JF2317: InvestNext With Kevin Heras

Kevin is the co-founder at InvestNext, a software that modernizes the way real estate syndicators raise and manage capital. Prior to funding InvestNext, he was employee #2 at the college career network startup, Handshake, where he contributed to initial product development efforts. Handshake is currently valued at over $400 million and it is the leading college-to-career recruiting platform in the nation. Today, Kevin is honored to be part of the season team of software engineers and a real estate professor.

Kevin Heras Real Estate Background:

  • CEO & Co-founder of InvestNext, software that modernizes the way real estate syndicators raise & manage capital
  • 5 years of real estate experience
  • InvestNext platform has hosted 230+ syndications worth over $1 billion
  • Based in Detroit, MI
  • Say hi to him at www.investnext.com 
  • Best Ever Book: Crossing the Chasm

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Best Ever Tweet:

“The benefit of InvestNext is being able to manage and raise your capital” – Kevin Heras


TRANSCRIPTION

Theo Hicks: Hello, Best Ever listeners, and welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Theo Hicks, and today I’ll be speaking with Kevin Heras. Kevin, how are you doing today?

Kevin Heras: Good, Theo. How are you doing?

Theo Hicks: I am well, thanks for asking and thanks for joining us. I’m really looking forward to this conversation. We’re gonna talk about Kevin’s InvestNext apartment syndication/real estate syndication software platform. So he’s the CEO and co-founder of InvestNext, a software that modernizes the way real estate syndicators raise money and manage capital. He has five years of real estate experience, and the platform has hosted over 230 syndications worth over a billion dollars. He is based in Detroit, Michigan, and you can say hi to him at InvestNext.com.

Before we get into what InvestNext is, do you mind telling us some more about your background and then what you’re focused on today?

Kevin Heras: Sure thing. To give context on InvestNext – as you mentioned, real estate investment platform geared towards your private network of investors, manager investors, on that platform. But ahead of InvestNext I was kind of going through the corporate track. I worked at a consulting firm and we implemented CRMs, ERPs, accounting systems and so forth… So I got exposed to a lot of different enterprise-level clients, as well as even real estate clients ahead of that… So that was kind of my systems background.

Ahead of that, really one of the most formative parts of my life was actually my time at Handshake. Handshake, for context, is basically what you might call the LinkedIn for college students. So it’s a career network. I was involved there when it was just a dorm room founded startup. Today they’re over a half billion dollar company. I was employee number two, working with the co-founders, building out the product, going to university career centers, getting shut down, going back, building more… The rest is history.

That being my third year of college was pretty formative in what I’m doing today, and I knew at that point that I really wanted to be involved in the tech space; I wanted to build something meaningful that solved a systemic problem.

Fast-forward to a few years back, when I met my co-founder, Michael Gisi; he was working on this interesting side-project, working for a real estate investment firm that was really just trying to streamline the way they interacted with their investors, they were they reported and communicated to them. It was a tool that was meant to be a one-off tool for that firm, but we got people knocking on the door, saying “Hey, would you mind deploying something like this for our group?” And we’d been talking about it for a while, and that was kind of the a-ha moment, and pretty much the founding moment of InvestNext. We realized at that point that there’s a massive gap in this space, how people go out and they syndicate and manage their capital partners and investors. From that point on, the rest is history.

Theo Hicks: Sure. And then InvestNext – was that five years ago when it started?

Kevin Heras: Yeah, proof of concept, product – that would be five years ago; we were really just getting into this space, exactly.

Theo Hicks: Okay. Are you a coder?

Kevin Heras: I’m on the product team. I stay away from the code. I did the design portion of it. I let Michael and his team work through that stuff, but I am heavily, heavily involved in the side of the workflows and the product.

Theo Hicks: So he was essentially working for an existing company, created something for them, and then other people were asking for the same things, so that’s where you identified the need.

Kevin Heras: Exactly. It was pretty serendipitous from that standpoint.

Theo Hicks: How did you meet the co-founder.

Kevin Heras: I think back to how this all came together, and really, at my last company where I worked at, it was an indirect connection. One of my customers said “Hey, my good friend’s working on a side project. Maybe you guys might be able to connect, or interact on this.” So there was really no presumption on what we’d be working together, or especially on what we’d be  building.

He just happened to know that I had experience with Handshake, I’d been in the startup world, and perhaps I could lend some advice. So an indirect connection, and then we really just hit it off from that point.

Theo Hicks: Nice. I always like hearing about how partners met each other, because it’s traditionally pretty random.

Kevin Heras: It really is… And again, something I always think back to is just the serendipity of it all. You really just never know the doors that you can keep open, and you never know who you meet… So absolutely.

Theo Hicks: Exactly. Perfect. So let’s talk a little bit about InvestNext now. I have experience with syndications, so in my mind, when it comes to investors, it’s really finding the investors, and then it’s getting the money from the investors, or raising money for a particular deal or for a fund, and then the investor relations part. Obviously, your business focuses – from what I’m understanding – on helping with the actual process of raising the money for a particular deal or  a particular fund. Then once that deal is closed on, helping with the investor relations portion.

Let’s start with the raising money part first, and then we’ll talk about the investor relations second. So how does InvestNext help the syndicator raise money? You do help them find more money, but help them manage that process.

Kevin Heras: Yeah, so the concept around this is that whether  you’re a first-time syndicator or you’ve already done this many times, our intent with the platform is you have a single workspace to manage the very beginning lifecycle of that syndication to start with. So that’s everything from you have a CRM, of course, to manage prospective investors, capital partners, just people that you are interacting with. That ties in directly into what we call an online deal room. So when you’re ready to go live with your offering or your deal, it’s really housing that digital tear sheet, that presentation. You can send it out to your groups, they can view that full offering, and then of course, commit online, run the entire transaction, subscription docs and everything through the actual deal room.

So that’s the big, major component to begin with, is just streamline that entire initial transaction with the investor, and of course, saving you time at the end of it all.

Theo Hicks: So it has a CRM that I have to track all my investors that I have. Would that also be like “Here’s ones that are potential, and here’s ones that have invested, here’s how much they’ve invested, and here’s the deals that they’re in”?

Kevin Heras: Exactly. It’s really being able to manage your entire pipeline of prospective capital. And again, it’s from the very onset; we work with groups that are doing their first deal, and they know that “Okay, perhaps we may not land on something for the next few months”, but at the very least they wanna start building up that pipeline, building those relationships. So they’re just tracking those relationships in the CRM, tracking their pipeline. And then of course, when the deal hits, they put together all their collateral, all their documents in the deal room, and of course, when they’re ready to actually present that, it’s as easy as sharing that.

Theo Hicks: So you said there’s an online deal room. So I have a  deal… A big thing is obviously keeping your investors up to date on where you’re at, when are funds due, when do you need to submit the documents, getting that information to them. So is there some sort of email service you’re connected to, that I can say “Okay, I want to send an email every week to remind them about funding. People who have funded will get one email, people who haven’t funded will get another email.” Is it capable of doing all that stuff, too?

Kevin Heras: That’s exactly it. So when you go live with the deal — first and foremost, what we wanna present to the investor is… Call it that kind of single source of truth. So they can go back to the deal room and say “Hey, what’s the status of anything that’s happening?” And within that deal room they can see all the updates of what’s been going on. So that’s kind of the inbound approach, so the investor knows — instead of digging through their email chain and looking for what was the last update, it’s all in one place.

The second part to that is yeah, there’s the intelligence built behind this, so that when the sponsor goes out, they market the deal, they have all their commitments in, they can transact the capital, transact the funds… And of course, who’s left in the previous sequence to that. So then from there, there’s intelligent reminders to follow up with those investors. That’s a very common scenario that we see, especially when you go on a capital  raise.

Theo Hicks: As an investor, how am I getting access to this?

Kevin Heras: Multiple ways. Different groups have different approaches to how they’re gonna interact with their investors. Some groups are very “by invitation only.” Of course, this can live behind a security layer that you can only be granted access to the deal room, and of course, once you’ve been verified, you can go in to view the deal. Other groups – call it maybe like a 506 open format fundraise; you can literally open it up to the internet as a whole. So varying groups do varying open access to the deal room.

Theo Hicks: So would I need to share a link with my investors, or would I input their email into InvestNext and then they’d get the “Here’s  how you set up your account” email from InvestNext?

Kevin Heras: Both ways. Basically, imagine if you’ve had a mass communication out  to a group of investors – you could actually grab that shareable link; you can say “Hey everyone, feel free to access the deal room right at this link.” And of course, when they jump in, they can view all the details there.

On the other side of that, whatever you wanna do with that – you can post it on your website, you can send it out… And of course, back to that “by invitation only”, you can select a certain group of investors and directly send them an invitation to that deal room.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. Okay, so I think we hit on that front part pretty well… So deal is closed, investors get the email that the deal is closed, and then now let’s talk about the investor relations aspect. So how does InvestNext help me manage my communication, and then getting the proper information to my investors about the deal?

Kevin Heras: That ties in directly into what we call the investment part of the product. First of all, that’s all connected. Once you’ve actually received those contributions, those investments, that’s now being tracked on the cap table. You can now set up your waterfall structure around this. So it’s a full drag-and-drop builder, exactly as you see it in your operating agreement; you model it right in the system, and then moving forward, when you’re running your distributions, whether that’s monthly/quarterly schedule, that’s being all run through the system. Investors are getting paid out.

On the flipside of that, on the investor relations side, of course investors gain access to their portal, they can view their full portfolio with you, distributions to date, return metrics etc. So that’s where we now carry into the investor relations part.

Theo Hicks: What about reporting? So do I upload my own reports? Am I inputting individual line items for data? How does that work?

Kevin Heras: One of two ways that can be done. Individual investor reporting… Since InvestNext houses the entire investor transaction data – so again,  contribution amounts, distributions – we are now the calculation engine for a lot of the investor performance metrics. So maybe you’re sending out a quarterly batch of statements out to your investors… You can generate those in the system; those can get placed outbound to the investors. Or the investors can log in at any point, as they would with their Charles Schwab account, they can view those in live… And then the other side of that is if you have any sort of property-level reporting or any sort of asset-level reporting, we’re working through integrations with systems.

So if you have an asset-level — we’ll call it your standard property management software, we can actually connect right into that and marry that data into your reporting. That’s especially useful for groups that, again, maybe at scale you’re working with multiple property managers, and each one of those may utilize a separate system. So what we need to be able to do is connect the data from each one of those systems and then aggregate those up both for internal reporting, as well as external reporting for investors.

Theo Hicks: So you’re saying that InvestNext can connect to ABC Property Management Company’s software, so that you’ll have instantaneous access to the reports for my property…? Like rent rolls, profit and loss statements, and things like that.

Kevin Heras: That’s exactly it. We’ve facilitated many of those integrations in the past, and that’s really the vision around all this stuff – again, we aggregate the very asset-level data, and not only for the sponsor, but for the investor, that’s now presenting an added layer of transparency, exactly.

Theo Hicks: And then the last question – so not sending distributions, not sending the reports, but sending monthly or quarterly update emails with specifics on current occupancy rates, and renovation updates, things like that… So would I need to do that somewhere else, and manually type in my explanations of what’s going on, or is there some sort of automation for that as well?

Kevin Heras: Yeah, so we have this — and maybe I’ll get a little into the nuts and bolts or techy about this, but we have this concept known as merch variables. The idea here is that when you’re drafting up a new communication, or even in our system, what we call a post, you can actually carry in as part of your natural language, as you’re typing out your summary or so forth, you can actually include metrics that you can embed into that paragraph line. So it could literally pull metrics in from the system that are already being automatically calculated. Of course, you can set that as your template moving forward when you’re doing your monthly or quarterly cadence reporting… And again, two different formats, as I just mentioned.

One way is I’m gonna send out a mass communication or mass email out to my industrial park investors. Of course, the system already knows who your industrial park investors are, it knows their actual reporting metrics… But then the other side of that is we have this concept of posts. When you do that, you basically can post an update to the investor portal; the investor logs in or they can receive that on their phone and they can view it in a rich-format text, as you would an online blog.

So it’s kind of the historical concept where maybe you sent out a mass email, you attached a PDF or an Excel, just kind of saying “Hey, this is what’s going on.” It’s a bit more of a richer format, where you can even embed YouTube videos or whatnot.

Theo Hicks: Like pictures, and stuff?

Kevin Heras: Yeah, exactly.

Theo Hicks: This is very neat. Alright, Kevin, what is your best real estate investing advice ever? Or your best advice ever for running a business?

Kevin Heras: I always say “Focus.” It seems pretty standard, but for me personally, focus has been an incredible paradigm to go after. Just understanding that when you’re building something, it’s really about becoming really good at what you do… And it’s, again, just staying focused on the core problem you’re trying to solve. And again, that’s from the paradigm of a problem-solving platform and a software. So focus is my big statement here.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. Alright, Kevin, are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Kevin Heras: Sure thing.

Theo Hicks: Alright. First, a quick word from our sponsor.

Break: [00:17:26].14] to [00:18:17].21]

Theo Hicks: Okay, what is the best ever book you’ve recently read?

Kevin Heras: I’d say one I’ve revisited is “Crossing the chasm”. Again, primarily related to product building, product development, but I think it’s extremely applicable to any business. So it’s just about as you’re getting started, it’s being able to handle that initial growth, and at the same time it’s being able to keep yourself disciplined on what the problem is that you’re trying to solve. You’re not gonna build a business that solves everyone’s problems. They use the landing beach analogy; when you land on your beach, focus on that area, really own that area, and then of course, later on you can always expand your business. So… Crossing the chasm.

Theo Hicks: If your business were collapse today, what would you do next?

Kevin Heras: I would definitely have to ask myself what led to the point that the business collapsed. After that, it’d just be a matter of reflecting on what led to that moment, what inflexibility caused the business, unless some act of God… But if the business fell apart, I’d say I’d still be in real estate, I’d still be solving the problems in that space, because for us I think it is truly the final frontier for a lot of the stuff that’s happening in the world economy around real estate.

Theo Hicks: Besides this particular need of apartment syndicators needing technology for managing investors, what’s the other biggest pain point or biggest need that could be solved by tech that you see in real estate?

Kevin Heras: We really think that the entire transaction of real estate still  is yet to be disrupted, because just the process of acquiring real estate, all of the stakeholders involved, we have literally barely  scratched the surface on that side… And I think that’s very much so open for disruption. So the whole acquisition side is a very interesting problem to solve.

Theo Hicks: What is the best ever way you like to give back?

Kevin Heras: As you stated earlier, we’re a Detroit-based company, and we’ve made it our internal mission — Detroit is our home, and when people think about Detroit, you get this sense of “It’s seen better days/It’s grungy” and whatnot… And it really is, for us — I’m a transplant to this city, I’m not a Detroiter, but I’ve moved here five or so years ago and I’ve seen the place rebuild itself. A lot of big tech companies moving in; they’re seeing the opportunity. So our focus is hiring local talent, as well as just giving back to the local community here. So that’s kind of our mission locally.

Theo Hicks: And then lastly, what is the best ever place to reach you?

Kevin Heras: Best ever place – you definitely can reach me directly at my email, at Kevin@investnext.com. Of course, you can hit me up on the website; there’s a little chat bubble and you’ll likely see my mugshot on there. Likely me or one of the people on our team that will get to you… But yeah, kevin@investnext.com is the perfect place.

Theo Hicks: Awesome, Kevin. Thanks for joining us today and walking us through the capabilities of the InvestNext platform. Very fascinating. We’ve talked about, first of all, how you met the co-founder of the business, and how it was kind of just random, and keeping in mind — this is pretty common, that I get people who have partners and just realizing that really any relationship that you have, or any action that you take could lead randomly down the line to a deal, to a partnership… You never really know. So keeping all of your doors open is always a smart play.

And we talked about the two main areas that are addressed by the InvestNext software – the raising money and the investor relations. And really, it covers everything that I can possibly think of, that is involved in the raising money part of it, from when you first touch someone who’s interested in investing, to the deal closing, and then from the investor relations standpoint, once a deal is closed, until the deal is sold. It’s seems as if it’s capable of covering all of that in one centralized location.

So anyone who’s interested in raising money, or has raised money, or is currently raising money, definitely check out this InvestNext.com. So definitely check that out. I’ll be checking it out as well after this interview.

Kevin, thanks again for joining us. Best Ever listeners, as always, thank you for listening. Have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you tomorrow.

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