A former journalist and writer in the real estate sector, Laura Fortey brings more than a decade of expertise in building companies. As a real estate entrepreneur, Laura has bought, managed, renovated and sold her own investment properties, as well as investing in REITs and MICs. As the daughter of a realtor, Laura grew up with entrepreneurial parents who also owned a successful property management company.
From the early days of Youtube, Facebook and social media, Laura’s past venture was a digital marketing agency which specialised in internet marketing, enabling startups and SMEs to grow from ideation to multi-million dollar revenues.
Co-founding her third company since 2005, Laura’s expertise in marketing, journalism and her own real estate investing led her on the path to co-creating REITIUM. Asset-backed, permission-based private blockchain marketplace REITIUM offers fractional ownership of tangible real estate assets, enabling Real Estate for Everyone™.
Hey Laura, can you introduce yourself to us?
First off, thanks for inviting me as a guest, I’m thrilled to get the chance to speak to your audience. I’m currently the COO and head of Marketing at REITIUM, the company I Co-Founded back in 2017. I’m a journalist by trade and have been an entrepreneur building companies for the last decade. I’m also a real estate entrepreneur and have invested in MICs, REITs and owned my own profitable rental properties.
Can you take us through your journey to where you are now?
I got involved in my first company back in 2008, where we created and sold golf products online. I was on the marketing and operations side, learning the ins and outs of digital marketing at its inception. I lived abroad in Australia and the UK for the better part of a decade before moving back home to Canada, where I was introduced to an incredible startup community. Through the local startup scene in Vancouver, I met my Co-Founders, Michael and Thomas. The three of us started working together in early 2017, on a passion project – a travel app. After Michael and I won a hackathon, which was the start of the idea for the current company, we pivoted to co-creating REITIUM in fall of 2017.
How is REITIUM funded, is it bootstrapped, self-funded etc?
Currently, we are raising our SEED round, bringing in $3M. In 2018, we raised our first round from friends & family, bringing in $650,000, which allowed us to hire a team of developers and build the tech out. We are one month from launch and the next round of funding will allow us to obtain important licensing, along with making some key hires we need to help bring us to the next level. We’ve run lean, consciously dedicating funds to what makes the most sense for our roadmap. In 2018, we went on a global tour, attending 22 conferences across 9 countries, which brought us a breadth of knowledge, introduced us to new jurisdictions and opened the door for the incredible partnerships we have today.
Can you tell us more about the brand DNA and ethos of REITIUM
At REITIUM, we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to invest in real estate. Regardless of age (18+), socioeconomic status, credit or job history, we are allowing anyone to invest in income-generating real estate for as little as $100. We believe in financial inclusion and are changing the face of who gets to be an investor and who creates wealth through real estate. We have seen firsthand the power of the crowd and through crowdfunding, we can offer fractional ownership to allow everyone the chance to get into the property market. Our focus on social impact is seen through micro-investing, as we are unlocking $1 trillion dollars of sleeping capital from millennials, seniors and the developing nations – those who are traditionally not able to get into the property market. We feel the pain of unaffordable real estate and are happy to have a helping hand in creating a solution.
Where can you see yourself within the next 3-5 years?
In 3 years I’ll be 40. Which to me is actually quite exciting, I’ve always leaned into ageing as I totally agree with the older and wiser belief.
My goal in the next 3 years is:
- To be recognised on 40 under 40 lists for the innovative technology we are creating at REITIUM.
- To continue to be a leader in my field and encourage the next cohort of women in STEM to step up.
- To write more articles and thought leadership pieces surrounding my role, our company and what it’s like to be a female executive in a male-dominated industry. To me breaking through the stereotypes and pushing glass ceilings excites me.
My goal in the next 5 years is:
I would like to be building another company or new projects within REITIUM that span beyond what we are currently doing. There are so many avenues our company has the potential to fulfil that we, of course, cannot even fathom yet until the markets evolve.
A very important goal is to continue the social impact side of our company, working with governments in emerging markets, continually stimulating their economy and growth capacities.
Can you give us 3 tips on how to successfully launch a product or service into the tech industry?
- Failure. Learn how to fail fast, brush yourself off and move on. Almost everyone who has created a startup has failed, iterated and pivoted, allowing them to learn and create a better, more focused product. Sometimes its a case of being too early for your market and sometimes you just need to make a shift to hit the jackpot – either way, embrace failure for it is truly the best teacher.
- Fluidity. You must become an incredible fluid when working in tech. What is hot and happening today may not be in the hot seat next month. You must adapt, always be learning and embrace constant change. Let go of the need for expectations before they arise. It may be as simple as shifting your idea, your market or maybe even finding a Co-Founder but don’t be afraid to tell others what you’re working on, this is the best way to test your hypothesis and know gauge initial reception.
- Focus. The biggest issue I see with startups is blurred vision and distracted excitement. Most entrepreneurs love to create and come up with new ideas, but those who are a truly successful focus on one offering and cut out all the other noise. Once you are doing one thing really well, then you can work on creating the next product. And of course, you can still iterate your idea while maintaining focus on the impact you are setting out to create.
Who does the team involve behind you?
Our core team is made up of Six full-time developers, one of whom we immigrated to Canada from Brazil; One full-time marketing coordinator focused on analytics, social media, and events; One part-time marketing coordinator focused on content creation; Three on the executive team (the 3 Co-Founders) who hold the roles of Chief Product Officer, CEO, and COO (myself).
We also have fifteen advisors who are based around the world. They are comprised of specialists in private equity, finance, real estate, business development, legal, compliance, regulations, REIT managers, cybersecurity, blockchain tech, M&A to name a few.
What are the key tools that you use for your trade?
The single most important tool for my position is continuing education. Where I am in my life and my career has everything to do with attending personal growth seminars, reading business books and always being on the up and up with what’s happening in tech. As an entrepreneur, I totally live by the work hard, play hard, always be improving mentality.
What outlets do use to market REITIUM?
Digitally, we’ve had featured interviews on traditional media, such as Nasdaq and use all social media platforms. Medium, Youtube and LinkedIn have proven to be the best social media platforms for our reach, to bring in new viewers and to tell our story in a well-rounded succinct fashion. The ability to attract new interest and deliver our message across multiple mediums is what we’ve seen as hyper-effective.
In person, our focus has been on conferences, both blockchain-focused and real estate specific, which have proved to be amazing for our growth. In 2018 we went on a global roadshow, attending, speaking and boothing at 22 conferences which introduced us to partners, investors and allowed us to speak to our future users. The ability to speak to groups in person and enter into multiple jurisdictions has been incredible and only possible through our world tour.
What or who inspires and motivates you?
I am very lucky to be born to two parents who were entrepreneurs. From a young age, I learned about the illusion of stability and how to think critically. Through the financial ups and downs of my childhood, the things that remained constant were growth, constant change and the need to adapt as well as emotional stability. This early learning moulded me to think the way I do and allowed me to be flexible when starting a business, especially with the failure piece. Learning how to fail and realising it is never final is what motivates me daily to keep pushing and iterate where needed. I also believe that everyone shows up in business the same way they show up in life and commitments. If you are lazy and want the easy way out, that’s what you’ll search for in your career. If you are driven, focused and dedicated to saying your personal growth and sports, that is how you will show up in the boardroom. It’s all a reflection and usually quite on point.
What is the number 1 critical business lesson you have learned so far?
Ignore the naysayers and trust your intuition. If you can see the vision, find those who will listen. Tell your idea often to help it get validated and find people to help support your dream, for that is how you will truly have a chance at success. No man is an island. #truth.
A seminal point in your career so far?
I have been an entrepreneur my whole life and professionally since 2008. Life is very different when you’re working on your own full time, with no safety net. It takes very brave (and sometimes delusional?) decisions to reach this pinnacle. I am so proud of myself for doing so. For never looking back. For continuing to push through, turning my dreams into reality.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows for sure, but when I figured out how to continuously exercise those muscles they only grew stronger. It’s a lonely and challenging road, sometimes taunted by promises of stability if you give up, but for me, the value came from emerging through the struggle. The phoenix rising from the ashes. In my career and my life, my proudest achievements have come after the darkest days. I know that sounds completely cliche, but some of the best truths are.
What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?
Knowing that I’ve done my homework, showed up to the best of my ability and gave it my all. I always value progress over perfection as this is the true currency when advancing in your growth efforts.
What challenges have you seen to have been presented during the growth of your business?
As with any startup, there’s always a laundry list of challenges that arise, especially when you’re creating something innovative outside of the status quo. In my industry (blockchain and tech) a big challenge I am aware of is the lack of gender diversity. However, I’ve chosen not to see this as a hindrance, but rather an opportunity; to lead, to create new paradigms and to stand out from the crowd. The good thing on our end though is that our founding team had experience working on a passion project before creating REITIUM, which really gave us a leg up on learning how to work together for the true creation of a product.
Which other leading entrepreneurs and pioneering game changers do you also admire and why?
I’m team Branson all the way. The way he created the entire Virgin brand, spanning multiple unrelated markets and how he approaches situations is the nearest reflection to my own. As a visionary, I love creating companies that reflect my interests, entrenching myself as I go on. I respect a leader who tries, fails and continues to create, without self-imposed limitations.
Ellen is the other leader that comes to mind. Perhaps not seen as an obvious leader, but I have deep respect for the way Ellen has stepped out and embraced her personal truth, paving the way for others to do the same. She was very brave in a time when the world was changing. I also love how her main motivator in life is being real – acting young, having fun and putting kindness first, reminding us to do the same.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
‘Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, The Navy SEALs, And Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing The Way We Live And Work’ by James Kotler & Jamie Wheal.
Top 3 go-to Podcast channels?
- ‘The Joe Rogan Experience.’
- ‘Impact Theory’ with Tom Bilyeu.
- ‘Ted Talks Daily.’
How do you define your own success?
Success is a heavy word. It brings with it automatic visions of material success, fame, and fortune. I don’t jive in the slightest with this generalised outward version of the term, but rather I measure my personal success by fulfilling my desires within. When I show up, knowing I’ve come prepared and done my best, to me that’s a success. However, I know that constant growth and learning is how I will continue to push beyond my own limits, allowing me to create new units of measure. I also feel very accomplished when I’ve challenged the norm and created new paradigms.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
My belief is that we are all born into this world with a personalised genetic imprint, which is the basis for our personality. From there we are shaped by our culture, our surroundings, our upbringing and the circumstances that happen to us. To me, #BeYourOwn means carving my own path through unlearning the programming imprinted on me throughout the course of my life. It means being open to new ways of being and shedding those that no longer serve me. It means adopting what works for me and knowing that I have the freedom to change my mind as I learn new things and continue to grow. And finally, it means being true to myself, especially through judgement and criticism of others.
Finally, what are you working on throughout 2019?
2019 is a HUGE year. This year we are launching our real estate marketplace product, as well as expanding our team and entering new markets. The most exciting thing for me is the expansion into emerging markets and the pride of opening up the global pool to allow anyone across the globe to invest in real estate for as little as $100.
Personally, it is a year of cultivation, of flow and fruition. My personal word for this year is resolute. To me, resolute means to be unwavering and meaningful with my actions, but also letting go of expectations and allowing things to unfold as they are meant to.