Few CFOs have the investor pedigree of Samantha Greenberg: early associate at private equity firm Francisco Partners; partner at Paulson & Co; portfolio manager at Citadel; and a vice president in the special situations group at Goldman Sachs.
She also founded Margate Capital Management and grew it to the third-largest woman-run hedge fund. Over the years, Greenberg, especially when launching Margate and guiding it through SEC registration, developed a “career-abiding love for seeing businesses built and scaled,” and “being an operator as well as investor,” she said. The ability to actually drive value creation and affect outcomes is what made a CFO seat so attractive.
CFO, Mint House
In December 2021, Greenberg joined technology-led residential hospitality startup Mint House for her first CFO stint. Mint House operates out of luxury apartment buildings. It doesn’t own its 20-plus properties or lease them; instead, it makes a percentage of revenue or profit as a fee.
The properties are purpose-built for business travelers and so-called “digital nomads” — people that spend six months or more of the year living in different cities or countries and working remotely.
“Mint House is a lot of what I would look for as a technology investor — incredible product, secular trends powering the business, a good financial model, and compelling industry dynamics,” Greenberg told CFO in late January.
In addition to discussing Mint House’s operating model, I asked Greenberg about the company’s target market, capital needs, and data analytics usage.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
SAMANTHA GREENBERG: We’re a next-generation hotel that has two fundamental differences from a Marriott or Hilton. First, our units have the amenities of a residence, like full kitchens, living rooms, and dedicated workspaces, but they also have the service quality of a four-star hotel. The second difference is we power the entire end-to-end guest experience using technology. That removes many of the legacy hotel hassles [for guests]. … They check in and check out on the app. They can request a fluffy down pillow without having to call housekeeping. And [the business model] eliminates substantial operating costs — in particular, labor.
GREENBERG: Business travel is about 60% of our bookings. … The typical [customer] might be a producer working on a film for Netflix or a consultant on a multi-week engagement. … [Or] a family that’s moved to a new city and wants to stay at a property for 30 to 60 days while they get situated. The properties have safe locking-door mechanisms, security cameras in the hallways, and security personnel on staff. [Things the typical Airbnb doesn’t have but some large companies require for employees.]
I think operators who come from the investing world can bring uniquely valuable skills to the CFO role, in that we are expert forecasters and researchers of unit economics.
The digital nomads — typically younger workers — choose to live in these extended-stay accommodations for 30 or 60 days rather than renting an apartment with a 12- or 24-month lease or owning a home. They want more space and more amenities.
GREENBERG: I think operators who come from [the] investing [world] can bring uniquely valuable skills to the CFO role, in that we are expert forecasters and researchers of unit economics. We’ve spent our careers digging into companies’ unit economics, key performance indicators, and customer efficiency metrics. We’ve also built comprehensive forecasts. As an investor, your career depends on analyzing data and deriving insights that lead to better decision-making. Those skills lead to better resource prioritization and operational wins.
GREENBERG: A data-driven insight that led to a big operational win for Mint House occurred from segmenting properties into time-series-based cohorts. We could see significant differences and inflection points in profitability based on when a property opened. The insight to us was if we applied more structure and process rigor to the pre-opening period, tied some compensation [to it], and set milestones at 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days across departments, we could boost unit economics in the early months.
In another example, we changed how sales rep productivity is measured. I suggested analyzing the sales team relative to the alternative channel of a customer booking a reservation through Expedia. [Expedia gets a mid-teens percentage of the revenue.] We found a huge dispersion. It created the opportunity to drive more productivity in markets where [direct] sales might be a less-effective channel than an [online travel agency].
GREENBERG: We’re in a world where capital has become very scarce. Resource prioritization is a critical function for all private companies in a way that maybe it wasn’t in 2021 when capital flowed freely.
We at Mint House are operating under the assumption that the capital we raised in 2022 has to fund us through profitability. We did a large series B round [$35 million last May, led by Mohari Hospitality], and we put in place some other financing vehicles to shore up liquidity.
We have a business model that’s more resilient … It’s “asset light” — we have minimal capital expenditures and high gross margins. And it’s highly recurring and visible revenue. We haven’t finished closing our 2022 books yet, but in 2021 we outperformed on virtually every metric.