Karl Vään is always on the lookout for ways to expand his ‘entrepreneurial spirit.’
What’s your story?
I’m originally from Estonia. I did my bachelors in the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga and worked a couple of years at Gunvor AS, a global commodities trading house. The entrepreneurial spirit has been inside me for quite some time already and I have been constantly looking for ways to apply it.
In 2016 we started brainstorming ideas for a real estate crowdfunding business with my co-founders Taavi and Timo. We also had input from a friend of mine at a venture capital company in Singapore, who was helping to make local connections.
On January 27th, 2017 I quit my job and flew to Singapore to find funding for our idea. It was my first time fundraising for the company. It took 4 months and about 70 meetings, but eventually it paid off.
In May, we received our first funding from Spaze Ventures and our lead investor in the seedround was the Japanese real estate information giant LIFULL Co. Ltd, providing its services in 57 different countries around the world.
Since then, it’s been a crazy roller coaster as we’ve been focused on crystallizing the vision of what BitOfProperty is to become in the future.
What excites you most about your industry?
The real estate industry is one of the biggest in the world but is also quite stagnated when it comes to technology. There are many ways companies can bring change to the real estate industry and and change is needed, especially in tech.
BitOfProperty has taken a crowdfunding approach and we are bringing novel blockchain technology to the industry, enabling investors to make international investments in a transparent and liquid way.
Even though, real estate crowdfunding has been available for the past 5 years, there are still many things yet to be done, in my opinion. Blockchain in real estate is a relatively new phenomenon that we are looking to exploit. Right now, we are on the financing side of it, but it can be extended to listings, leasings and the management of the properties.
What’s your connection to Asia?
My first connection with Asia was when I came to backpack in Vietnam in 2016 with a friend. During that trip I also visited Hong Kong and Singapore. The moment I stepped foot in Singapore, I knew that this was the place I wanted to live.
When I moved here in 2017 I had a number of friends waiting for me in Southeast Asia already, making the move much easier. I’ve been working together my friends and colleagues and sharing tips on the best spots around Asia since then. I would recommend Asia to anybody looking to start a business or travel the world.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore is hands down my favourite place in Asia to do business. Strong rule of law, innovative mindset and capital are the three important things which I think Singapore has become known for as the financial hub in Asia. It’s also a great place for startups as it’s easy to make new connections and the market size is significant enough to test out business ideas.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best piece of advice that I have received was that one should always try to understand different viewpoints of the parties / people involved. This has helped me open my thinking to new ideas that I might have otherwise shut down or been critical about. I would recommend this to anyone looking to innovate or find new ideas either in their business or personal life.
Who inspires you?
The person who inspires me the most is Elon Musk. For me it is mind blowing how he runs so many companies simultaneously and at the same time is bringing change to the world. The energy and passion that he has and how he is involved with the processes in his companies is very inspirational. Elon is definitely not your regular founder or CEO, he is willing to get his hands dirty like every employee in the company.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I never understood the importance of human resources and leadership when I was an employee in other companies. Now, since starting my own businesses and I have had to recruit, I realise how difficult it really is to communicate the vision and heart of the company to the whole team.
Weekly meetings have become the most important platform for the team to connect and share their ideas. As we have such a small team it opens up the floor for all sorts of discussions and we encourage all to express themselves. Especially since the team is spread across different countries we don’t have any time for watercooler chats and getting to know each other on a deeper level.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
If I could redo things I would have started investing much earlier. Seeing first hand how much even a small investment can bring in returns, it’s well worth saving a bit and securing your future. Most people don’t get wealthy by working hard, it’s about good investment decisions, either real estate or some other asset. For example, something a lot of people don’t think about is, if they started investing today they might be millionaires by the time they get to their parents age.
How do you unwind?
The best and most efficient for me is meditation. It helps me clear my mind. An active work out also helps me.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
It is very hard to pick one favourite Asian destination for relaxation, as there are many beautiful places, but if I would have to, it would be Thailand. I like three things about Thailand, one is great food, second is the diversity and last, the beautiful islands.
Everyone in business should read this book:
One very good and insightful book that I read recently is, ‘’Start with Why’’ by Simon Sinek. As you are building your business up, you have to deal with so many different things such as legal issues, business processes, operations and marketing, and it is very easy to forget why are you doing it all. I think each company or startup should know why they are doing what they do. Most of the companies tell us what they do and how they do it, but customers have to understand why it is important to them and why they should use the company’s services or products.
Shameless plug for your business:
We have built a platform which enables you to invest and match investors’ demands in international properties starting from small amounts. We take care of sourcing, due diligence and management of the selected properties. Each investment is recorded on the public blockchain, which is accessible to all investors.
The newest investment opportunity on our platform became available on the 17th of April and you can find out more about it on our website. It has a IRR of over 9% and investments can be done starting from around 800 SGD.
We are currently preparing 3 upcoming projects, which are waiting to be listed on the platform. You can register on BitOfPropety.com and we’ll keep you in the loop of all upcoming opportunities.
How can people connect with you?
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.