This Family Business Thrives Giving Small Investors Big Real Estate Opportunities

This Family Business Thrives Giving Small Investors Big Real Estate Opportunities

Brothers Dan (left) and Ben Miller (right)

Image credit: Ben & Dan Miller
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Dan and Ben Miller, founders of Fundrise, are pioneering an industry and taking their family business to new heights. They have created a crowdsourcing platform that empowers individuals to use the Internet to invest in their communities. The Miller brothers have funded dozens of multi-million dollar developments around the country. Parents who want their children to grow up in safe neighborhoods without attracting the problems that abandoned buildings bring, people who are passionate about entrepreneurship and need affordable commercial space, and individuals who want the buildings in their community to achieve it's highest and best use can do something about it. Through small amounts, you can participate, invest and create the change you're looking for.

Related: Become a Crowdfunding Wizard: 8 Tips You've Probably Never Heard Before.

Building on Dad's foundation.

Their father, Herb Miller, was a pioneer in real estate development. Ben worked with him for more than 10 years before starting the company with brother, Dan. Herb was a creative problem solver and transferred those skills and mindset to the Miller brothers. "We’ve continued the same legacy of identifying creative solutions to real estate problems. We’ve brought tech to an antiquated, slow-moving industry," Dan explained. They tightly vet and underwrite the real estate transaction up-front, close the transaction, and manage the investment.

Innovating in the next generation.

One of the challenges of family business is giving the next generation permission to innovate. There is tension between preserving the assets acquired by the founders, and remaining relevant in the marketplace. "Usually family businesses grow out of the opportunity to leverage generational wealth, reputation, and infrastructure, like in real estate, for example. Success in tech depends on a compelling product that solves a problem in a new way," Ben explained.

The good news is that the Miller brothers are providing a model of how it can be done. Ben and Dan leverage a network of colleagues and clients who know, like and trust their father. At the same time, their business does not look like their father's business. Fundrise is unique, and sets at the intersection of technology and real estate. What started out as a real estate organization is now a high-growth technology company.

Related: Siblings Revitalize Dad's Hospitality Business

Leveraging family dynamics.

"My brother and I are different people. I worry about everything, and he is healthfully optimistic. I stress out about driving to the suburbs during rush hour, and he is happy to fly to Hong Kong for a two-hour meeting," Ben shared. Ben tends to be more managerial with a focus on day-to-day decision making. Dan is more involved with the creative side of business development. He travels to the market where they've identified a potential project. However, both brothers review and make decisions on each real estate investment.

They have to be on the same page for major decisions, but they don't micromanage each other. The secret to their success is understanding and working with their personalities and passions. Some family business owners fail because they can't figure out how to leverage their family dynamics to increase productivity and achieve peak performance.

Breaking barriers together.

The idea for the business was birthed out of a desire to transform neighborhoods and build projects that renovated the core of Washington DC. "We wanted to change who had the power to invest in local real estate. Real estate investment has typically worked like a country club. We set out to change that and drastically lower the barrier to entry,"  Dan shared. Community members, who do not have thousands or millions of dollars at their disposal, can participate in the development around them.

Dan and Ben would recommend family business to others. Dan explains, "It’s proven that a business run by a team of family members is more resilient and more likely to succeed than any other kind of company. Not only has the family dynamic helped to get us to where we are today, but it is what will ensure that we continue our hockey-stick growth and outpace the competition."

Related: Crowdfunding's Next Hot Frontier: Real Estate