Real Estate Crowdfunding Startup Realty Mogul Raises $9M

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Realty Mogul, a site that allows accredited investors to collectively back real estate projects, is announcing that it has raised a $9 million Series A led by Canaan Partners.

The startup launched a year ago, and in its first year it says 6,000 members invested $14.6 million in real estate projects worth more than $100 million.

Co-founder and CEO Jilliene Helman told me that increasing the number of investments available on the site is one of her main goals for 2014. She added that in some ways, Realty Mogul inverts the traditional benefits of crowdfunding.

“A lot of people, when they talk about crowdfunding, they talk about democratization of access to capital,” Helman said. “We think about it very differently — we think about it as democratization of access to dealflow.”

That democratization only goes so far, at least for now. As mentioned above, you need to be an accredited investor to participate, and to become an accredited investor you need an income of at least $200,000 per year or a net worth of $1 million. Helman said she’s waiting to see how the regulatory framework around crowdfunding shakes out before she considers expanding the investor pool.

As for how Realty Mogul actually works, members browse the site looking at potential investment. If they decide to invest in a property, their money is only committed if the project is fully funded. If it is, they’ll get regular updates on the property and receive whatever cash distributions (such as rent payments) they’re entitled to. Helman noted that Realty Mogul always works with real estate investment companies — it’s the investment company that handles the operational end of things, like renovating a property.

Helman suggested that this is likely the largest Series A raised by a crowdfunding startup — the closest being CircleUp’s $7.5 million Series A. (CircleUp subsequently raised another $14 million.) She also said that she’s particularly excited to work with Canaan because the firm previously backed peer-to-peer lending company Lending Club, so she can draw on their experience in building this type of marketplace. Canaan principal Hrach Simonian has joined the Realty Mogul board of directors.

“Realty Mogul will be the next disruption in a massive asset class just like LendingClub has been for the consumer credit market,” Simonian said in the funding release.