Bryant, a member of last year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 list, eventually left his Wall Street job, but he didn’t leave behind the mentality that got him interested in finance to begin with. Several of his former cube mates, roommates and college pals were similarly unfulfilled by what their banking jobs had to offer them, and they started sharing small-scale investment ideas to pass the time.
“We kept seeing so many opportunities to invest in real estate, to invest in small business, to invest in startups,” Bryant says. They weren’t wealthy enough yet to make meaningful investments themselves — but they could make a difference for a company by pooling their resources.
He and his future Harlem Capital cofounders started reaching out to each other to hustle together some funds. “Jarrid [Tingle] goes, ‘Hey, man, I have all these really cool opportunities. Do you have $10,000 to put towards it?’ Henri [Pierre Jacques] texted me, saying, ‘Hey, do you have $10,000?’ I say, ‘Yes.’ We go to a few other people. We had $50,000 in 30 minutes.”
There wasn’t one light bulb moment in which Bryant, Tingle, Pierre-Jacques and John Henry, who completes the quartet of leaders that now makes up Harlem Capital, decided that the individual investments could become a firm. But there was a meal in a cramped Harlem apartment in late 2015.
“We had a meeting in Jarrid’s living room about new deals and new opportunities. We ordered some takeout food. It was pretty low brow,” Bryant recalls. The four still had their day jobs but were essentially running their own small firm on the side already. They realized, during that get-together, that “we’d been building an airplane in midair,” Bryant says. “It was just like, ‘We need to put a wing on this. Then maybe we should have seat belts. Then maybe we should have a pilot. We need staff, we need people, we need air traffic control.’”
The staff of four were already flying, but they needed a mission.