Why I Switched from Startups to Real Estate

Going from Tech into Real Estate now means that ‘I’m a PC’. And I like it. (from Apple “I’m a Mac” advertisement)

Over the past 10 years, I’ve had the opportunity to explore 3 distinct career paths — starting with investment banking at Arbor Advisors, leading me to launch multiple technology startups at Xpert Financial, CapRally, and Venovate, and now entering into commercial real estate at HFF. My title has varied from entry-level analyst to founder/CEO.

The continuously cited reasons people flock to join or launch startups:

  • the feeling of doing real, challenging work,
  • lifestyle flexibility,
  • a culture of meritocracy,
  • outsized financial opportunities, and
  • ability to be entrepreneurial.

These were the exact same reasons I was questioning startups and gravitating towards the real estate space. After time in both spaces, I would argue that real estate offers a much more realistic opportunity to be successful and in control of your outcome.

At HFF, my initial focus falls into two buckets:

  1. Investment Sales for Office Properties in the SF Bay Area— helping commercial real estate investor, operator, and developer clients realize market value for their current assets (office buildings and plots of land) and identifying new assets and opportunities for them to pursue. My experience while working with multiple startups and experience within the venture capital space will hopefully give me and my clients a competitive advantage understanding and better communicating the technology story to potential buyers.
  2. Equity Placement — connecting developer/operator clients with the right equity investor relationships on a deal-by-deal or fund basis. A majority of my career has focused on raising capital for private companies or alternative assets from a range of investors, which include high-net worth investors, family offices, venture capitalists, and registered investment advisors).

In the venture and startup space, I’ve been particularly impressed with the blogs by Tom Tunguz from Redpoint Ventures, Paul Graham from Y Combinator, and Mark Suster from Upfront Ventures. They’ve done a great job making venture and startups accessible to large audiences and shared relevant and valuable experiences with many entrepreneurs and investors who might be interested in startups. I haven’t seen anything close to this in the real estate space.

My goal with my writing is to make the commercial real estate investing space more accessible and understandable for investors, developers, operators, brokers and outsiders who might hopefully decide to become future players. My opinions will be my own and will be supported with real data when available. I will likely have a bias towards technology from my own past experiences as an entrepreneur.

Please feel free to engage with me on Twitter or email me at tfoley@hfflp.com if you’d like to connect, have questions or suggestions for topics you’d like me to explore.