Women of the Year 2021: Khushboo Jha is Democratizing Real Estate Through BuyProperly
From Olympic athletes and tech startup founders to social impact champions and business changemakers, our inaugural 2021 Women of the Year guide features 37 impressive leaders who are making a difference, both individually and as a collective. They’ve all navigated incredible obstacles to get to where they are (often on an uneven playing field) and yet, despite this, have still managed to summit their industries and change Canada—and the world around them—for the better. In our series of one-on-one interviews, get to know each honouree a little better: their values, mission, lessons learned, and the other women that inspire them in their own lives.
What is your elevator pitch to the world?
Khushboo Jha: BuyProperly is the Tesla of real estate; disruptive in an industry that needs change, user-friendly on the outside, and tons of new technology and thinking under the hood.
What excites you most about the work that you are doing?
Khushboo Jha: We are at the forefront of a new wave of disruption in the industry. What we do today will drive how people think about real estate investing in the future, and that’s exciting. Nobody today wakes up in the morning thinking, “I’m going to buy some real estate today” because they simply can’t. We want to make this possible. We want people to participate in the real estate market independent of how much money they have. A true democracy means that everyone has equal access to investing.
Where do you think you have made the most impact in your company and community?
Khushboo Jha: Wealth and investing, especially in real estate, has always been concentrated in the hands of a few wealthy individuals, thus leaving the large majority of Canadians out of the game. We believe our most significant contribution is increasing access to an asset class and making it simple and hassle-free.
What kind of problems are you trying to solve?
Khushboo Jha: Our goal is to democratize investing through access, education, and information, thereby making the process simple. With a fractional ownership model, investors can spread their investments across multiple properties and apply a dollar-cost averaging investment approach that allows you to avoid the need to time the market constantly.
Owning and managing real estate is capital-intensive, time-intensive, and effort-intensive. We are not only lowering the financial barrier, but we are also removing these operational roadblocks. More importantly, given the online and app-driven set up, individuals can invest in places geographically distant from where they live and can do so from the comfort of their homes. Therefore, investors are no longer limited to local areas; they can invest where the highest returns are.
What are you doing that no one else is doing?
Khushboo Jha: We have completely reimagined the traditional model of real estate investing across its value chain. The BuyProperly experience is different from the conventional real estate investment experience in three core ways. One, we convert high-yield properties into fractionally owned investment vehicles, lowering the financial barrier to an investment minimum of $2,500, welcoming everyday investors to grow their wealth. Two, unlike traditional real estate, we have created an entirely online process that can be completed in less than seven minutes. The whole process is as simple as buying something on Amazon. Lastly, BuyProperly’s platform uses AI to identify real estate trends to help discover undervalued properties in the market, allowing investors to earn high returns. Using an AI model that looks at 20 years of MLS data and neighbourhood, demographic, and economic data, the algorithm looks for asset listings under their fair market value.
Why is your work important?
Khushboo Jha: We are changing the way people think of real estate. We are also creating an opportunity for all Canadians to participate in a wealth-generating real estate space and bring them closer to their dream of owning a home. This mission is especially vital for marginalized communities such as women, people of colour, or new immigrants who don’t necessarily have generational wealth to give them a leg up.
Was there ever a turning point in your career that fundamentally changed your business for the better?
Khushboo Jha: Our partnership with one of the financial institutions here in Canada helped us not only provide better returns to our customers, but also leverage their support in reaching out to and helping more people. This was a pivotal point in BuyProperly’s growth.
What have you learned about yourself as you’ve led your company?
Khushboo Jha: As a woman CEO leading a disruptive business, I can positively impact other women in tech. We have attracted several senior women executives to the company. We draw a lot of women investors ( approximately 35 percent of investors through our platform are women, compared to the industry average of about 15 to 20 percent,) and we have been able to inspire other women entrepreneurs to feel confident in their ventures.
What has been the most challenging part of building the business?
Khushboo Jha: The most challenging aspect has been dealing with partners in the ecosystem. Since we operate on a new business model, we don’t seem to fit in anyone’s standard checklist, template, or box. Even when institutions and ecosystem players want to work with us, they are often unable to or take infinitely long to set up their internal processes to work with us, since it requires change on their side. This challenge includes other players such as financial institutions and mortgage and insurance providers. Because we are a small company, we have found that there is not yet enough incentive for incumbents in the ecosystem to change to work with us.
What has been the most rewarding part of building the business?
Khushboo Jha: Being priced out of the housing market is a frustration shared by many young Canadian adults and one I have experienced firsthand. The ability to change the status quo and build a new path where there previously wasn’t one is very satisfying.
What questions do you think all leaders should ask themselves before building a company?
Khushboo Jha: Are you prepared for the road ahead? Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to start from scratch, at the bottom of the rung, and build your path one brick at a time. Sometimes there are no precedents to reference, and there is always a lot of uncertainty.
Are you able to be agile? You need to be nimble enough to adapt and change to situations (including black swan events like COVID-19) and simultaneously lay a solid foundation for the future of your business. Building a startup is a dichotomy of choices.
Have you planned for the potential financial and personal impact it may have on your life (e.g., through savings, family support, etc.)? Do you know what, in this journey, you are willing to lose? Things never go perfectly, and while juggling multiple balls, one needs to know which ones you are okay to drop and which ones you are not.
The key question to ask is: are you mentally equipped for the patience this requires?
In your experience, what do you think is the quickest way to get people on board with your mission?
Khushboo Jha: In my experience, being honest in sharing the mission and vision and transparent about potential challenges has been the best way to operate.
What is your mission? The bigger picture?
Khushboo Jha: BuyProperly’s mission is to increase access to investing opportunities by leveraging technology and providing education.
How do you define success? What does it mean to you?
Khushboo Jha: Success is the ability to create a multiplier effect where achieving one’s own goals enables others to achieve theirs, increasing the overall happiness and wellness of a community. That’s what we strive for at BuyProperly.
What is one lesson that you hope people will learn or walk away with from your work?
Khushboo Jha: Be unafraid to question the status quo and create a new path when you cannot find one.
If you could go back and give yourself advice, what would it be?
Khushboo Jha: Invest in yourself continuously by reading and seeking even more challenging tasks and goals. In hindsight, I have hesitated to take on financially difficult self-investments, but every time I made such an investment (like earning an MBA at Wharton) it paid off many times over, in personal, professional, and financial growth.
Who is a woman in the community that you admire?
Khushboo Jha: Eva Wong, the COO of Borrowell, is my mentor and has been nothing but supportive through this journey. Eva has provided me with guidance, made introductions, and supported me as a customer and investor. She stands for grit and perseverance, but even more importantly, she empowers others which inspires me to follow in her footsteps.