Ryan Williams’ startup has not only raised substantial equity for his tech startup, but has seen it invest about $1B in assets.
On the Dealmakers Show, Williams shared how he began exploring entrepreneurship at just 13 years old then later went on to work in corporate America before deciding to level the playing field in real estate and investing.
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Ryan Williams was born and raised in Louisiana. In spite of what he describes as a relatively humble upbringing, he says his faith and family provided a great support system. One which ultimately enabled him to get to where he is today.
Growing up in the ‘90s, Ryan liked playing sports. These were the days when wristbands and headbands were cool, though he found that he couldn’t afford the trendiest brands of the time, like Jordans, Nike, or Adidas.
He decided he and others needed a more affordable product that was still high quality. So, he went to the local wholesale garment district, and found these products for 50 cents a piece, then took them to be customized and embroidered. He began reselling them, and they were a hit.
Ryan says that he was able to find some good mentors, including those at the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). They challenged him to think bigger, go faster, and to scale. It became a successful business for him.
Unconventional Results Require Unconventional Actions
Some of Ryan Williams’ mentors suggested that he apply to attend Harvard. They told him the worst case scenario is that he would be told no.
He says that he has always embraced opportunities to beat the odds. He has always found that in order to achieve something unconventional you have to take unconventional approaches, and to be willing to go up against the odds. Ryan told the Dealmakers audience that he couldn’t fathom “someone who doesn’t believe I could be successful to stop me. It would be a disservice to them, and be a disservice of those that came before me.”
As an entrepreneur he states that you have to maintain a level of optimism, hope, and belief that you can beat the odds, and to remember that the opportunities you have are because of others that have sacrificed themselves to make that possible. If you keep on moving forward and taking on these challenges, it also builds up that internal muscle to help you continue pushing forward.
Harvard saw the entrepreneur in him, and there he found a whole new playground of resources. It was like a bootcamp for learning.
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Even in his freshman year, the entrepreneur in him kicked in and he started a financial literacy group alongside two of his friends specifically for students of color at Harvard. Veritas Financial Group would help those students who didn’t come from wealthy backgrounds to find a more level playing field when it came to financial services and understanding them.
Later when the 2008 crisis hit when Ryan was in his sophomore year, he discovered his passion for real estate. When he visited one of his friends in Atlanta, he saw firsthand rampant foreclosures and families being forced from their homes. He began raising money from classmates to buy these distressed homes, oftentimes renting back out to the affected families so they could rebuild their futures. Not only did he find it to be a very lucrative asset class, but he saw the power to both do well financially while doing good.
After Harvard, Williams went on to work in the financial sector, landing at Goldman Sachs and Blackstone where he earned an appreciation for human capital and surrounding himself with great people, but more importantly, honed his entrepreneurial skills and learned how to balance risk.
Democratizing Real Estate Investing
Through his early experiences at Goldman and Blackstone, Ryan realized that real estate investing remained very opaque, and although large amounts of wealth were being created, it was centralized for the top 1%, primarily sovereign wealth funds and large institutions. There was no access for the average individual.
It raised the question of how to make real estate investing as easy as buying anything else, like buying and selling products on Amazon, and create a more inclusive global economy where individuals could invest like institutions.
During this time the JOBS Act was passed in 2012, which enabled individuals to invest in a greater menu of assets while empowering new platforms to open up and receive funding from the public. Through his personal network he also found about ten investors who said they would back him in a new venture.
All of these things came together to convince him to take the leap with his own startup.
Of course, there were still those that thought he was crazy. They didn’t understand why he would leave a great paying job and take anything but the conventional path. But that didn’t stop him.
Ryan Williams founded Cadre in 2014. Cadre is a groundbreaking technology-driven, commercial real estate investing platform that offers both institutional and individual investors the opportunity to access expertly curated real estate assets with lower minimums, low fees, and unprecedented potential for liquidity.
Since its founding, Cadre has closed more than $4.5B in real estate transactions across 24 U.S. markets and has returned about $300M to investors. While it’s no guarantee of future performance, their historic rate of return of realized investments has been over 18%.
This fintech company has already raised at least $150M in equity capital, and has grown to approximately 100 employees and thousands of customers, including both accredited individual and institutional investors such as Goldman Sachs, the Ford Foundation, Harvard University, the JPB Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation.
Storytelling is everything which is something that Ryan Williams was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) where the most critical slides are highlighted.
Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- The vision of Cadre and the future of real estate investing
- Fundraising and activating your network
- Ryan’s top advice for entrepreneurs