all began over drinks with one evening with then future-business partner, Jake Swaney. He has a legal background I have the finance and land experience. By the time we finished our drinks that night, we had decided we wanted to give this a go.
In the wake of 2020 and in light of new changes in the administration, we had to pivot. So in Q1 of 2021, we exited the mineral side and sold all our company assets to transition to commercial real estate and startup investing. Currently Dark Horse Investments Group is projected to close on a couple deals by the end of this year or early Q1 2022. We are mainly focused on commercial multifamily properties, storage units, and other value add projects that we can hold for the long term. In the meantime, we’ve been doing some angel investing.
The entrepreneurial bug seems to run in your family, because in fact your brother, Joseph, was also a Future Texas Business Legend scholar award recipient in 2014. When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Yes, Joseph won a couple years before me, so it was awesome to bring him and my parents back to the dinner in 2016. My whole family has been supportive. Starting a company was one of my lifelong goals even from a young age. My parents emphasized using our unique talents growing up and encouraged us to try new things.
In middle school, my brothers and I ran a custom nerf-dart business and sold them on eBay for several years. In college, I had a small-scale emcee business where I would write jokes for and host award ceremonies. There was always something on the side. Even when I wasn’t getting paid a ton, I enjoyed the process. In college, I struggled imagining what my idea career would be since I had a lot of interests. Entrepreneurship requires that you think outside the box, so it satisfies my creative and analytical sides.
You are very involved in the entrepreneurial and startup community. You helped found Integro, which specifically works with startups and nonprofits. In your own words, explain the importance of community involvement and paying your success forward.
Giving back to my community is something I feel obligated to do after finding some early success. As Gerald Smith said, “You are blessed to be a blessing.” I could not agree more. It is so inspiring to see TBHF alumni and legends be generous with their resources and time. I feel lucky that I might be able to be that person for someone who is young and just beginning. Starting a company is really scary, so I have newfound empathy for the challenges that come with being a young business owner. I’ve found that the butterfly effect is amazing: One encouraging conversation or small gift could literally be the tipping point for someone’s entire life.
One of TBHF core values is excellence. How do you define “excellence” in business?
Excellence to me is paving your own path so well that others are inspired. Entrepreneurship doesn’t fit into a box, and I think that it’s important for young people to know they can excel in many pursuits and often find a way to creatively combine them into something unique.
What is the best advice have you received so far in your career?
My Dad would always remark, “Life is about the journey,” and I think it is. The journey shapes you into who you need to become to arrive at the destination. Life has a way of testing you. When you’re waking up at 5:00am and working until 8pm on your startup for months that bleed into years, you realize you’re much stronger than you imagined. I also was told by a mentor “Hardships make sense retrospectively.”
In the 2020 crash, our company was months away from going upside down. Well, as it turns out, that market slump created a unique exit opportunity for us that would not have existed otherwise. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise; although, it felt like the end of the world at the moment. Setbacks are often an invitation to change course. In my life, some of the best things to ever happen to me are the hardships that forced me to make positive personal and professional changes.
How has TBHF helped you in your entrepreneurial journey?
Being selected for the Future Texas Business Legend Scholar Award in 2016 gave me confidence to try. I got to meet Warren Buffett at my induction and had some inspiring conversations with the other legends there. Those meaningful interactions convinced me that maybe God placed this on my mind for a reason and that I was capable of succeeding as an entrepreneur. I’m so thankful I had that nudge as a twenty-one-year-old kid.
All the funds from the TBHF scholarship went directly towards founding Dark Horse and helped sustain us through the 2020 crash. Between that scholarship and saving aggressively for a couple years, we were able to self-fund without taking on outside commitments. That ended up making all the difference when we exited earlier this year. Every person I’ve interacted with in the TBHF network has been phenomenal. I have learned so much listening to the legends and alumni. It really feels more like a family than anything. I am so excited to stay involved in TBHF going forward.