Q&A With RealtyMogul CEO Part 2: Jilliene Helman Speaks On First-Ever Deal, Building A Startup And The Crowdfunding Endgame
With real estate tech startups launching left and right (though some think a lot of firms won't make it), Part 2 of Bisnow's Q&A with RealtyMogul CEO Jilliene Helman goes into the endgame for her crowdfunding firm, and the type of person it takes to found one of these ventures.
Bisnow: What was your first deal?
Jilliene: I started managing a multifamily apartment building in Los Angeles when I turned 16.
Jilliene: Yeah. It was a fun challenge when you learn stuff. I had people around me that were smart that helped. It was family and I wanted some exposure and then one thing led to another.
Bisnow: What made you pull the trigger and go out on your own and create what you've created now?
Jilliene: I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I always wanted to build a company. Loved finance, loved real estate, loved technology, so I sort of married finance, real estate and technology into RealtyMogul.
Bisnow: Speaking of entrepreneurship, some of the biggest entrepreneurs go into one thing, build it and move on to the next venture. What's your endgame?
Jilliene: Right now, we're just focusing on scaling growth. We want to build a company for the long term. We want to build a business that's successful, we want to build a business that's differentiated, so we're not structuring for any exit per se. We're trying to build a long-term sustainable company.
Bisnow: How do you do that—and how much have investors made so far?
Jilliene: The focus on cash flow is really important. To date, we've distributed out over $30M back to investors. For a company that's been in business just shy of three years, we're pretty proud of that number. That's $30M that's come out of the platform, which is as important, if not more important, than the transactions coming into the platform.
Bisnow: On the less shiny side, there have been whispers from private equity insiders that crowdfunding is a ticking bomb that could end up costing investors big.
Jilliene: I think it depends on the transaction. I think different platforms are taking different levels of risks. One of the things we really pride ourselves on is that we've got a real institutional credit team and we look for risk-adjusted returns. We won't do any credit developments, we won't do spec projects, we won't do preferred equity on a resi fix-and-flip. There are platforms that are taking way more risk when you look at their transactions compared to our transactions. It's probably not fair to say that overarching for the industry, but there are certainly platforms that are taking way more risk than I would be comfortable with.