For our latest Startup Spotlight series, we spoke to Raymond Harte, a co-founder of Cahootz, an online platform that makes investing in real estate easy, transparent, and available to everyone. Raymond has over 25 years of capital markets experience from structuring and executing transactions for issuers, investors, and global financial institutions.
Despite being an attractive investment option, real estate is complex, time-consuming and inaccessible for many. Raymond’s firsthand experience of the inefficiencies and opaqueness prevalent across the real estate industry, and he is passionate about fixing this.
He leads the team in Cahootz’s product structuring and establishing the appropriate regulatory framework to have the platform live in Q1 2023.
Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you better. So, can you tell us a bit of your “backstory” and how you got started?
I have over 25 years of capital markets experience from structuring and executing transactions for issuers, investors, and global financial institutions. Before co-founding two financial services boutiques – DSO and Fidem Partners – I held several senior investment banking positions at Dresdner Kleinwort, Commerzbank and Credit Suisse First Boston. I also spend spent the last few years on blockchain-focused projects and am passionate about using technology to disrupt and improve our target market’s investing experience.
What was the most exciting story that happened to you since you launched your startup?
Without a doubt, the positive reaction from people when they learn about what Cahootz is building – from people wanting to list a property on the platform straight away to investors looking to buy fractions.
No startup founder is immune from making mistakes, and it’s part of the “growing pains” they go through. Can you share one mistake and the valuable lesson it taught you?
Putting all our eggs in one basket.
As a startup, your resources are limited, financial and human. There are only so many hours in the day, and you will inevitably make poor decisions. We got too focused on one part of our journey during the summer and learned our lesson the hard way. We now make sure we have many balls in the air.
There has been much talk about supporting diversity and inclusion among startup investors. This may be obvious to you, but can you share with our readers why it’s so crucial for investors to support startups with a diverse and inclusive executive team?
The four co-founders of Cahootz bring a range of talents, experiences, and perspectives to the table. It’s critical when we discuss how we move forward or in product design, for instance. Everyone brings something different to the discussion, which is critical to building a successful business.
Being Irish, where most Irish people live abroad (70m versus 5m at home), I enthusiastically embrace multiculturalism and diversity. Having sat on very diversified boards and executive committees during my career, I fully appreciate the value of having the broadest possible set of views and opinions before making decisions and for the general health of the firm. It’s also just more fun and rewarding.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a female co-founder, which we want to rectify during our first round of hiring. Our product needs to appeal to everyone, and we want our brand to encourage the brightest and best minds to join us from all backgrounds and perspectives.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring a positive change within your community, what would that be and why?
We’re all only too aware of how hard it is to get on the property ladder and how hard it is to build up enough savings for a deposit. Yet, we also know that most people aspire to own their homes. How can we square these two things?
I want everyone to be able to, at the very least, begin their property journey with Cahootz.
We have many product ideas and features to help people achieve their first step on the ladder. In addition, it is generally accepted that it properly belongs to a balanced investment portfolio. However, research has pointed out that 75% of people want to invest in property, but only 15% do.
We want to fix that. Through Cahootz, we are taking the hassle out of property investing and bringing a clear, transparent, yet direct way for everyone to have a property in their portfolio.
If you had a chance to spend a day with someone and have the liberty to ask anything, who would that person be? What three questions would you ask?
There is no one person that stands out for me. However, I just saw the movie Maverick over the weekend, and I have to say, regardless of what you think of Tom Cruise, he has tenacity. So, if I had three questions to put to him, they would be:
- How do you maintain your physical and mental discipline?
- Despite controversy throughout your career, you still have an enduring appeal with your audience. Why?
- What’s your secret for continuing motivation and success?
Can you share your favourite life quote with us and why this is so relevant to you?
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing” – Walt Disney.
Great! Thanks for that. Now, let’s go to the main focus of this interview. Can you share the story behind that “A-ha Moment” you had that led to creating and launching your startup?
In the real estate market, buyers are more or less on their own.
What I mean by that is when you come to buy your house or invest in a property, you’re never really sure about your choice or the price you’ve paid. Have you paid too much, is it in the right location, are there better alternatives I don’t know about. Regardless of what the agent or surveyor tells you, you make the final decision.
This feeling of isolation led to the “a-ha moment”. Our best validation in life tends to come from the group. So how can we create that group validation? That’s? When the idea of bringing groups or cohorts of like-minded individuals together, who all agree on a particular asset, you get in Cahootz.
What makes your startup stand out? Can you share with us examples to show this?
Cahootz is expected in this space, but we approach the business from an entirely different perspective and genuinely put the client before profit.
We will be 100% transparent in everything we do. We will only succeed in our business if there are any surprises for clients along the way, except for market movements, which we cannot control. Our products will do exactly as it will say on the tin.
The property market, in general, is full of hidden fees, backhanders, and hassle. We want to eliminate all this and create for our clients an interactive, intuitive, and transparent user experience where you can dig as deep as you want into the information and performance of your property investment.
What are some “myths” or misconceptions people have when launching a startup that you’ve debunked throughout your journey?
I think most people realise it’s not easy to start a business. However, I think it’s straightforward to underestimate just how tenacious founders need to be to succeed.
An idea in and of itself is excellent, but it won’t pay the bills. The ability to execute makes the difference, and timing and a bit of luck are part of the mix.
If there’s one significant difference between launching a startup and launching a small business, what would that be and why?
I think probably the time required in educating and structuring.
In the case with Cahootz, we have to introduce a brand-new concept to most potential customers and service providers and set up the proper foundations and structure.
What are the top three traits that entrepreneurs must possess to launch a startup successfully? Can you expound on why you chose these three traits?
From my standpoint, tenacity, realistic optimism, and team spirit are very important.
Every day is basically an uphill battle, and nothing comes easy, and the most straightforward answer is always “No”. You need to be tenacious, but you must keep focused, and to do that, you need to have a healthy, optimistic character but with a touch of realism.
At the same time, you can’t lock yourself away and expect to have any success. You need to lean on your teammates, challenge, explore and work together through all the uphill trials and tribulations.
Let’s flip things around: What do you believe are the three things that can cause a startup founder not to become successful, and why?
Not focused, no market interaction, isolation.
How can you expect anyone else to be if you are only half-focused on your startup? You need to be 100% focused day in and day out. When it comes to fundraising, investors will only get involved if they believe you genuinely pour your heart and soul into the venture.
Not doing enough market research or working on your product in isolation is probably doomed to failure. We spent most of the past seven months speaking with market participants and potential clients to fine-tune our product. Building it, and they will come – is a very high-risk strategy.
Get out there and talk about your venture. Don’t be afraid of people stealing your idea. As I said earlier, a picture is just that, and the execution counts.
As a parting gift to our readers, what are the top three pieces of advice that you can give to them about launching a startup and why? Please share a story for each.
I would say that communication and engagement with your audience should be a priority. Constantly testing your concept and getting feedback on each stage before moving forward.
During the pandemic, because we were working virtually 100% of the time, I remember a particular situation where for about a week, a vital counterpart had a completely different understanding of what that product at the time was about. Yet, we had several conversations where we appeared to be on the same page. Engage and communicate to avoid wasting time or going down a cul-de-sac.
Only work with people you trust.
Thank you for these fantastic insights and for your time. We truly appreciate it and wish you all the best on your journey.
Cahootz is Raising!
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