Image courtesy @etnbr

PeerStreet

Access to high quality real estate loan investments

Editor’s note: Welcome to a new series featuring Xoogler-preneurs. Each post is designed to provide inspiration, learnings and a frank look at startup life.

To begin, we meet Brett Crosby, co-founder & COO, PeerStreet.


Business: PeerStreet
Mission:
A marketplace that provides access to high quality real estate loan investments. 
Founders: Brett Crosby, Brew Johnson and Alex Perelman
Employees: 80
HQ: LA, California
Stage: Pre-Series B


Connection to Google? I was a Director of Product Marketing & Growth at Google for roughly 10 years after Google acquired Urchin.

I ran the product marketing teams that launched Google Analytics, mobile ads, local ads, Google+, Hangouts, Photos, Drive, Cardboard, Inbox. I also ran Growth for products such as Chrome, Gmail, Docs and Drive.

Brett Crosby, co-founder PeerStreet (courtesy E&Y)

What’s been your best startup experience to date? My journey at PeerStreet has been amazing so far.

For Xooglers, I’m probably best known for founding, building and selling Urchin Software Corporation to Google!

We got to see our vision fully-realized and turned that into Google Analytics, now the world’s largest analytics platform.

Joining Google in 2005, just after the IPO, was great too. It was a magical time to be at the company. The only reason I left after almost 10 years was to start PeerStreet. As my Head of Sales at Urchin once said:

“ It was like playing AAA baseball then suddenly the Yankees calling during the World Series and asking, “hey, do you guys know how to pitch?”

Tell me more about your new business? It’s hard to believe but PeerStreet is on a much bigger and faster trajectory and may soon eclipse what happened with Urchin.

Our company just helped fund over half a billion dollars in loans and we’re now doing over $50 million per month. To put that in context, it took us 15 months to do our first $50 million in loans.

Team at PeerStreet

This time last year we’d only done $100 million in volume.

Since then, we’ve grown dramatically, received numerous industry awards, hired incredibly talented people, built a culture inspired by Google’s and were recently named one of the “Best Startups to Work For in Los Angeles”. I couldn’t be more proud of what we’re doing or excited about where we’re headed.

You’ve run successful fundraising rounds. Is there a secret to that success? It was a massive win for the company having our Series A led by Andreessen Horowitz. Our venture partners, Alex Rampell and Angela Strange are phenomenal. I worked with Angela at Google on Chrome and Google+. I’m incredibly excited and grateful to be working with her again.

As for the secret to fundraising success, I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I have learned a lot. You’ve got to have more than a good idea. The team matters, progress on your concept matters, and timing matters. Ideally you also have a mission and vision that can impact people’s lives for the better.

Your mission is going to matter to everyone involved in your business, VCs included.

Growing a startup isn’t all smooth sailing. What’s been your worst experience so far? Oh boy, I’ve had many! The three that standout in my mind are:

At Urchin, our series A funding round was set to close on September 11th, 2001. We all woke up to the terror, atrocities and chaos of that day to also discover the meeting we’d anticipated for months wasn’t going to happen. Ever.

PeerStreet is winning awards for its work

As a result, we had to lay people off, take massive pay-cuts and retool our business.

Here’s the silver-lining: with the help of our families and staff, the modifications made out of sheer necessity changed not only the course of our business but also our lives.

Without those business changes, it’s unlikely we’d have ever been acquired by Google or created Google Analytics.

We’d been negotiating the sale of Urchin to Google for roughly 8 months. All that needed to happen was for the lawyers to redraft the documents and sign them. Then I received a voicemail from John Battelle: “I hear you’re selling your company to Google. I’m publishing the story today at 2pm. Call me back if you want a quote in the story.”

The problem? Google said they’d walk on the deal at any point if it leaked, regardless how far along we were in the negotiation. After 10 years of building the company we were so maddeningly close! So I called our contacts at Google. They said to sit tight while they deliberated what to do.

Those few hours were some of the most intense of my life. They called back to say they’d decided to proceed with the acquisition but wanted to be the ones to announce the deal. We wrote up a press release right there and then, sent it over and the story went live. We did it!!

A few days later, I got married and signed the deal moments before I walked down the aisle.

Thanks to many Xooglers for making this happen, especially Wesley Chan and David Friedberg, both of whom have changed my life multiple times

What about the challenges of growing a new startup? I’ve done a lot of different things in my career but PeerStreet is in a space I didn’t know all that well. In fact, that’s part of the reason I did it.

There was an incredible learning curve and the business model we chose, while very powerful at scale, has a very challenging “cold start” problem. I don’t think I was fully prepared for the lowest parts of the emotional journey and going through that startup “pit of despair” phase.

I believe we’re on the other side of it. I do my best to make it look easy but as anyone knows who’s been through it, it really isn’t!

Brett Crosby & Brew Johnson, co-founders (courtesy Think Realty Magazine)

Are there any lessons from your time at Google that have helped your business? There are almost too many to count!

Lessons in culture, management, hiring, transparency, innovation and more. Our approach to industry is probably the biggest.

Instead of competing with other players, we took an ecosystem approach.

Our presence in the industry improves the lives of other participants. That’s something I learned at both Google and Urchin.

What does it mean to you to be a “Xoogler?” It’s bittersweet.

“By definition, you’ve already graduated from one of the best experiences of your life…but you’re also honored to be part of an extremely elite and powerful group of some of the smartest people on the planet!”

How can the Xoogler community support your startup? If you’re an accredited investor, join many other Googlers and Xooglers who are PeerStreet customers, then spread the word. Once you try it, reach out and let me know what you think.

Thanks for your time Brett!