Jilliene Helman, Realty Mogul, Woman Entrepreneur
I had been paying attention and talking to people in the real estate crowd funding area. Several people told me that Jilliene is the person to talk to. She is incredible. It did not take more than 30 seconds to understand her allure. She is wise beyond her years, says it like it is and incredibly sharp. If you didn't know it you would think she was in her 40's based on her knowledge but she is only 27. She has built Realty Mogul is an online marketplace for investing in real estate.
Let's start with how she got there. Jilliene grew up in Malibu. The youngest of seven children from a long line of entrepreneurs. Her father started out in a retail training program and went on to launch his own import/export business out of China. He was known as the fad man jumping on items such as Razr scooters, puka shells and Star Wars lights. He eventually sold the business. Her Mom started out as a jewelry buyer for Macys moving into the luxury real estate world. That real estate world was helpful as her father was also in need of large commercial properties which he rented and bought for his business. Her parents met in retail. She was the buyer and he was the distributor.
Jilliene says that being the youngest of seven can be boring because everyone who has gone before you has already done it. She went east to Georgetown to go to college where she majored in International Business and Management. Her junior year was spent in Asia. She left June 1st after her sophomore year starting off on a backpacking journey into the deep west of China finally ending in Bejing where her program took place. She wanted to immerse herself in the culture and language before starting the program. She returned home for 48 hours in January and then went back overseas to Barcelona for another semester abroad. Interesting combo.
She returned to the states to do a stint at Rolling Stone magazine before graduating that year. What she realized in that internship and being at Georgetown is that the east coast thing was just not for her. She made her way back west joining a training program at Union Bank that is now the Bank of Tokyo. In the program you spent six months in finance, six months in marketing and six months in strategy. Once that was done Jilliene ended up in the wealth management division. Funny enough at age 17 she told her Mom she wanted to be in the money business and so now she was.
She loved the bank. She stayed there for four and a half years. She learned a ton and there is no doubt after speaking with Jilliene that she is a sponge for knowledge. At the bank senior management saw that desire to learn in her and rewarded her with new challenges each time she mastered something. That was a godsend. She ended up spending time with brokers, real estate lenders and trust officers. It gave her a 360 degree view of wealth management for a wealth investor. Understanding those risk and rewards has been the key in Realty Mogul.
When political winds shift there are opportunities afoot. She saw that when the SEC began to dive deep into crowd funding. They had set a time table of six months for legislation to pass around unaccredited investors. She knew it would take a lot longer. She decided the time to launch an crowd funding platform with accredited investors was now. Why real estate? It stemmed from her own personal finances. Her parents are retired and she saw that the equity markets aren't great so where did they invest? Real estate. She has a brother in the real estate business so she started making her own investments. A friend of hers who is in the investment world was impressed with the real estate investments Jilliene was making. He said he would put $50K behind anything she was going to invest in. She realized she was just giving him access to her deal flow. That was the aha moment and Realty Mogul was built.
She opened and launched the site. Their property values are roughly $85m and they have had $13m of transactions go through the site already. What is amazing is that they have spent zero dollars on marketing. She has brought on some great investors. Jilliene says herself that she is a totally trainable CEO as she is learning how to hire a talented team and run a company. There are a few of these real estate crowd funding platforms out there. In many ways it is not that much different than some of the large real estate companies in NYC like Time Equities where you can actually invest in their fund with hopes to see a check every year based on their success. Of course the crowd funding platform will change once non-accredited investors can try their hand at investing. That is a whole other conversation.
Jilliene is amazing. She has serious gusto. You can just tell how quickly she is taking in information and processing it. There is not a question in my mind that she is going to build Realty Mogul into something huge. She is changing the way that people can invest in real estate. After all she is quite the real estate mogul herself.
I met Jilliene last April at a crowdfunding conference and was similarly impressed. Then she gave her presentation and my impression was redoubled.I’ve since participated in one Realty Mogul deal. We’ll see how it turns out. So far everything has been very professionally handled; as an investor, I’ve been pleased with RM’s role. If the deal flow can scale, RM will be a big thing.
That is great to know. The process must be seamless or it won’t work.