In 2014, Ryan Williams started an ambitious journey to revolutionize the real estate industry. He founded the fintech startup Cadre, a digitized real estate investment platform with a mission to make the industry inclusive and accessible to all, instead of the current status quo that tilts towards premium players.
Since its launch, the startup has won the backing of top investors like Mark Cuban, George Soros, Peter Thiel and Jared Kushner. Williams launched Cadre after a stint at Goldman Sachs (GS) and Blackstone (BX) and has built Cadre into a company worth nearly $1 billion.
A product of Harvard University, Williams launched his first real estate company while at the University. The startup uses machine learning and statistics and built a technology program that provides analytics for real estate investors.
William was born to a paralegal father and his mother, a social worker. His parents initially separated when he was only 6 years old. He lived in rental homes in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which has long struggled with segregation, crime and persistent poverty.
His breakthrough came when his mother moved the family to New York before he went to high school. He engrossed himself in the activities of the school and his entrepreneurial ventures, and subsequently, applied to Harvard after ignoring the advice of a guidance counselor who told him not to bother applying to the prestigious university, according to Forbes. He, later on, joined a New York program which mentors gifted children from poor backgrounds.
While at Harvard, Williams met Josh Kushner, who later became Trump’s inlaw. The two would go to summer internships together. When Kushner’s father was trying to buy the Philadelphia 76ers, he brought on Williams to help on the bid.
It was also around that time that Williams ventured into real estate. Williams partnered with a friend to buy a distressed property in Atlanta in 2019 which was marketed at $240,000, selling at auction for as little as $60,000.
He joined Goldman as an analyst in its technology investment banking group after graduating from Harvard. He later joined Blackstone, the world’s most prominent real estate investment firm, to work on hotel and apartment deals.
When the US Congress passed the Jobs Act in 2012, allowing online portals to crowdfund real estate, Williams saw an opportunity in the convergence of real estate and FinTech. “I made a list of eight or nine people who I was interested in speaking with, and the top of the list was the Kushners,” he told Forbes.
Williams’ ambition was to create a digital syndication system that could be tapped by numerous real estate operators. This led to the birth of Cadre. According to CNN, persons looking to invest at least $50,000 can comb through vetted real estate projects listed on Cadre’s online marketplace.
The platform adds that Cadre usually pursues deals requiring an equity investment of at least $50 million and “structures the transactions as limited partnerships.” Each year, the firm evaluates more than 500 real estate opportunities but approves only about 2% of those investments.
Williams tells CNN that when he first introduced technology in the real estate industry, it was initially met with apprehension. “You’re going to get pushback and people won’t believe in this idea or concept,” Williams told CNN. “That’s how all great innovation begins.”