What’s the inspiration behind Janover Ventures?
I was doing some “finding myself” time in a small fishing town in the Dominican Republic for a year or so and ended up having a serendipitous call with an old friend about multifamily financing. My personal background is real estate capital markets and I had owned a lending institution in the last real estate cycle, so it was a business I intimately understood. I hopped on Google to see what the most recent trends were in multifamily capital markets and the results were disappointing, to say the least. So I bought a domain, multifamily.loans, and built a website laying out all the basics.
There was no plan in mind other than to build a universally helpful resource for anyone in the same conundrum I found myself in. I was (and am) simply a geek for digital & tech trends and capital markets. I built this website and almost instantly ranked #1 on Google for “multifamily loans” and dozens of other search terms. My phone started ringing and I started to build more sites and begin my migration back to civilization.
The story is a good deal longer, but the heart of it is this: I wanted to create a place for multifamily and commercial real estate owners to access all the information they need in a simple, well organized website. I wanted to empower them to make the best financial decisions possible for their businesses. Fast forward to 2020, and Janover Ventures has arranged more than $100,000,000 in loans YTD and have had billions of dollars in online loan applications!
This is not your first time founding a company—what do you think is the most important skill founders need to succeed?
I think every founder will have his or her own unique skill or set of skills that can set them up for success. The most important thing for me, which is unfortunately very cliche, is that I have failed well. When I say well, I do not mean elegantly. A glaring failure was when the real estate market turned in 2008 and my commercial and residential mortgage business was fully staffed. The writing was on the walls, there was irresponsible behavior all around me in a clearly unsustainable environment, but in my youth, and arrogance…I doubled down. I thought I was too smart to go down with everyone else and that we would simply outlast by doing more of the same. Many years later that lesson cost me a bankruptcy and a very large humility pill. It’s funny how one can willfully blind himself to facts and objectivity. Times like that (and many others) have lent me perspective and clarity that I wouldn’t otherwise have. Clarity that has served me when “it” hit the fan in other situations.
I mean, I learn by doing and by making mistakes and iterating quickly in execution. If I had to re-write my set of skills it would be to learn better from others so I can avoid mistakes.
I also read a lot to create the foundational knowledge as I approach potential obstacles. Now I can fail a bit less frequently and enjoy the fruits of both mine and other peoples’ failures in aggregate. If you screw up in business or life and learn a lesson, document it and email it over to me.
What lessons learned are you applying to your current company?
The biggest lesson I am applying to my current company starts with myself. I am on a mission to improve as both a leader and a person. My biggest personal investment is in my continued education. One thing I’ve learned is to hire folks that are smarter than me or that can outperform me in their own verticals. I focus on people that can run really fast and that have diverging thinking, experiences, and opinions from my own. By building a team that is deeply diverse, we benefit significantly from a dynamic set of opinions and perspectives. This has been quite cool (and profitable)!
We were remote and distributed team before COVID-19. Ironically, we opened a small office in Boca Raton, FL as a bit of a social experiment since we have a small concentration of folks there locally. That’s been cool too. Our culture is one of curiosity, high velocity, data-driven execution, and generosity (to each other and our users). You can learn more about our values here.
How do you handle risk and competition?
I seek competition out, study them, learn from them, copy what they do well, toss what they do poorly, and innovate deeply where it’s needed.
In regard to risk, I think I’ve been categorically classified as a risk taker and perhaps in my youth, that would have been a fairly accurate assessment…an understatement even. As I’ve gotten older and accumulated experiences, that’s changed. Although I’m taking risks, they’re obsessively measured and contemplated. I avoid unnecessary risk, or risk without asymmetric rewards, at all costs. I understand in order to exceed and succeed I have to take calculated risks (like being an entrepreneur), but I do everything I can to reduce exposure whilst shooting for the stars.
What’s been the top challenge you’ve faced while launching your company?
Probably self-imposed limiting beliefs. Like most things in life, when I get out of my own way and am willing to get vulnerable, that’s where I generally succeed and outperform.
What is your superpower?
When I’m not leaping tall buildings in a single bound, I’d say my special skill may be seeing a very big picture with seemingly unrelated objects and connecting high level dots strategically. Sometimes very complex conditional environments can look super simple to me. Conversely, some fairly simple tasks, like operating our new dishwasher, can be endlessly challenging.
What’s your kryptonite?
That voice in my head…and no, I’m not (fully) crazy! We all know that voice in the back of our minds, narrating our lives like Morgan Freeman does in the movies. Mine’s pretty critical (understatement). You can think of that voice in my head as a ruthless coach or boss; but only to myself. I’m generally pretty kind to my neighboring sapiens. Unless I’m hungry.
Do you have any unusual routines or habits?
I’m really dynamic and usual! I like to wake up early and try to take a nap in the afternoon. I read before bed. Sometimes I have a nightcap. Come to think of it, it seems I’m quite boring.
Do you have any other hobbies/things you like to do in your spare time?
Reading, boxing, deep research (when a new subject strikes my fancy), swimming in the ocean when it’s warm, non-touristy traveling (I like an adventure), exploring nature, and hanging out with my wife, daughter, dad, sister, and family. Family is really important to me. Honestly, I should be boxing more as it seems I’ve inadvertently developed a bit of a dad-bod since the birth of my daughter, Bella.
If you could learn anything, what would that be and why?
I can learn anything and I study subjects that interest me. Right now I’m actually reading two books on how to improve the velocity at which I learn. So to answer your question: if I could learn anything right now I’m learning about learning.
Do you have any mentors? If so, what have they taught you?
A friend of mine, Ricardo is very much a mentor to me (don’t tell him I’ve said it). He warmed a younger, more egotistical version of myself up to the idea of improving myself. Since then I have added more than one coach or mentor to my life and it’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience (shout out to Vince and Marcelo); but he’s the one that got that ball rolling. High five Ricardo.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
If you don’t like the answers you’re getting, ask better questions.