S2E8 - Javed Khattak - Zisk Properties - Property Crowdfunding

Javed Khattak is the co-founder of Zisk Properties, a crowdfunding property platform that offers flexible investments and profitable outcomes. Educating and helping their customers throughout the entire process, Zisk aims to bring accessible property investment to the masses. 

  • Anyone can invest in properties from as low as £100 
  • Javed’s personal journey from actuary to running a start-up
  • Importance of building a brand presence when starting a business, especially amongst credibility and fraud issues 
  • Working to help those at the lower end of the financial scale by educating them on property investment in a language they understand 
  • Starting out in Pakistan as a way to test the ‘unchartered’ waters before taking the company global 
  • Maintaining financial access to a good life while ‘doing good’ and remaining sustainable 
  • Recruiting people with the same drive, values and proactiveness to create a team that works in harmony

Zisk Properties will offer property investments starting at £100. If you invest any amount over £100 by 15 Nov 2019, we will offer our free Premium Membership (only offered to investors investing over £30,000).

Benefits include:

– Priority access to new properties, up to 48 hours before public listing- Access to Zisk Premium Service events

– Early access to new features and services.

Process for claiming:- sign up and verify your profile

– invest any amount you like

– send an email to [email protected] with subject line “Claiming Coupon – GreenElements-02-0819”


[0:08] Will: Welcome back to the Green Element podcast where we feature business leaders and innovators transforming their operations to be more environmentally and socially sustainable. I’m your host, Will Richardson and I can’t wait to meet our guest today and help you on your journey of sustainability. Javed, welcome to the Green Element podcast. Thank you so much for joining us today. Javed, you’re from Zisk Properties, if you could tell us a bit more about your crowd funding property platform, that would be amazing.

[0:42] Javed: A pleasure to be here. And absolutely, so Zisk properties, the concept came about because we wanted to, you know, kind of help people, the idea is that most people around the globe are being priced out of properties, and not being able to invest into properties, as an, you know, asset class. Alongside the, I think other element that we’ve generally seen in the market is that the average person, while there are many asset classes out there to invest in, like, you know, even company shares or swaps or derivatives and so on, funds, people generally do not understand that, an average person does not understand that. So, from our perspective, the property crowdfunding platform allows people to, at the moment, invest into properties from as low as 100 pounds. And it makes it as simple as you just go onto the platform and look at the properties we try and simplify for, you know, kind of the potential investors, the key factors and the projected, you know, kind of profits from that property and why they might want to invest in that property, and the ones they like, they just then pick and invest the amount that they’re able to invest. So, lowering the barriers, you know, kind of investing into property, at the same time, allowing them, an option to invest into something that they easily understand. And like I was saying that the focus here is, obviously everybody but a little bit more on the side, where people are, you know, kind of the average person who might not have millions or hundreds of thousands of pounds to invest in access to family offices, or investment managers, and funds, and so on, and so forth. So, I think that’s the entire vision behind 

[2:21] Will: Bringing property to the masses, really. And I’m not going to jump into where you started and what, it’d be really interesting to know your background and how you ended up in the position that you’re in and that kind of journey of the decisions that got you to where you are today. 

[2:38] Javed: Absolutely. So, my background, I’m a qualified actuary, I started in some of the largest organizations in the planet, household brands, like PwC, Blacksmith Klein, Marks and Spencers, HSBC, and so on.

[2:52] Will: And for some of us who don’t know, what an actuary is, could you just quickly describe what’s an actuaries is, please? 

[2:58] Javed: Absolutely. So, actuary, you essentially ended up being taking about six audience after your undergraduate degree to qualify as an actuary, which is you become the member or fellow of the Institute and faculty of actuaries in the UK, it essentially is a lot of complicated math and, and statistics to try and make financial sense of the future. And primarily the nature of the work and the nature of, you know, kind of the studies, it allows you to work more in the insurance and pensions and investments, because they’re more, you know, kind of projections and predictions about, you know, kind of 20, 40, 60 years down the line. So, a lot of math and numbers and modeling and projections, is essentially what an actuary, you know, kind of does. So, as an actuary worked for some of these largest organizations, leading, you know, pension funds up to 6 billion pounds, a risk management, and so on, and so forth. And then after that went into management consulting for a few years to, you know, kind of look at wider business issues. 

[4:00] Javed: And all of it was well and good, and, you know, kind of good career progressions, and, and so on and so forth. But I always had, I think, a sense of disconnect, because you’re working with very large organizations and consulting and so on, but you never see things, you know, kind of from the start to finish, you never create something yourself. So, I think that was one thing that was missing, and then was I would like to think, you know, actuaries, pensions actuaries, they do valuable work. But making, you know, kind of more direct impact was something, you know, that was closer to my heart. So, when I got the opportunity to, you know, kind of join a smaller company within the blockchain and biometric ID space that was focused on financial inclusion, you know, helping people, were living on two to $5, a day around the globe, that really jumped out at me and another, you know, kind of factor, I love technology. So, those two things overlapping, that opportunity presented itself, I snapped up, high risk, you know, kind of leaving a very stable career. But I’ve always been a bit of a risk taker, I used to, you know, kind of commute to my job on a 650-cc sports bike around London for five or six years. So, I’m, you know, that kind of speaks a little bit of my personality, I guess.

[5:15] Will: Does that go against being an actuary? 

[5:20] Javed: Most actuaries would agree, most of my friends who are within the actuary’s face, they’re very kind of risk averse. So, I say, yes, I did, you know, kind of sometimes feel the oddball out. But I do thank, you know, kind of the nature because my nature ended up helping me or allowing me to take that, you know, kind of risk. And I haven’t looked back since. So, I worked there for a year, a steep learning curve, learned about blockchain, becoming an expert in blockchain in a short period of time. And as you know, kind of within the management team, they’re looking after strategy, partnerships, funding, obviously, the entire finance piece, legal matters, working with magic circle law firms to help put there, you know, kind of legal matters, ICU compliance, etc., etc. in order and innovating, doing things that have never been, you know, kind of done before. So, I did that amazing experience, but at the same time, we were doing the pilot in Pakistan, so my two brothers based in Pakistan, they were, you know, kind of doing the day to day, and I was, you know, kind of main founder head, and so on of, you know, kind of, Zisk Properties. 

[6:29] Javed: So, once, we were doing the pilot in Pakistan, and I was working, you know, kind of here, for this particular company. And then, once we got our UK registration through for Zisk Properties, I had a decision to make, that, you know, from a very corporate to, you know, kind of a company that has raised $5.2 million in an ICO and potentially valued at 50 million plus, at that point in time, me, you know, kind of leaving into something of my own with, you know, just my brothers and, you know, our, you know, kind of investment and so on. So, even you know, kind of completely the other end of the scale, but we’ve done two years, you know, kind of pilot, we’ve seen the impact, we, you know, kind of directly had on people in Pakistan families and so on. It was a difficult decision to make, but then I decided, you know, it is the right time to now focus on Zisk Properties, with the headquarter being in the UK, which was always the vision, and then you go into other countries from there. 

[7:22] Will: Can you give us some, you talk about the impacts that you had with people in Pakistan, I think you’ve got some stories on the sort of things that happens from the work that you’re doing in Pakistan?

[7:35] Javed: Absolutely. So, when we started in Pakistan, obviously, there was very different market understanding the, you know, kind of regulations around it, understanding how big credibility and fraud was an issue, you know, kind of generally, people have been scammed and so on. So, you’re trying to differentiate yourself, being a startup ends up being, you know, a unique challenge. So, we overcame that over a, you know, after a decent period time off for having a local office and so on, word of mouth, you know, kind of building the brand been building a bit of a presence, then a big factor or challenge was messaging and how do people, how do you simplify this, so people understand it? Initially, a person like me, I love options, I love, you know, kind of, okay, there’s that and the other end, and that’s how we started. But we realized very quickly that you know, the Apple, you know, Steve Jobs mentality, try to understand what your target user or customer needs, and then simplify it and just give it to them. 

[8:33] Javed: So, then we tried different messaging different, you know, kind of offerings and do some, you know, kind of local studies as well, you know, kind of getting feedback directly from our customers or investors there, and then updated the messaging. Once we, you know, kind of figure that out, then we started seeing that, there were a lot of people at the lower end, from a financial perspective, that were, would have loved to kind of come out of their rented accommodation, because that, obviously, renderer they’re just throwing it away kind of thing, in a sense, into their own, you know, kind of properties, but they didn’t have the understanding, or the knowledge or the option how to do that. And a lot of these people end up actually saving money through something, which is, I don’t know, the English name of that, but they are like, you know, kind of something similar to my wife’s keys, you know, kind of, so they end up pooling money together, and somebody is storing that money, one of the, you know, kind of 10 people, 10 families are pooling money together and on a monthly basis, for two years

[9:35] Will: What’s the word and Pakistan just to ask curiosity?

[9:40] Javed: BC, yeah. So, you know, they end up putting the money together, but it’s not invested anywhere, and over a period of, you know, kind of two years, three years, whatever the period is, you essentially get a lump sum. So, I will be, there’s no contracts, there’s, you know, kind of just that trust factor. And one person is collecting all of that money, obviously, in his homes, yeah, there have been instances where people have been, you know, kind of, yeah, mugged in. Yeah, exactly. Not, do just, you know, kind of mugged actually, and, you know, the, whatever everybody’s monies are kind of gone. So, that’s a risk factor there, then secondly, it’s not invested. So, it’s not inflation protected, you know, you’re not getting any additional returns, if I end up giving, say, 100 pounds over 20 months, so that’s 2000 pounds over 20 months, right, I will get just 2000 pounds, lump sum, maybe two months down the line, or maybe on the 20th month, so they end up doing, you know, kind of a lottery and people just end up taking whichever number they end up getting, you know, kind of thing. So, it’s just that kind of a local arrangement. 

[10:45] Javed: So, helping, you know, kind of those people educated and understand that you can invest into something, which is as simple as properties, properties, everybody understands, you know, because they live in properties, they’re renting, they’re paying somebody, they whoever is their landlord, they understand that, you know, that making money. So, if you were able to invest into a property, and you would, you know, potentially get a rental income as well. And if the property prices go up, you will, you know, kind of get a profit as well. And if your goal is to buy a property, you know, kind of down the line, then let’s say the property prices even go down, then the property that you would be buying at that point in time would also have gone down to kind of somewhat protected or hedged there in a sense as well, based on your objective. So, once we started educating people there locally with you know, kind of these different concepts, diversification, invest smaller amounts into different properties, different regions, and so on, it quickly made sense to them, people are smart, people aren’t, you know, kind of stupid, we usually kind of think that a person who might not have gone to school or might not have had a high level education and so on, or good education, they would be hard to say, but some people, you know, kind of have that mentality that they might be stupid, they might be naive, but you would see that life has taught them so much that, you know, in some respects, they might be smarter, then, you know, kind of me and other people who, you know, kind of gotten fantastic education or those opportunities. 

[12:14] Javed: So, if you help them see and understand things in the language, they understand, I think things become really, really easy. So, that education combined with the opportunity to invest into properties with us, and through our network, we were able to, you know, kind of get some fantastic returns of 20%, over that, you know, kind of pilot period, which was unheard of in the property sector. I think globally, as well and even in Pakistan, I think at that point in time, the average time was 5% per year or something like that, for the same city, but we had contact with property developers, we would go early into investment at the construction stage, and through our juniors etc., would offer those opportunities to our investors. And all of that combined, we then saw that there were certain families and people that had some savings. And there were two, three people, you know, kind of working within that family, and their common objective of the family, you know, kind of the father, three sons working, daughter, daughter in laws and whatever, was to buy their own property, because that would, you know, kind of remove that additional pressure of rent and so on from, you know, kind of their head off, of their head. 

[13:22] Javed: So, helping them invest that savings spot and in Pakistan, we don’t have the same regulatory, you know, kind of compliance requirements as the FCA. So, in terms of advice, and so on, you’re was easier to provide that. So, help them you know, kind of understand all of these concepts, help them, you know, kind of understand diversification, etc., then they invested those spots, help them do a bit of, you know, kind of mass through our, you know, kind of calculators that we even have a version of it, a simplified version of it on our website, and do some modeling with them, that okay, if you have the savings spot invested now, and you ended up, you know, kind of, as a combined family invested this much on a month basis, for a period of two years even, or just under two years and with these kinds of terms that we are targeting, even with, you know, kind of a bit of a buffer, you would have this kind of a capital towards the end, and then we through our contacts, because in Pakistan, we always had an estate agency on through our contacts and within directly from our estate agency, we could help you then disinvest your investments, and then buy a property. So, we did that for at least, you know, kind of three to five families there. And they actually, you know, having pictures with them, knowing their stories inside out, and helping them, you know, kind of from that starting point to the end, and then moving into the properties and being very happy. And so, I think that is something that you can’t buy, you know, that feeling and so on. So, I think those are the kinds of stories that we ended up seeing in our pilot.

[14:50] Will: And I think we’re seeing more and more organizations and businesses with that core purpose. One of the things we touched upon was the fact that you want to go global, but you started in Pakistan, and the proof is in the pudding, and the fact that rather than test the waters in the UK, and then move to Pakistan, you actually tested the waters in uncharted territory, as it were. So, you did the hardest job first and that because, we know what the property market is, in the UK, it’s been regulated, it’s been documented, it’s been financed for, you know, centuries, actually. So, I think that’s purpose driven, and that’s social drive to help others is such a part of the way we’re seeing organizations run now and it’s just really refreshing to see someone with your skills and expertise to be driving an organization like Zisk Properties. 

[15:49] Javed: Absolutely. Thank you very much. And I completely agree that I think, now more and more companies, you know, social impact investing, you know, these kind of concepts of becoming, you know, kind of more impact investors, some of these investors, even for larger organizations, they are looking for ways to measure, you know, kind of impact investing. And obviously, there was still always be investors that are the bottom line, the profit is the key, you know, driver for them. But you now start seeing more and more people, you know, kind of accepting the fact that you can actually get good returns or high returns from impact investing, in some cases, equally, you know, as non-impact of standard, you know, traditional investment. So, with that, you know, kind of understanding it actually enables, and I was actually looking at some studies some time ago, and as part of, I intended various and impact investing, conference, and so on as well. So, big organizations still, you know, obviously slow, but I think there’s movement there, which is great. But it was very interesting to see that a lot of grants and pure charities, while they’re doing amazing work, of course, taking nothing away from that, the amount of impact that they actually have, is a bit lower, because the pound amount in terms of the value it creates, the efficiency is lower than a very profit driven organization that has the same core values at heart. 

[17:17] Javed: So, by definition of profit making with an organization with certain objectives, it has to be lean, it has to be, you know, kind of very efficient, it has to be, you know, kind of, innocence cutthroat to achieve its objectives. Good thing here is that the objectives are actually now good. So, I ended up deciding seeing that these new startups and organizations and so on, they’re actually creating more of an impact, and a longer lasting impact sustainability and the very hard because obviously, the business needs to be sustainable, which means that the impact that they’re making has to be sustainable by definition. So, that’s what I’m, you know, kind of seeing generally, which very excited to, you know, kind of see that’s happening around the world and we’re kind of helping our fellow human beings are the globe. And with Zisk Properties, absolutely right that, in the UK, you know, kind of existing crowdfunding platforms as well. And I think that was our key differentiating factor that we started, I’m a strong believer in that as well, that obviously I’ve got responsibilities, I want to be making money and so on, because I need to find, I can’t get away from the fact that I’ve got a family that I need to, you know, kind of feed and clothe and house and so on. And I need to make sure I give them as far as in my control a good, you know, kind of life, and access to, you know, quality resources, education, and so on and so forth. But I am of that mindset, you can be making money, while, you know, kind of doing good, don’t compromise, simple as that. 

[18:42] Will: I mean we’re seeing that with the B Corp network, of which Green Elements are a part of and I would imagine, you’ve probably you would have heard of the B Corp network, I would imagine, and you fit into that whole mentality, maybe we should talk offline about B Corp and, that’s for another day. When, you’ve got a clear mission at Zisk Properties and you work with your two brothers, and you’ve got a number of people on your website, eight or people I can’t really, exactly but when you recruit, do you expect or do you want to have people with the same values that you have?

[19:21] Javed: That is a very good question. And absolutely, absolutely very important. Because one thing I have noticed within the startup space, or, you know, creating any business, I think, for startups it’s even more important to have the right team and by right team, I mean, the right skill set, the right drive, proactiveness, and the right values. Because if you don’t have that, then right now, as a startup, you can’t be offering, you know, kind of top of the line bonuses and salaries and whatever. So, there is, you know, kind of that buy into the vision and if you’re giving equity, then you know, everything ends up being driven by that vision and that similar mindset, you know, that I buy into that, I actually want to kind of make that difference. And secondly, in a startup, the governance structures etc., are not the same as you know, kind of larger organization. So, people, the people you want to attract to your team, you want it to be those people that are not just are only driven by money, or financial incentives, because it is those people that will likely create the most value for you, because they buy into what you’re trying to do, the impact that you’re trying to make, and they share that vision. 

[20:35] Javed: And when that comes onto the table, the energies, the positivity, the rubbing off on each other, the ideas, all of that, you know, kind of align, that makes it a lot easier. And I think the final thing there is that if you end up bringing people, especially early on, on to, you know, kind of the team from junior levels to, you know, kind of the very senior levels, and they’ve got different agendas or different drivers, that would always create a friction at some point. For example, if my decisions are driven by trying to make a difference, whilst another person’s decision is driven primarily by profits, they might end up wanting then, I don’t know, not to expand into certain parts of Pakistan or Pakistan at all, for example. So, I think it is very important to make sure that the values are aligned and that’s why whenever I’m, you know, kind of recruiting or having conversations around anybody joining the team, first thing is, you know, going to this is before even, you know, kind of meet out talking about Zisk Properties, want to try and understand, you know, what are their drivers, and then be very explicit and clear about, you know, kind of why Zisk is here, why I’m here, what our goals and objectives are? And if this makes sense, great. If not, then you know, then it might not be right, or a good fit.

[21:47] Will: And out of curiosity, do you have a mission statement or mission brief core statement about what it is that you’re all about, written down for people to be continually reminded or is it just part of your culture?

[22:04] Javed: So, we did come up with a mission statement, as well as you know, our values and so on, I have to admit, I can’t remember the exact words because for me, it’s all about the story. And I can talk hours and hours about, you know, why we here and the value, and so and so forth. So, for me, I think we ended up having something like that on the website to give externally outside the team to other people who you know, kind of visit us or our website, and so on to get an idea which we are about, internally, I think our focus is never on, you know, kind of one sentence to say, this in my head, it is in your core. So, when it’s in your core, one statement cannot, you know, kind of capture all of the different facets of what you’re trying to do and achieve. But we do have, you know, kind of so within our team, we have a weekly call and at the end of that call, you know, kind of always try and make sure that we get reminded through our team, through somebody else or myself, why we, you know, kind of why we’re here. And my habit is that I try and you know, kind of use different language, different examples, different achievements, to, you know, kind of motivate people or remind us, rather than just that one statement, because I think that would, yeah.

[23:24] Will: You basically said, it’s a part of your culture. And you’re just intrinsically a part of your culture. Because if you were to ask me, I’m alone, we actually spend time writing it down, whispering I want to say now to be open. Well, I can’t remember it, but it is and I do look at it quite. And I know companies that actually have it but then if they win work, or if anything that they have to do, whether it’s investment or winning work, or new clients, or bringing people on, it’s, you had it and you go, does that, are we able to answer this question? Are we able to achieve that? I do. And I think that’s actually very good. And I think possibly, as you get bigger and bigger, that becomes more and more important, because you don’t have complete control over absolutely everyone that comes in and so therefore, I can see that working in the longer term. 

[24:16] Javed: Absolutely, I think my vision there would be that when you get to that level of size, and you know, and grow, and so on, from an internal perspective, I would actually want to be doing a bit more, you know, kind of, I touched on earlier on impact investing and having various measures for our team to ensure that every six months and so on, we’re doing a review against those, you know, kind of objectives. And it’s not something as simple as having a kind of a few core values or a particular statement or a set of statements that need to be met but being able to, having mechanisms to be able to quantify that. Because I think at the end of the day, if you can’t quantify it, then my view and objectively quantify it, and my view might be very different, you know, kind of another person’s view. So, I think that is what I would recommend and would want to be doing, once you’re in that size. 

 [25:12] Will: Brilliant, well, it’s been really, really interesting talking to you, and listening to how you’re growing and what purpose you’ve got behind Zisk Properties. So, thank you very much for being on the podcast today.

 [25:25] Javed: My pleasure, thank you very much for having me and I really hope that you know, that we together, not just Zisk Properties, but everybody can continue to move forward, as you know, kind of one, you know, race, and helping our fellow human beings. And I think it is all about giving and receiving and if we are open to other people and their problems and the sense of achievement you get through, you know, making a positive impact, I think that is priceless.

[25:57] Will: And we’ll have all of your, where we can find more information about you on our websites, and yeah, your Twitter handles, etc., social media handles, and more. So, thank you very much, Javed, thank you. 

[26:09] Javed: Thank you very much.

[26:14] Will: Thank you so much for listening to the end of this episode of the Green Element podcast. Do take a moment and share this with your friends and colleagues’ rate and review the podcast wherever you get your podcast. I’d love to know what has been your biggest takeaway from this conversation, what are you going to do differently? Please share your thoughts across social media and tag us so we can see them too @GE_podcast. For links and show notes for this episode, visit our website greenelement.co.uk/podcast. Thank you again. I hope you will join me on the next episode and together we can help create a better world.

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