Finding Opportunity Zone Investors in 2021, with Will Walker & Jeffrey Maganis

Will Walker

What are some of the best ways to find Opportunity Zone investors in 2021?

Jeffrey Maganis is co-founder of Crowdcreate, a digital marketing company that focuses on investor outreach for private equity funds. Will Walker is Crowdcreate’s director of business development.

Click the play button below to listen to my conversation with Will and Jeffrey.

Episode Highlights

  • Who Crowdcreate is and some of the innovative ways they perform investor outreach for Opportunity Zone deals.
  • Ways to find local and national Opportunity Zone investors.
  • Tapping your local network; tapping the local universities. Local real estate groups.
  • Examples of Opportunity Zone funds and deal sponsors that are doing the best job of executing investor outreach strategies.
  • The power of focusing on finding investor groups, as opposed to individual investors.
  • What investors look for in an Opportunity Zone deal.
  • High-level thoughts on how to pitch investors once you’ve found them.

Featured on This Episode

Industry Spotlight: Crowdcreate

Crowdcreate

Founded by Jeffrey Maganis in 2015, Crowdcreate has successfully raised over $133 million across dozens of successful projects and has been featured on Forbes, CNBC, and Huffington Post. Headquartered in Orange County, California, Crowdcreate is a boutique digital marketing firm that helps companies get introduced to investors, influencers, thought leaders, and their ideal customers. They specialize in website formation, video production, digital marketing, and targeted investor outreach.

Learn more about Crowdcreate:

About the Opportunity Zones Podcast

Hosted by OpportunityDb.com founder Jimmy Atkinson, the Opportunity Zones Podcast features guest interviews from fund managers, advisors, policymakers, tax professionals, and other foremost experts in opportunity zones.

Show Transcript

Jimmy: Welcome to the “Opportunity Zones Podcast.” I’m your host, Jimmy Atkinson. Are you looking to raise capital for an Opportunity Zone fund or deal in 2021? If so, today’s episode is for you. And joining me today to discuss this topic are two of my good friends at Crowdcreate, Jeffrey Maganis and Will Walker. Jeffrey is co-founder of Crowdcreate, and Will is Crowdcreate’s director of business development. Gentlemen, thanks for joining me today.

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Jeffrey: Thanks for having us, Jimmy.

Will: Yeah, Jimmy. Thanks for letting us do this with you.

Jimmy: Yeah, absolutely. You guys are both joining me today down in Orange County, California. I was out there a few weeks ago over the holidays and got to meet both of you in person. Always good to see you in person, and good to have you on the podcast again today. So today, the two of you are going to be discussing some of the top ways for raising capital for an OZ deal or an OZ fund in 2021. And we’re gonna dive into those methods in a few minutes here, but first I wanted to back up and learn a little bit more about you guys, learn a little bit more about your firm, Crowdcreate. So can you tell our listeners who is Crowdcreate, and what do you guys do exactly?

Jeffrey: So, Crowdcreate helps Opportunity Zone projects find and connect with investors, strategic partners, and influential thought leaders. We’re industry agnostic. We’ve worked on over a hundred-plus projects, and raised over $130 million with our proprietary database and also outreach services. So, Crowdcreate was founded in 2015 and actually at the start of digital and online crowdfunding. And so, myself and Ivan, we’ve worked on everything from electronics and hardware, Bluetooth headsets, all the way to real estate projects, being mobile home park funds.

You know, not only do we help companies raise money, but we’re also investors ourselves, and we stumbled upon Opportunity Zone projects because of capital gains, and as more and more, you know, research was done in the industry, we absolutely loved the idea of bringing capital, bringing resources into underdeveloped communities and really just got connected with some of the investors and thought leaders in the space. And that’s how we started to apply our know-how that we’ve built up over the last couple years, and apply it to this industry, being opportunity zones.

Jimmy: And your partner in this, or one of your colleagues in this is Mr. Will Walker, who’s on the line with us now as well. And Will, you have a few decades of private equity experience. You joined the Crowdcreate team a few years ago, I believe. Can you tell us a little bit more about how you got hooked up with Jeffrey and his team, and a little bit about your background as well?

Will: Okay. Thanks, Jimmy. Sure. Yeah, I’ve been very fortunate as an older veteran private equity guy that’s been around the block several times and used to do things the traditional way, which is attend a lot of investor conferences and Opportunity Zone conferences and that type of thing, and do public speaking, or certainly work with different promoters, different investor groups around the country and even around the world. But I saw that things were changing even pre-COVID to really become more virtual, not only because of the travel, but because I’m getting older and you can’t cover…get the coverage and reach that you want in the older traditional way at live conferences, and, whether it be nationally or internationally.

So, a lot of different factors there. And when I found someone that I respect, a big investment banker that had used Crowdcreate before for specific projects that needed to be accelerated, that accelerate that trust factor and pinpoint strategically, target certain investor profiles, family offices, and institutional retail, then I said, well, let’s see what they’re doing. So I really met Jeff and Ivan and the team and saw this was a much faster, broader way to target and connect with the right investor profile for my projects, which were many at the time. And then when I decided, “Hey, I can’t beat ’em, I’m gonna join him,” that’s what I did as head of business development here. And it’s been an excellent relationship and certainly we’ve helped a lot of companies, campaigns match-make with the right goals and investor profile that they’ve been looking for.

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Jimmy: Excellent. Well, thanks for joining us today, Will. And a fun fact about Will Walker is he is also an Emmy Award-winning actor. He used to be an actor, a Hollywood actor, back in the day. So we’re very pleased to be graced with his presence here today. Thanks for joining us, Will.

Will: Thanks. Thanks, Jimmy.

Jimmy: Jeffrey, I’ll turn it back over to you now, or turn to you. Let’s dive into the meat of today’s episode today, which is raising capital, finding Opportunity Zone investors in 2021, whether you have a project that you’re sponsoring or a fund that you are the issuer or manager of. Jeffrey, what are some of the top ways for finding Opportunity Zone investors in 2021?

Jeffrey: So, finding Opportunity Zone investors in 2021, there’s actually two routes that take…there’s both connecting with your local investors and community, and then there’s doing things on a national level. And so, if you’d like, we could go ahead and get into it and get started on first, how do you find local investors that are familiar with their community? They know some of the projects or possibly other properties or businesses in the area. Really finding investors, your lowest hanging fruit is your immediate family, friends, and professional network. Tapping into them, you know, not just for capital, but also introductions to possibly other people that are in your community.

And when we talk about professional networks, that could be, you know, your local employer, business owners, doctors, attorneys, highly paid professionals that are already actively investing in deals in your community. There’s also local universities, again, some of the largest employers that are there, and even just finding out who is currently doing deals in your local area. So how do you find their contact information? You know, there’s different websites and tools online, the most popular being, you know, LinkedIn, Facebook, just doing a Google search. So, you know, more specifically on how to expand outside of your own personal network of family, friends, and professional is we recommend finding investors at local real estate groups.

Now things have gone virtual. So, how would you find these local real estate meet-up groups? There’s Facebook groups for local real estate agents, brokers in the area that are familiar with who’s actively deploying capital and also part of these deals, meetup.com before the pandemic and also, you know, everything going virtual. I’m sure there are local in-person meetups that used to go on, and we recommend that you find the organizer for these groups, and they typically have the most influence and have a network of a couple hundred people. So, when you find these people, you definitely wanna talk to them. It’s not just these investor groups, but also real estate developers, real estate accountants, attorneys, financial advisors, and planners in your local area would be able to send you in the right direction for finding investors on a local basis for your project.

Getting into the national realm of Opportunity Zone projects, here at Crowdcreate, you know, we actually offer this as a service, but we like to start at the top. That goes with who are some of the most influential people in the Opportunity Zone space. I personally connected with Jimmy Atkinson because I was a huge fan of this podcast and, you know, doing a Google search to learn more about the industry. I truly respect the content that he’s created. And a lot of people do trust these thought leaders, for obvious reasons, being that they’re experts in their field. And whether it’s multi-family construction, mobile home parks, self-storage, you know, new ground-up developments, senior housing, you really wanna connect and find the thought leader or, you know, investor that’s done the most deals in your industry, and that’s how you would find investors.

What we recommend and what we do here at Crowdcreate is that we attend these conferences. You know, there’s a lot of good Opportunity Zone conferences that are out there, you know, Jimmy and OZ Pros has the OZ Pitch Day, Opportunity Zone Expo. Apartment Owners Association has a great conference. Some of the active players that have been in real estate, you know, typically they are doing something in the Opportunity Zone space, and it’s kind of ancillary to their business. We recommend going through their speaker lists for these conferences, find a way that you can connect with them and truly add value, and hopefully present them your deal, and it would turn into a check, hopefully later.

In 2021, and what we noticed in 2020, what some of the top capital raisers were doing was creating content to pull investors in, and also going on these digital investor roadshows and attending as many webinars, events, conferences as possible. Specifically some of the platforms that we recommend for finding investors, some that we noted, investor groups, professional networks, employers in your local area, meetup.com, you know, Google, going to YouTube, possibly searching for podcasters or different influencers in your local area, news portal sites. Bisnow, a lot of the real estate-oriented channels and news media have a lot of good content that’s being created. And then you can highlight the developers and investors that are possibly cited in that article, find them, and then go ahead and reach out and connect with them.

We highly recommend LinkedIn. You can do geo-targeted searches to find investors or developers that put it on their profile that they’re active in Opportunity Zone. And then online forums, you know, government data, there are a lot of sources out there to find investors, and those are the top ones that we recommend here at Crowdcreate.

Jimmy: Wow. Yeah, a lot of great tips there to unpack, Jeffrey. Thank you for doing that. And thank you for dropping the line about OZ Pitch Day as well. I’m glad you brought that up. I do wanna announce that I am gonna do more OZ Pitch Days throughout the course of 2021, so keep listening to this podcast and following me on my email newsletter and my website, and you’ll learn more about those opportunities, whether you are a fund issuer or a deal sponsor, or an investor, about learning how to pitch your product or invest in those funds. I’ll have some Pitch Day events coming up here throughout the course of 2021.

You know, you mentioned a couple things that I really took away was leveraging influencers. I thought that was really interesting, you know, getting in touch with those speakers or those other thought leaders in the industry and letting them do the work for you. Not to put words in your mouth, but I guess kind of spinning off that idea of letting them become evangelists for your brand or your project, if it’s a really good project, and you can get in front of the right person to be a brand evangelist for you. I think that’s a great idea there as well, Jeffrey. Will, anything to add to that, and maybe I can throw you another question here, and the question for you, Will, would be, you know, what are some examples of some companies that you’ve worked with or have come across that are doing the best job of executing this type of strategy, finding investors?

Will: Well, I tell you, one of my big, I call them “flag-wavers” in the Opportunity Zone arena is Hall Family Labs, Hall Fund, F-U-N-D, H-A-L-L. They happen to be a double positive because they’re a family, a very successful family office since 1950. And yet they have a very strong, 130-acre campus up in Utah that is very active. It all is on an Opportunity Zone. And they have their own patent office up there, too. But, you know, I call them “flag-wavers” because Hall, in my mind, has done everything right pre-COVID, during COVID, and then certainly it’s gonna be post-COVID here pretty soon, to find the right investor mix, both institutional and retail, to really get the exposure they want and get the following and capital that they want for their projects.

Now, they’re mainly in operating businesses, and they’ve had some very successful exits and things like that, but really, what they did was they approached even on a national level, some think tanks and some different areas or operators that operate masterminds and webinars, like OZ Pros, in the Opportunity Zone arena nationally, as well as some I’m sure locally as well, in Utah, to get highlighted and to really get some of their successes, differentiators, which we’re known to highlight here at Crowdcreate as well, and keep it in front of them. But really, they’ve been able to join and work with a lot of different institutions.

One thing I’ll also bring up to do that, and to get not only real estate highlighted, because they have a real estate portfolio, as well as an operating business portfolio. But you get that highlighted on a national level, and then on a local level, I would encourage everybody to do what I’ve done for many years in my private equity business, and that’s get involved with some local large universities. If you’re looking for good angel groups or investment groups that are tied together or interested in a specific space, like Opportunity Zones and real estate, or Opportunity Zones and successful operating businesses of any kind, as this pie kinda broadens out, I would, you know, recommend that, because they all have angel groups, they all have… Alumni groups are very good, especially at the larger universities.

I know Hall Fund takes advantage of that at several universities in Utah. So that would be good on a local level, but they also did a lot of things right with really kinda working with a lot of different masterminds, webinars, podcasters, leading trusted podcasters like Jimmy Atkinson and others, to get their story out there. You know, it’s a combination too, Jimmy, that you have to stay in front of it, especially if you’re after institutional money, whether it be from an energy fund, an opportunity zone, venture fund, you know, there’s hundreds, thousands of them around, and you have to not only get their attention, but you have to stay in front of them. And that’s kinda what we do here at Crowdcreate, another little shameless plug there, but it does.

So, once again, if you’re doing it on your own, Jeff gave some great tips, and I hope I’ve added something to it, but you’ve gotta stay with it. It’s not only getting the trust, and building the trust and attraction, but you have to kinda keep it consistent in what you’re highlighting and differentiators, and maybe even advancement, how things are growing. So, it takes time. It takes different multiple exposures a lot of times, but it’s worth it. And once again, if you tie in with these local or national resource groups and investors, it will pay big dividends now, as well as later. So, that would be just some thoughts from me to add to what Jeff did.

Jimmy: Yeah, that’s great, Will. I love the idea of going both local and national. I think it makes sense if you have a Opportunity Zone project that’s, especially if it’s a single asset project, or if it’s geographically focused, go after that geography. If you’re building a new building in downtown Boise, let’s say, for instance, in one of their Opportunities Zones there, they’ve got two or three of them, you know, go after the local group in Boise, Idaho, maybe in a local investors group there, get that local money. And then also go national as well. I think that makes sense.

Will: Just let me add real quick thought to that Jimmy. That was really two, because, like, let’s take California, where we live right now, there’s a lot of money in investors that are looking to get into other areas. I mean, Jeff highlighted Boise, Idaho, or areas that are hot. Texas, of course, where you are, red hot. So even if they live here or whatever, you can see the migration of money and investors. And certainly, that’s why you wanna get some exposure to national as well as a local.

Jimmy: Yeah, absolutely, Will. Jeffrey, back to you now, if you could expound on the question that I asked Will. Do you have any examples of companies in addition to Hall Labs that you’ve worked with or come across that are doing a really good job of executing this type of strategy?

Jeffrey: Yeah. I wanted to highlight one operator who had a fantastic 2020, and how they were able to find investors. I still think that the number one way to find investors is to find investor groups. So what this operator did very well was, you know, identify different investor groups around the country. Now, there are investor groups that exist that help other investors in the group by doing due diligence on operators, and say, for example, also highly-paid professionals. Doctors have their own investor group, attorneys, country clubs, as Will mentioned, have this investor group of sorts. And, you know, what this operator did very well, and was able to successfully raise capital, is by identifying these, building trust within the investor group.

So, once you get one member, you know, that member shares it with another member, and the next thing you know, you have this crowd or a consensus that this is somebody of trust. Which is what, you know, we recommend here at Crowdcreate is that when you find investors, you not just find the investor, but you also find people in their social circle that they trust, and find a way to build a genuine connection and provide value in that person’s you know, profession or life with your project. And that’s how you find them and also attract them.

Jimmy: And that’s how you personally, Jeffrey have invested in some Opportunity Zone funds, right? I mean, you’re not just talking the talk, you’re actually walking the walk as well. You yourself are an Opportunity Zone investor in a handful of deals and funds, I believe. I don’t wanna divulge too much information of yours, but I know that we’ve talked about this in the past offline. That’s how you invest in your deals as well. You don’t vet these deals on your own. I think you have an established network of trusted contacts, or some sort of club like this, is that right? Can you talk a little bit about your personal experience?

Jeffrey: Yes. I’m part of different investor groups as well. Some of these groups, you know, for, formed amongst you know, different professionals and even friends that were doing things similar to myself. And we find the group to be valuable to share notes on different operators, asset classes, right, multifamily, different geographies, different, you know, strategies on either ground-up or value-add, and built up that trust, you know, over time. And I know that they’re good at what they do, and the deals that I did invest in for Opportunity Zone were actually referred through my investor groups.

And I know multiple people that have deployed capital in the deal, and when they did, I typically hop on a phone call with them, ask them, is there any concerns that you had with this deal? Ask them, you know, how much due diligence they did. And then it gets me more comfortable, knowing that somebody that I trust and respect also invested in a deal. But definitely, in terms of getting exposure was through, you know, my own investor groups.

Jimmy: Oh, that makes perfect sense. As I’ve talked with you about before Jeffrey, you’re taking advantage of the wisdom of the crowds in that regard, right?

Jeffrey: Right, right.

Jimmy: So, you know, I think this next question could really be the topic of a future episode, and we could probably spend an hour just talking about this. So I don’t wanna go into too much detail today, because I do wanna wrap up pretty soon here. But, you know, so far, we’ve been talking about how to find OZ investors. I wanna talk now about what are some tips, maybe just some really high-level thoughts that each of you have on how to pitch to these investors. Once you find them, you know, what’s the best way to, once you found them, hook them, and get them to actually write that check to you? What are some high-level thoughts there?

Jeffrey: Yeah, you know, ultimately, I think the one thing people get wrong when they do outreach to people, and if those are potential investors, is they do not consider, you know, what’s in it, or what the other person on the other side is interested in. And always come from value, I think, number one. So when you are pitching somebody, and whether it’s a thought leader, or if it’s an investor, and even just using myself as an example, I wanted to connect with you, Jimmy Atkinson. You know, I truly listened to six of your episode before I ever, you know, sent you an email, really understood what you were working on. And I truly, you know, knew there was a way that I could provide value with what you’re doing.

And so, if you are going to be pitching investors, you know, know what they’re interested in, know what they want to invest in. If there’s also a way, and right, when you are connecting with these investor groups, or also attorneys, accountants, and financial advisors, think how you could provide value in their life, whether it’s sharing deal flow, sharing business opportunities, referring them business to help them out. You know, finding and pitching investors, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and we do recommend that, you know, you kinda build that relationship first. And ideally, it’s one of value before you, you know, introduce your project right away.

Jimmy: Will, any high-level thoughts from you on how to pitch?

Will: Well, I just wanna kinda piggyback what Jeff said. You know, the personal slant and it is the most important, finding out, you know, through different means, LinkedIn, others, you know, Facebook, what they’re about, what they’re into. But I really think it’s also important to be catching up, do your homework on relevant news about companies or things that are happening, moving and shaking in their space, or even areas where money is moving in. If it’s an area, you know, targeting certain articles, different social media sites, that type of thing, to find out some of the things that are going on in their specific industry or space. And even if it’s real estate in a certain area, find out all the assets or positives about that area. Why is money moving into Boise, Idaho, or why are they going into San Antonio, Texas?

So, keeping things personal, keeping things relevant to what they’d be interested in and what could possibly help them get interested in your project, because it is, maybe not a copycat, but it is in the same area or vicinity or space, or have some differentiators there, is really going to be educational for them, and also interesting, so that they are receptive to receiving your phone call or when you do offer to meet them in person, when that happens, they’re pretty responsive. They know there’s value there and you’ve done your homework. So, all about building trust, Jimmy.

Jimmy: Absolutely, Will. Hey, great tips there, Will and Jeffrey. Thank you. And like I said, maybe that will be a topic for a future episode that the three of us can do together is how to pitch your Opportunity Zone deal to investors. I think we can talk about, you know, how to put together a pitch deck and how to do investor outreach and kinda would be a continuation of this episode, but we’re running out of time here today, so I wanna thank both of you for joining me today.

For our listeners out there, a couple of tips here. One is if you’re unaware, OZ Pros, myself, and the gentlemen here today at Crowdcreate, we put on a free webinar last year, in 2020, titled “Raising Capital in Opportunity Zones.” And I would urge you to go ahead and check out that webinar. If you missed it, if you haven’t seen it, you can check out that webinar at ozpros.com/webinar, and there you’ll be able to check out that free webinar that we did last year. Again, that was titled “Raising Capital in Opportunity Zones.”

Gentlemen, before we go today, can you tell our listeners where they can go on your end to learn more about you and Crowdcreate?

Jeffrey: Yeah. If you’d like a free strategy call with the Crowdcreate team, we’d love to learn about what you’re working on, provide some insights, even if we know people that are investing in projects like yours, please visit our website. It is crowdcreate.us/call. Again, it’s crowdcreate.us/call.

Jimmy: Awesome. crowdcreate.us/call. And for our listeners out there today, I will have show notes on the Opportunity Zone’s database website. You can find those show notes at opportunitydb.com/podcast, and there you will find links to all of the resources that Will, Jeffrey and I discussed today on this episode, and I’ll be sure to link to that link at crowdcreate.us/call, where you can book a consultation call with the Crowdcreate team. Will, Jeffrey, this has been awesome. Thanks for joining me today. Appreciate it.

Will: Thanks, Jimmy. Thanks for having us.

OZ Pitch Day Fall 2021

Nov 3-4, 2021 – Find Your OZ Investment