A constant loop of piano riffs, drums, and violin swirling around Josh’s head. That’s what I imagine when I think of his childhood.
I’ve looked up to my cool, older cousin my entire life. Not because we share the same exact birthday, but because he’s always been doing something worth paying attention to.
In Kindergarten, Josh was asked what he wanted to do with his life. The answer? The police force. “In retrospect, I don’t even think I wanted that. I just thought the uniforms were cool.”
The policeman phase was short lived. Soon after, Josh graduated to dreaming of a career in the NHL. He loved the Rangers, and, even more so, he idolized Mike Richter. Little did he know that in his 20s he would buy season tickets to the Rangers and meet Richter himself.
In third grade, Josh settled on pursuing a career as a musician. He was one of six people chosen for the Suzuki program, an exclusive group of students gifted in rhythm and pitch. The program taught him to learn violin strictly through sound.
When Sixth grade began, Josh and his best friend started their own band “The Descents,” as a Blink-182 coverband. As per usual, Josh learned the songs just by listening, over and over again.
Music became Josh’s priority from then on. Whether it was the drums, the violin, the piano, or guitar, he was either playing music or thinking about it. There was no inclination that by the age of 23, he would have his own private equity firm and make 7 figures within the first year. Just spiked hair, teenage angst and piercings that my aunt & uncle weren’t too happy about.
In 10th grade, a bandmate’s sister was writing a piece on former NFL legend and four-time Pro Bowler Trevor Pryce. At the time Pryce was managing Outlook Music, an indie record label. She happened to have The Descent’s album on hand, so he listened to one song. The very next day Pryce flew out to Long Island and signed Josh’s band.
Although the record deal was short-lived, this was the first taste of stardom for Josh.
When it came time for college plans, Josh still had the band on his mind. He wanted to work on his music and go on the road. Eventually, he was introduced to the music program at NYU. In his mind, he was a shoe-in; “I had great SAT scores and excelled in school. I had a band since I was in 6th grade. At the time, I thought, ‘why wouldn’t I?’” But much to his dismay, he did not get in.
At the last second, his mom discovered a new music program at Hofstra University and secretly applied for him. “She called up the office, sent in my information, and I ended up with a full ride,” Josh reflects. “I could continue the band while going to school, since Hofstra is on Long Island.” Unfortunately, It turned out that the music program wasn’t exactly what they had advertised. “It was less hands on time in the studio and more traditional classes like ‘Music History.’ In fact, I don’t even think that there was a studio on campus at the time.” In light of this, Josh ended up changing his major from Music Business to Entrepreneurship. “A lot of inspiration in that decision came from my dad, because he was always an entrepreneur. He had his own contracting business and didn’t have to answer to anyone but himself.” He also enjoyed the business aspect of his original major, so the switch made sense.
The more Josh learned, the more he loved it. Books like The Intelligent Investor, a novel on value investing, became his personal bible.
“One of my final projects was to create a plan for my own value investing hedge fund.” He became so immersed in this project, that it started becoming a reality. “I spent 8 or 9 months going into the city, meeting with businessmen and lawyers. After the meetings, I would go home and reverse engineer the ideas. Eventually, I decided to start making a business where I would invest in small companies.” Josh’s passion project became so promising, that family and friends started investing money. “At the time I had nothing to lose, I was living at home. I went to a bank to open an institutional account, and the teller undoubtedly knew that I had no clue what I was doing.” A little while down the road, Josh asked the bank teller why he accepted his account. The teller said, “This is the American dream, and I want to support it.”
Before what is now called “Magna” took off, Josh would work two days a week at a law firm and spend the other 3 days working on Magna. “One Friday, I made my first deal, called up the law firm and resigned. I had a goal to do something big. When I am doing something, I do it seriously. I want to and need to be the best.”
While the company was taking off, Josh’s music career took a back seat. But a few years down the line, Josh had the resources to make it on his own. He built his own recording studio in his apartment and recorded several projects. Since then, he’s played Bowery Electric and several other notable venues around New York. “Back then I was beholden to these record companies, but now I could do it all myself. I could create my own entertainment. That was sort of the basis of me creating Magna Entertainment.” Indie film Bleed For This, starring Miles Teller, was Magna EP’s first big investment. They financed the entire project.
One of the biggest things I related to during my conversation with Josh, was his emphasis on being unable to do more than two things, full force, at once. “I can do two things at a very high level at the same time. I can do business and music. Business and relationship, or whatever it might be. But I can’t do all three.” Maybe it’s in our genes, but I’ve noticed the same thing about myself. Another big takeaway is that you don’t have to pigeonhole yourself into one identity. Like Josh, you can be the guy or girl working on Wall Street, with tattoo sleeves and a music career by night.
A message from Josh to you:
“Under no circumstances should you yield to social norms of what you're supposed to be doing and how you're supposed to be doing it. Both personally and professionally. A lot of people are unhappy because of this and it is not a way to live a fulfilled life. You want to be the best person at whatever you are doing. You can only be the best at limited things in life. Choose what you give your energy to, and once you choose that sacred thing. Give it everything.”