In a time when more and more people have an appetite for trading, Tyler Swartz is democratizing it. Tyler, a two-time tech founder himself, is the Director of Product at LEX, a commercial real estate marketplace that democratizes investing by allowing non-accredited investors fast access to small shares of commercial skyscrapers. Tyler played a large role in securing the company's seed funding of $6 million in January, and day-to-day ensures cohesion and continuity between the needs of business and product.
In this Q&A, Tyler discusses his “ship it” mentality and the rise of accessibility in the real estate industry.
What skills from your previous experiences as a founder play an important role in your new job at LEX?
I think a lot of people like to bite off a lot more than they can chew before launching. It's really important to think about very modular steps toward launching something and consider what the bare-bones product should look like before getting it out to the masses.
Think about the ethos of what your project or your company's about, and win that one thing. If you can win that one thing, that is your ethos; you can then build features on top of it. I like to tell that to people because everyone thinks that the next feature is going to be the win case for their company, which is typically not the case.
What is your advice for real estate startups figuring out their ideal product-market fit?
Our thesis is to bring real estate products to our investor base that our team would actually want to buy and own. We ask ourselves that all the time, and if we feel like we can comfortably put the product in our own personal real estate portfolio, then we feel comfortable bringing it to our real estate investors.
What's important to keep in mind when hiring new employees?
I think it's really important to hire the right people early and to get your team involved in the hiring process to find that perfect puzzle piece. When you are hiring, definitely get your team involved. It really stinks when you have a team of three or four and you bring someone in who doesn’t get along with the other individuals.
We have to be extremely meticulous about the individuals we bring in and why we bring them in because we're a family. It's easy to hire anyone, but you need to hire the right person.
In my initial phone calls, I spend 20 minutes with a candidate and learn more about them. If someone hasn’t done their homework about our company, the call’s 10 minutes long. The next step is figuring out whether the candidate is interested in working in a really fast-paced environment with limited resources. We ask this because this is a sink-or-swim environment.
You can’t just float and get by, because we're moving really quick. We have tight deadlines, and we have high expectations. We like to call it a “ship it” mentality. We're always shipping and moving forward. By that we mean we're always putting things out there, and we're always moving the needle closer to our goal.
So, we ask people straight up, "Are you ready to really dive into this? Are you ready to sink your teeth into this? If not, this isn't the right role for you." That in itself is a really good indicator.
What trends in real estate engineering and proptech are you most excited about now?
Accessibility. Ten years ago, there weren't companies like Cadre or Fundrise or Republic where you could get access to real estate investments.
Now, there are all these real estate platforms that are popping up that allow anyone to participate. That's very different, and it's breaking the barriers toward accessibility of real estate investing. That makes me excited, because as someone in the real estate space, I can participate now, whereas 10 years ago, I might not have been able to.