JF2091: CEO of Real Estate Tech Company Groundbreaker Jake Marmulstein
Jake is the co-founder and CEO of Groundbreaker Technologies, a real estate technology company that he created to help solve the problems he was having when he was investing in real estate. In this episode, you will learn some ways to use technology to improve your real estate investing experience.
Jake Marmulstein Real Estate Background:
- Co-Founder and CEO of Grounderbreaker Technologies, Inc
- Over 6 years of real estate technology experience
- Based in Chicago, IL
- Say hi to him at: https://groundbreaker.co/
Click here for more info on groundbreaker.co
Best Ever Tweet:
“One practice that has really helped me grow is by getting outside of my business by helping other entrepreneurs.” – Jake Marmulstein
Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless. This is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast where we only talk about the best advice ever; we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff. With us today, Jake Marmulstein. How you doing, Jake?
Jake Marmulstein: I’m doing great, Joe. Thank you for having me.
Joe Fairless: Well, it’s my pleasure and I’m glad to hear that. A little bit about Jake – he’s the co-founder and CEO of Groundbreaker Technologies. They are the sponsor of today’s episode, as you are well aware, and he has over six years of real estate technology experience, he’s based in Chicago. We’re gonna be talking about using technology to your advantage, solving problems with technology, and then also pitfalls when creating a real estate business that he’s seen from a back-office operation standpoint, among other things. So with that being said, first though, Jake, you want to get the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?
Jake Marmulstein: Sure. Thank you for the introduction. So Groundbreaker and my background blend together because when I was working in real estate investment, I realized that managing investors in the current way that we’re doing it, at the REIT that I worked in, we were doing institutional scale investments in distressed hotels, and I was doing all the underwriting and packaging of the materials, and then having to get on investor calls and answer investor questions. So through that experience, I realized that the process was pretty manual and there was a large lack of technology, and I wanted to make it better and couldn’t find solutions in the market to address these problems. So that’s where Groundbreaker came into play with my background. And ever since, I’ve been working with real estate syndicators to help them get their business into a digital realm, where they can manage things in a more automated and streamlined way.
Joe Fairless: So you were working at a REIT that was buying distressed hotels, and you said you were responsible for– I think you said underwriting, as well as answering investor questions. What type of questions would be asked by an investor when looking at these types of opportunities?
Jake Marmulstein: The investors would want to know some of the basic things like – what’s the minimum investment amount? Why this asset? Talk to us about the demand generators in the market and the competitive set. Some of the things that you would assume that they would already read in the pitch deck, but maybe they never even looked at what you sent them.
Joe Fairless: So answering those questions would be one aspect of it, and you mentioned that– okay, you saw that there was an opportunity to build technology to address what you were seeing wasn’t automated, but could be. So how does a solution like Groundbreaker help with that process if they’re not reading it in the first place? Is it, “Hey, you’ve got a place to log into and now, here it is right in front of you, and it couldn’t be more obvious that you should check this out”, or are there are other ways that this provides a solution for the challenges that you came across?
Jake Marmulstein: Yeah, this is only one small aspect of it. I remember spending a lot of time also moving files into different folders and organizing the backlog that was our database of information, and not having it all in one place, and managing several different Excel spreadsheets to keep track of contributions and distributions and investor data and the conversations that we had with investors, and having that all really based on Excel in an internal server.
So there’s a wider, larger problem of data storage and just the access to the information that we use to operate the business that causes the problem. But with regard to this specific one, Groundbreaker has a offering memorandum builder inside of it, so you can create your offering and have it live on the internet, and that means that we can track people getting access to the system, logging in and looking at the offering. So when we go to them to call the investors and look at the list of individuals that are most likely to invest, we can pick the people who’ve already looked, and we know for those who haven’t looked, where they’re at, so we can moderate the conversation and maybe they might be a different priority in our list of investors to call, but we go into the conversation with the information that they didn’t actually check out the deal yet.
Joe Fairless: I know that when you look at the backend, back-office operations that need to be present when you create a real estate business – when you talk to others, a lot of times they’re missing some things or they don’t know what they need to have included whenever they create a real estate business. Can you talk about some of the backend office operations that are needed in order to have something up and running?
Jake Marmulstein: Absolutely. So a lot of people are great at finding good opportunities, good deals, because that’s what most people get excited about is the deal. Let’s find that deal and let’s find that great opportunity to invest in and be able to pull the trigger. But before you can scale a real estate investment business appropriately, you may start out with a simple Excel spreadsheet and PowerPoint with a group of friends and family who know you and trust you. But when you want to scale beyond that, you’re going to need to have systems in place to get across your track record and do everything in a compliant way, manage data and track everything. So having a website helps to create transparency about your brand and who you are, and a lot of people spend way too much money and time on the design of a website and that holds them back.
I also find that people will pay a lot of money for operating agreements and getting their entity set up, and it will come out of pocket tens of thousands of dollars before they even have the chance to make any money. So that’s where a lot of people stop, is on that basic stuff. So you need to have your operating agreement in place and your entity in your bank account, and having a website helps you to create a track record and show the history of what you’ve done, and it builds trust and familiarity with you, so that you can have access to new investors, and when people refer business to you, there’s a place for people to go to get information on who you are. So I think all of that helps. And then if you’re able to attach an investor portal into there, which is what Groundbreaker would be able to provide, you have the chance to catch those leads, let them sign up, and then give them access to your deals. So it will create an infrastructure for you as a business, to be able to build trust, do things the right way in a compliant manner and operate in a system that can scale.
Joe Fairless: With Groundbreaker over the years, what are some major things that have evolved since the beginning?
Jake Marmulstein: In terms of–
Joe Fairless: In terms of the product itself.
Jake Marmulstein: In terms of the Groundbreaker product?
Joe Fairless: Mm-hm.
Jake Marmulstein: Sure. So when we started, we were just a fundraising tool. We allowed people to create an offering and share it with investors. And people told us that they wanted to have a private investor base that they could manage in a CRM system, where they could take notes and keep information logged, and upload reports and share information and be able to distribute funds. So we built all of that functionality, and then we made distributions electronic so you can send funds through direct deposit to investors’ bank accounts through the software, and that’s been a huge improvement.
We also have been able to make it easier for people to find information by having the CRM and having all of the information from every investment, every report, K-1, in the same place; so you don’t have to manage different systems to keep track of this data. Groundbreaker can act more like a headquarters for the business, and I think that has really helped a lot of people who might be relying on email or Dropbox to house the data, and so it still creates that problem of inefficiency when information is in different places.
Joe Fairless: What’s been the biggest challenge for getting more customers? Obviously– well, not obviously, but I’d say most businesses, they want more customers. So there’s always gonna be a challenge to getting more and more. So what’s been your biggest challenge in getting more customers?
Jake Marmulstein: Well, I think initially, the challenge was just the realization from the market that this solution is the future and the need for it. I saw it pretty early on that every real estate investment company would, at some point, have an investor portal, and as more companies adopt, the companies that don’t adopt are in a position of weakness. So that’s the market moving and getting in there– identifying the need for an investor portal to be able to offer transparency to their investors in a way that’s never been available before. So as the market gets more educated, Groundbreaker’s here to provide that service, and I don’t see any challenges outside of just getting the word out about what we do and people being educated about why they need to get on board with the solution, because there’s definitely enough companies out there managing things the old fashioned way. They’re not happy with the way that they do things, but they don’t know that there’s something else better out there that they could do.
Joe Fairless: Let’s talk about you as an entrepreneur because as real estate investors, we’re all entrepreneurs in varying degrees. At least, that’s my belief. What’s been the hardest day for you as an entrepreneur?
Jake Marmulstein: That’s a great question. I don’t think there is a hardest day, Joe; I think there’s a lot of hard days. It’s like a rollercoaster ride; some days you feel great and happy in what you’re doing, and some days you really question why you’re doing it. But maybe, I could say when I moved to Chicago and took on the current investors that are helping to help me grow Groundbreaker, that was a really hard day, because I moved from living in Puerto Rico in 2017, and seeing the sun every day, to moving to Chicago in the middle of winter in January. I didn’t have a place to stay, and I was staying in an Airbnb, and I was questioning whether I’d made the right decision or not, because I could see myself taking a major sacrifice in terms of what I wanted and the lifestyle that I wanted to live, because I enjoyed Puerto Rico very much, and I could see myself living there… But making a sacrifice to be able to grow the business and realizing that as an entrepreneur this was a lifestyle change that I was willing to take so that I could achieve something greater and that one day, with hard work and determination, this decision would pay off.
Joe Fairless: Mentally or rather emotionally, in that time period, what do you do to help yourself emotionally? You mentioned your thought process, “Hey, this is why I’ve gotta do”, but did you do anything to help emotionally keep you in good spirits during the dead of winter in Chicago, which is probably the coldest place that I’ve ever been to? It’s miserable, quite frankly.
Jake Marmulstein: Yes, and you’re currently in Ohio, right?
Joe Fairless: I am, but Chicago with that wind and the winter just puts tears on my face involuntarily, and then they freeze on my face; it’s just miserable.
Jake Marmulstein: You should have been here for the polar vortex.
Joe Fairless: Oh, well, I’d rather just hear about it through you. But anything emotionally that you did to help keep your spirits up? And I ask this, because I’m interested in you, but more importantly, for all the Best Ever listeners, if they’re going through something where they take a leap, then maybe what you did to help you emotionally just get through it could be something they could use, too.
Jake Marmulstein: So here’s what’s helped me as an individual get through some of the challenging parts in my life, and it comes from understanding that I’m making a choice for something that’s greater that I believe will pan out in the future, that the sacrifice is necessary to get there, and that if I work hard and I power through, it’s going to be okay, it’s going to be worth it, and I’ll be looking back at the moment, happy that I made that decision.
So there’s a lot of optimism, but then also knowing that I’m putting myself outside of my comfort zone and leaning into that and saying, “I’m outside of my comfort zone and I know this is uncomfortable and I know it’s hard, and this is where growth happens,” because I want to grow personally from anything that I do. Whether it’s true or not, I’m thinking that I’m going to grow, and there’s a good example of that… When I was in college, I went and I lived in Spain, and I didn’t speak any Spanish, and I didn’t know anybody, and I knew that that was an uncomfortable situation, and I had to learn Spanish and find out how to live as a adult in the free world… And that took me a lot of suffering, also mentally and emotionally, to be able to get to a point where I was comfortable. And then this is the same situation. When I moved to Chicago, I didn’t know anybody. I just knew that I would grow from the adversity.
Joe Fairless: It’s embracing it and knowing that there’s something empowering about what you’re doing, and then having the faith to say, “Okay,” as you said, “This is where the growth happens.” That’s so powerful knowing, whether that’s true or not, but if you believe it to be true, then most likely, it will become true that you’re going to grow through the experience and regardless, you’re gonna be better off. It might not be exactly what you thought it would be, the end result, and that’s something I also got from Tim Ferriss… He talks about whenever you enter in the new venture, identify regardless of if it is successful in whatever quantifiable way that you think it should be successful, regardless of that, find ways that you will be better regardless of the actual success of the project. And that way, you’re still going to get something out of the experience, whether or not it’s the actual results you intended is another story.
Jake Marmulstein: A hundred percent. You described it really well. I also– when it was winter, and it was very rough emotionally because of not seeing the sun and not having people to spend time with, I ended up going to the gym a lot, and I think that balancing that positive self-talk and long-term thinking with healthy physical habits to regulate your body and your mental state are necessary.
Joe Fairless: Yeah, and that could easily go the opposite direction easily for someone. If it’s really nasty outside, you stay inside and you do not go work out, and then you gain a bunch of weight.
Jake Marmulstein: Yeah, and you tell yourself as you’re running to the gym, “This is challenging and I hate it, and I love hating it, because it helps me grow.”
Joe Fairless: What a mindset to have, and it can only help us when we think about things that way. Anything else that you think we should talk about as it relates to as an entrepreneur, just some things you’ve learned, or also we talked about pitfalls when creating real estate business, spending too much time and money on a website when you don’t have the other aspects taken care of, or using technology to your advantage based off of your experience working with the REIT, buying distressed hotels? Anything else before we wrap up that you think we should talk about?
Jake Marmulstein: Yeah, I’ll share with folks this last tidbit. I think that it is sometimes really hard to focus on what you’re building when it’s all about what you’re building and it’s all about you. So something that really helps me to remind myself of what I’ve learned and what I’ve been able to do and how I’ve grown as a person is really getting outside of my business, and that’s how I give back. I give back through helping other entrepreneurs and advising them and helping them to think about their ideas.
When I do that, it reminds me of what I know. And even though some days are tough and I don’t get what I want at Groundbreaker, when I can help somebody, it just proves to me how much I’ve learned and what an impact I can make, and I can see it through the impact I make for somebody else. So that’s just something to keep in mind for all of you out there who might be frustrated with your own business, and in a way that you can give back.
Joe Fairless: Service many leads to greatness. I’m really grateful that you mentioned that. You’re probably wondering if I was gonna ask you your best real estate investing advice ever, or best ever advice, but I’m making this a special segment on the weekend. So that’s why I didn’t ask it. I’m glad that you mentioned it proactively. How can the Best Ever listeners learn more about Groundbreaker?
Jake Marmulstein: The best way is to go to groundbreaker.co. We took a lot of time to work on our website and share as much content about us as possible. So you can learn about us at groundbreaker.co.
Joe Fairless: Jake, thank you so much for being on the show. I hope you have a best ever weekend. Talk to you again soon.
Jake Marmulstein: Thank you, Joe.
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