Tell us about yourself?
My name is Mohsin Masud, and I am the CEO & founder of AKRU, a real estate investment platform working towards democratizing commercial real estate investments.
I have more than a decade of experience in real estate investments and development and have run a successful investment company.
I started off getting my undergrad from York University in Toronto, then attended Harvard Business School, Graduate of design at Harvard University, and most recently, Said Business School at the University of Oxford with a focus on finance, real estate development and urban design and blockchain. I am currently based in Cincinnati, Ohio.
What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?
I think that people tend to underestimate the number of hats that founders have to wear when their company is in its nascency.
TV shows tend to glamorize startup life as one big ping-pong playing, beer swilling, stock-option bonanza, but the truth is much more nuanced. Yes, early stage companies are fast-paced and can be plenty of fun, but they also come with crazy hours, unanticipated pivots, competing demands, and – in my case – a serious coffee habit.
My passion and background is in real estate, but just because that’s what drives AKRU, doesn’t mean that I don’t also have to make sure taxes will get filed or job descriptions will get written. Startups have notoriously high failure rates, and losing focus of the bigger vision is a huge hurdle to overcome for any entrepreneur.
Thankfully, I’m surrounded by a passionate team that knows what it takes to meet our goals, and are inspired by the company’s mission.
If you could go back in time to any moment from your journey, and give yourself one tip, what would it be?
If I could go back in time and give myself one tip, I would accept outside investments earlier on for my company.
What makes you stand out as an entrepreneur?
I’m a founder from the industry we have developed the product in — for the industry by the industry.
What are some of the best working habits you’ve gained over the past couple of years?
You have to work work and more work — never give up, learn from the falls, get up and get back at it…
Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?
AKRU started off at a dinner table in Toronto, where my insatiable desire to use blockchain to resolve liquidity and equal access for all in the commercial real estate space started to come to life.
The words: ‘this could change what I do completely in a very short period’ is what I recall as ending the conversation that night.
By April that year (2018), I had come up with a name for the company and, within the following month, had brought on board some of the brightest minds in the securities space in Cincinnati to work out the legalities of offering these “digital” securities to retail investors.
Despite everyone in the tech world discouraging us to set up as a US company and how it would lead to all kinds of regulatory concerns, I knew one thing: we were going to be a fully compliant US-based platform that would truly democratize the commercial real estate world.
Up until recently, the company had retained its original name, Tokenism, as in a distinctive practice or a movement for the love of tokens (blockchain reference), and me being an immigrant, I didn’t even realize the implications and negative connotations associated with the word until it was pointed out to me.
Upon realizing this, we very quickly hired a Brooklyn-based agency to help us with the renaming of the company.
Countless internal meetings and an infinite number of focus group discussions followed by a major product overhaul led to the birth of “AKRU.”
Where do you see your business in five years?
AKRU will be the go-to platform for getting liquidity & fractionalizing real estate. We envision a future where AKRU has more than 250k investors on the platform and over $50B of real estate deals.
What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you in getting there?
One of the biggest challenges AKRU has faced thus far has been clearing the misconceptions on Blockchain technology. Blockchain does not equate to cryptocurrency; I’d like to make that clear. Blockchain is the technology that enables bitcoin We want people to know that AKRU is a completely different platform with our own technology.
Talk to us about your biggest success story so far?
So far, my biggest success has been building AKRU to where it is today. We already have more than 250k investors on the platform and over $50B of real estate deals, and this is just the beginning. We hope to see that number skyrocket as we continue to grow.
How do clients and customers find you? Are you much of a salesperson for yourself?
As founder and CEO of AKRU I serve as the face of the company. We’ve invested heavily in large marketing campaigns to expand brand awareness.
What one tip would you give to fellow startup founders?
If I could extend just one piece of advice to my fellow start up founders, it would simply be to never give up.
And finally, what do you hope the future brings both you personally, and your business?
Success, impact, and purpose. I am deeply passionate about affording EVERYONE the opportunity to grow their hard-earned money with meaningful investments — and that’s the mission of AKRU.