How the Columbus startup dreams of using familiar mechanics to level the investment playing field
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that when you’re renting instead of owning a property, your monthly payments don’t help you build wealth or establish investments. But what if that paradigm changed? That’s the impact CEO Calvin Cooper and Columbus startup Rhove believe they can make on the way people invest in their communities.
“We’re on a mission to expand access and opportunity for everyone to own the places we live, work and play,” he said. “We enable people to download an app and begin investing in real estate with the click of a button, with no account minimums or income requirements. Access to ownership in our communities is getting further out of reach. In order to invest in the real estate that defines our cities, you have to be an accredited investor. You have to be a millionaire to be able to invest in commercial real estate, which is absurd.”
Rhove’s platform allows residents — or anyone else — to invest in partnered buildings. The company’s setup allows everyday people to purchase equity in a property and, in turn, receive a monthly return from their investment. The method allows property owners to use Rhove as a way to raise capital while giving those without the means to buy a home an opportunity to invest in real estate rather than simply writing a check for rent.
“The app works like other financial tools that people are used to,” said Cooper. “You download the app and create a profile and you can follow projects or deal sponsors. Starting this summer, you’ll be able to follow specific properties and invest and buy equity in those projects, just like trading stock on RobinHood or buying stock on Coinbase. There are crowdfunding sites that allow property owners to raise capital from the public, but they’re so expensive and difficult to work with. They haven’t solved all the problems that deter people from investing. We’re using technology to automate everything while also taking on the administrative burden and compliance requirements ourselves to eliminate fees to the deal sponsors.”
For Cooper, Rhove’s mission is both a good business plan and an important way of giving power back to people in the communities that depend on their rent and community-oriented nature. The startup makes its money from fees attached to raising capital. As Cooper put it, the company is “success-based.” But ultimately, Cooper and his co-founders put Rhove together because they believed in its ability to change how people view home ownership and investment.
“I founded Rhove because I made the mistake of calculating how much I’ve spent on rent in the last ten years,” he said with a laugh. “I thought about buying a condo, but it didn’t really make sense to me. Home ownership is getting further and further out of reach, but I love living downtown in a walkable environment, and I think other Millenials and Gen Zs do too. I didn’t want to have to move outside the city to buy a home. I wanted to own a piece of the building I lived in, and didn’t understand why I couldn’t.”
Rhove isn’t just selling a product or building an app, it’s aiming to change the way an entire industry functions. Cooper said he’ll know Rhove is a success when 100 million people worldwide have used the platform to invest in real estate that they couldn’t have had access to using typical methods. And with such high hopes, the startup needed to be in the right location to grow. Fortunately for them, Rhove’s home in the Short North neighborhood of Columbus has given the company everything they need to project the kind of growth they want.
“When you start a business, it’s so important that you have access to talent, customers and capital and to have them readily available,” Cooper said. “Our talent, customers and capital came together within a one-mile radius of the Short North in Columbus. Any thriving network of game-changing companies all has that same combination of ingredients within walking distance. Ohio’s been a great place to build a company; we’re proud to be from Columbus.”