NextGen 10: Real Estate & Finance [2020]

NextGen 10: Real Estate & Finance [2020]

Our NextGen 10 Real Estate and Finance class of 2020 honorees share the ability to act with fearless optimism in the face of uncertainty. They may not always have the answers, but they’re finding creative ways to support their teams, advance their company missions, and rebuild the economy against all odds. These risk-taking under-40 leaders are raising millions in equity capital and hiring thousands of new employees while other companies are cutting staff. They’re funding COVID-19 test centers and innovating new real estate closing processes to keep clients safe. They’re connecting founders with investors to raise capital for trailblazing tech startups. And they have been helping people to find community and save money on housing in big cities. If you’re looking for an indication that things will get better, that there’s still a light at the end of the tunnel of 2020, take a moment to learn more about these inspiring entrepreneurs below.

 ASHLYN GENTRY, Phd  [35] – NY
CO-FOUNDER AND MANAGING PARTNER
ATTENTION CAPITAL

About: I am an academic turned executive. After a decade of working in and studying politics, I shifted to consulting, applying the strategies I learned in politics to corporations and leadership teams. 

Company: We are a holding company that buys, builds, and operates media and technology companies with innovative approaches to community and curation. Attention Capital’s portfolio includes notable brands like the Tribeca Film Festival and Girlboss.

Residence: New York

Company HQ: New York

Education: BA and MA, political communications, University of Nevada, Las Vegas; PhD, political communications, University of Texas at Austin.

Industry: Media and technology. 

Notable projects: Executed a company-wide initiative in six months that had originally been a five-year plan. 

Advice: Treat leaders like any other colleagues you have respect for, but also recognize they’re human. Don’t be a yes wo/man. Speak up when you disagree, and create a relationship based on honesty. You’ll get their respect in return.

Success: In my experience, successful people rarely believe they’ve reached success. There’s always more to achieve. That said, I’ll be satisfied with my career once I’m convinced I’ve created real change for the better in the world.

Mentors: Rick Cherwitz (doctoral advisor), Lisa Gersh (former CEO of Alexander Wang, Goop, and Martha Stewart Living), Jack Martin (former boss; global chairman and CEO of Hill+Knowlton Strategies).

Local companies you admire: White Ops, Rent the Runway, Meetup.

First job: Worked on political campaigns in my home state of Nevada, which is a swing state, so we always had great exposure to presidential candidates.

Guilty pleasure: Cronuts

In the morning: Guzzle water and check email.

Before bed: Listen to ASMR videos to unwind while reading fiction.

What keeps you up: Thinking about the best way to get women in business the resources and connections they need to be “in the room” and even the playing field.

Year ahead: I’ll be moving to Los Angeles in 2020, so I’m focused on creating a network of interesting business, private equity, and VC leaders in the area.


BRAD HARGREAVES [33] – NY
FOUNDER AND CEO
COMMON

About: I am a visionary entrepreneur with a tech-forward approach toward solving modern issues such as access to education and affordable housing in cities.

Company: Common is the nation’s leading residential brand and operator that designs, leases, and manages multifamily properties to appeal to today’s renters. Launched in October 2015, Common operates buildings in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., and receives over 15,000 new member applications per month.

Residence: New York

Company HQ: New York

Education: BS, molecular biology and economics, Yale University.

Industry: Real estate

Notable projects: Before founding Common in early 2015, I was the co-founder of General Assembly, a global education institution with campuses in more than 15 cities worldwide. 

Advice: It’s never as good as it seems, nor as bad.

Success: Having a meaningful, positive impact on others while keeping myself hungry and driving to do even more. 

Mentors: My grandfather was a lifelong entrepreneur who built great businesses despite growing up in difficult circumstances. He did so through a lot of very hard work and personal sacrifices.

Local companies you admire: Camp, a new experiential toy store in New York City. It’s a great reimagination of a very old concept and a wonderful place to take the kids. 

First job: I worked for a biotech company selling genome sequencers. I was in college so they gave me the accounts no one wanted. I sold a lot of sequencers at 3 a.m. to scientists in Japan.

Guilty pleasure: Slow-strategy video games and road trips.

In the morning: I pour a big cup of coffee and get my two toddlers out of bed.

Before bed: I’m meeting with people almost all day, so (as much as I wouldn’t recommend it) I’m usually cranking through email right up until bedtime.

What keeps you up: The lack of entrepreneurship. Without robust entrepreneurship, the American economy will slow, and economic gains will accrue to fewer and fewer of us.

Year ahead: As I write this, our entire corporate team is working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic. This is a remarkable and strange moment to be running a company. My goal for 2020 is to be able to look back in a year and feel that I made the right decisions for our company, our team, and our customers through this very unique time.


JOSH SCHUSTER [36] – NY
MANAGING PRINCIPAL,
SILVERBACK DEVELOPMENT

About: I founded Silverback Development to deliver developments that incorporate modern design along with thoughtful amenities that cater to future lifestyle trends and long-term livability within the built environment. I am also the founder and chairman of the Bicol Clinic Foundation, a nonprofit that constructs free medical clinics in developing countries and has raised more than $4M to build four clinics in the Philippines, Haiti, and Nepal.

Company: With a current pipeline of projects valued in excess of $2B stretching across four states, Silverback employs a robust investment strategy and pursues ground-up development and adaptive reuse opportunities coast to coast. 

Residence: New York

Company HQ: New York

Education: BA, Political Economy, Tulane University.

Industry: Real estate

Notable projects: Closed more than $2.5B in real estate deals by the age of 36. Co-founded DHA Capital, leading the development of luxury developments in NYC, including 50 Clinton, 535 West 43rd, and 12 East 13th. Acquired 75 Kenmare in Nolita and collaborated with celebrity Lenny Kravitz on the interior design. At Silverback we have developed Long Island City’s first Art-Moderne condominium known “Hero,” and broken ground in Gramercy Park for a project designed by architect Isaac Stern. We are also building a 500’ tall condominium on East 47th.  

Advice: Don’t let the victories get to your head, and ensure that the failures never get to you heart. 

Success: It is met and measured in every goal achieved, at which point a new one is set.

Mentors: My physician father taught me compassion when he would take me on trips to Haiti post-earthquake to deliver food and medical supplies. My grandfather taught me that strength and confidence come from knowledge and experience, not simply from age. My original business partner Jeff Gershen died while scuba diving just two months into our partnership. His death taught me how to survive and succeed when facing obstacles that could mean certain failure. Fear can motivate. Like water, it can float a ship just as easily as it can sink one.

Local companies you admire: I admire hard work. What really comes to heart are the men and women who set up curbside fruit stands at the crack of dawn and sit for 16 hours a day selling produce.

First job: A busboy cleaning tables at a local restaurant in Florida.
Guilty pleasure: I enjoy dressing up in costumes (dinosaurs, transformers, Jedi knights) in order to play with my kids in fantasy worlds they create. 

In the morning: I go to the gym at 6 a.m. It’s my meditation and my “prebattle” preparation.

Before bed: Read work documents or two to three fiction novels on Kindle. I took a speed-reading course, so I can cover a lot of material.

What keeps you up: How I could have done better, whether professionally or personally. If I didn’t do something that produced growth, then I am frustrated with myself.

Year ahead: To continue to grow Silverback, support healthcare causes, and see my family stay safe and healthy.


ELANA KNOLLER [28] – NY
CHIEF PRODUCT OFFICER,
BETTER.COM

About: As chief product officer, I help to shape, develop, and launch the operational structure and strategy that has led to Better.com not only attracting and raising over $254M from investors like American Express Ventures, Citigroup, Ally Financial, Goldman Sachs, and Kleiner Perkins, but also to growing the business 10x in three years. 

Company: Founded in 2016, Better.com is a digital-first homeownership company whose services include mortgage, real estate, title, and homeowners insurance. To date, Better.com has done $12B in home loans, $500M in title and $60M in HOI. We have also raised over $250M in equity capital and are backed by Kleiner Perkins, Goldman Sachs, American Express Ventures, Ally Financial, Citi, and other investors.

Residence: New York

Company HQ: New York

Education: BA, global investment strategies and contemporary China, New York University Gallatin School of Individualized Study.

Industry: Financial services

Notable projects: At Better.com, my first major highlight was securing partnerships with Tesla and Ally Bank when no one thought we could. 

Advice: My mom always told me, “You can do anything.”

Success: When what you’ve built can run without you. 

Mentors: Maria Cuomo Cole is my superhero! I am constantly blown away by her tireless dedication to making our world a better place through many different outlets, all while being an amazing mother and making it all appear effortless. 

Local companies you admire: Universe, the Apple of websites. They’ve designed a simple, beautiful product that addresses a real gap in the market. And Lemonade! They understand their customers, and how to impress them, better than anyone. 

First job: When I was 10, I helped run yoga birthday parties (I was in it for the ice cream cake). 

Guilty pleasure: Binge watching Rick and Morty. Late-night mac and cheese. Even better if both are combined.

In the morning: Drink an entire bottle of water, then call my dad.

Before bed: Arrested Development on repeat. There’s always money in the banana stand!

What keeps you up: The horrors of a nonzero inbox.

Year ahead: Actually plan my honeymoon! Launch an amazing experience for real estate agents on Better.com’s platform. Design a big vision with my Burning Man camp for 2021.


MATTHEW NORDGREN [37] – LA
FOUNDER AND MANAGING PARTNER,
ARCADIAN FUND

About: I help companies in and around the cannabis and hemp industries looking for growth equity to continue scaling into new markets. To date, I have been involved with over $1B in transactions and I maintain a portfolio of over 30 companies. 

Company: Arcadian is a leader in cannabis venture capital that manages investment vehicles providing limited partners diversified exposure to the ancillary sector (the infrastructure backbone of the industry), ensuring that all portfolio holdings comply with both state and federal law. Our talented team, proven strategy, and strong moral imperative to build ethical companies with ESG best practices allow us to create an ecosystem for value creation.

Residence: Los Angeles 

Company HQ: Los Angeles 

Education: BA, government and business, University of Texas at Austin; MBA, University of Dallas.

Industry: Venture capital 

Notable projects: Inspired by my belief that education and athletics can open doors for at-risk youth, I launched The Leadership Foundation—an organization committed to giving back to nonprofits whose purpose is to empower youth through sports and education. 

Advice: Believe in the power of prayer. When you pray, you are placing your worries in the hands of the power above, and if you hold onto those worries after your prayer, your belief in it comes into question. Let go of your worries and let the powers that be guide you.

Success: I feel the happiest when a perfect balance of homeostasis is achieved mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

Mentors: My father, George Nordgren, and football coach Mack Brown.

Local companies you admire: Companies we work with like High Times and Kush Bottles, and companies we look up to like Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia Capital. 

First job: Managing partner of a family office in Texas. 

Guilty pleasure: Dark chocolate and cherries. 

In the morning: Take a nice shower, have a good prayer, and assess and analyze the day’s schedule.

Before bed: A great TV show or movie.

What keeps you up: Constantly thinking about how I can do more, be more, and give more.

Year ahead: Be able to look back at the end of the year and know that I poured 100 percent of my heart and soul to build Arcadian with the team.


MICHAEL RACINE [39] – LA
SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT,
HACKMAN CAPITAL PARTNERS LLC

About: I started my career as an attorney working insurance defense. I then transitioned to in-house counsel at a real estate investment firm and quickly realized I wanted to be on the business side of the transactions. I ended up with Hackman in late 2008 and have grown within the organization that has also grown exponentially during my time there. 

Company: Founded in 1986, Hackman has invested more than $4B in properties across 41 states—having owned, through our affiliated entities, over 400 buildings totaling 35-plus million square feet. Recognizing the growing demand in urban markets, we were one of the early pioneers of converting industrial properties into creative office and media spaces in Southern California.

Residence: Los Angeles

Company HQ: Culver City 

Education: BS, business administration, Indiana University; JD, Pepperdine Caruso School of Law.

Industry: Real estate

Notable projects: The Beats by Dre corporate HQ in the Hayden Tract of Culver City, which was the toehold for Apple’s expansion within Culver City. The Culver Studios and The Culver Steps, the current and future home of Amazon Studios (the studio is under construction), and 888 Douglas a 400,000-square-foot creative office campus currently being developed in El Segundo. 

Advice: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.

Success: Finding an industry that excites me and a career path that challenges me. It’s being in a position where the only cap on my personal and professional growth is my own drive and desire.

Mentors: Our CEO Michael Hackman, and John Rosenfeld of Elkins Kalt, my attorney for over a decade. 

Local companies you admire: Beyond Meat, Riot Games, and Clutter.

First job: A stock boy at See’s Candies. I was 14 years old, and while most of my friends were at summer camp I was stocking candy shelves. 

Guilty pleasure: Cartoons. I’m nearly 40 years old and I still watch an episode of The Simpsons, Futurama, or Rick and Morty nearly every day.

In the morning: Email

Before bed: Email

What keeps you up: Other than my kid, not much. I learned a long time ago to compartmentalize and that the issues that would otherwise keep me up will still be there in the morning. 

Year ahead: My answer would have been different [before the pandemic] but with COVID-19 changing the world in ways we are only beginning to understand, I am revisiting and reassessing my goals. I am keeping my eyes open for those opportunities in whatever form they may take.


RAVI SARIN [38] – LA
MANAGING PARTNER,
ROCA PARTNERS

About: Before founding ROCA Partners, I was a private equity investor at Ares Management and Bain Capital and a consultant at Bain & Company.

Company: ROCA Partners is an L.A.-based private equity investment firm focused on providing leading technology-enabled services and healthcare services companies with flexible capital and operational resources to accelerate growth.

Residence: Los Angeles

Company HQ: Los Angeles

Education: BS, electrical engineering and MS, management science and engineering, Stanford University; MBA, Harvard Business School.

Industry: Investment management

Notable projects: Partnering with innovative companies in the healthcare industry that are both improving quality of care and lowering healthcare costs, including Oceans Healthcare and The Oncology Institute.

Advice: My dad is a professor at UCLA and he researches happiness. His advice? Happiness = Reality – Expectations.

Success: Being happy with what I’m doing and who I’m spending time with. So far in life, I’ve been lucky to feel successful.

Mentors: My mentors are my former colleagues from Ares and Bain Capital.

Local companies you admire: Everytable, Headspace, Participant, and XPRIZE Foundation.

First job: Local newspaper delivery in Chapel Hill, NC, while in elementary school.

Guilty pleasure: Thrifty mint chip ice cream cone from Rite Aid near our office.

In the morning: Quick workout

Before bed: My girlfriend and I share what we’re grateful for. 

What keeps you up: The latest investment I’m working on. 

Year ahead: Support our portfolio companies so they can continue to grow despite the challenging environment. 


GELENA SKYA-WASSERMAN [34] – LA
FOUNDER AND CEO
SKYA VENTURES INC.

About: I started my career during the 2008 recession as an office sales and leasing broker at Colliers International. In 2012, I purchased an off-market, single-family home that I renovated and sold. The home made it into the Los Angeles Times as “Home of the Week,” the first home under 4,000 square feet to be featured. I then started my own real estate development company, which I have grown into over 400 multifamily units in Los Angeles over the last six years.

Company: Skya Ventures Inc is an urban infill real estate developer with a keen eye for recognizing undervalued markets. Skya apartment communities focus on design-centric living, technology, and niche sectors. 

Residence: Los Angeles

Company HQ: Los Angeles

Education: BA, communications and urban planning, minor, economics, University of California, San Diego.

Industry: Real estate

Notable projects: Entitled a 23 RV pad expansion located in Coastal Commission and broke ground within 12 months from acquisition. The previous owner had the property for 10 years and was unable to get entitlements. 

Advice: Patience is concentrated strength that pays dividends.

Success: When I get both of my kids to sleep at 7 p.m. 

Mentors: My husband Keith Wasserman, his father Steve Wasserman, and Roger Beck. 

Local companies you admire: Lambda School and Prenda School. They are changing the way education is seen and done as we know it today.

First job: Cashier at Gap. I was 14 years old.

Guilty pleasure: I’m ashamed to admit it, but I watched Love Is Blind and liked it.

In the morning: Writing down my ever-growing to-do list in my notebook and what I want to accomplish for the day.

Before bed: Reading one of the many books on my nightstand. Loved Fair Play and A Man Called Ove. Currently powering my way through The Gambler, Red Notice, A Tale of Love and Darkness, and Living, Loving and Learning.

What keeps you up: A crying baby and whether or not I am raising my children to be good people. 

Year ahead: A new multifamily concept specifically geared toward families with young kids.


ALEXANDRA TYNION [30] – NY
DIRECTOR, HEAD OF VENTURE GROWTH
SEEDINVEST

About: At SeedInvest, I helped create the process by which startups fundraise from both unaccredited and accredited investors. Outside of work, I am the chair of The Jed Foundation’s Young Leadership Council and on the Young Leaders Advisory Council for the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Foundation.

Company: SeedInvest is a leading equity crowdfunding platform that provides individual investors access to vetted startup investment opportunities. We were instrumental in the passage of the 2012 JOBS Act, which changed 80-year-old U.S. securities laws to make it possible for entrepreneurs to raise private capital over the internet for the first time. SeedInvest has funded over 185 startups with a growing network of over 300,000 investors.

Residence: New York

Company HQ: New York

Education: BA, American studies, Georgetown University.

Industry: Financial services

Notable projects: Launching our first public-equity crowdfunding campaign on the platform back in 2015 is certainly a career highlight. It’s wild to think that one quickly became 10, and now five years later, we’ve helped hundreds of startups raise capital from the crowd! 

Advice: Always be prepared. The best way to deliver something unscripted is to know it by heart.

Success: The point when you reach a goal you set for yourself. 

Mentors: My parents. They both taught me the importance of working hard and working compassionately as a values-driven leader.

Local companies you admire: Sweetgreen. It was local to me in D.C. for many years and started by fellow Georgetown alums! Its purpose is authentic, which I feel is not always the case. Also, what Sweetgreen is doing with FoodCorps in helping reimagine school food programs is amazing!

First job: A sales associate at one of my mom’s retail stores in my teens. I begged her to let me start working the floor during my school breaks.

Guilty pleasure: Chocolate chip cookies and TV.

In the morning: A workout of some kind.

Before bed: I hate to say this, but I check my email. 

What keeps you up: I spend a lot of my free time volunteering for The Jed Foundation, which is a nonprofit protecting the emotional health and preventing suicide for young adults and teens. Suicide rates around the country have climbed 35 percent in the last two decades. I see it as a pandemic in its own right. 

Year ahead: Read more books. I recently joined a book club, which 2019 me would never make time for. 


ZACH ZALBEN [33] – LA
CEO,
BLACK EQUITIES LLC

About: Outside of Black Equities, I spend as much time as I can being involved with a variety of charities (FIDF, Beverly Hills Temple of the Arts, and The Stanley and Joyce Black Family Foundation).

Company: Black Equities consists of real estate owners, developers, and managers. We have a portfolio of over 300 buildings located throughout over 20 states with a majority of our portfolio in Southern California.

Residence: Los Angeles

Company HQ: Los Angeles

Education: BA, urban studies, Loyola Marymount University.

Industry: Real estate

Notable projects: Involved in over $500M of acquisitions and dispositions, worked on over 250 leases, and entitled and built a variety of developments.

Advice: A good deal is good for you and good for me. You can never do a good deal with a bad person nor a bad deal with a good person.

Success: When you are able to be fair to people in all aspects of your life and be of service to your community.

Mentors: Stanley Black, Jill Black, Meyer Luskin, Thomas Safran, and Michael Kaplan. 

Local companies you admire: Beta Agency, Thomas Safran & Associates, ARKA Properties Group, Simantob & Associates, and Sands Investment Group.

First job: Assistant property manager at Charles Dunn Company.

Guilty pleasure: The Bigg Chill on Westwood and Olympic.

In the morning: 20 minutes of transcendental meditation.

Before bed: Relax and unwind.

What keeps you up: Not much. I’m an easy sleeper.

Year ahead: Continue to learn about the ever-evolving world and how best to prepare for changes.