That was the conclusion of Roy Abrams, a technology entrepreneur and commercial real estate developer who found himself “locked out” when he attempted to relocate from Europe and develop real estate in Miami in 2009.
“I was amazed that one of the largest asset classes on the planet didn’t have an effective way of meeting, engaging and transacting within an online professional community,” Abrams said.
So about two years ago he launched New York-based RealConnex, an online marketplace for capital, investments and services to connect the entire real estate ecosystem, including private equity firms aimed at making investments and raising capital.
Now with 3,000 members and growing, RealConnex offers access to $10 billion in available capital. Abrams said the site its helping to democratize the commercial real estate business.
“What’s important to me personally is being able to bring those opportunities to people who are outside the club like I was,” he said. “It levels the playing field.”
A critical component of the site – verification – ensures members are who they say they are. The company also deploys a confidential screening process for potential transactions.
RealConnex provides an online meeting place for real estate professionals such as developers, sponsors, and private equity firms. It is also brings together investors, lenders, advisors, brokers, service providers, owners and builders. It connects pros with “the right properties, capital or servics for your clients or prospects to build your client base,” according to the website.
The site is free to join and search. Abrams hopes to post annual sales of $65 million by about 2018 by charging for specific services such as verification, which costs an average of $200 per member with a $50 yearly renewal. The site will also charge monthly fees of $50 to $60 to view specific deals, and it plans to sell corporate licenses to allow access for a number of employees.
RealConnex site is backed by $3.5 million in Series A financing from U.K. private equity firm Star Capital, along with Stratus Investments, real estate specialist GreenOak, and high net worth investors, including a former LinkedIn executive, a former managing director at AIG Global Real Estate, and real estate principals at Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and General Motors.
Abrams said the company is finding strong interest in overseas investors, particularly in Asia, that want to tap into U.S. real estate as a way to diversify holdings outside of volatile public equities in China and elsewhere.