As a real estate entrepreneur, Laura has bought, managed, renovated, and sold her own investment properties, as well as investing in REITs and MICs. Laura brings more than a decade of expertise in building companies. Her last venture was an internet marketing agency that enabled startups and SMEs to grow from ideation to multi-million dollar revenues.
Now co-founding her third company, Laura's expertise led her on the path to co-creating REITIUM - a real estate equity crowdfunding platform and SaaS that utilizes smart contract technology to provide accessibility, while simplifying the process of investing, allowing people across the globe to invest in income-generating real estate, enabling Real Estate for Everyone.
Q: What inspired you to found REITIUM and what were the main challenges you faced?
Inequality was what spurred the idea for this whole business. The rich keep getting richer, while the rest of the population merely ‘gets by’, often living paycheck to paycheck. We believe in financial inclusion and that everyone should have the opportunity to grow their wealth. We see real estate investing as a safe and stable way to do so. REITIUM is a real estate investment management platform that has simplified the process of buying real estate investments, fractionally. Think: equity crowdfunding for real estate properties.
At REITIUM we created a digitized platform to fulfill our vision of allowing people across the globe to buy fractional real estate assets.
At the beginning, we set out with excitement, eagerness, with guns blazing as they say. Truth is we very quickly realized we were selling ‘a security’ and not ‘real estate’ in a traditional sense as our investors are buying a fraction of a property, not the entire asset. We have been interviewed by regulators and have been working with them closely to ensure our software is compliant and follows protocol. We are excited to see crowdfunding regulations loosen to favour the everyday investor, not just those accredited.
We were pretty future with our idea and as a result, we paused in building out the crowdfunding platform and pivoted to license out our software to investment companies already in the market. It turns out the tech we built for ourselves was highly sought after in the investment industry and companies began approaching us to license the one-stop-shop we created to house investment data. Excitingly, we are now back on track, working on our original dream of making real estate affordable to all!
COVID-19 - obviously
As a small business, we got hit pretty hard. We had to lay off employees, restructure our team and learn how to operate in unprecedented times. As with every small business that has managed to survive the COVID storm, we are starting to see a light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Being a bootstrapped startup has helped us gain insight, overcome adversity and keep going to fulfill the dream we set out to achieve.
Q: Did you start the venture alone?
I started REITIUM at the end of 2017 with my two amazing business partners, Thomas Park and Michael Moll.
I met Thomas the first week I moved to Vancouver, Canada in early 2016. A friend of a friend brought me to an event on Thomas’ rooftop, we chatted all night about real estate and business and quickly became friends.
I met Michael in the summer of 2016 at a crowdfunding event in Vancouver. Michael was pitching a gardening app which would win him the Golden Ticket, allowing him to pitch on the Canadian startup TV series, Dragon’s Den (equivalent of Shark Tank in the US).
Thomas, Michael and I started working together in early 2017 on a passion project - a travel app that would allow busy travelers to meet up abroad. We met a few times every week and developed a beta version before coming up with and switching gears to REITIUM. We quickly discovered that we worked very well together and our skill sets were complementary. This early working relationship paved the way for the symbiotic nature we are able to operate and maintain in REITIUM.
In late 2017, we won a hackathon, which was the beginning of the idea for REITIUM. Through late night iterations, we solidified the idea to crowdfund real estate investing, focusing on those previously excluded from the real estate market. Immediately we had incredible reception, raising money from friends and family and found ourselves winning competitions around the world for our tech and ingenuity.
Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?
It is our goal to continue to offer REITIUM for free to its end users (investors).
Through traveling to countless conferences, presenting on global stages and being interviewed in news outlets worldwide, we’ve had incredible success at attracting tens hundreds of thousands of interested investors into our network. Part of REITIUM’s secret sauce is the access we have to a massive pool of vetted investors who are eager to get into the real estate market.
We license our SaaS out to investment companies. As with most SaaS, we charge monthly and white-labeling fees.
This allows us to keep our platform free to investors, which is not common in our industry.
Q: Do you think luck played a role in the success of your company?
Entrepreneurship is hardly ever about luck. Courage is a necessity when starting any new venture. It takes tenacity to have staying power through the incredibly difficult times. It takes risk and prudence when hiring a team. It takes eloquence and resilience to get up on stage and share your dreams when raising money. And finally it takes determination to weather all storms, especially when it feels much simpler to quit. But no, luck is rarely to thank.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
In 3 years, I'll be 41. Which to me is actually quite exciting, I've always leaned into ageing as I totally agree with the ‘older and wiser’ belief.
My goals in the next 3 years:
- To be recognized on 40 under 40 lists for the innovative technology and financial inclusion we are creating at REITIUM.
- To continue to be a leader in my field and encourage the next cohort of women in STEAM to step up, be brave and share their ideas.
- To write more articles and thought leadership pieces surrounding my role, our company and what it's like to be a female executive in a male-dominated industry. To me breaking through the stereotypes and pushing glass ceilings excites me.
My goals in the next 5 years:
- I would like to be building another company or new projects within REITIUM that span beyond what we are currently doing. There are so many avenues our company has the potential to fulfill that we of course cannot even fathom yet until the markets evolve.
- A very important goal is to continue the social impact side of our company, working with governments in emerging markets, continually stimulating their economy and growth capacities.
Q: If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
Hmm….that’s an interesting question. As cliche as this may sound, I truly believe that there are no ‘mistakes’, especially in business. Yes, there are failures and screw ups. There are opportunities, whether missed or taken. And there are times when things could’ve been better/different etc. But with a growth mindset, I see every choice I make as foundational. As character-building. Failures can arguably be more important than successes. If I had to start over, I would have ‘failed faster’.
Q: Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
My mother. She is one of the most tenacious people I know. Her humility precedes her - she never asks for or wants anything. She was the heart and the backbone of our family growing up. She is an artist and a businesswoman, never settling and always creating. She is kind yet firm, knowing what she wants and going for it. She always taught my sister, brother and I that we could do anything if we put our heart and head into it.
I am very lucky to be born to parents who have always been entrepreneurs. From a young age I learned about the illusion of stability and how to think critically. Through the financial ups and downs of my childhood the things that remained constant were growth, constant change and the need to adapt as well as emotional stability. This early learning molded me to think the way I do and allowed me to be flexible when starting a business, especially with the failure piece. Learning how to fail and realizing it is never final is what motivates me daily to keep pushing and iterate where needed. I also believe that everyone shows up in business the same way they show up in life and commitments. If you are lazy and want the easy way out, that’s what you’ll search for in your career. If you are driven, focused and dedicated to your personal growth and sports, that is how you will show up in the boardroom. It’s all a reflection and usually quite on point.
Q: What are your favorite books?
Where do I even begin?! I am an avid reader, consuming at least one book per week. There are so many incredible books out there on business and entrepreneurship these days. One important thing I will note is to read/listen to books with varying perspectives and see what you jive with best. Just because it works for the masses, does not mean it will work for you. Remain open and curious.
A few books that really inspired me are: The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks, The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz and Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo. And on a more personal note, I highly recommend: Beyond Mars and Venus by John Gray and The Woman Code by Alisa Vitti.
Q: What's your advice for female founders who are just starting out?
1. Failure - Learn how to fail fast, brush yourself off and move on. Almost everyone who has created a company has failed, iterated and pivoted, allowing them to learn and create a better, more focused product or service. Sometimes it's a case of being too early for your market and sometimes you just need to make a shift to find your flow - either way, embrace failure for it is truly the best teacher.
2. Fluidity - You must become incredibly fluid when starting a company. What is hot and happening today may be old hat next month. You must adapt, always be learning and embrace constant change. Let go of the need for expectations before they arise. It may be as simple as shifting your idea, your market or maybe even finding a Co-Founder, but don't be afraid to tell others what you're working on, this is the best way to validate your idea.
3. Focus - The biggest issue I see with new business owners is blurred vision and distracted excitement - think ‘squirrel’! Most entrepreneurs love to create and come up with new ideas, but those who are truly successful focus on one offering and cut out all the other noise. Once you are doing one thing really well, you can then work on creating the next product. And of course, you can still iterate your idea while maintaining focus on the impact you are setting out to create.