Grand Rapids startup Loquidity
may have gotten off to a rocky start when a shaky real estate deal dampened the launch of its online real estate crowdfunding platform last summer, but as the number of investors using the site climbed from 60 to now nearly 400, the platform is poised for growth, says COO Joe Elias.
"We're constantly building (the platform)," says Elias, whose five-person team recently added three new full-time members, and has plans to make 3-4 more full-time hires over the next 6-9 months.
With more than 15 years experience working with Fortune 500 companies in real estate, Elias co-founded Loquidity with fellow Michigan native and CFO Jesse Clem — who also boasts over 15 years of background working in IT for Fortune 500 companies — with hopes of creating an "inclusive" platform to capitalize on a growing interest in the Midwest by real estate investors.
However, Elias says as he and his partner watched the rapid redevelopment of Grand Rapids' urban core and utilized market research techniques to gauge potential investors' attitudes toward new real-estate opportunities, Loquidity became about more than just raising capital.
"It's about getting the community to feel like they have some ownership," says Elias, who thinks Loquidity's crowdfunding model - which allows investors to get in for as little as $5,000 - is rooted in the spirit of a shared sense of place created by a collective investment in redevelopment.
"I think when people don’t have a sense of ownership, it’s always somebody else's problem," he says. "If you can get the community to invest in the problem, it’s nobody else’s problem, it’s everyone's. It could potentially shift people’s mindset."
Made possible by the federal Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act of 2012, Elias says Loquidity is more focused on utilizing the state version of the law, the Michigan Invests Locally Exemption (MILE) Act signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in December, since its smaller geographic scope creates a more community-focused benefit.
Using the MILE Act, Elias says Loquidity will soon launch a real estate deal in Detroit that is open to both accredited and non-accredited investments, with possible minimums as low as $500-1,000.
"That’s true crowdfunding," he says. "When your funding is just from accredited investors, you're only crowdfunding from the top 5-7 percent of the population. We want the full crowd engaged."
Visit Loquidity's website more information on careers there, or to find out how you can become part of the growing community of online real estate investors using the crowdfunding platform at www.loquidity.com.
Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Loquidity, LLC.