Until recently, crowdfunding was thought to apply only to startup tech companies seeking alternative financing sources to launch their business or develop a product. Crowdfunding was not something used to fund real estate development projects. That all changed with a company called Fundrise, that uses crowdfunding to source equity investments for real estate development. By using crowdfunding, Fundrise gives individuals the ability to invest directly in real estate projects, which is an opportunity they might not otherwise have. Fundrise also makes investments more efficient by eliminating various middlemen and associated fees. Fundrise has funded dozens of multi-million dollar developments around the country including 3 World Trade Center and, most recently, a $15 million dollar project at Larimer and 35th Street in RiNo. Crowdfunding at first disrupted the way entrepreneurs launched their businesses. Now, it seems to be disrupting traditional real estate finance.
The CU Real Estate Annual Forum, held on March 11, 2015, highlighted Fundrise along with two other innovative real estate technology companies: Pivot Desk and Hightower. Pivotdesk seeks to match those with extra space with those in need of such space on short term basis on much more flexible terms than a typical sublease. Hightower helps owners aggregate and display leasing data in real time. These companies indicate a trend of disruption within the real estate industry – changing the rules and potentially displacing competitors.