Ben Miller, CEO and Co-Founder of Fundrise — Democratizing Real Estate Investing
In today’s episode, Anirudh Singh sits down with Ben Miller, CEO and Co-Founder of Fundrise.
Prior to founding Fundrise, Ben worked as managing partner of WestMill Capital Partners and President of Western Development Corp. Roughly a decade into his career, Ben experienced the repercussions of the 2008 financial crisis firsthand and became skeptical of large incumbent financial institutions. He decided to work as a founder instead, first creating Popularise, an application to democratize decision making and information flow. Although Popularise wasn’t the financial success Ben was hoping for, it served as an important learning experience for Fundrise. Ben firmly believes that “the key to success is failure”.
Founding Fundrise and the growth of Fractional Investing:
Fundrise is now the 20th largest real estate investor and has 200,000 investors on its platform. Fundrise allows for retail investors to access a low-cost, diversified portfolio of institutional quality real estate. When Ben first started Fundrise and targeted retail investors with lower spending power, many incumbents questioned why Ben would “bother with the little guy”. However, with a software-first platform, and near-zero marginal cost for individual investors, Ben was able to build a scalable platform that allows for investments as low as $10. Ben also had to work with regulators to explain how he and Fundrise planned to fractionalize a real asset and lower the barrier to entry for investors, a concept that has become much more popular over the last 10 years. While growing Fundrise, Ben shied away from raising significant money from venture capital firms, largely because he believed this would create the wrong growth incentives for his company. Moving forward, Ben hopes to broaden and deepen Fundrise’ product offering, particularly with the use of AI and machine learning.
Covid’s Impact on Real Estate:
Covid-19 created distinct real-estate winners (residential real-estate in the Sun Belt) and losers (offices in New York). Fundrise’s in-house private equity team of 50 people gave the company an edge in determining where to invest. The company’s diversified portfolio helped it ride out the uncertainty created during the past year and a half. Moving forward, Ben is excited about the opportunities real estate investing will present, particularly in the Sun Belt.
Rapid Fire Round:
- What was your first job?
- How do you start your ideal day?
- What is your favorite vacation spot?
- What is your favorite book?
- What does success look like for you and Fundrise?
Ben Miller is CEO and co-founder of Fundrise, America’s largest real estate investment platform. Now with over 150,000 active individual investors and more than $1.5 billion worth of equity under management, Fundrise has made high-tech, low-cost real estate investing available to everyone. Founded in 2012, Fundrise is on a mission to use technology to build a better financial system for the individual.
With over 20 years of experience in real estate investment and development, Ben Miller’s responsibilities cover day-to-day management, real estate investment oversight, and corporate finance, as well as setting the long-term strategy and goals for the company. Prior to Fundrise, Ben was managing partner of WestMill Capital Partners and President of Western Development Corp., one of the largest mixed-use real estate development companies in the Washington, DC metro area. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, he sits on the board of National Center for Children and Families.
About the Author
Anirudh Singh is a second-year MBA Candidate at The Wharton School, where he is part of the Wharton FinTech Podcast team. He has a passion for economic development, venture capital, financial services, and all things FinTech. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, comments, feedback, and opportunities at email@example.com.