Startup aims to make real estate investing accessible to all • St Pete Catalyst

The GameStop stock trading frenzy last month sparked a national discussion about the accessibility or lack of investment vehicles. A group of retail investors who used Reddit.com to communicate and organize rebelled against what they viewed as unfair domination and manipulation of the Wall Street stock market and sent up GameStop stocks to “short hedge funds Squeeze, which had bet the beleaguered video game chain to fail by short selling its shares.

While the jury is still unsure whether the Redditors achieved their goal, some investors have made millions of dollars while others have lost just as much. Melvin Capital Management, a hedge fund, nearly went out of business – a St. Petersburg-based startup called WeRise wants to use the movement to open up asset classes to more people and help them build family wealth for generations to come.

WeRise founder and CEO Candice Bradley, a former executive of Raymond James who now works for real estate company OpenDoor, said the idea for WeRise actually came to her well before GameStop’s share price became such a hot topic. She told the Catalyst that she had spoken to her brother about buying a small business and other investment strategies. “We thought about which assets, which financial products make the most sense,” she said.

With a background in financial services and real estate, Bradley saw the opportunity to create something of an egalitarian real estate investment trust (REIT) that would allow people traditionally underrepresented in the investment world to put their money to work. For a low minimum investment, perhaps as little as $ 100, investors could be part of WeRise, which aims to buy, upgrade, and eventually sell single-family rental homes at a profit in areas that could benefit from rising property values.

Investors, Bradley said, should see “high single-digit / low double-digit returns”. Referring to WeRise’s strategy as “impact investing,” she said the company will initially focus on underserved areas in the Tampa Bay area before expanding its portfolio across the state and nation.

WeRise, Bradley added, will endeavor to keep account fees as low as possible to encourage additional investment, and it will accept funds from non-accredited investors. She also intends to develop a proprietary online search tool that investors can use to find and share opportunities. Real estate is just the first of many asset classes the company will specialize in.

“WeRise is an easy-to-use technology platform that enables individuals to find investment opportunities and invest in financial products that suit their investment style,” Bradley said in a press release. “They can then give their friends and family the opportunity to add a social investing component that is important for converting investors with little to no experience. There are several financial products that work. Single family homes are a great place to start and will be one of the many financial products offered on the platform. “

WeRise doesn’t manage any assets yet, but has caught the attention of Seedfunders, a St. Petersburg-based venture capital group. The Seedfunders’ Opportunity Fund has invested $ 50,000 in WeRise. Bradley says the company can expand its technology platform, step up marketing efforts and expand operational capabilities.

“We’re also thinking about campaigns on financial literacy and things like that, and how we can work with other organizations,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a very big component.”

The Seedfunders Opportunity Fund is a dedicated equity fund that supports the black business community in Florida by investing in black-owned startups before launch. Seedfunders closes the gap in the available investments and mentoring in the phase “friends and family” and wants to contribute to improving the business conditions of competition, which are burdened by decades of systemic racism.

The fund accepts applications from mostly black-owned startups and is open to all accredited investors. The minimum investment is $ 5,000.

(Editor’s note: Catalyst publisher Joe Hamilton is a Seedfunders partner.)