Our CEO, Craig Cecilio, on the disrupting force of crowdfunding that is democratizing traditional real estate investing. An interview with the Entrepreneur Podcast Network, EPN.
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Welcome to Enterprise Radio, the signature show of EPN, the Entrepreneur Podcast Network – your channel for exclusive interviews with entrepreneurs, small-business owners and some of the world’s top executives, who share business strategies and insights that can all help you build your business, leading to your business success.
And now, broadcasting from anywhere between Brazil, South America to Los Angeles, California, it is your host, Eric Dye (ED).
ED: This is Eric Dye and once again, welcome to Enterprise Radio, part of the EPN, the Entrepreneur Podcast Network. Today, we are speaking with Mr. Craig Cecilio, the CEO and Founder of DiversyFund, an online real estate crowdfunding platform, disrupting traditional real estate investing, based in San Diego, California.
Mr. Cecilio, a pleasure to have you with us today on Enterprise Radio.
CC: Great, thanks for having me on the show today!
ED: You are welcome, our pleasure! So, tell us how your career began for starters and what has been your most rewarding professional experience so far.
CC: Gosh! My career started a long, long time ago. I could always say that I was a serial entrepreneur, since I was a little kid, doing various jobs: having various newspapers, raking lawns when I lived on the east coast, owning a landscaping business at 14 years old. So, I always had the entrepreneurial spirit. When I went to college, I had various jobs there, where I was in some type of either sales or trading something, with that entrepreneurial kind of background.
When I eventually moved out to California in 1997, I came up with an idea to just be an entrepreneur and I didn’t even know what that word actually was. It was just, kind of, to start my own business, and always be the guy in control, and always to run my own businesses. Along the way, I was able to meet a couple of people who introduced me to doing real estate syndication, and I kind of became a little obsessive about it and got involved in the real estate field.
I’d say over the last 15 years, I’ve dedicated most of my time to real estate syndication and as I saw crowdfunding become popular with the JOBS Act and some of the laws and regulations that got enacted in 2013 and 2015, and I think a few of them were last year in 2016, I started venturing over into the crowdfunding field, which was combining real estate with technology. It got me really excited. Basically, at the end of the day, what we do today with the real estate crowdfunding is something that has been around for a long period of time, which is real estate syndication, but it’s using technology to aggregate more people, so you can accumulate more funds for projects.
ED: Describe your investment platform and how that works, when we are talking about DiversyFund there.
CC: Yeah, the platform itself is a vertically integrated real estate crowdfunding platform. What I mean by that is that all the projects that you see on our platform are owned by DiversyFund. So that means, when you come to invest with us, you actually own ownership in part of those projects. Other platforms are, what we call, lend-money-to-other-parties, which is more…those parties are considered sponsors in the real estate crowdfunding world; basically, you’re lending money to people to finance their real estate projects.
ED: Now, from the start, in creating DiversyFund, what was your mission from the onset there?
CC: Well, the vision with DiversyFund was to create a platform to give the customer, in this case, the investor, a unique experience by providing transparency, great reporting, and actually a great asset for them to invest in. With our experience – with my experience in being in real estate for over 20 years – we thought that the only way we could provide all of that was actually to create a vertically integrated platform to have control over the projects ourselves.
In this manner, we could give the investors real-time updates, we could actually get them to see how the project’s being performed, how it’s being done, and actually allow us to have the quality control in place, just in case something was off the target, the plan for the investment.
We also realized that by doing it this way, we could spend more of our time selecting better projects based on our experience of being in the real estate industry, the leadership team here, for over 20 years. We selectively choose the best projects in real estate throughout the country.
ED: Today, we are speaking with Mr. Craig Cecilio, the CEO and Founder of DiversyFund, an online real estate crowdfunding platform, disrupting traditional real estate investing, based in San Diego, California, here on Enterprise Radio, a part of the Entrepreneur Podcast Network.
Now, shifting gears a little bit back to entrepreneurship, were you ever influenced by other entrepreneurs along the way?
CC: Yeah. My path crossed with a lot of people over the years; a lot of different people I had the fortune to meet. Definitely, I had the chance to study underneath them, to talk to them, to ask questions about them. But more importantly, I think, the biggest thing that I learned was how energetic they were, how much passion they had for what they were doing, how much confidence they had. Just generally, I was, kind of, attracted to them. They had that kind of “it” factor, I’d like to say, there’s almost that…you’re attracted to these individuals.
They just had this, kind of, an aura about them. It was, really, a great experience to share some of their experiences with myself. Just to listen to them, and to be able to pick their brain about things, and start studying some habits that they talked about, and to start to execute those things, and read the same books that they’ve read, and learn about some of their experiences; that was very, very fortunate experience to have.
ED: Certainly, appreciate your sharing that. Now, back to DiversyFund, what differentiates you from other real estate crowdfunding companies in the market?
CC: Well I think, first and foremost, we, the leaders of the company, the two principles of the company, myself and Alan Lewis, have been in the real estate field for about 20 years each. We’re not new to real estate investing.
Secondly, we’ve owned companies before. It’s not our first go-around, starting a company and building the company out, building the infrastructure of a company and being entrepreneurs. It’s not the first time we’ve started a company as well.
The other thing, I thought, was very unique about us is the vertically integrated platform. Along the way, we’ve had a fortunate set of circumstances happen, which we were able to not only invest in real estate but more social, impactful projects. What I mean by that is that if you look at some of the projects that we’re investing in, these projects have some type of impact upon society. Whether it’s revitalizing a blighted property and building a mixed-use, commercial property or partnering up with, I would say, one of the more innovative, well-known designers out there in the country. Taking the concept that’s in someone’s mind and put that and execute that and have that going towards real estate.
Very, very fortunate for that to happen. Not only are our investors allowed to invest in real estate, they’re investing in real estate that has an impact upon society as well.
ED: And what is the typical range of investment amounts that you receive and is there a minimum investment level required?
CC: Well, right now, our minimum investment amount is about $5,000 dollars. As of…we are in the process of setting up a special fund, where we’ll take that investment dollar down to about $500 dollars. That should be launched in around April 2018; so, just a few months away from doing that.
The barrier to entry is very low. Typically, these investments… the barrier to entry is a very high dollar amount. Most of our projects require about $5 to $10 million worth of funds; and traditionally, these funds were provided through hedge funds, large family offices or very, very wealthy people. But now, since we are able to aggregate investors through technology, we are actually allowing the average person to invest in these types of investments.
Whereas in the past, they wouldn’t have a chance to do this. There’s no way that somebody was going to go out and recruit or solicit a low-dollar amount investor in these projects. It was very time-intensive. At the same time, a lot of brokers and broker-dealers out there are very motivated about their commissions. They’re going to spend their time more talking to someone who has a million dollars or five million dollars. They’re not going to spend their time talking to someone with $500 dollars or $1,000 dollars.
So, our technology is allowing us to democratize the process, allowing an individual investor no matter what economic background they come from to participate in these investment opportunities.
ED: Lastly, Mr. Cecilio, what advice would you give to someone looking to get started in investing via crowdfunding? Certainly, look forward to hearing your response in these regards.
CC: Yeah, I mean, if you’re going to invest in our platform or somebody else’s, I would say, join up today, participate! Get out there, start with a low-dollar amount, get used to it. Definitely, participation is key here. The more people that participate in crowdfunding, especially real estate crowdfunding, we’ll see more change happen in the real estate environment. It’s a very low-dollar barrier to entry. We’re not asking for a hundred thousand dollars; we are asking today for as low as $5,000, tomorrow as low as $500. It’s great to have an alternative investment vehicle in your portfolio.
I would say, if you haven’t tried it out, try it out! Participate! Help us help you. Help us, kind of, get this really going out there, get crowdfunding going so we make can make a difference; so we can change things and the way real estate is done in this country.
ED: Mr. Cecilio, we certainly wish you continued success through DiversyFund. Thanks so much for spending a moment with us here today. Where can listeners get all the details on DiversyFund?
CC: Very easy, go to www.diversyfund.com. There is a bunch of information on our website, as well as our social media. You can view our projects. View a bit more about our company and about our team as well. It would be great to have you join the team.
ED: Again, thanks so much for your time and have a great and prosperous 2018. Thanks so much for joining us here today on Enterprise Radio.
CC: Great, thanks for having me on the show; appreciate it!
ED: You’re more than welcome! We have been speaking with Mr. Craig Cecilio, the CEO and Founder of DiversyFund, an online real estate crowdfunding platform, disrupting traditional real estate investing, based in San Diego, California. And for the details, visit diversyfund.com.
And this is Eric Dye, and you’ve been listening to Enterprise Radio, a part of EPN, the Entrepreneur Podcast Network. Check out our new live location, as we are now streaming live 24/7 around the world at epodcastnetwork.com/live with a new app coming soon to accompany our live streaming in the coming weeks.
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