Ji-Soo Lee: A Go-Getter Leader Making Real Estate Investment Easy and Objective for Everyone
Ji-Soo Lee, Founder, Wefunding
Every successful leader who has ascended to the top has established a solid foundation rooted in years of diligence, discipline, and perseverance. As admirable as such accomplishments are, they are the product of relentless toil and hustling to complete every task at hand. Only a few leaders, who diligently pursue their vision, stand the test of time and stay committed to their goal no matter what reach the zenith of success. One such business leader, Ji-Soo Lee is an embodiment of strong leadership, an adept mindset, and impeccable proficiency and persistence.
When Ji-Soo was an undergraduate, he majored in industrial engineering and studied science management. In college, he obtained a certificate of appraisal and began his career at a British comprehensive real estate company. While Ji-Soo was successfully moving ahead in his career, it was his strong determination to address the major issues of complaints and ignorance in the industry that propelled him to take the entrepreneurial plunge. There have been complaints about the current social system, asymmetry in the real estate investment market, and wealth imbalance. Despite the fact that real estate investing has historically been one of the top investment opportunities, excellent real estate investment products were typically only accessible to affluent or significant institutional investors.
At that time, the concept of fintech was emerging in the United States and China. In the United States, a service called Betterment and in China, Ant-financial was providing new financial services. This made Ji-Soo contemplate that if he combines the real estate investment he experienced with financial technology (Fin-Tech), he could take a good position in the flow of big change. Thus, Wefunding, a leading Digital Real Estate Investment Platform was born to ensure that anyone can easily, objectively, and transparently invest in high-quality real estate.
“Real estate investment requires a lot of money and is complicated because you have to care about laws, taxes, and accounting. Wefunding is a service that makes it easy for anyone to invest in stable real estate. More than $80m has been invested through our service, and the annual return realized for seven years is 15.19% (In cumulative terms, it is more than 160%!). Fortunately, there has been no principal loss yet,” asserts Ji-Soo. The company also provides research services for global clients such as DWS asset management and CBRE IM.
An Illustrious Journey from a Humble Beginning
While today Wefunding has become one of the leading names in the real estate domain, the company had quite a humble beginning back in 2015. In the early days, Ji-Soo was living with his younger brother, and he made one wall of his brother’s room into a whiteboard, embodied the idea, and had a meeting. But to get off the ground, the company needed two things: finance and people. Thus, he kept the costs to a minimum. Also, he continued his current job as there was no separate office, and there were no sales in the new business. When it comes to hiring employees, he looked for close people. He explained his vision to his younger brother, friends, and colleagues at work and managed to convince them.
Initially, the business model was huge, making it difficult to raise funds in Korea, so it was planned to raise funds overseas. He finally passed a competition program, entered New York City, and tried to grow his business, but it was suddenly canceled due to the operator’s reversal. So he reduced it to a business model that he can do immediately and started right away. “Twenty-four hours a day was war. In the beginning, I tried to solve everything by myself. It was directly established from the establishment of a corporation, and rent; the office also collected more than 200 candidates, visited some, and signed a contract. I also designed the interior myself and chose and purchased furniture,” shares Ji-Soo.
While the service development was initially managed by an external developer, he eventually stopped it and lost contact. So, Ji-Soo learned development, and when he operated part of it, he modified the code himself and responded to customers all by himself. Every day, a new challenge would emerge, and once it is resolved, another problem would follow. But despite all these hurdles, Wefunding has grown from strength to strength under the indomitable guidance of Ji-Soo.
Entrepreneurship is Survival
Ji-Soo believes that survival in this fast-paced business world is one of the critical defining attributes of an entrepreneur. According to him, there are two essential elements to this — not giving up and flexibility. “There is no answer to corporate management, and new problems always arise. In addition, the difficulty of problems arising from the company’s growth is increasing. I think that never giving up on solving this problem is one of the key attributes of entrepreneurship,” elucidates Ji-Soo. Similarly, he considers flexibility as another invaluable tenet that makes effective entrepreneurs. In his words, the business environment, thoughts and minds of people, and the external social, economic, and administrative environment continue to change. Also, customers change all the time, and so do partners. Thus, flexibility is necessary to survive this dynamic.
Staying True To Its Foundational Values
Wefunding is driven by its mission, which is “to secure economic autonomy through real estate investment.” And to achieve this mission, it strives to attain different strategic visions year by year. For instance, in 2022, its vision was to make a real estate investment of $1. By 2025, it aims to turn its customers into Starbucks owners with $10, and by 2030, it aspires to create a platform to invest in five cities portfolio—Seoul, New York, Paris, London, and Tokyo with $100. To successfully realize these visions, the firm remains committed to its seven foundational values —Transparent communication and sharing, Living records, Support for trial and error, Flexibility based on data, Maintaining mutual trust, Grit, and Individuality. Also, there are six ways to work in which core values are embodied, and this is the talent image of Wefunding: Clarify Why, Over Communication, Write & Share, Trial & Error, Mutual Respect, and Consistent Grit.
Expanding its Global Footprint
As for the journey ahead, the Wefunding team now prepares to expand its sphere of influence into global waters while consistently improving its essential services that is research, and execution to better invest in digital real estate. Wefunding also aims to focus on real estate investment through artificial intelligence research but empirical results will be made by combining research and fieldwork. Based on this, it is gearing up to provide global services starting with the U.S. And to this end, Ji-Soo went on a business trip to 11 cities in the U.S. in 2021. He met, learned, and shared opinions with leaders of the leading digital real estate investment market in the United States and explored real estate players, cities, and investment cases in each region to broaden his understanding of the city.
As a seasoned leader, Ji-Soo has garnered boundless industrial knowledge and insights. In outlining the indelible industry secrets for budding entrepreneurs, Ji-Soo advises not to trust anyone and always be on guard and prepared as anyone inside or outside the team can change as the circumstances change. Meanwhile, he also encourages young entrepreneurs to learn from real experience and keep reading. “What you’ve experienced remains somewhere inside and comes out when you need it. The same is true of books. It is the most efficient means to significantly reduce trial and error. Spare no time and money to experience and read steadily. The stories of Oriental thought, Silicon Valley companies, large companies, and famous managers all help. I would suggest trying to maintain these two,” concludes Ji-Soo.