Douglas DiSanti spent the early years of his career in Corporate America, managing commercial real estate portfolios in excess of a billion dollars. In 2019, as a young and successful executive quickly working up the corporate ladder for a multinational bank, he realized there wasn’t the meaning he desired in his work. In search of a greater impact, Mr. DiSanti left Corporate America at just 27 years old and set out to change the world with the founding of GrassRoots Advisory LLC. GrassRoots’ mission was to bring innovations to emerging countries for the betterment of mankind.
Based in Nashville, TN, GrassRoots Advisory provides M&A services to companies in the environmental, social, governance (ESG), and impact investing spaces, providing entrepreneurs with the necessary tools to capitalize their companies and to scale their businesses while uplifting and assisting people all over the world. The company also works with not-for-profits that provide essentials to citizens in emerging countries.
In just three years, GrassRoots has acquired a number of companies and completed six public offerings, putting companies back into good standing and in position for a merger or acquisition, allowing them to continue providing essential services to the global economy while expanding their philanthropic contributions. Their growing portfolio includes United Energy Corp., Apex, Neon Bloom, 7P Capital, Vortex Fund, and several others. GrassRoots firmly stands behind these companies, investing their own capital alongside their investors and providing partnerships and public listing services, as well as advisory services to early-stage and middle-market ESG ventures. While most leaders of a thriving firm might tout their own success, Doug turns the spotlight to the passionate founders of these enterprises who are driven to improve the lives of others. “It takes a village to make a global impact and people much smarter than myself. I’m just happy to play a small part and use my skill set to help lift them up,” he shares.
We sat down with Doug to learn more about his journey to GrassRoots and how their village of investors and entrepreneurs is changing the world.
What compelled you to start GrassRoots?
While working in the corporate world, I felt a lack of meaning and purpose to my work. I was blessed to have traveled and seen a lot of the world and witness first-hand, children not having access to clean water, food, and basic education needs. With all of the wealth in this world, it’s inexcusable that kids don’t have access to basic needs just because of where they were born. To be able to make an impact in people’s lives means everything to me. Yes, it would have been easier to just stay in the corporate environment, but I knew there was a much bigger impact I could make on the world. As I often say, “One hundred years from now, people won’t care how many houses or cars you owned, they’ll only ask if you made the world a better place.” Doug says. “Our mission is to leave a legacy behind that will have a positive impact on humanity for generations.”
Your time in Dallas was an important part of your journey to GrassRoots. How did this play a pivotal role in your work?
My year in Dallas I would describe as a trial by fire period in my life. The experience helped reignite my desire to focus on companies and technologies that serve a higher purpose and can make a global impact. I was fortunate to work closely with some amazing mentors during that time. It solidified the foundation I needed to fund and bring impact companies to the marketplace.
GrassRoots’s model ensures that founders retain control of their ventures while eliminating the liquidity and ROI timeline concerns for investors and VCs. It seems like a win-win. Tell us about this.
One of the biggest complaints from investment funds and VCs is a lack of liquidity. Liquidity for early-stage private companies typically takes years. But, with our model, they’re investing in publicly traded companies, which is very attractive to them because they know they’ll have that liquidity and have the option to exit within 12-18 months. It also protects founders from losing control over their companies to VCs and allows them to maintain their vision. This is done by creating a super-majority preferred class of stock and issuing it to founders, so even if the stock is diluted, they’ll always maintain control, which is crucial for them to achieve their vision. Many of the companies in my portfolio are ready to scale quickly with the appropriate follow-on funding.
How does the process work, both in terms of M&A and the “repurposing” component?
We locate small-cap companies trading on the OTC markets that have fallen out of good standing with the SEC, FINRA, and state. As a shareholder, I petition the court to appoint me as custodian of the public company. If granted, I bring the company back into good standing, which results in immediate value for legacy shareholders, and I assist in settling any possible corporate debt accumulated over the years. Once complete, there is a clean public vehicle positioned for a merger. I then locate ESG companies in need of capital and who align with our vision to make a positive impact globally. The private company merges into the public company through a share exchange agreement and uses the vehicle to raise capital through a Reg A+, Reg D, Reg CF, or an S-1 offering. The company can then attract capital with the registered securities that will be liquid in the near future. The intention of these companies is to use the public vehicle to raise capital to expand and grow the business. The founder's exit can occur several years later through an S-1 offering after the company has reached an acceptable valuation.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
The relationships that I build with an entrepreneur or founder. They become part of my family. I want to assist in helping them achieve their goals and dreams. I have met amazing entrepreneurs who have become lifelong friends. I’ve been able to connect with people all over the world. I love being able to create relationships and connect with people from so many different cultures and perspectives who are making a positive impact globally.
Doug holds B.S. in Finance from The College at Brockport and an MBA from Texas A&M - Commerce
Founder & Managing Director — GrassRoots Advisory LLC