Entrepreneur leaves finance in Europe for Nashville startup | Crain's Nashville

Entrepreneur leaves finance in Europe for Nashville startup

Zachary Watson is CEO and founder of HoneyCo Homes, a Nashville-based startup that aims to offer residential alternatives to institutionalized facilities for Americans who want to stay at home in retirement. | Photo courtesy of Zachary Watson

Zachary Watson, CEO and founder of HoneyCo Homes, went on quite the career adventure before building a startup in Nashville.

After reading a book called “Ugly Americans” by Ben Mezrich, Watson set his sights on getting involved with overseas hedge funds – even though he had no experience in finance. It took months of trying, but a connection with a firm opening an office in Moscow gave Watson the opportunity to squeeze his way through a hedge fund’s door.

From Moscow, Watson was hired by an investment bank in Ukraine to work as a salesperson. Unhappy with a lack of hands-on work, Watson took his first leap in the startup world.

“Something about that job sort of plagued me, because I was always calling to get people to do something that I thought was a good idea, but I wasn't actually doing it myself. I could never really get over that, so essentially I started my own investment business in Ukraine,” he said.

Even though the company was doing well, Watson came to the conclusion he didn’t want to spend the rest of his career in Eastern Europe. He hopped on a plane back to the U.S. to go to business school.

With a graduate degree in hand, Watson took a new job in 2013 running an investment program for a foreign-based firm. He was primarily tasked with sourcing opportunities for investment.

It was on this stop in a whirlwind career journey that Watson began brainstorming ways to fix the problems of senior housing.

“One group came to me interested in senior housing, and my job was essentially to look into it and research it and see what the opportunity was,” Watson recalled. “The more that I learned about it, the more it started to crystallize in my mind that it was an opportunity where I was in the right spot to be a positive influence.”

Watson’s business partners came to him for an investment to build a dispersed retirement community.

“I looked into that and completely agreed with the demand, because the more I learned about it the worse it got,” Watson said.

Watson took this idea and ran with it. HoneyCo Homes was founded to offer alternatives to institutionalized facilities for Americans who want to stay at home, Watson said.

Billed as a pioneering single-family rental platform, HoneyCo Homes markets comfortable, safe and independent living, while emphasizing community involvement.

The 10-week-old company has raised about $1.1 million and is currently in the process of finishing up its first project, repurposing existing housing and making the homes safer for residents to “age in place.”

To be comprised of 50-plus units, the pilot residential program is on track to be ready for residents next fall.

Why Music City?

“What we found in Nashville was that there's a great sense of community infrastructure already built, and there's a real innate volunteer community spirit that was very attractive because one of the big pillars in our community offering is volunteerism,” said Watson, explaining that his team started with a Top 10 list of possible locations before Nashville set itself apart. “We want to make sure our residents have easy access to opportunities to volunteer, as well as continuing education, social engagement and work.”

Watson said he has an “amazing team” in place to accomplish those goals.

“I couldn't be happier with the company ability and culture,” he said. “Everyone here is on a mission to create a better home living experience.”

August 11, 2016 - 5:51pm