Running a Cutting Edge Family Office
A Conversation with Sameer Narula
In this episode, Kimon and Richard speak with Sameer Narula, Managing Partner of August One, a private investment firm. Despite self-identifying as an engineer, Sameer has an entrepreneurial mind. Prior to starting August One, Sameer founded two companies, selling one in the early 2000s.
His first ever venture was at the age of 13 when he and several friends started writing and drawing comic books. They used the school Xerox and sold copies to other students. Eventually, his parents became worried about the operation distracting Sameer from his schoolwork. Like most childhood pursuits, this project fizzled out.
Sameer describes August Ones as akin to a family office. His family, along with four others, jointly pursue investments together for a multitude of objectives. He has known the other families for decades, and in some cases, his family has known the others for generations. In addition to these family offices, they also work with government funds and other investors.
The nature of each investment varies, though Sameer and his main partners are as hands-on as possible. In one venture, August One is investing in carbon-neutral, real estate development in rural Europe. Sameer works directly with the architects and visits the building sites. In another–– a brewery–– Sameer has personally delivered barrels of beer.
The three main areas that they focus on are real estate, energy, and food. Growing up in New Delhi, Sameer experienced firsthand the pollution that comes from these three areas. As a result, he is driven to invest in companies and projects that seek to reduce their carbon footprint.
Sameer also discusses the promises and perils of working with governments. As he describes, working with Portugal has been a pleasure and Singapore is more efficient than any company or government he’s ever seen.
Later in the interview, Sameer describes some of the challenges he’s faced as an entrepreneur and investor. He cautions that investors should fear zombie companies more than companies that try and fail. A company that fails allows you to cut your losses, whereas a zombie company can drain capital over a long period of time.
Sameer also discusses the personal values necessary to succeed in the business world. He talks about the importance of working with people you trust. Values matter in addition to grit.
Currently, Sameer splits his time between Helsinki, Lisbon, and Singapore. His reasons are both business-related and personal. All three are international, port cities. In Sameer’s view, all three are poised for growth and many of his clients operate in those regions.
About our Hosts:
Kimon Fountoukidis: Kimon is the founder of both Argos Multilingual and PMR.
Richard Lucas: Richard is a business and social entrepreneur who has founded or invested in more than 30 businesses, including Argos Multilingual, PMR and, in 2020, the New Books Network.