Reprinted from the San Fernando Valley Business Journal:
|These Young Entrepreneurs Got Gelt and Some Chutzpah
By Eric Billingsley – 2/1/2010
Take a minute to think back to when you were young, bright-eyed, and totally confident about your ability to enter the commercial real estate business and make a name for yourself.
Everything seemed possible, and you were convinced you could do things smarter, faster, and more profitable than your predecessors and competition. And each transaction, even the little ones, fueled that entrepreneurial spirit.
Not a bad exercise to do every now and then in a tough real estate market.
Now, meet 25-year-old Keith Wasserman, Damian Langere, 29, and Evan Rock, 24, principals of Gelt, Inc. Founded about a year ago, the Tarzana-based boutique commercial real estate firm specializes in retail, industrial and multi-family properties.
“Some of the most successful companies were started in recessions,” said Langere, co-founder of Gelt. “We’re trying to build something that’s fresh and new.”
They’re all newbies to the commercial real estate business, and in my opinion, the embodiment of that bright-eyed entrepreneurial spirit. And youth and ambition aside, they’re not just all talk.
The trio has closed 10 transactions since December 2008, formed a staple group of mentors, and attracted $2.5 million in investment capital. The capper, and testament to their entrepreneurial drive, is they all still live with their parents in order to re-invest money back into the business.
Gelt has acquired nine four-plexes and one 78-unit apartment complex in Bakersfield. Most of the transactions are REO properties. And after the purchase, the company rehabilitates the buildings, leases them out, and works with a third party property manager.
They are purchasing most of the properties in all-cash transactions, and said they hope to double or triple the number of properties in their portfolio in 2010. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, the term “gelt” is Yiddish for money.
“The main goal of Gelt, Inc. is to provide affordable housing,” said Wasserman, co-founder. Returns for investors have also been solid. For now the company is focusing on Bakersfield but would eventually like to expand into other markets.
The group is also tech savvy. They have a web site and use blogs, quirky videos of their due diligence process, Google Docs, social networking, iPhones and BlackBerrys to keep investors in the loop and market the company. They are also hosting regular investor seminars.
And they’ve managed –with some help from Wasserman’s father – to attract a large percentage of international investors.
“I want us to push the limits of how we brand this company,” said Wasserman, adding he wants Gelt to be the type of business where investors and clients always have access to the CEO and other principals. And he wants the business to be transparent.
The company is the brainchild of Wasserman. In 2004 he launched a general merchandising business on the Internet, which he said was one of the top 500 eBay sites. Then he worked in the property management business and eventually obtained his brokers license.
A couple years ago he and Langere, his cousin, teamed-up to form Gelt. Langere eventually quit his job as an environmental consultant, and the duo put up their own capital to buy the company’s first property. Then they brought on Rock, who worked for a brief time with a commercial brokerage, as VP of operations.
And the Gelt guys are getting plenty of guidance in how to grow the business and navigate the commercial real estate market from the “grey hairs.”
Wasserman’s father, prominent Valley lawyer Steve Wasserman, Adrian Goldstein and Robert Hernandez, are mentoring the youngsters. All are experienced real estate investors. And Wasserman Sr. and Goldstein have invested in some of Gelt’s properties.
“I can only speak about Keith, but I’ve seen a transformation in him from a college graduate to a real estate entrepreneur,” said Wasserman Sr. “They’ve got the business going. And they call me all the time because everything is a new experience for them.”
Why would an investor trust his/her money with Gelt, Inc.?
He said Wasserman Jr., Langere and Rock work 24/7. They’re constantly performing due diligence, rehabilitating properties and attracting new investors. They have a lot of good resources to use and have made a good name for themselves in the Bakersfield market.
“It’s very hard work and they probably look at dozens of properties before they get their hands on one,” said Wasserman Sr. What about the issue of them still living at home –Keith and Damian both live with Wasserman Sr.? “They’re up in Bakersfield a lot, and it gives them easy access to me.”
Staff Reporter Eric Billingsley can be reached at (818) 316-3124 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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