Many financial sites and investment clubs suffer from significant conflicts of interest that compromise their neutrality, integrity and usefulness. Today, I'm legally binding myself to a code that formalizes what I've done to make this site and club very different.
(Usual disclaimer: I'm just an investor and not a financial advisor, attorney or accountant. Consult your own financial professional before making any financial decisions).
The Real Estate Crowdfunding Review site had a record month in March and exploded to over 9,000+ visitors. Since there's a lot of newcomers, I'm getting a lot of the same kinds of questions:
How can the site and club be free?
"Are you paid by any of the platforms and sponsors for anything you do on the site (or in the investor club)"?
"I left investor club X / site Y because of a conflict of interest. How does your club / site work?"
These are great questions because most financial sites and clubs generate revenue in ways that cause conflicts-of-interest. And many investors are justifiably concerned that information from such sources isn't neutral, trustworthy, ethical or useful.
This site and club are run differently. I'm a retired entrepreneur, who started this because I wanted a hobby that's a lot more interesting than golf. I don't have a bunch of VCs or angel investors breathing down my neck to monetize the users in some short-term way that would hurt the site's integrity and reputation. And if the site shuts down tomorrow, I would be very disappointed. But I wouldn't exactly be eating Ramen noodles for the rest of my life.
Lots of sponsors and platforms have tried to offer me money for everything from referring investors of them, to talking about them, to letting them post slanted opinion pieces, to advertising. But I've turned then all down. And now, with all the new growth, I realize that there are many people who aren't familiar with me personally, and that it's time to formalize this commitment legally.
So as of today, the new terms of service include a code of ethics that I have legally bound myself to. Per the code:
No money will ever be accepted from an investment sponsor or platform for any of the following:
No money for reviews or postings (or any content in them, or to modify or delete them).
No money for introducing or connecting investors to them or their deals.
No money for users who click on links that go to their sites.
No money for advertising on the site.
Additionally, the private investor club may negotiate better financial terms on deals for the benefit of the members investing in them. No special financial terms will be negotiated for myself above and beyond what members receive.
Investor Club Exploding
Speaking of the private investment club: it's also ballooned to over 680 members and well over half a billion dollars in investable assets. We've been able to use that heft to negotiate hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits for members with reduced minimums and special terms from dozens of different sponsors. In addition, club members enjoy club-only rankings, articles, analysis, and help with due diligence from other knowledgeable investors in the forum.
If you're interested in signing up, you can do it here.
Update: 4/9/2018: What about in the future?
Someone just asked "But, how will the site be monetized in the future"? I thought I would share the answer here.
Unfortunately, I can't answer that question because I don't know yet. What I do know is that the time I put in is paid back 100x over (as I discussed above). So I'm not in any rush. I also know that I don't like how many sites and clubs are monetized in ways that causes a conflict of interest. So I'm not interested in doing that either.
Here's what could happen. I have sold copies of my deep-dive due diligence and recession stress tests to a handful of people who've asked for them. I feel this is a conflict of interest free way of monetizing, so maybe I'll work to expand this into a real/formal business. At the same time my number one priority is my portfolio. And I can already fill up up every hour of the day just sifting through potential deals, and participating in the investor club. In my spare time, I write articles for this site. I'm not sure if and when I will have the time to do this. We'll see.
I have other ideas as well: maybe selling investor education courses, etc. To deal with the time issues, I would probably partner with someone who's reputable, and also who would not cause a conflict of interest with the rest of the site. Again, my portfolio is my number one priority. So we'll see. Whatever the answer is, I'll talk about it when it happens, so that the people affected know.