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Posted Mar 15, 2024

Fundraiser Feature: Vince DeCrow at Origin Investments

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We recently spoke with Vince DeCrow, VP of Investor Relations at Origin Investments, to learn how Origin’s approach to investor management helped them become a 2023 Juniper Square Top Fundraiser and the most successful fundraiser amongst our CRE clients.

Q: Tell us about Origin Investments and your role at the firm.

A: Our two principals, Michael Episcope and David Scherer, started Origin Investments in 2007 to build and protect their wealth after finding that the best real estate opportunities out there were only offered to large institutional investors.

They thought, there's got to be a better way to do this. We're going to do it ourselves. After a few years of putting the building blocks in place, they started with friends and family, and in 2011, Origin raised its first fund with outside investors. Origin’s mission was to transform how individuals invest in real estate and provide high-net-worth investors access to institutional-quality investments. While Origin’s funds now have nearly 4,000 unique investors, Michael and David still remain two of the largest, having invested over $90MM of their personal wealth in Origin’s funds alongside our other investors since the firm’s inception.

I joined Origin in mid-2017. Today, I lead our IR team in servicing registered investment advisors (RIAs). We aim to create value for advisors with solutions to help them meet their business goals, differentiate their practice, and build stronger relationships with their clients.

Q: What is Origin Investments’ investing philosophy?

A: The simplest way to describe our strategy investing is “an inch wide and a mile deep.” We've narrowed our strategy since 2007, and now we invest exclusively in Class A multifamily. We strive to offer tax-efficient investments designed to deliver risk-adjusted returns for our fund investors across all market cycles. We invest across the capital structure, and our various strategies range from the ground-up development of new properties to buying and adding value to existing properties to financing properties on the debt side.

Our philosophy is not to try and time the market. Sure, some historical entry points have been relatively better than others in general, depending on the market fundamentals. However, there's always a strong risk-adjusted opportunity in multifamily—it's been the most resilient and least volatile property type in real estate over the past 30+ years. It's also produced some of the highest risk-adjusted returns. Today, we believe the strongest opportunities are on the credit investment side. Our Strategic Credit Fund was designed to generate equity-like returns for its investors with less risk than they would get with an equity investment.

We're also very disciplined with our market selection. We invest in about 13 markets today; all high-growth cities with an affordable cost of living where people, employers, and jobs are moving to—mostly Sunbelt cities. These are also generally low-tax, business-friendly states.

Q: How did you maintain strong relationships with your existing LPs during a challenging market environment?

A: We went into 2023 knowing it would be a very challenging year, if not the most difficult of the last decade. We expect the same this year, so my team is focused on building trust. There’s no substitute for in-person relationship building, especially in a tough environment. We started a road show, hitting different metro areas where we have a concentration of investors.

We also care deeply about providing our investors with transparency. Some investor relations folks are great at building relationships but don't have answers when an investor wants to see behind the curtain. It's one thing to talk the talk, but if you can't also walk the walk, it could damage that hard-won relationship. We built our investor relations team by hiring highly educated and knowledgeable individuals with underwriting and investment analysis backgrounds who can also walk the walk.

And lastly, we’re always focused on creating “wowing” moments and experiences for our investors. It’s easier to wow someone you already have a relationship with, which circles back to the focus of in-person relationship building.

Q: How does technology impact your fundraising efforts and successes?

A: Investment decision-making is driven and augmented by data and analysis. While data-driven strategies and decision-making are becoming more common for real estate investors, historically, many real estate investors just went with their gut.

We didn't just drop a pin on a map when picking the 13 markets in which our funds invest. Over the past four years, we've built a proprietary suite of machine-learning models, Origin MultilyticsSM, that incorporates billions of data points and slices markets smaller than a ZIP code to pinpoint locations with strong growth potential. Multilytics is a crucial advantage that informs the investment strategy in all our real estate funds.

We've found that Multilytics is generally significantly more accurate in predicting rent growth than the third-party forecast providers that most of the market relies upon today.

Q: How does Juniper Square's investor platform compare to past tools/platforms?

A: We built and maintained our own version of an investor portal and investment management tool years back, but as our investor base grew, investors wanted more data points and details about their investments. In 2019, we also began utilizing open-end fund structures that are more complex to manage from a cap table perspective, and the system we built just couldn't keep up. We're real estate investors, not software developers, so ultimately, we chose to retire our homegrown investor portal system.

We then tried another third-party solution, but the platform didn’t meet our expectations. It created some efficiencies relative to our homegrown system, but it took too much legwork and manual effort to execute transactions and administer everything daily. Eventually, we signed up with Juniper Square.

Juniper Square doesn't break—as long as the data goes in right, it's right. There are only reporting errors if a human makes them. The integrated subscription agreement module is also huge for us. The fact that data from the subscription documents goes directly into the investor accounts is a massive efficiency driver for our team and operations.

The integrated subscription agreement and reporting modules also help streamline the investing process for our RIA partners, resulting in less time spent on paperwork and more time for them to focus on client relationships and growing their businesses.

Q: How does having Juniper Square as your fund administrator impact your LP relationships?

A: We used to work with one of the industry's largest fund administrators. The larger a company gets, the more process-oriented it has to be. This created challenges for Origin over time, as we needed a fund administration partner that could execute quicker and more nimbly.

In some cases, it would take days, if not a full week, for our previous administrator to confirm receipt of our investors’ multi-million dollar wire transfers. It was not a good look for Origin or a good experience for our investors.

Now that Juniper Square is our fund administrator, everyone works in the same ecosystem—our IR and accounting teams plus the Juniper Square accountants. When a capital call comes in, the funds are received, and they're quickly marked by our admin team. Everyone has streamlined access to the information they need to do their jobs and do it well. The integrated software and services help us to provide our investors with the level of reporting integrity and transparency they want and need.

Q: As the Head of Investor Relations, what are you focusing on in 2024?

A: My focus is on deepening our relationships with our RIA partners and building new relationships with prospective partners.

It's challenging to get an RIA to engage with you if they don't know who you are—they’re getting bombarded every day, probably by tens or hundreds of managers who want to get their products in the RIA client's portfolios. This year, we have a robust conference and in-person RIA event schedule, maximizing our presence to build as many relationships as possible.

We spent the better part of last year getting our open-end funds on two key alternative investment distribution platforms designed for RIAs. The platforms further expand RIA's access to our real estate investment solutions. They also provide RIAs with unbiased, third-party due diligence reports on our funds. Many RIAs cite lacking the resources needed to find and source the highest quality managers. The distribution platforms aim to minimize that resource constraint for RIAs, and our presence on the platforms will be a material driver of investor satisfaction.

Origin Investments was featured as one of Juniper Square's 2023 Top Fundraisers, based on our analysis of the capital raised by our clients using digital subscriptions. Digital subscriptions is one of Juniper Square's digital fundraising tools, helping GPs deliver a better investor experience and raise more capital.