Stranger 90, Day 90 – Meet John, the “Real Estate and Investment Guru”

Stranger 90, Day 90 - Meet John

I’ve seen today’s Stranger countless times at ATV. We pass by each other, and I admit, we haven’t done the courteous thing often of even smiling or saying hello. What makes this even more strange, is that I’ve seen him before outside of ATV… many times. I don’t recall where or when. Surprisingly, it’s taken this journey up to 90 Days to finally say hello and get to know him.

As we met, initially, he asked me if I knew a couple of his friends. Ahh, that’s where I’ve seen him (and maybe, loosely, met him). I couldn’t recall for the life of me, and he agreed that he didn’t remember me all that well, either. So there you go — a Stranger with an even more familiar face. Now, let me introduce you.

Meet John, 34

Who are you?

“Geez, I guess… you know, we work in the Tech Village.”

He starts out by talking about the company he works for. “What we do here is more traditional commercial real estate. It’s just democratizing the process. It’s essentially real estate crowdfunding. So, it’s just like crowdfunding that’s been around for 4 or so years where we’ll be able to bring potential commercial real estate investments to people that have never been able to seek before, or couldn’t hit those high minimums, and let them get involved with it. Been in real estate the entire time. Always interested in the tech space. Do a lot of startup investing as well. I’m on the board of a fund over at BIP Capital. I’ve been doing stuff with those guys for 5-6 years. That’s kind of it in a nutshell right there.”

So that’s a little bit of what you do, and what you like. You have a ring on your finger?

“Yes! Married. Three girls.”

Three girls?!

“Three girls!”

How old are they?

“6, 4, and 1.” Congrats!

Have any aspirations for more?

“Yeah, we’ll see where this goes. I kind of wear a lot of different hats as well. This is the primary job and stuff. But I’ve got some other things going on. I haven’t really decided what I want to do yet. But, I’m trying to, I guess, work that way.”

So what are some of your passions?

“I… I really like real estate. It’s kind of what I’ve been doing this whole time. Beyond that, hanging out with the kids. Playing golf. Things like that.”

What’s been — you mentioned your kids a couple times — thinking about your kids and raising your girls in this world today, how do you think you’re going to continue to instill the values that you have on them?

“Yeah, I don’t know. It’s kind of hard. They’re still in preschool right now. Just gotta stay involved. As long as you’re just there, and keep pushing them in the right direction. Just making sure they’re good people. There’s probably not much more you can do there. They’re gonna do what they want to do. But, I think, as long as you’re involved, they’re not going to be screw-ups.” Haha. John laughs.

“Keep them on the right path. Keep on supporting them, and encouraging them. Still too early to tell.”

Your kids are young, and I’ve found kids to fascinate me in so many ways. How has your daughters fascinated you? Can you recall one time?

“It’s the memorization. I mean, they don’t forget anything. We’ll be, like, talking about something or doing something, and she’ll bring up, ‘Remember a year ago when we did this?’ It’s just crazy what they can already think of right now. I guess you lose your memory over time, but it’s amazing how fast they grow. I mean, the oldest one wasn’t even reading much at the beginning of the school year — September-something. Now, she can read books.”

He’s astonished and wonders, “Sometimes, I can’t tell if she’s already memorized it, or just memorizes by listening to us reading it to her. Or, she’s actually reading the words, but it’s crazy the kind of switches they take, especially, in kindergarten.”

How did you and your wife meet?

“At the very end of high school, we started dating. I went to Tech. She went to Georgia. So we kind of did that thing for a while. Probably a good thing — give us our own space. And the rest is… We got married in 2007. It’s been a while. We’ve been together 17 years. Something like that.”

Half of your lives!

“Yeah! Trying to do the math… I think… Yes. 17, and I’m 34. Yes.” That’s awesome.

So I guess circling back to your passions in real estate, what about real estate has fascinated you?

“You know, it’s funny how I got into it. We were all sitting around the fraternity house in college. Forgot how we talked about it, but somebody asked another guy, “What do you want to do when you get out of college?’ and said, ‘I want to go into real estate’. So I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to do that, too.'”

“I think I took one class there in the business school about real estate. I couldn’t tell you what it was about. But then I just went along that. Started networking. Got an intern job at a brokerage over here. Did that for a while. Went to another one. Then, went to the banks. Did commercial real estate for the banks. The crowdfunding thing… it’s funny. I was always super interested. It started with like Lending Club, and then, Realty Mogul, and then all the other competitors of ours. And even some venture crowdfunding — like seed investors, Angel List. Did some deals there. Then, I saw that. I did realize I didn’t want to be in the bank anymore. It was just terrible, so I decided to look around. See what they guys can do. I saw they were going to hire someone in Atlanta. We’re based out of LA. There’s 60 of us — 60 employees in LA. Two of us here. Others, in some other cities.

“So then I saw they were going to hire in Atlanta. Took me a few months — talked with my guy at Realty Mogul who I knew just doing investing. They’ve already hired him, and I saw they hired Chuck, who sits right there.” He looks in the general direction of the empty desk across from him. “He’s not in right now. I ended up here. Emailing him, calling him in a week.”

“We talked for like 6 months. I’ve been here a year. When we were in LA last week, we have this thing called Top Hat. You’ve been there a year, and you become a vested partner. You can get your pad. That was just his thing that he was attracted to.”

“… I attracted him. That’s why he decided to bring me on. He saw I super passionate about this space we’re in.”

“Just, you know, go from there.”

“With the real estate background, for the passion for the crowdfunding/ startup area.”

What’s been, I guess, the most fun part about the startup area and being in Atlanta?

“It’s different. I mean, we’re at a startup, but it’s fun really still doing a lot of the traditional stuff. He doesn’t have a tech startup background. I don’t really either. It’s all been traditional real estate. But it’s fun here. We get to sit in this place and do this, but we get to wear a lot of hats. We’re not like… at the bank, I was at Suntrust, we were so silo’ed into what you are going to do. Here, you know, you can do a little bit of whatever you want to do. As long as you make the deals get done.”

“It’s fun. So half the team out in LA are the developers, and seeing what they’re doing. We’re highly technology focused, so we try to keep building up technology — do it better and faster.”

“But, umm, you know… while we are a startup, we’re venture-backed. All that stuff. It still feels like a traditional — it’s like a more fun traditional real estate company.”

Thinking about how you’ve got three young girls at home, have the wife, you’re doing the traditional commercial real estate/ startup part, do you ever struggle with the balance?

“No, it’s not bad. I’ll travel some, but it’s not too bad. I still got here in decent time. Work even after they go to bed. You know, it’s nothing crazy like it was kind of in the old days. Working on the weekends and stuff.”

“They all understand. As long as you can make the time, and do that, it hasn’t really affected that at all. You know, we get busy at times doing a lot of deals. But there are some down times, you can kind of relax, and go home more often.”

Do you have any aspirations for you and your family? Or maybe just yourself in terms of what big dream is?

“I think it’s just to stay with this company as it moves through. We’re getting bigger. We also have our speed bumps and all that stuff. I think just seeing where this company can go. It’s a very, very new industry. The industry’s really, at most, four years old. It could be a big, big industry. Even the amount of dollars crowdfunding has raised since its infancy till now, it’s a big growth plan. It’s just how we can scale this. We’re trying to do a lot of deals. Make it fast, easy for everybody. At the end of the day, we’re still struggling with how to scale it and do more deals. But I’ll hang around here for a while. See how it works out, and just keep trying to do more deals.”

“I think, at the end of the day, I’ve always wanted to kind of run my own small-type investment fund. But you know… That’s about it.”

I’ll start to wrap this up. I like to ask the Stranger of the Day (congrats, you’re Day 90), if you can ask anyone anything, what would you ask? Before you have your opportunity, like I said, I met a couple guys at a store, one of them is named Morgan. The other is Xavier. So Morgan wants to ask you what is your story. You said a little bit about it through your “who are you”, but I’m curious if there’s anything else you’d like to add to your story? (Thanks to Morgan, Stranger 89)

“No, it’s pretty straight forward.” He pauses to think.

“Born in Atlanta. Just know this area so well. Trying to build up the network in this town. Try to hit an area and level in my life where I can make the choices if I want to do something with the family, I can do that. If I want to work hard, I can do that, too. I think that’s how this company bridges that balance of traditional banks and the old jobs, and you know, I kind of enjoy that, too. So we can kind of make our own decisions here, and make our own plans as well.”

Cool. And then Xavier wanted to ask, what can you do to make this world a better place? (Thanks to Xavier, Stranger 89)

“Make sure the girls are raised to be good people. That’s the key right there.”

Now, it’s your turn. What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

His eyes get big for a moment. “Oh geez. I would ask anyone… if you could do one thing different, what would you do?”

John adds on, “… and why?”

After the handshake.

I was relieved to finally meet John. I’m also surprised we haven’t seen each other more often given our common friends. That, and we haven’t met yet since I’ve been at Atlanta Tech Village since the beginning of the year.

John was super friendly, and open to meet + be today’s Stranger. It was great to hear how passionate he was about his industry, and how active he is in supporting other startups. Specifically, he’s an investor in startups. I’m interested to connect with him further to learn more about investment strategies, and understanding the whole venture funding world. Being an entrepreneur who has not gone through funding rounds, I’d like to learn more.

Meet John. No longer a Stranger.


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