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Crossing Borders with Nathan Lustig


Hello and welcome to Crossing Borders with Nathan Lustig, where I interview entrepreneurs doing startups across borders and the investors who support them, with a focus on companies that have some relationship to Latin America.

Feb 19, 2021

Brynne McNulty Rojas: Leading Colombia’s Real Estate Industry into the Future, Ep 135


Born and raised in New Jersey, Brynne McNulty Rojas’ interest in the real estate industry goes back to one of her classes about international housing finance systems while an undergraduate at Wharton, where she learned about how property ownership rights in informal communities drive economic development.

 

After graduating, she joined Goldman Sachs where she spent 4 years investing in property across the US. She later joined a proptech startup in New York before studying for two years at Harvard, and spent time at a San Francisco online mortgage origination startup. These experiences made her aware of how tech was affecting an antiquated industry, something that remained with her as she moved to another country. 

 

I sat down with Brynne to talk more about her experience in real estate and decision to start Habi. We also discuss the process of buying and selling a property in Colombia and how Habi is improving it, and some of her learnings from raising US capital. 



Previous experience paired up with a fragmented market

 

Moving to Colombia and starting a company hadn’t been part of Brynne’s professional plans, but after graduating from Harvard she moved to Colombia with her husband. Brynne initially joined McKinsey as a consultant, but had become increasingly aware of the inefficiencies in the Colombian real estate market and saw the opportunity to solve them. She also met her Habi co-founder, Sebastian, a successful entrepreneur, and decided to make the jump and build Habi. 

 

Learn more about Brynne’s journey in real estate and entrepreneurship in this episode of Crossing Borders. 

 

Starting with a capital intensive model

Buying and selling a house in Colombia is an extremely manual, person to person and with many friction points for the consumer. 70% of middle class apartments are not listed online and one of the most common ways to sell an apartment is to put up a sign in the window and hope someone calls. Real estate is fragmented, with no broker controlling more than 2% of the transactions. Brynne and Sebastian realized that in order to solve those difficult pain points, they needed to own the asset, and the entire transaction process. 

 

Learn more about Habi’s decision to start with their current model and how it works in this episode of Crossing Borders. 

 

Raising Venture Capital

Brynne acknowledges that part of the fundraising process involves timing and luck, but shares some of her experience on raising capital from the US for a Colombian startup, and gives some advice on how to make the most of conversations with investors who might not be familiar with the size of the opportunity you’re targeting. 

 

Listen to this episode of Crossing Borders to learn more about Brynne’s experience fundraising.

 

Outline of this Episode:

 

1:44 About Habi
2:20 Buying and selling a property in Colombia
4:25 From New Jersey to Colombia
5:54 Brynne’s previous stops before starting Habi
8:50 Starting something of her own
9:47 Why Habi started with an MLS and Ibuyer model
12:06 Buying and selling a property through Habi
13:10 Habi’s experience while fundraising
15:10 Advice on raising money from the US for a Colombian solution
16:41 Habi’s next milestones
17:26 Advice to Brynne’s youngerself

 

Resources and people mentioned:

Habi
Brynne McNulty Rojas
Sebastian Noguera
MLS (Multiple Listing Service)
Opendoor