Allen Shayanfekr has it easy nowadays.
A co-founder of real estate crowdfunding platform Sharestates, Shayanfekr spent most of his life pulling double duty, working 40 hour weeks while flirting with academic honors.
Now, he heads one of the most successful real estate tech startups around, a cake walk compared to an immigrant experience highlighted by the absence of wealth.
Sharestates has raised over $140 million in capital through its online crowdfunding platform since its launch just a year ago. Its growth has been attributed to institutional partnerships it has formed to fund bridge loans for small commercial and residential real estate projects.
According to published reports, the company has returned $21 million to its investors with an average annual return of 10.4 percent.
Shayanfekr, an Iranian Jew whose family migrated to escape religious persecution in their home country, was born during a violent time in Iran.
During the late 1980s, a fatwa issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini resulted in the death of about 5,000 people. The victims included political dissidents, students and religious minorities.
“That community wasn’t a safe place for a Jewish person to be,” Shayanfekr said. “So my family pretty much left everything behind.
“My father had a very successful business there. He had to shut everything down. Basically, he came to America with his wife and two children while speaking barely any English. Because of that, we went through a ton of financial hardship. We were living paycheck to paycheck. It was very difficult to put food on the table.”
Before he even hit puberty, Shayanfekr started a streak of employment that continued for about a decade.
“As we got older, my siblings and I took the responsibility upon ourselves to basically help our family progress. So growing up, I worked very hard,” he said.
“When I was ten years old, I was trying to make money by helping people with their homework, tutoring. When I was 14, I actually got my first official job at a Dunkin Donuts making $5.38 an hour. At that point in high school, I was working about 40 hours a week while also going to class. That pretty much was my life for the next ten years. I was always working one or two jobs; working about 40 to 50 hours a week while going through high school and college.”
Shayanfekr credits this time in his life for shaping his strategy in running Sharestates. The company is a self-reliant operation that aims to get the most out of capital.
“It’s very easy for a start-up company to burn through capital very quickly. Especially since what most of these start-up companies do is they go out and get seed capital from outside investors that actually have no hand in managing the company. So that’s what people are doing, starting companies with other people’s money,” he said.
Shayanfekr started Sharestates with Radni and Raymond Davoodi, with whom he worked during his time at title insurance firm Atlantis Organization.
He said he wanted to start something different because he no longer wanted to be in the title insurance industry. The concept for Sharestates simmered between 2012 and 2013.
“We looked at the business model. We fell in love with the concept. We realized that it was something that my partners had already been doing for a very long time. My partners had been in the real estate industry for 15 years at that point. They’ve done their own projects, their own construction deals and their own business deals,” he said. “We thought it would make perfect sense for us to take a leap forward and build a technology platform that would help make what we were already doing more efficient, more transparent and more cost-effective.”
The company has had a quick ascent to relevance.
Since launching in February of last year, Sharestate has raised about $140 million in capital for about 200 deals. Not bad considering that Shayanfekr had to take a $25,000 loan from his partners to get the company off the ground.
Shayanfekr attributed his firm’s climb to a simple concept. “Every single penny, every single dollar matters,” he said.