Leveraging a staff with decades of industry experience and a revolutionary business model, DiversyFund is changing up the real estate investing game. Driven by founder Craig Cecilio’s passion for bringing financial opportunities to the masses, their company is on a mission to democratize alternative asset investment.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?
In the late 90s, I secured my real estate license and ended up working in a boiler room as a 1099 employee. It was so archaic that we had to pay the company for leads, bring in our own computer and set up our personal real estate. Still, there was a waiting line to get an office desk, and you couldn’t have a desk unless you produced. I remember paying for business cards and internet service before I even had a desk.
I worked for nearly 20 years in real estate as a syndicator and a sponsor. I used my networking skills to lead capital raises and the development of more than $1 billion worth of real estate assets.
Through these deals, I realized the traditional ways of raising money for real estate projects were archaic and excluded the everyday investor. I watched the rich get richer, and always wondered how I could include the everyday investor in these incredible investments.
How do you make money?
Unlike other online platforms that function as a broker, with DiversyFund, you get an investment partner. We don’t charge any platform fees. We make money when our investors do.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
The company was founded in August 2016, and we converted our first online investor in November 2016. We became SEC qualified in late 2018. We re-launched our platform on April 17th, 2019.
The company has reinvested its earnings into the company; however, we have built a tech-enabled platform that converts customers online and a real estate portfolio of close to 150 million in assets.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time that you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle it?
Hell no, not once, I am stubborn like that.
How did you get your first customer?
The first customer for the DiversyFund Growth REIT came to us online. This was very exciting for us because it proved that it can be done–that people will invest online, on their own, in these opportunities that were once exclusive. From our first online investor, we’ve steadily grown, and now we’re at the point where we are ready to scale.
What is one marketing strategy that you’re using that works well to generate new business?
Content is king for us. We do a lot of educational content to give value to our potential investors. If you provide real value, you build trust. Beyond that, we want to be a resource to people for self-education, whether they invest with us or not – it is true to our mission of spreading wealth and providing opportunities to everyone.
What is the toughest decision that you’ve had to make in the last few months?
There is never one tough decision, but rather a series of decisions that you continuously have to make. The naysayers question why we need the tech and run a traditional investment model. Every day, I choose to focus on decisions that match our vision of giving every American the opportunity to invest regardless of their socioeconomic background.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I see opportunity in everything. I have trained myself to have a positive mindset and to always look at what I can learn and gain from any situation. I’ve failed a lot, and I continue to fail, but with each failure, I learn and grow – I never fail at the same thing twice.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
The most satisfying moment was when DiversyFund was qualified by the SEC to open up our Growth REIT to non-accredited investors at the end of 2018. As much as the team had worked in the past, to me was this was Day 1 of us making a real, positive impact on the way people diversify their portfolios by opening up investment opportunities that are usually unattainable to the average American.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
I’m really looking forward to being able to open more funds and more alternative investments to Average Americans that were once-exclusive to the high net worth. I’m seeing that there are more and more players in the Fintech space and people are taking their financial futures seriously.
What business books have inspired you?
I am a very heavy reader. I take lessons and notes from everything I read and apply them to the business. My favorite is the classic, “Good to Great” by James C. Collins. I think this book should be in every businessperson’s reading list. Right now, I am reading “The Laws of Human Nature” by Robert Greene. I am very big on human psychology and apply it to everything I do – from designing our site to managing relationships.
What is a recent purchase that you have made that’s helped with your business?
In many companies, content marketing is taken for granted. People know it’s important, but it’s not something they assign a budget to. We continuously invest in content production materials and even have a green room in the office. Our company relies a lot on educating – creating relevant and helpful content is important to us.
Leave us with one point that few individuals know about your company.
I don’t think people understand what it means to be SEC qualified. It is a lot of work and quite an accomplishment. We are proud that we are one of the few companies to offer investment opportunities to everyone, regardless of their life station.