Jennifer Y. Chen was recently interviewed on Mission Matters with Adam Torres.
Jennifer Y. Chen is parlaying her business and real estate experience to create an ecosystem that aims to disrupt a traditional industry to provide a unique value proposition to the marketplace. In a recent interview with Adam Torres she explains her plan and vision for the future. Below is an excerpt from the interview.
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
There’s a lot of influence from my family while growing up. My parents and many of my family members are very active in business. I can still remember digging through my father’s bookshelves as a child to find something that’s interesting to me and reading about a wide variety of subjects. I mean, I was really young. Probably, I didn’t understand many of the concepts at the time, but this experience really attracted me to business and set me on the path of being an entrepreneur. One of my first experiences leading a team took place when I was 19. I wrote about my early experience as a young female entrepreneur in that Mission Matters book as you may recall. I first came to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California around 10 years ago. I’ve been creating businesses since graduation and continue as an entrepreneur. I’ve sold a service business in the building material international trade space which gave me lots of insights on material costs in real estate and infrastructure.
What kind of advice would you give to entrepreneurs that are just getting started in business?
First of all, be brave, be strong and keep going! There are always obstacles and challenges when you start something. Looking back at my path, I moved to a new country leaving behind my parents, relatives and support system to start from scratch. I also happened to choose an industry that has been historically pretty male dominated. All of these obstacles had to be overcome to even start my business. The next thing I’d like to say to entrepreneurs is making sure they really believe in their idea. The bigger the idea the more likely they will face opposition or doubters. The main thing is to stick with it and be smart and creative to make it happen.
Tell us a little more about what you are currently working on.
What I’m doing can easily be summarized as “everything about building.” The word “building” can be used as a noun and/or a verb here. It could mean a physical building or the process of building, such as construction. On the surface, some may think of our business as a typical real estate development and management company. But our vision actually goes much deeper. I’m not a typical local developer, we are creating an ecosystem that could expand widely. I like to compare what we are doing to Apple. Apple developed an enclosed ecosystem with their own iOS system, app store, payment solutions and hardware like Macbooks. In our case, finishing construction is not the end of the project like with most developers. Building is actually just the beginning of making products that add value and enhances the overall ecosystem which in turn adds to the possibilities. The idea is to look at things not from what they are, but for what they can be.
As I mentioned, building is only the beginning, and it is the beginning of “creating a world of possibility.” Besides the flexible corporate rental units we are creating, we have a much bigger vision for the future. Imagine you only need one key to open every door in the world that can be your home. A card from us that gives you the ability to pay for your stay by simply opening the door, no check in, no check out, no contract to sign. You wouldn’t need to be a billionaire to own properties around the world to feel like you are at home worldwide. Of course this will need technology, blockchain, financial institutions, potential derivatives, etc, not only the building itself, and this is why we call it a world of possibilities.
When you mentioned flexible corporate rental units, and this “one key to open every door,” what makes your ecosystem so unique versus maybe WeWork or Airbnb?
When you look at WeWork or Airbnb, much of the expenses in their models come from paying the landlord which can be anywhere from 60-70% of total expenses. While we feel for our ecosystem it makes more sense for us to actually build and own the asset. We are our own landlord and the cost basis is the total development cost, this can lower the operational expenses significantly. And with the unique architectural design for every building, we create a living experience that’s interesting and fun for guests during every stay. Overall, it is an ecosystem where profits keep earning. Businesses make a profit; that’s how they exist.
And another main sector is that we offer corporate rental units. Safety, privacy, and being responsible to the local neighborhood make us very different. Lastly, with creating a world of possibilities, our ecosystem can also create derivatives such as asset-backed securities.
What is your vision for growing your concept going forward?
We believe that we have a great plan, it just will really take time to scale, eventually the goal is to go public. For example, SPACs are really popular at the moment, which we’ll see if that trend continues. Regarding the physical assets in our ecosystem, we are thinking of going the ABS (asset-backed security) route. Combining the physical assets with overall tech driven operation makes our ecosystem unique. We’ll always stay true to our vision and it is always exciting to connect with like-minded entrepreneurs, capitals and other creative professionals who understand and share similar views.
How far along are you with your project and concept?
Well, the whole plan comes down to we need to build our buildings and own assets, which takes the longest time. We have been making progress steadily, as the management side is up and running for some years with the platform built, and a functional integrated app in the App Store. Also, we are building a prototype in Hollywood, California right now. We’ll keep building, following our path, and doing what we do!
Jennifer Yingxi Chen is an entrepreneur experienced in architecture, construction, finance, and technology. She is actively involved in advancing and realizing innovative ideas. Jennifer holds a Master of Architecture and Graduate Certificate of Real Estate Development both from the University of Southern California. She can be reached via LinkedIn here if you would like to share your opinion or thoughts.