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Moresh Kokane, CEO of Konkrete – Interview Series

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Moresh Kokane, CEO of Konkrete - Interview Series

Moresh Kokane is the Founder of Konkrete, he has worked in the finance and tech sector for the last decade and previously successfully launched two start-ups.

In 2014 you launched Estate Baron, one of the first real estate development crowdfunding companies in Australia. What inspired you to combine real estate with crowdfunding?

I had worked in the US for about 9 years before moving to Australia. I had already seen the rise of Realty Mogul and Fundrise in the US. Australians are far more in love with real estate than the US with each Australian being 3 times more likely to be invested in real estate than an American.

Real estate being a lumpy asset is an ideal fit for crowdfunding which allows people with smaller amounts to participate. Doing real estate equity crowdfunding in Australia was really a no brainer.

 

When it comes to Estate Baron, are profits derived from the developer or the investor? Could you share some details on the profit model?

We provide 3 key services.

  1. Given that it is a securities offering, we help structure the offer documents. What we have been able to achieve is a commoditization of the process. Real estate projects fundamentally share the same lifecycle. Acquire land, decide what to build on it (plans), construct and sell (or hold for long term). Doing a full retail securities offering can be quite tedious but given the repetitive nature of the business model, we were able to come up with templates which allowed us to drive the cost of compliance down significantly.
  2. We also turned our tech into a SAAS platform, whereby each developer can use their own front-end skin on top of our backend. This allows them to promote their own offers under their own brand to their clients. On Estate Baron itself we can list all the offers as a quasi-aggregator.
  3. And we also offer investor promotions for select offers.

There is a flat fee for the drafts, a recurring charge for the tech and a % of funds raised capital raising fee.

 

It seems that Konkrete was a natural evolution of Estate Baron as it offers a distributed share registry designed for the real estate sector. For readers who are unfamiliar with this, could you explain what a distributed share registry is, and the benefits it provides investors and developers?

Konkrete is fundamentally Estate Baron v2.0

On Estate Baron we had a full investor portal where we had online application processing, project information pages, share registry, investor updates etc.

We are keeping 100% of the retail financial licensing and compliance from Estate Baron, bulk of the tech and swapping out the backend centralized share registry with a distributed one.

Each offer is typically setup as a Public unlisted company and legally maintains its own registry. A registry as you know is a record of all the shareholders, how much they own, etc. Typically, these are maintained centrally.

Using a blockchain enabled registry has a few significant advantages. The first is transparency, it also brings a wider reach of investors on the global crypto markets and it makes liquidity simpler.

But what we are really excited about is smart securities. By putting the investment operations on the blockchain we can give investors real time insights on how the money is being spent. Instead of sending money to a bank account, we can receive stable coins in a smart contract wallet. And instead of bank loan drawdowns we can trigger funds release automatically based on certain events triggered by Oracles.

What it means for the project is real time, automatic disclosure which reduces cost of ongoing compliance. And by introducing transparency and immutability to the operations we can generate a lot of trust in the ecosystem. Coupled with a wider reach and liquidity this drives down the cost of capital for the venture.

Note that while we are focused on real estate, the underlying legal structures and technology can be used for any other ventures which are unrelated to real estate as well.

 

One of the stated benefits of Konkrete, is reducing the housing affordability crisis, could you walk us through how this works?

Konkrete being an evolution of Estate Baron aims to do something about housing affordability. We intend to make home ownership affordable through 2 main approaches.

The first is fractional ownership of the house you live in. Instead of buying the entire house and loading up on debt, if we can allow people to live long term in a house that they co-own alongside other investors that reduces the upfront outlay a buyer must make. It also gives investors the opportunity to buy a piece of real estate by not having to stump the entire amount.

Second is the supply side. House sticker prices include a hefty development profit. If we can get people to do co-development for the houses they wish to live then the development profit can be passed back to them. This model is already quite popular in Berlin, Germany and these syndicates, collectives are springing up in Melbourne as well.

By bringing together more people online and allowing them to achieve consensus in a decentralized fashion, we can replace the developer.

Finally, we are working on a real estate backed stable coin as our long term moonshot. That is something we always keep one eye on.

 

What are some of the different solutions and products that Konkrete will be offering?

We continue to offer fundraising solutions for real estate projects. The same model can be applied for non-real estate fundraising as well (Public company and prospectus). We have already done offers in Australia, New Zealand (both full retail) and US (Reg D accredited).

We are also going beyond security tokenization and looking at the Asset tokenization model. One of the limiting factors of securities tokenization is the jurisdictional limitations one has. We must qualify investors etc, restrict distribution. Also, while public companies and registered managed funds in Australia are allowed to maintain their own registries, exchange listed funds have to be recorded on the exchanges central registries.

The SEC is adamantly against non-custodial security structures. So, there are limitations to where an STO can take us.

However, the real opportunity lies in Assets which are recorded in a peer to peer fashion. Hence the repositioning to an Asset tokenization platform.

We have already launched an invoice factoring market place based on the Asset tokenization premise called factorium.co that is built on the Konkrete technology platform.

(Use the invite code: factorium for early access to the closed beta.)

 

Konkrete has a utility token, The Konkrete Token (KKT) – an ERC-20-based token – which powers the Konkrete platform. Could you tell us more about the KKT token and how its intended to be used?

KKT is an platform level token. We are still nutting out a few things in it in terms of whether we should contemplate going down the path of our own chain. In the short run, each application built on the Konkrete tech is likely to have its own token.

For instance Factorium has Factor tokens, which we use to incentivize users to submit invoices for sale on the platform. The tokens are also used to incentivize verification of these invoices by the buyers. Buyers are also rewarded for repaying on time.

The investors use Factor tokens to pay for transaction fees and use of the platform.

Here is a simple flowchart of the process.

 

You are currently selling shares in the foundation company (Konkrete Distributed Registries Ltd ACN 617 252 909) When is the offer closing and what’s the expected raise amount?

We are currently live on Bank to the Future platform. We are open for another couple of months and are only raising a small amount $500,000

We are currently generating revenue and have much of the product ready.

 

What are the financial benefits that will be offered to investors? Also, will these shares eventually be tokenized?

Absolutely the shares will be tokenized. Shareholders are becoming part owners of the business and will share in the capital gain and will receive regular dividends which we intend to programatically distribute via smart contracts. All our revenues will be fed into smart contracts and we intend to turn our own operations into a transparent dAPP.

 

What will these raised funds be used for?

These funds will be used for further refinement of the tech and driving user adoption.

 

Is there anything else that you would like to share about Konkrete?

Unlike a number of other portals, we are an existing profitable business that has been around for a few years. We have been in the crowdfunding space for ages and have a strong understanding of the regulatory frameworks. We know what works in this space and what does not. In addition, we also have bulk of the tech ready and also a strong investor community already using us. We do the tech but also the issuance of the securities inhouse which puts us in a unique position. We have a solid team in terms of Sean my cofounder who is taking charge of the operations.I am quite happy about our positioning as an Asset tokenization portal and am excited about the launch of our first product built on Konkrete which is Factorium.

Readers can visit the Konkrete Listing or Konkrete website for more information.

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Antoine Tardif is the CEO of BlockVentures.com, and has invested in over 50 blockchain projects. He is also the founder of Bitcoinlightning.com a news website focusing on the lightning network, and a founding partner of Securities.io

Crowdfunding

Andrew Adcock, CEO of Crowd for Angels – Interview Series

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Andrew Adcock, CEO of Crowd for Angels - Interview Series

Andrew is the Chief Executive Officer at Crowd for Angels an equity crowdfunding platform. He often attends and speaks at events on Crowdfunding, Alternative Finance and Investment. Previously, he worked at NinetyTen, a web application developer and provider of Private Social Networks, whose clients included Nokia, Channel 4 and Shop Direct

You were one of the original Co-Founders of Crowd for Angels. Can you discuss the inspiration behind launching this business?

I was indeed one of the Founding team at Crowd for Angels, but the inspiration for launching the company comes from our Director Tony de Nazareth, who combined his decades of financial knowledge with the ‘social media’ approach. This was to get the community involved when funding and supporting a business, thereby creating brand advocates that not only financially supported the aspirations of a company but also became a voice and customer of the company.

How much do you involve yourself in the pitch decks and packaging the deals that are found on Crowd for Angels?

I am involved in most companies that seek to list on Crowd for Angels. I take a genuine fascination in the lives of start-ups and companies looking to expand. Each has its own story and passion, which I am enthused by. Having raised funds for my own company and invested in many others, I hope to provide insight for the company.

What type of due diligence is performed on the companies that are listed?

A lot! Crowd for Angels breaks due diligence down into 3 key areas, firstly, we conduct factual checks such as KYC, AML, PEP, Credit Checks on the directors, reviewing accounts produced by the company and verifying facts stated on their pitch. Secondly, we conduct market checks, for instance, is the product available and as described, is there an addressable market, is the valuation reasonable, what legal challenges the company might face and is it ethical. The final check is one of sanity, which is not only tested by Crowd for Angels, but also by our Angels, who will ask the company their own questions.

What are some of the main reasons behind companies being turned down for listing on the platform?

There can be a number of reasons but a few we find most common are as follows:

  • The valuation is simply too high in comparison to the companies position
  • The company does not provide documentation (business plan, management accounts, incorporation documents)
  • The product is too early-stage or not yet developed
  • The directors have no ‘Skin in the Game’

What are the biggest benefits of equity crowdfunding?

I personally believe the biggest benefit is the ability to create brand advocates, people who support your business financially and become active customers, drawing in others to check out your brand, whether that is through word of mouth or social media.

Could you give us a success story of a company that raised funds on the Crowd for Angels platform?

One of my favourites is a company called CNPPS. A young entrepreneur, who was studying engineering at university at the time had created a permeable pavement solution that used recycled aggregate. Now that might not sound as fascinating as an app, but our world is covered in roads and pavements. His solution, used 100% recycled aggregate and was carbon negative, furthermore, it allowed water to pass through. Working with the entrepreneur we were able to raise £100,000 for a phase of testing that has now led on to a commercial contract and further funding for the company.

What made it interesting was the ethical approach the company had took to change an old industry, the tenacity the entrepreneur showed never giving up and that a business can truly be grown from the ground up, out of university none-the-less. So far in a 2 year period, the company’s valuation has increased 4 fold, delivering a solid return for the Angels involved.

Crowd for Angels is one of the few crowdfunding platforms that accept bitcoin. How many investors use bitcoin, and where do most of these investors originate from?

Yes, we have been accepting cryptocurrency as a form of payment for investment since early 2016. At that time, we integrated this payment option to allow foreign investors to invest in UK companies without the costs and time associated with international bank transfers. Initially, we saw a number of Australians, Chinese and mainly Asian investors utilise this form of payment. However, as bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies gained in popularity, we did see growth in European investors utilising cryptocurrency. Partly this is due to the gains they might have experienced and I believe the convenience cryptos offered. Now, we have over 14,000 members registered with a cryptocurrency wallet on our platform, with many of them in Europe.

A few years ago, the ANGEL token was released. What are the use cases for this token?

The ANGEL token was released to drive down the user acquisition cost of investors whilst rewarding stakeholders for interacting with our platform. It is hoped that when users interact and share content in the network, say an investment they had just made in a fledgeling company, that they would be rewarded with ANGEL. Crowd for Angels has then committed to buy back and burn ANGEL linked to the revenue generated from our pitches, thus creating a virtuous circle. We hope in the future, our Angels will also be able to use the ANGEL token as a method of payment towards an investment.

How do you see digital assets and digital securities eventually merging with crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding utilises technology to allow the masses to invest small amounts into pitches, but the shares are usually held with a nominee and should you wish to sell them or give them to someone else, it is difficult. Therefore, the integration of digitalised assets should be a no brainer, because it potentially gives the control of the asset back to the investor and follows a set of rules, that can’t be broken. In a utopian world, you would allow investors to purchase, hold and trade any assets that they wish. With the blockchain, you benefit from an immutable ledger that would record these transactions, giving you efficiency and transparency. I believe we are only a stones throw away from some big changes.

Is there anything else that you would like to share about Crowd for Angels?

We are always open to ideas, a conversation can go a long way.

Thank you for the interview. Readers who wish to learn more may visit our Crowd for Angels business listing or the Crowd for Angels website.

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Jim Dowd, Founder & Managing Director of North Capital – Interview Series

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Jim Dowd, Founder & Managing Director of North Capital - Interview Series

James Dowd is Founder and CEO of North Capital Private Securities (NCPS), a registered broker-dealer focused on origination, placement, and clearing of exempt securities; North Capital Investment Technology (NCIT), which provides technology for the exempt securities market; and North Capital Inc., a registered investment advisor. NCPS is the designated broker-dealer for many securities funding platforms in the early stage equity, real estate, private funds, and securities token markets.

North Capital recently completed the membership approval process with FINRA and achieved acceptance of Form ATS Initial Operations Report by the SEC. For those who are unfamiliar with this form, what makes it so important for North Capital and its clients?

Great question.  Our customers and many other issuers, investors and intermediaries who are involved in private securities markets want to see more transparency and liquidity in private markets.  Investing in  private deals has traditionally involved a minimum 7 to 10 year capital commitment, since there is typically no interim liquidity and no definitive exit plan.  I have one private investment that has been outstanding for 19 years, another that has been alive for 14 years, not to mention the many investments that did not work out.  Once someone makes a private investment, if they have second thoughts or change their opinion, it’s too late.  Almost every investor who allocates to private deals knows or should know this, and most would like to have liquidity and real price discovery for the private securities in their portfolios.  We hope our ATS will help to realize this vision, at least for the issuers, investors and intermediaries who share it.

 

The launch of this ATS serves as a natural extension to North Capital’s existing private securities infrastructure, TransactCloud. What is TransactCloud?

TransactCloud is our API-first technology stack that facilitates primary offerings of exempt securities.  We work with issuers and professional intermediaries — broker-dealers, RIAs, and funding platforms — to allow the offering, transaction, document processing, escrow, payments and clearing of exempt securities online.

 

Can you clarify North Digital’s stance on digital assets such as bitcoin, or in digital securities such as security tokens?

To be clear on this point, we ourselves are not investing in digital assets;  we are providing infrastructure to allow trading of digital asset securities through our regulated marketplace, the PPEX ATS.  We will not be trading cryptocurrency or utility tokens.  The SEC regulations related to alternative trading systems are very clear:  ATSs are for the trading of securities only.  We also will be listing and trading non-digital exempt securities.

 

North Capital also offers investment opportunities which are deemed as “frontier alternatives”. Could you share some details on what you would consider frontier alternatives?

“Frontier” in the context of investment management refers to the most emerging of emerging markets.   We coined the term “frontier alternative” to convey the same idea ~ some examples would be investments in art, collectibles, fine wine, litigation pools, digital currency, race horses, athletes, etc.   I fully expect that in ten years, some of these will have become mainstream alternatives.  Private credit is a good example ~ ten years ago, private credit was considered exotic;  today there are registered funds that invest in private credit and it’s considered a mainstream alternative asset class.

 

North Capital has been involved in over 1,000 primary offerings totaling $1.9 billion. What are some of these notable offerings?

It’s difficult to single out specific deals.  We have so many great partners who are doing innovative work.  Groups like Jamestown, Crowdstreet, RealtyMogul, RichUncles, Securitize, SportBLX, Exponential, Roofstock, Mythic Markets, Otis, Commonwealth, SeedInvest.  Quadrant Biosciences has a Reg A+ offering that we’re working on right now ~ our first collaboration with WeFunder.  Metaurus is one of our partners, run by a talented team led by Rick Sandulli and Jamie Greenwald, who I worked with 30 years ago at Bankers Trust.  They have two listed ETF-style products that are patent-protected and could revolutionize the way equity investors take risk.  I know I am leaving somebody out so I’ll apologize in advance.

 

Could you share some of the Broker/Dealer services that are offered by your firm?

We are a full-service broker-dealer for private and other exempt offerings, along with investment companies such as mutual funds and ETFs.  We also are an escrow agent for private offerings including serving as a qualified third party for Reg CF offerings.  Compliance support is integral to all of our activities — we help issuers and platforms to comply with securities laws.  Last year we were approved to broker EB5 deals, but that market is shuttered for now, given the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

What type of custody services are offered?

Today we custody cash, private securities, and mutual fund shares.  It’s still early days for our custody business, and we have deliberately limited our rollout to allow us to test systems and procedures.  But this is a high growth segment of our business.

 

Could you also share some details regarding the advisory services that are offered?

The advisory part of our business is done through a separate, SEC-registered investment advisor.  It’s a technology-enabled financial planning and wealth management business, along with a bespoke, consultative advisory practice for family offices and business owners.

 

The firm also offers technology-based investment solutions to broker-dealers, banks, fund managers, funding platforms, and private issuers. What are some of these solutions?

On the advisory side, the evisor platform is an online financial planning and wealth management platform.  We’re currently working with one bank on a pilot program, and we’re integrating it into our broader advisory and 401k business.  On the exempt offerings / broker-dealer side of our business, TransactCloud is a collection of products and services used by issuers and professional intermediaries for online securities offerings.

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Readers who wish to learn more should visit of North Capital Private Securities.

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Crowdfunding

Nick Bhargava, Co-Founder of GROUNDFLOOR – Interview Series

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Nick Bhargava, Co-Founder of GROUNDFLOOR - Interview Series

GROUNDFLOOR is an American real estate lending marketplace. It was the first real estate crowdfunding company to achieve SEC qualification utilizing Regulation A+ since the regulation became operable through the JOBS Act. GROUNDFLOOR was purposely built to serve self-directed investors instead of institutional ones

You’re both a director and one of the co-founders of GROUNDFLOOR. What was the inspiration behind launching this crowdfunding platform?

My co-founder, Brian Dally, had years of experience to make telecom services more accessible to everyday individuals. Meanwhile I had a lot of experience in the securities and regulatory industries. We wanted to combine our respective strengths in a way that opened up high yield investment opportunities for everyone, not just the 1 percent. We eventually started with single-family residential housing because most people are familiar with this kind of asset from being homeowners themselves.

When the idea was conceived, we had no idea if there would be a market for it. We needed to first find an accessible regulatory framework that would allow them to test the business concept. We discovered the Invest Georgia Exemption (IGE), created in 2011 to help small businesses access capital. Being an intrastate offering rule, it was only available for Georgia companies, so both of us picked up and moved to Atlanta to launch GROUNDFLOOR. Because of IGE, we were able to fund $2 million in loans in Georgia, clearly demonstrating the demand for GROUNDFLOOR’s platform.

Over time, GROUNDFLOOR has grown considerably and is now open to investors in all 50 states.

 

Can you explain how GROUNDFLOOR connects investors with real estate developers?

We are focused on providing retail investors with high yield investment opportunities. A real estate borrower, someone who develops real estate for a living, secures a loan through GROUNDFLOOR rather than a traditional bank or a hard money lender to finance a residential real estate project. That borrower submits a loan application, and we vet the individual and the project to determine if we should originate a loan. Our underwriting is based on past experiences, amount of skin in the game and many other factors. If approved, the loan is assigned a loan Grade of A through G and a corresponding rate where Grade A loans are the least risky, with the lowest rate of return and Grade G loans are most risky, with the highest rate of return.

We have filed an offering with the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) through which we sell securities. The proceeds of these securities are used to fund the loans we originate. The performance of these securities and corresponding rate of return is tied to the underlying loan. Investors can choose which securities, and therefore, which underlying loans, they wish to invest in.

Investors can choose to invest up to $10 increments to fund the loan. Once a loan is fully funded, the borrower draws money according to a draw schedule, and completes the new construction, renovation or rehab project. The property is then typically listed for sale. When the project sells or is refinanced, which is usually 6-12 months from the time the investor invested, the loan is repaid. The investor’s principal investment, plus all accrued interest, is deposited into the investor’s GROUNDFLOOR Investor Account. The cash balance in an individual’s GROUNDFLOOR Investor Account can be withdrawn or reinvested in other projects.

 

Are there any types of restrictions or quality controls in place to ensure that real estate developers can repay the loans?

When the borrower submits the loan application, our underwriting team works closely to vet the projects and the borrower. We also factor in the local real estate market. We don’t lend in markets we don’t like. When a loan is originated, we stay in regular contact with the borrower to ensure that the project is meeting deadlines, and we share regular updates with investors. Draws are not given out if the borrower is not making sufficient progress or has deviated from plan. If we think there could be delays or the borrower violates terms of the agreement, we can decide to step in and proactively put the loan in default, which can result in a stronger outcome for the investor because we pass through penalty interest. Most GROUNDFLOOR loans are first lien position, so the loan is backed by a physical asset, which is the land and structure.

 

What are some of the types of returns that can be expected by investors?

For the past six years, participants in GROUNDFLOOR real estate loans have earned annualized returns averaging 10 to 12 percent in a 6 to 12 month timeframe.

 

Are all investments currently in the United States? Is there a preference for certain cities or states? If yes, could you describe these.

While anyone in the country can invest in GROUNDFLOOR with only $10, the company focuses its lending in 30 states.

 

You were an early advocate for the JOBS Act, were you happy with how the JOBS Act was written? Was there anything that should have been left out?

I am generally happy with how the act turned out. The different provisions are designed to help companies of different sizes, and each provides value for companies in different situations. I don’t think any particular provision should have been left out.

 

What would you like to see changed in a future version of the JOBS Act?

We have seen Reg. A be used heavily by real estate issuances. I think there is value beyond this use case, particularly for mid-sized privately held companies that want to access public market capital. The cap for Regulation A will soon change to $75M, which will be more appealing to companies of that size. I think we could see some novel offerings in that space.

 

Is there anything else that you would like to share about GROUNDFLOOR?

There is no other company that offers what GROUNDFLOOR does for individual investors and borrowers. We’ve created a new category and offer completely new products.

Why hasn’t anyone copied us? One reason is because regulatory innovation. Providing investments directly tied to this type of high quality, high yield real estate credit is not something that has been done for the retail investor. GROUNDFLOOR was the very first company qualified by the Securities & Exchange Commission to offer this type of investment via Reg A for non-accredited and accredited investors alike, and because of the enormous amount of infrastructure we put into place, we can continue to iterate on our product where others cannot.

I really enjoyed learning about your company, readers and/or investors who wishes to learn more may visit GROUNDFLOOR.

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