In a move that feels fairly unusual, Global Founders Capital (GFC), the venture capital arm of German startup factory and e-commerce behemoth Rocket Internet, has invested in a startup before it’s even launched.
The company in question is BrickVest, a London and Berlin-based real estate investment platform founded by Emmanuel Lumineau, Thomas Schneider, and Adalbert Wysocki, who have a background in investment banking, real estate and fintech. It’s launch is pegged for Q3 2015, but interested parties can sign up for pre-registration now with the promise to be able to get in on the action early once the first real estate is listed on the site.
Noteworthy, although perhaps unsurprising given the market sensitivity of a startup still somewhat in stealth, neither BrickVest nor GFC are disclosing the size of the investment. It is my understanding, however, that the startup had raised over $1 million prior to Rocket Internet’s involvement from various unnamed tech angel investors, European family offices with large real estate holdings, and real estate private equity investors. One of those is Richard Peiser, Professor of Real Estate Development at Harvard University.
“We are currently in the process of raising a multi-millions round of capital from existing and new strategic investors to further accelerate the development of our platform,” co-founder and CEO Emmanuel Lumineau tells TechCrunch.
The problem that BrickVest and similar startups in the property/fintech space are tackling is how to open up real estate investing to more people while at the same time bringing greater transparency to the real estate market and liquidity for property developers.
“The real estate investment market is full of unnecessary market inefficiencies, dominated by a closed network of deal-makers at the expense of both the ultimate investors and the real estate entrepreneurs/owners seeking capital,” explains Lumineau.
“Our online real estate investment platform offers transparent investments in property globally. Investment opportunities are typically protected by ‘gatekeepers’ such as brokers, banks, insurance companies and big investment managers who are driven by self-interest (profit maximisation ergo high fees) and keep the deal opportunities to themselves. BrickVest brings together property owners, developers and investors to unlock the gate.”
To that end, investors utilising the platform will be able to invest as little as €1,000 in pan-European and North American real estate, according to the BrickVest website. In addition, to ensure that interests are aligned, the company invests in every property alongside users.
Strangely, Lumineau cites no direct competitors in Europe — just off the top of my head I can think of two that play broadly in the same space: Property Partner and Jérémie Berrebi’s RoundVIP, which launched today.
“Currently in Europe, we don’t have a direct competitor. Other platforms that use crowdfunding techniques to raise capital for property development are typically more local and residential focused, act as brokerage houses or are unregulated. We operate under the FCA regulatory framework as an appointed representative of an authorised firm and we aim to offer investors the full spectrum of fund management services,” he says.