Technology

Steve Nson: ‘Don’t ever let lack of money stop you from living your dream’

Entrepreneur talks about where to get your advice and the root of his motivation

Future-Proof: Navigate Threats, Seize Opportunities at ICNY 2018 | Jan 22-26 at the Marriott Marquis, Times Square, New York

Steve Nson is the founder and CEO of AnySizeDeals.com.

What’s been the biggest obstacle your business has encountered, and how have you dealt with it? 

Lack of capital has been the biggest obstacle. To overcome this obstacle, we’ve learned to become smart negotiators and focus on paying vendors and partners with services in-kind instead of cash.

We have done social media promotion in exchange for free event space or to secure a booth at an industry trade show, as well as mentoring a few hours a week at an accelerator to secure free office space. In short, we have mastered the art of bootstrapping. We also generate some cash by running multiple meetup groups that double as customer discovery opportunities.

Memo to all entrepreneurs: Don’t ever let the lack of money stop you from living your dream. Hustlers always find a way.

What motivates you more: power or money? 

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Neither. The ability to make a difference in the world is why I became an entrepreneur. Money and power are byproducts of having an impact in your community and the world.

When the history books are written, I want to be remembered as someone who made a difference and always sought to illuminate and empower those he came across.  

What is your biggest professional fear? 

Being an underachiever. I don’t want to be remembered as a person with great potential who never fulfilled their destiny. My talents and skills should match my ambition.

What is your biggest personal fear? 

To a certain degree, my professional and personal fears are linked. I don’t want to live a life of regrets because I never lived up to my potential.

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What’s your favorite activity outside of work and why? 

My favorite activity outside of work is playing with my two young daughters, Maya (4 years old) and Olivia (19 months old). Regardless of how my day is going, when I see them, I automatically light up. They are my inspiration. Plus they are at the age when they think everything their “Dada” does is awesome, and the feeling is mutual.

One of the main catalysts for me jumping headfirst back into entrepreneurship is having two little beings looking up to me. I want my children to grow up knowing their father lived his dreams, and they should, too.

What’s your favorite classic piece of literature and why? 

“The Richest Man in Babylon” by George Samuel Clason. Of the many lessons in the book, the most valuable for me was to take advice only from people who are knowledgeable on a specific topic. If you want to become a plumber, for example, don’t ask a dentist for advice; ask a successful plumber.

I think most people violate this law on a daily basis and get counsel from family and friends who love them but may be ill-equipped to provide sound advice on a given topic. If you want to build a successful startup, don’t take advice from someone who has never built a company.

Are you the first entrepreneur in your family?

Yes at this scale, but no in general. Growing up in Cameroon (Central Africa), I remember my paternal grandmother running a few small businesses. My grandmother was illiterate, but the fascinating thing is that the woman knew her money. You couldn’t cheat her out of a penny. 

Why’d you decide to join your company?

I launched my company because I wanted to simplify how real estate professionals find investment partners and generate leads. I have a strong operational background and wanted to find a joint venture partner with a financial background in order to purchase an investment property.

I couldn’t find a platform that really facilitated this process, so I decided to build one myself.

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Describe a time when you felt particularly insecure about the future of your company. How did you bounce back? 

I have yet to feel insecure about the future of my company, but I have had moments of frustration with not being able to convey the size of the opportunity to potential angel investors and venture capitalists. What keeps me focused is the fact that most venture capitalists couldn’t see the opportunity in Airbnb, either, but now the company is valued at $26 billion. 

What would you describe as your company’s biggest victory since you joined it? 

Our biggest victory came when one of our members found a joint venture partner within days of posting his request on our platform.

Our sole reason for being in business is to help real estate professionals find the right partners for their transactions. We have made thousands of connections for our members and helped them generate hundreds of leads. Our members have also found jobs and mentors through our platform.

We have been in business for only a few months, so every lead generated, connection made or deal facilitated is a sign of the power of our idea and platform. 

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about building a business? 

To be resilient and an eternal optimist. Like they say in the Bible, “Walk by faith, not by sight.” You should never dwell on temporary setbacks; instead, always keep your eye on the prize, believe in yourself and live to fight another day. No matter what happens, find a way to put one foot ahead of the other and keep moving forward.

What puzzles you most about the industry? 

The fascination with real estate crowdfunding. 

What’s the most overrated real estate technology? 

Crowdfunding. In the past year there have been hundreds of real estate crowdfunding platforms that have come onto the market. What’s the differentiation? Are these platforms just a utility?

In the long run, major players will probably just have their own in-house crowdfunding operations and not feel the need to use third-party platforms. Thor Equities and Carlton Group are already launching their own in-house platforms. Plus, you have all these white-label vendors that allow you to slap your logo on their websites and voila — you, too, have your own crowdfunding website. 

I believe crowdfunding adds a new dimension to financing real estate, but I don’t think it will be the defining real estate technology of our era.

How will the role of the real estate agent change over the next five years? 

The industry will always have a need for a talented agent or broker, but the fee structure will change. Through technology, customers are able to find deals, get comps and do most paperwork on their own. This takes away some tasks of an agent, so a buyer might be willing to pay a specific sum based on services instead of a commission. I see it as “a la carte” pricing for agents. As a client, I pay the agent only for specific tasks I can’t or won’t do myself. 

Whom do you respect most in the industry?

Jonathan Gray, from the Blackstone Group. He has an impeccable investment record and has been able to make money even during down cycles (or should I say, especially during down cycles). He single-handedly created the single-family home rental institutional investment space; next thing you know, other major private equity firms followed suit. 

Describe what you do in one sentence: I solve problems and help people live their dreams.

Age: 36

Degree, school (if applicable): Master’s degree, NYU.

Location: Harlem, New York

Social media: TwitterLinkedInInstagram

Are you a real estate leader who’d like to participate in our profile series? Email amber@inman.com.