Real estate, once a tried and true component of any investing portfolio, is a tough subject for many Millennials. Only 47.9% own homes, compared to the Gen X ownership level of 69% and Baby Boomers’ 77.8%, according to the Census Bureau. LEX is looking to increase that percentage. Andrew Carnegie once said that “90% of millionaires become so through owning real estate.” LEX’s mission, “to empower wealth creation by solving real estate’s access and liquidity problems,” comes down to deconstructing the narratives that have kept so many investors out of the real estate market.
For Drew Sterrett and Jesse Daugherty, the concept of turning individual buildings into stocks required a strong start.
“We knew we had a novel solution to a real problem,” Daugherty told The Org. “Our biggest challenge would be that our approach—single-asset securitization and our own trading venue—required a lot more up-front lift, but the end result would be a more compelling value proposition.”
Here’s how LEX works: Any investor in the U.S. can open an account, browse opportunities in various asset classes (multifamily, office buildings, etc.) and buy shares of individual buildings. Once a shareholder, investors make an income when owners pay dividends. Their shares can be traded on LEX’s public market without lockups or hold periods. Every building on LEX even has a stock chart and a ticker symbol. The result? The doors of real estate investing are open wide for first-time investors, those with limited capital, and the otherwise-apprehensive.
Bringing Real Estate Back
Backgrounds in real estate private equity and engineering, respectively, brought Sterrett and Daugherty together to ask the question, “What if real estate investing wasn’t so exclusive?” The best deals had always been reserved for high-net worth individuals or massive corporations, so building a platform that would distribute investments started with infrastructure. Since its start in 2019, LEX has welcomed more than 10,000 users to a portfolio diverse in geographic location and asset class.
Mornings start with moments for calm—Headspace and puppy time for Sterrett, homemade Cometeer coffee and unread Slacks for Daugherty—for both founders. Building LEX requires embracing the “somewhat insular world” of real estate “where relationships really matter.” Much of the founders’ days are dedicated to educating the market, sharing LEX’s vision with owners and investors, plus bringing on new hires.
“One of our strengths as an organization,” Sterrett said, “is that we know what we don’t know and we’re never shy to ask for guidance and help.” He credits the support of advisors who share the vision—from serial entrepreneurs, real estate titans, executives, VCs and securities attorneys—for the guidance that’s shaped LEX.
The Future of LEX
Having raised more than $27 million to date, LEX is well on its way to making good on its promise to “empower wealth creation by solving real estate’s access and liquidity problems.” When Daugherty thinks about LEX’s growth, he thinks of a bridge. “Over the past three years, we’ve been building a bridge that connects everyday investors to quality real estate investments. Building it involved clearing regulatory hurdles, building technology infrastructure, and sourcing and structuring a foundational pipeline of deals,” he said. “Now we have the privilege of welcoming more investors over to our side.”
The company’s recent $15 million Series A allowed LEX to explore its mission to accelerate, growing the team and expanding the number of buildings LEX can bring to investors, and in turn, generating more assets. And as far as bridge metaphors go, this means welcoming even more investors to a new vision for real estate investment.
“We say we want taking buildings public to become as common as taking companies public, and investing in iconic buildings in your favorite city to be as easy as buying stock in your favorite brands,” Daugherty said of LEX’s hopes for the future. Sterrett echoed the sentiment. “Everyone will own real estate in their portfolios.” With LEX at their fingertips, Millennials just might make peace with the power of real estate, one stock at a time.
Founders File Q&A
What's one piece of advice you wish you could tell your younger self?
Drew: Celebrate the wins, believe in yourself, surround yourself with the people you want to become and hire a chief of staff or executive assistant sooner.
Jesse: You’re going to get a lot of nos as a founder before you get to a yes. Don’t let it get you down. It’s just part of the game.
What boundaries do you create as co-Founder and co-CEO to create balance in your life?
Jesse: Interesting question. Boundaries are something that we could be better at! I actually share an apartment in Manhattan with my co-CEO Drew and his brother Dean, our third co-founder. We like to say our investors get their money’s worth.
Given that, I try hard to respect my ability to get at least 7 hours of sleep and to get to the gym. I am often up late working or coding (see productivity hack, below) so I start my meetings later than some folks like to.
Drew: Like Jesse, I could drastically improve on my work life balance but I try to get 7-8 hours of sleep and meditate every morning to start the day off with a clear mind. I try to take one day off over the weekend, where I disconnect and recharge for the next week. For my personal growth I try to read at least one non-work related book a week, and diversify the books across all sectors to grow my knowledge base across all genres and industries.
What's your biggest productivity hack?
Jesse: For me it’s getting in a few hours of focused late-night work after a good evening workout. I often get home from the gym at 9pm with my mind wide awake from the workout and then work late into the night. No meetings, no distractions. I’m able to chop down my list of to-dos. I’d say 90+% of the work that I’m solely accountable for gets done during those hours.
Another one - writing code on a plane. It seems counterintuitive since you don’t have great access to the internet, but there’s something motivating about having a few-hour-long timebox to get a whole project done without distractions and it makes the flight fly by. Several LEX features were coded on a plane.
Drew: My biggest productivity hack is connecting key stakeholders across our team including our investors, advisors, co-founders, and friends to create a productivity flywheel that helps us achieve our goals. Surrounding myself with the best of the best has been a key to my success.
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