Jared Kessler from Wall Street To Main Street



Jarred Kessler shares his amazing journey of going from being a successful investment banker, to striking out on his own and changing the Real Estate industry with his business Easyknock. To the amazing volunteer work he does helping people stay in their homes. He shares the bricks he went through in changing careers and building his business. He will share what he is doing now and how he learned to listen to the whispers.

Episode Transcription:

Intro plays

Ari: Welcome to whispers and bricks. My name is Ari Shonbrun. I’m your host. I have the pleasure of having with me today as a guest Jared Kessler. Jared Kessler is a vision driven entrepreneur. He’s the CEO and co founder of easy knock and former Global Head of equities at Cantor Fitzgerald and Co, a New York based financial services firm. He previously held positions at Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, Jared is the propelling force behind the name that’s changing the future of real estate. Having worked on Wall Street for years, Jared saw the fundamental issues preventing Americans from accessing the money they need. He decided he was going to do something about that. With over 15 years of experience a business strategy and development Jared has developed the first institutionalized sale leaseback platform to help homeowners across the country. He’s also the CEO of the stay mission, a nonprofit organization. Please help me welcome Jared Kessler.

Jared, how are you?

Jared: I’m good. 

 Yeah, you and I, we met we were both working at cantor. I remember you were a powerhouse at the firm. You know, the things I remember about you. A you never take no for an answer. And be you never accepted the words. It can’t be done. If it was something you wanted or needed, you found a way to make it happen. And that was that was the your endearing personality for most of us at the firm. 

Jared: Oh, thanks, Ari. It’s funny you say that? Because I’m reading

Adam grants book right now think again. And he talks about like the the most annoying things people say instead of rethinking. And one of the things one of the four things is, that’s the way we’ve always done it. And that’s like one of my biggest pet peeves. Oh, God, I always hated that. We’ve always started that way. Well, that’s why it’s been wrong for so long. Oh, yeah. It’s funny. Yeah. So like, that’s totally aligned with my thinking so that I didn’t even remember. That’s what you thought. So that’s great. Yeah. So and I’m sure you’re leading your new company in the same fashion, which is why it’s such a great success.

Ari: And I follow you, and I’m really excited about your business. And it’s great. And I know you’re doing some really great things. Now, as you know, the name of this podcast is whispers and bricks. Now the whispers are those voices telling you what is the right thing to do and represents the good in life. The bricks represent the bad things that we go through in life. Now, we all know that there are many ups and downs in life and many bumps in the road. Now, on the surface, you seem to have had a great life and a great career. But as I said, so every so often, life throws a curveball at you. You know, life hits us with bricks, my biggest brick as I always tell people was 911, you know, and the whispers helped me with my miraculous escape. Now, here’s the thing. My listeners want to know, what was some of your struggles and or failures, if any, some of the bricks that you got hit with when you were starting out in your career or throughout your career?

Jared: Yeah, that’s a great question, Ari, I’m, I think that the, the mistakes were, I should say, the struggles I had? Well, in the context of what we were talking about.

When I got into financial services, I started

working in equities. And over the course of from I got into business today is actually my birthday and 44. So nice. Day, thank you. So in. So in 1999, coming out of college, the equity business was a great business it was everyone was making a lot of money. There were a lot of a lot of people in the industry. And over the course of sort of 17 years rooms that were full of people were replaced by servers. And if anyone’s ever sort of stood metaphorically on a melting ice cube, that’s what I felt like for 15 years or so, years. And the challenge there is is when you’re when you feel like you’re stuck in a world and there’s no other choices, because what is a transferable skill for equity market maker, there’s really not much you can do with it. And a lot of these people that were making money and doing well, they really didn’t see a world outside of it. And we all sort of try to follow a syllabus for life and the people that follow the syllabus that try to rethink things as I was just talking about before.

Usually tend to be successful. But when you have a family and you can’t take risks, it becomes much harder. So I would say professionally, the biggest struggle I’ve had was, you know, working in equities working in a melting ice cube, and trying to figure out like, how to reinvent yourself and the average person. I think they say they have four careers in their lifetime. But that’s, that’s a tough nut to swallow if you’re starting from scratch. And that’s essentially what I did when I left, Canada is I said, Okay, equities is dying. I wasn’t having fun anymore. I was dealing with all this regulatory stuff. And I really want to do something new. But to have the courage to do that, sometimes you’re forced to do that. Sometimes, you’re forced, because you’re compelled. Sometimes you get fired. So professionally, that’s been sort of the biggest struggle of my life. I’ll stop there any questions or comments? Sorry? 

Ari: No, I mean, you hit the nail on the head, a lot of people

are going through and have gone through exactly what you’ve gone through. And that’s one of the points of my podcast is to let people know that they’re not alone in what they’re going through, because there are other people just like them that are going through similar things. And what’s good is that, you know, you have an answer, okay, you figured it out. And that’s what’s so important. You know, many people can’t figure it out. And they turn to podcasts like these, and they say, Oh, so that’s how he did it. That’s what I need to do. That’s great. Alright, so it’s, it’s, you know, I’m glad you because I had no idea. By the way as far as I was concerned, man, you’re on top of the world. Okay. So, you know, sometimes appearances can be so deceiving. You know, it looks like a guy’s on top of the world and reality is world’s about to crumble. Totally. Wow. Wow. Can’t let me ask you. So. So you went into the you went into the new business? You started easy knock. Right? How did how did that come about? 

Jared: Yeah, so I looked at financial services. And I said to myself, Rose State is about 50 times the size. It’s the biggest asset class in the world. And it’s about 25 years behind financial services. So if you recall, I just said to you that I watched rooms that were full of people replaced by servers. The antiquated system of of the ecosystem, real estate agents, and buying and selling homes and all that other stuff. Is, is really just there’s been not much innovation when I when I left canner in 2015. And I started easy enough, there wasn’t even a category created for real estate technology. So so it’s known as prop tech now. And I said to myself,

there’s a dynamic in the real estate market. That doesn’t make sense to me and the dynamic is the following. You have half the country right now that can’t get a HELOC can’t get a reverse mortgage can’t do a refi, they more than half the country has more than 50% of their equity in their home. And that means that the only choice for those people like a credit repaired typical middle class American is to sell their home. But people love their homes, I don’t to tell anyone that’s listening to your podcast for you. That to tell someone they have to leave their home because they need to liquidy it’s like standing in front of an ATM machine and not getting the password. So what we did is we said, I said to myself, we have to create a better way. And essentially what we did is we said you could become a renter of your own home. And then you could buy back your home when your situation gets better. Wow. You know what? Innovation, my friend innovation. It’s, it’s what you’re all about. I mean, you’ve done many, you know many, many things at Canada as well.

Ari: That were very innovative. And it’s just it’s who you are, you know, you think outside the box. That’s what I’ve that’s what I’ve noticed about you, you certainly think outside the box. But let me ask you this, then, did you ever get to a point like so low? That you said to yourself, you know what, I can’t do this anymore? I quit. I’ve given up on my dream. You know? And if you did, how did you? How did you come back from that? You know, how did you make it back? 

Jared: Yeah, so ra the truth to your answer is I feel that every day. I have a moment. It could be it could be for a second. Or it could be for a few weeks where you You say to yourself, I you know you question what you’re doing, or there’s some days where you’re questioning if this is going to be successful. And it comes from the bigger company gets, you know, Mo Money Mo Problems. Yeah, you you just you become a target. Someone once said to me, if you’re growing, you’re probably going to get sued. And I understand what they mean by that right now. I mean, we’re not getting sued, but I understand the point. And when you’re starting a business, and you know, like, like we talked about when we worked at Cantor Fitzgerald when you’re running a business and there’s like four

100 500 people reporting to you, everyone’s your friend success. Success has many friends and failure is an orphan. I’m sure you’ve heard that. I’ve heard that expression. Absolutely. And when you’re starting a business, all of a sudden, you’re not that you’re not that attractive to people anymore until you have something that’s attractive and opportunistic.

But you also find people that you’re surprised or helpful to you that you never thought were going to be helpful. The people that you thought were jerks, could be great people and the people you thought were great people won’t give you the time of day. So that’s a little demoralizing to begin with. Then, when you just have an idea on a piece of paper, and every person doesn’t return your calls, they, they, they ignore you, you see human nature, and that can be challenging and stressful. But as you start to get more success, there’s a there’s different sets of problems. Can you raise money? What do you do with people that are that quit? What do you do if you’re, you know, you’re a security breach. So there’s always something coming at you. And you got to either have broad shoulders and be tough, and figure out how to have a solution and be a good crisis manager, especially to start up. It’s never a straight line, or, you know, you can’t but at the end of the day, we specifically for startups, it’s like walking around a desert for many years without any food or water. And that’s and you have to be prepared to do that. And if you’re if you don’t have the stomach for that, you’re not going to make it. So the most important quality you can have is grit. Grit. Yes. Great. GRI T grit. Yeah.

Ari: Wow. And you’ve obviously got it because, you know, you’ve walked, you’ve worked a line. And, you know, you’ve walked the tightrope, I think and you’ve come across and and that’s wonderful. And I’m so I’m so happy for you, you have no idea.

Let me ask you this, who’s the one person that you can point to who you would say had the most influence in your life? And why?

Jared: Um, I would say the person that has the most influence in my life would probably be a cliche, it’s my mom. And the reason for that is my mom was a career mom, she didn’t take the there’s not that there’s anything wrong with you know, being a stay at home, mom. But she, she didn’t take the easy path. She started a medical company, then she started a water purification company, she was a teacher. And she always ingrained in my head of the idea of being tenacious, not taking no for an answer.

Being a good person, don’t get yourself in trouble. Success is what you give not what you take. Wow, that’s great. And you’d be surprised, by the way, maybe it is a little cliche, but most people I asked that question too, I would have to say 75% of the time, it’s, you know, my mom, you know, so you’re right there.

It’s interesting. But what I what I did find, when I asked that question is most people, most certainly most successful people had a mentor. And it was always, you know, every time I talked to people about, you know, who was responsible, whatever, it’s always a mentor, whether it’s your mom or whether it’s anybody else. But it’s always a mentor. And I realize that mentorship is so important, because it’ll help you through and through. And it’s really, it’s, you know, it’s a vital part of, of life, in general, is having that mentor. Now, one of the things I read your bio, something about the stay mission, can you tell us a little bit about that? Sure. So, um, I read a book a few years ago, as a New York Times bestseller by a guy named Matthew Desmond, and the name of the book is called eviction. And it talks about

a crisis, especially in the urban cities, lot in Milwaukee in the Midwest, but all over the country that we’re in this is before the pandemic, that eviction is a crisis going on right now. And if we’re helping people stay in their home, I thought a, an important thing to do is actually take it a step further. So the company as a whole, everyone lent their time. And we created a nonprofit called the stay mission. And the idea is, is that we allocate money to various different charities that are focused on avoiding forbearance and foreclosure. And what we believe is, there’s people that just have no control of the situation, if you have a child and we’ve had this, that has, you know, needs a heart transplant or someone gets cancer, whatever it is, you’re focused on that and you’re not gonna be able to make money to pay your bills, especially if you’re living paycheck to paycheck. And there’s a few innate rights of human beings and one of them is shelter. And one of the worst things you can do and I’m

I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures and other people have you take someone, you kick them out of their house, you move their stuff to the curb. And it’s one of the most demoralizing situations, especially if you have children. So we can play a part in avoiding that and give people a lifeline. That will go a long way. Now we design this and created this before the pandemic. And now it’s needed more than ever, the moratorium is going to end. There’s a real sort of dis disparity between the haves and the have nots. And I it’s something very close to my heart that I really believe that there’s a lot of great charities out there. You can’t help everyone. But this is one where I think it’s definitely there’s not enough focus on it. Wow, that that’s that is, who would have known that you were such a softy. Oh my god. That’s amazing. That is really, really, really great. So if somebody wants to get involved with that organization, or

pledge or donate or you know, want to find out more, how would they go about doing that? Where can they find that? Yeah, I mean, you can just you can go to easy knock calm. And there’s a section that talks about the state mission, you can just Google the state mission. There’s no other state mission. So one of the two there and you can donate if you have ideas, or charities that you want us to allocate to where you have good stories for people that we can potentially help. We want to help people. That’s, that’s great. That’s great. Last but not least, any any words of advice? For my audience, any words of wisdom, you want to tell? You want to tell them a little bit about easy knock? I think we kind of covered it a little bit.

Ari: Any parting words? Yeah, I would just say it sounded like a lot of people in your audience that are trying to overcome adversity. They’re looking for perspective, we’re looking for people how other people have gone through it.

Jared: So I’ll comment on that for easy knock people can read that easy knock.com I’m not going to give the the pitch. I so the what I would say to people, is the thing that paralyzes people the most. And this is something that I’ve experienced, and I’m sure you’ve experienced is the when you feel like you’re not in control of the situation, and you’re just paralyzed. That that is usually the most debilitating, sort of feeling to have. And if you get fired from a job, or you know, someone gets diagnosed with a disease or something happens, you can take control over mitigating and getting what if it’s a doctor, find the best doctors out there. If it’s if it’s finding a job, create a list, create a forum email, get your resume together, go out and networking events. Yeah, you can’t snap your fingers and get someone to have a meeting with you. But you can can take control of your efforts and your presentation and your education. So once you start taking control of a situation, I think you feel a lot better. And you’re going to feel like you’re in control. So that would be my parting advice to anyone that’s feeling like they’re not in control. 

Ari: Wow. Jared, thanks so much for sharing your story with my audience. Good luck going forward. You’re listening to whispers Hinrichsen. I’m your host Ari schonbrun Until next time, listen to the whispers avoid the bricks and never ever give up on your dreams. Bye for now.