On the Right Side of History

Democratizing Investment

Ben Miller grew up in a family of real estate developers. He knows what it takes to finance and develop projects. He soon found himself drawn to neighborhood projects, the type that traditional lenders—with their focus on financial return–often don’t understand.

So when Ben undertook a project on H Street NE in Washington, D.C., Ben looked for Ben Miller98x122funding from local community members. These are the people who live, work, and shop in the neighborhood. They understood the area was in transition and had a vested interest in improving it. Using current law (Regulation A), Ben sold to non-accredited investors who invested side-by-side with Ben and with an institutional lender. He raised $325,000 from 175 people at a price of $100 a unit.

“We believe in full democratizing of investing,” Ben said in explaining his desire to focus on selling to non-accredited investors. He is concerned not only with the financing but also with empowering individuals to participate in building and investing in their own community.

Ben identified the development’s 2 biggest challenges as shepherding the direct public offering through the SEC and figuring out how to sell online which led to the development of Popularise (an opinion gathering site for proposed projects) and Fundrise (an investment platform that allows direct investment in local real estate).

Community funding is part of on ongoing trend of self-directed investing. Skepticism of Wall Street is rampant. “We are on the right side of history,” Ben says. Soon the crowdfunding terminology will fade because all investment will include some kind of online component.

Listen to Ben talk more about his projects, how he finances them, and his predictions for the future in the real estate track of CrowdFunding World Summit.

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