Ryan Williams Is Bringing the ‘Proptech’ Revolution to Real Estate Investing

Real estate is an industry notoriously stuck in its ways and slow to change. Cash-generating, bricks-and-mortar assets are at the very heart of the enterprise, and in many ways, business is conducted the same way it was 100 years ago. Until recently, real estate owners, investors and brokers had little patience for the kinds of technological advances that have swept through myriad other industries.

But that’s all changing now. Just as there’s fintech, medtech, edtech and regtech, so is there proptech—and there are few companies in the realm of real estate technology as closely watched as Cadre, led by a 31-year-old Blackstone Group and Goldman Sachs alum named Ryan Williams.

Cadre’s platform allows individual investors to pitch in on commercial real estate deals for as little as $50,000. Unlike traditional real estate investment funds—in which investors are at the mercy of fund managers who make decisions on their behalf—Cadre lets its clients pick and choose the specific, individual properties and deals they want a part of.

“We enable more individuals to have the opportunity to directly invest in commercial real estate deals that have previously been inaccessible to them—and we also give those same individuals liquidity, so that they have the flexibility to both buy and sell,” Williams tells Fortune.

While Cadre’s  model has been compared to crowdfunding, its customers are “primarily accredited investors” and their advisers, according to Williams. Still, the company is aiming to transcend the “inside game” that is the commercial real estate market and establish “a market-leading position as the preeminent platform for commercial real estate investing amongst individuals,” he says.

Williams first gained exposure to the world of real estate while studying at Harvard University. In the midst of the Great Recession, when home foreclosures were sweeping across the nation, he teamed up with a few of his classmates to buy single-family homes in the Atlanta metro area; the young investors then renovated the properties and rented them out.

After graduating from Harvard, Williams joined Goldman Sachs’s technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) team at the Wall Street giant’s investment banking division, before eventually decamping for private equity behemoth Blackstone’s massive real estate investment operation. Both experiences informed Williams’s plans for Cadre, which he founded in 2014 alongside two early investors, a pair of brothers named Jared and Josh Kushner.

Cadre has drawn a fair amount of media attention, as well as unfavorable scrutiny, for its ties to Jared Kushner, who is believed to still own a stake in the business valued at up to $50 million. Kushner’s Cadre stake and other investments have raised conflict-of-interest concerns, given his high-ranking position in the Trump administration.

But with Cadre approaching a $1 billion valuation that would make it the latest proptech unicorn, and Williams having lured investors including Mark Cuban, Peter Thiel, George Soros and Jeff Jordan to his cause, this millennial’s disruption of real estate’s status quo is likely only just beginning.

This article is part of the 40 Under 40, our annual selection of the most influential young people in business. Click here to see the additional 2019 coverage of these disruptors, innovators, rebels, and artists.

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