Would you believe it if we told you that being a punk rock musician can help you come a long way in the real estate industry? Well, today's guest proves the point by having opened a real estate mortgage startup after having a successful career as a musician.
Now, after years in real estate financing, he's more than willing to share insights from the Texas startup community as well as tips and tricks for perfect work/life balance as a new co-founder. Meet John R. Green!
John is a CEO and co-founder of an outstanding Dallas-based startup called Nada. It’s a platform that redefines the way to own and access real estate assets.
Recently, the company closed a seed round with $8 million. Starting as a musician, John paved his way to the top of the financial sphere and founded his own unique-based company in a relatively short time.
Nat: Please tell us more about what Nada is and what your guys are doing there.
John: Nada is a real estate finance platform that makes real estate ownership more accessible for everyone. Our goal is possible through a couple of key innovative financial products that are delivered and experienced with technology.
The first such product is Homeshares which allows homeowners to turn their equity into cash and use it for everyday spending or other expenses without the burden of new debt.
There are no monthly payments or exposure to interest rates in the product. And, of course, the homeowners don't have to move out of the home to get the funds. So, it's a much more flexible and accessible way to access equity as cash.
Our other key product, to work in concert with Homeshares, is Cityfunds, - a family of real estate funds. And they make it possible for everyone to own a piece of a top city's residential real estate market.
It's an index-like fund, which is meant to represent a single city's real estate market. In this case, we connect the homeowner with the Homeshares product.
The products include equities from Austin, Dallas, Tampa, and Miami, and we pull them together in real estate funds. We worked with the SEC to get a qualified investment offering that's available to not just accredited investors but every investor.
So, for just $250, someone can own a pool of homeowner equity in Austin without going through all the challenges of homeownership and financial burdens or be an accredited investor.
We're making ownership and access to the assets as means of creating wealth. We tie them all together, so Cityfunds is a pool that owns and finances our Homeshares product.
And that's how we're going to work in contrary on two sides: on both the owner's and the investor’s side.
Nat: How big is your company now?
John: We've grown the team 2x in the last six months. We’re all in 45 people, and we’re still trying to hire some people into key positions.
But what I personally see as growth is that:
- we have great people in a really core culture being built in;
- our customers are really appreciating our products right now in the current market;
- real estate is a stable asset to get into;
- we’re investing and then accessing equity to really offset some of the impacts of inflation and other economic impacts.
So, we're doing well and are very fortunate in this way.
Nat: What led you to the success you're enjoying today? You were a part of a punk rock band. What is that experience of your life? And how did you end up in finance afterward?
John: In my early 20s, I was a vocalist for a punk rock band. And, when I started, I had the opportunity to do that as a full-time job. We recorded our own two albums, we published those, and we just toured non-stop for 5 years. And that was how we made money back then.
But everything is a journey, right? So much of that background gave me my best virtue: curiosity. I am perpetually curious. Also, being the punk, you get very comfortable being uncomfortable.
Even if you have a bad day or don't feel the best about yourself, you still have to go out and perform in front of a bunch of strangers. And you want to do well.
That pressure and drive to get out of my comfort zone helped me. I found an opportunity to join a mortgage company and get into financial services as touring started to slow. For me, that job was more like a networking opportunity, so I found curiosity in this space.
“Believe in yourself and ask questions”
Nat: What experience from being a punk rock musician helped you in what you’re doing now?
John: I applied those same principles to my work in finance - I knew I needed to be very curious, I needed to be driven to create, and driven to try to build an established network or community.
And I probably agitated a lot of savvy, experienced people in that space early on because I was just asking every question I could and tried to be involved in everything I could. And I didn't see this as a climb-the-ladder type; that's just what I wanted to do at that moment.
That's how I understood the value of networking, and that helped me quickly absorb that space. I got to meet some amazing people and just consistently asked curious questions.
I just absorbed a lot, and I found it very interesting. I found it fascinating to bring something new to a community that's considered an underground thing.
In financial services, or to be more specific, in real estate mortgage, plenty of information and the tools needed to maximize that market are at the very top. Usually, only the industry experts or the wealthy advocates have those, but it doesn't disseminate.
And that was always so agitating to me - I wanted to make it more simple, more accessible, and I tried to do that throughout. It helped me prepare for what I’m doing now.
Thanks to my past career, I have these dueling voices now. I spent over a decade in financial services. So, I'm mainly in risk management and a strategy-type role. They're pretty structured roles for restructuring, process design, and regulatory navigation - it's critical.
So, I also have this non-conformist punk rocker voice in me pushing the envelope, and those two voices help to balance me out.
As a band going out, writing your own music, practicing it with your team - that's fun. But as soon as you get in front of a bunch of strangers and perform it, it takes a lot of conviction and understanding how to get that from here, with this team, and build an end-product thatwe willo deliver to the public.
It's so much the same as what I’m doing now. And there are so many little things like the release of our app. Right now feels very much like the release of our albums. Because we built and designed an app months ago, but we're just now releasing it. As far as I can recall, it was the same with recording.
Nat: Did being in Texas help you, or did it make it harder for you to start your business? Is there a particular environment or aspect that influences startups?
John: Nada is headquartered in Dallas, and most of our team and investors are in Austin. From my experience, Texas as a whole has a great community for startups.
Some of our early supporters were the University of Texas at Austin. We were part of a program they did at the university, and theyhave sponsored it. At this latest round, our largest investor is also Austin-based, with deep connections at the University of Texas at Austin.
Dallas is not very startup-like yet. It's not very communal in that way, but we're trying to play a role in that. There are great startups here, but they are more scattered. What Dallas has is a very structured finance sector.
So, a lot of independent mortgage companies are here, a lot of established real estate companies. So, Dallas has an abundance of finance, whether it's the banking side or the real estate side - that's available to us here, and it's been tremendous.
So, as a startup, you’ll have to balance it between Austin and Dallas.
Nat: What would be your recommendations or cautions for startups/businesses that want to establish/move to Texas? Is there something that they should be aware of the Texas environment?
John: If you're a startup looking to come to Texas and raise capital, my recommendation would be to get to know the history of Texas venture capital.
Start really understanding the network first. It has always helped me to find where people went and what has popped up. Unlike in California with an abundance, here, in Texas, it's so much about the personal connections, understanding the journeys, and trying to identify with what people can help.
Look at talent in the city you're going to be based. Or to ensure you are prepared to have certain functions distributed remotely.
“I realize that it's really talking to the people that end up being helpfull in doing a better job.”
Nat: How do you balance your work and personal life? Please give a couple of tips and advice for new founders on how to do so.
John: It's a constant struggle that I highly recommend everyone be very conscioust of. With your startup growth and better partners, you'll call it a success in your journey, but it is also more demanding. So you will have to embrace it at home.
Really think about what you have at home - a partner or a family. Set expectations about them first, and then build your business day around that. I feel like that makes you a better person and leader because it doesn't have this push-and-pull effect.
I also write down a few things I want to do in a day. And I draw a little circle by them to check it off. But I'll make sure that these are the things I know I can achieve on that day.
I prefer to avoid rolling things over to tomorrow, so I'll keep those that demand more time somewhere else. That way, I feel some sense of accomplishment in my daily activities.
You're trying to have at least two things that you can achieve that day. So you don't feel like you just spin your wheels.
As I'm growing, I realize that it's really talking to the people that end up being helpfull in doing a better job. At the end of the day, there will be a lot of conversations, but I focus on trying to talk to everyone throughout the day.
Nat: If you met a 10-year-old John, what would you tell him?
John: I would say: "Get curious faster."
It became my best virtue, and as a kid, teenager, and even in my early 20s, I still had a fear of revealing what you don't know, and it is so restricting and prohibitive.
Feel comfortable in your own skin and who you are. It comes first and then enables curiosity because you don't have that blocker for feeling something that you don't know or what people might think of you.
So, my advice would be: “Believe in yourself and ask questions.”
Rapid fire round
Your biggest regret?
John: We could do a second album with my band. We wrote some excellent stuff, but we got too lazy, and we missed the option period. And later, we just didn't do anything with it.
Once a punk, forever punk?
John: Yes, yes! I don't say I specifically listen to the same music, but I still listen to certain things like that. But for the mindset, the answer is 'yes.'
Mainstream or underground?
John: I appreciate participating in the mainstream because it's the largest audience. But I identified with the underground.
Who is your business hero?
John: I like the Patagonia story. I like purpose-driven companies and journeys like that. E.g., John Mackey and his journey with 'Whole Foods' and the concepts like those with a kind of "purpose-built into business logic and thinking" mindset.
So, for me, it's more of an idea than this individual person.
Who is your personal life hero?
John: Dave Grohl, Foo Fighters.