Keith Wasserman founded Gelt, Inc. in 2008 during the height of the recession and financial meltdown. Keith has been involved in the acquisition of several commercial, industrial, and residential properties mainly in the Western US now totaling over $1 billion in assets. As co-founder of Happy Home Communities in 2017, Keith added the manufactured home venue to the growing list of entrepreneurial ventures he’s involved in. He oversees the company’s operations, marketing, investor relations, acquisitions, leasing, development, and disposition services.
Keith graduated in 2007 from the University of Southern California from the Marshall School of Business. He is an avid golfer who belongs to El Caballero Country Club and is a big brother in the Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles.
Keith not only leads Gelt’s charitable giving program but recently he and Damian Langere formed The Gelt Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public non-profit whose focus is on helping renters avoid eviction and stay in their apartments during an unexpected financial emergency.
Network Capital caught up with Keith and learned about his leadership journey
1. What do you do?
I’m a serial entrepreneur. My company the Gelt Family of Companies is involved in real estate investment, real estate development, venture capital, and financial technology. I am a professional opportunist. I began my current entrepreneurial journey at the age of 24 when I bought my first property with an FHA loan (only 3.5% down payment), by borrowing $5,000 from a friend, and getting a $10,000 cash advance on a credit card. From this four unit apartment building in Bakersfield, California (Central Valley of California) my company has acquired over 8,000 apartment units and mobile home park sites with an investor base of over 500 high and ultra high net worth individual investors. These properties add up to over $1.2 billion of value. We provide our investors stable cash flow and long term appreciation. On the venture capital front we formed Gelt Venture Capital that invests in early stage technology companies. We have invested in around twenty portfolio companies in a variety of exciting industries. I like supporting other entrepreneur that are doing amazing things in this world.
2. Why do you do what you do?
I like to provide great returns to our investors whom are all personal relationships. We build this business one property at a time and one investor at a time. Our investors are our golden geese. Without them we wouldn’t have the golden eggs.
3. What is the one thing you believe to be true but others rarely agree with you on?
Way too many people in the US go to a four year college. We just backed a company called Lambda School that is doing amazing things in the education space. So many people are coming out of college with extreme debt burdens. Lambda School is a six month course that trains students for much higher earning careers in the technology space. They don’t charge any tuition and only start collecting monies once the student has a job earning over $50,000 per year.
4. Which failure or apparent failure set you up for success?
Some of our worse performing investments were the original small four unit apartment buildings we bought. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything as it helped us get to where we are at now. They were the building blocks to achieving great success.
5. What is the best investment you have made in yourself?
Finding amazing partners in my cousin and father. We compliment each other so well. Also finding my supportive wife who has been with me since day one in my career. We now have a lovely family with our two year old daughter with God willing more children on the way in the future.
6. Has your career been planned or a function of serendipity?
A little bit of both. I have never worked for anyone in my life. I always knew I was going to run my own business. I just didn’t know what type of business it would be. People that are more optimistic realize more luck because they create that luck.
7. What is the role of mentors in your life?
I have surrounded myself with great mentors since founding my business. I could not be where I am today without them. No one can do everything themselves. We all rely on others in different ways.
8. What advice would you give to your 18 year old self?
Don’t be afraid to fail. There is no such thing as an over night success.
9. What next?
Continuing to grow our existing business and looking for new exciting opportunities that others might oversee.