When Jilliene Helman and Justin Hughes started crowdfunding platform RealtyMogul.com in the US, they didn’t have a single investor. Three years later, the site presides over 80,000 individual investor-members.
“And that number grows monthly,” Helman tells Property Portal Watch.
Helman, who is the company’s CEO and sits on its board, has underwritten over $5 billion of real estate.
She was previously a Vice President at Union Bank, where she spent time in wealth management, finance and risk management.
Also a Certified Wealth Strategist® with a degree in Business from Georgetown University, Helman says RealtyMogul.com launched with a single mission: to simplify real estate investing by connecting real estate entrepreneurs and investors through cutting-edge technology.
“I realized several years ago that the highest net-worth clients had made their money in real estate, but it’s a hard asset class to get into in a simple way,” she explains.
Helman saw her opportunity when the SEC began to look closely at crowdfunding.
“When the JOBS Act passed in April 2012, it opened the door for us to tap into a huge market,” she recalls.
“I’d seen a lot of wealth built through investing and real estate and I’ve always loved the tangible nature of real estate.
Helman and cofounder Justin Hughes, who is chief technology officer wanted to seize on this mix of regulatory opportunity and advancing technology to make the real estate market more accessible.
RealtyMogul.com was born in 2013.
Opportunity brings rewards
In July 2015, the platform raised $35 million in Series B funding led by Sorenson Capital, with participation from Canaan Partners.
Former Realtor.com CEO Steve Ozonian sits on the board along with Hrach Simonian of Canaan Partners and Rob Rueckert of Sorenson Capital.
Pelion Venture Partners is another notable corporate investor.
More recently, RealtyMogul.com became the first US real estate crowdfunding platform to fully fund $200 million in commercial real estate.
But Helman says that barely scratches the surface.
“There is so much potential using technology in this massive asset class,” she says.
“We want to build on that momentum and continue to lead in this space.”
Long line of entrepreneurs
Helman, who grew up the youngest of seven children says she comes from a long line of entrepreneurs.
“I was fortunate enough to start my real estate education at the dinner table,” she recalls.
“My father owned commercial and industrial real estate through his businesses and our family owned property in Los Angeles; I started helping to manage the property when I was 16.
“I knew at an early age I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but also knew that I wanted classical training.
After graduating from business school at Georgetown University, Helman decided to go into banking.
“Working for the bank, I got exposure in finance, strategy, wealth management, commercial real estate and risk management – it was an amazing real world education,” she says.
No nonsense approach
Perhaps as a result of her early background, Helman is very down to earth and pragmatic.
“My belief in business is that you should get paid when you add value so we focus on adding value for both investors and real estate companies on a daily basis,” she says.
“Investors pay us an annual servicing fee while real estate companies pay an origination fee when their transactions are funded.”
She adds, real estate has long been an old boys’ club, but platforms like RealtyMogul.com are starting to democratize the real estate investment landscape.
“I want to do my part – by using technology to increase access and simplify the process – to bring more and more investors, including women, into the fold.
“I’d give the same advice to female entrepreneurs as I would to male entrepreneurs: out-hustle and out-execute,” she says.
Access through innovation
Of the future Helman says the RealtyMogul team is always looking for new ways to bring value to its investors and is always looking towards the next offering.
“At RealtyMogul.com, our core purpose is ‘Access through Innovation’,” she enthuses.
‘My incredible team and I are growing RealtyMogul.com to be a one-stop shop for capital markets by financing both debt capital and equity capital.
“I see us continuing to grow into this vision.
“Going forward, we also want to continue to build credibility and confidence in the market.
“We want to continue to be leaders in developing first-of-its-kind technology for real estate and aim to educate and inspire a whole new generation of real estate investors.
“As we have since our inception, we want to take advantage of advances in the regulatory landscape to increase access even more. And we will continue to add products to the platform for investors to diversify into.”