Fundrise has gone from an ambitious Dupont Circle start-up to probably the country’s leading real estate crowd-funding platform, and now it has money to grow.
Ben Miller, the company’s co-founder, said Tuesday that Fundrise had received $31 million in financing from tech and real estate investors led by Chinese social media giant Renren and executives from New York developer Silverstein Properties. Other investors include Scott Plank, formerly of Under Armour, and Rich Boyle, former chairman and chief executive of Loopnet.
Fundrise, which allows individuals to invest as little as $100 in commercial real estate projects that use the platform, has led to the investment of more than $15 million in projects in D.C., San Francisco, Seattle and elsewhere.
Miller has been spreading the idea behind his company at real estate and tech conferences across the country since co-founding Fundrise with his brother Daniel in 2010. He said he is now seeing widespread notice from the real estate industry, recognition that is cemented by new investors like Martin Burger and Tal Kerret, the chief executive and chief investment officer of Silverstein Properties, developer of the new World Trade Center. Los Angeles developer Christopher Rising and New York’s Ackman-Ziff Real Estate Group are also investing.
“We invented it,” he said. “No one had ever crowd funded real estate before and now it’s become a phenomenon. People talk about it as if it’s a thing. There are studies about it. There’s this Power Point about how big crowd funding could be. Now I walk into the room and people say, ‘Yeah I’ve heard all about this.’ ”
Miller said he only began raising money in earnest this spring and quickly agreed to the majority of the money after being contacted on LinkenIn by Renren. Led by founder Joseph Chen, chairman and chief executive, Renren has more than 210 million active users and earned $24.9 million of revenue in the first quarter. It put up the majority of the $31 million, though Miller declined to share the exact amount.
“We were talking about going out to market, we were self-funding primarily, looking at Silicon Valley players mostly. Renren reached out to us, we spent some time with them and they’re better than I could have ever imagined as partners,” Miller said.
Investors have yet to make (or lose) much money through Miller’s company. But one of the first projects to use Fundrise, a Dupont Circle condominium project by Lock 7 Development, has nearly sold all of its units. Miller said he expected investors in it to make about 12 percent. A retail project the Millers are developing themselves, on H Street NE, has been delayed but should open this summer, Miller said.
The new investment should allow Fundrise to reach more developers, institutional investors and government agencies in more parts of the country. Miller said he is currently hiring people in real estate, software engineering and finance. With so many jobs to fill, Miller said he is also mulling whether to keep the company in the District or not.
“That’s currently our plan,” he said. “There are more software professionals Silicon Valley, more investment professionals in New York. Lots of real estate people in D.C.”
Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz