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Jan 17, 2018
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Feb 28 2017


On January 23, 2017, Kellogg and The Guthrie Center had the privilege of hosting four prominent alumni to discuss their innovative business practices in the real estate space. We were joined by Michele Conn ’03 (Moderator), President and Founder, Conn Strategy Group, Badal Shah ‘12, CEO, TurboAppeal, Inc., Mike Travalini ’09, President-Residential, SMS Assist, Benjamin J. Weprin ’10, CEO, AJ Capital Partners. Each one of the panelists emphasized the importance of capitalizing on the emergence of data. We are currently in a business environment that can track and analyze every aspect of a product/service/transaction, and the real estate industry has been very slow in adapting to this change. These alumni have all seen opportunities or gaps in their respected niches and have successfully built companies around them.

Badal Shah discovered a pain point when appealing his real estate tax assessment, and used his entrepreneurial spirit and data-driven background to found TurboAppeal. His company provides property tax appeal services through cutting-edge technology and outstanding customer service, only profiting when property taxes are decreased. This type of disruption story led the dialogue for the entire night. The panelists urged the audience to use knowledge of data analytics to overlay traditional issues to draw a more accurate picture.

After the initial technology disruption discussion, many of the questions were pointed towards identifying deals, managing teams, and fundraising. Ben Weprin, when asked about his fundraising tactics, emphasized mastery of product, resiliency, identifying strategic – not just capital – partners , and being able to articulately deliver your pitch. Fundraising is a very challenging part of the business, but can provide tremendous partners and mentors that are willing to help a company grow. As many of the audience members want to venture into the entrepreneurial space someday, the panelists left with some parting words of advice.

Michele Conn encouraged persistence and use of the Kellogg network. Mike Travalini stressed continued learning, being a student of your industry, and, most importantly, to follow your passions.

To summarize, the panel discussed stories of technological innovation, capturing unmet needs, making data your friend, and aligning your passions with strategic partners to accelerate growth. The panelists showed the audience that the entrepreneurial path is never predictable, but can be extremely rewarding if your passion infiltrates every aspect of the business.

About the Author

This article was written by Thomas Welch '17.