This month we had the opportunity to chat with Michael O’Callaghan, one of our Suite Project members and Founder of Finback Real Estate.
The Suite Project: Tell us a little about your company and your position within it.
Michael O’Callaghan: Finback Real Estate provides capital solutions for institutional owners and operators of real estate. We raise equity capital for local operators looking to acquire, develop, redevelop, or recapitalize large commercial real estate assets. We also provide acquisition and buy side advisory services to acquire and invest in real estate for large institutions looking to invest in the US.
I founded the company about 6 ½ years ago and its most recent iteration is about 2 years old. It’s a small company so I’m kind of a jack-of-all-trades. Along with my partner, Gentry Hoit, I run operations, business development, and client management. I also source out opportunities for the company and help with underwriting opportunities and deals, while being the de facto legal counsel. We’re currently a team of three people, so still very small, but we cover properties and opportunities across the United States. We deal with investors both here in the country and abroad.
SP: What led you to this career?
MO: Actually, I started my career in politics, worked on some presidential campaigns, and worked for the Department of Commerce. Then I went to law school and became an attorney. I was a federal attorney doing law enforcement for the Securities and Exchange Commission.
I’ve done some entrepreneurial things. I ran an advertising agency here in New York for a number of years and then after that, I went into real estate as an acquisitions officer for a private equity fund.
I did that for several years and then went over to the Advisory side where I thought I could leverage my network of owners and operators throughout the US to help them raise capital.
SP: What advice would you give to someone starting out in your industry?
MO: I would start out in the part of the industry that drives all the revenue which is through leasing assets. You learn how the properties function and how they’re able to create revenue streams and drive profitability through bringing in tenants. [You could also] work for a developer that builds projects from the ground up, so you understand the nuts and bolts of how a building is built, why they’re built, and what attributes you want to build and have in order to be a successful revenue-producing entity.
SP: Which of your qualities do you think have contributed the most to your success?
MO: I would say probably my ability to connect with people and to understand what’s valuable to them. I’ve got a good knowledge base of the industry and what it takes to have a successful investment on a risk adjusted basis; then being able to translate that into meeting with clients who have different needs and matching them with the appropriate strategic partner. It’s a very relationship-based business.
SP: If you were not doing this, what would you be doing instead?
MO: Any number of things, but to be honest, I really enjoy what I’m doing now. I’ve done a lot of really different things in my career.
I enjoyed doing advertising; I thought that was a great industry. There’s more of a creative component to that which I enjoyed as well, but I think what I’m doing now is what I’m happiest doing. I like to coach too, but it’s not as lucrative.
SP: Well let’s say if money wasn’t a concern, what would you do?
MO: I mean if money wasn’t a concern, I’d love to be a professional fisherman.
SP: Name one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
MO: Well there’s actually two things. I love to cook and I like to sing, big band swing stuff. I’ve sung at probably a hundred weddings.
SP: How has being part of a co-working space benefited you and what is your favorite thing about The Suite Project?
MO: The big benefit of course is the flexibility it gives us as a new company. Our ability to plug and play in the space, being able to pick the space we wanted which was key. Even though we’re a small startup company, we’re able to have institutional-quality clients come join us and not feel like we’re in a startup space. The conference rooms on the 8th floor, particularly The Grand Central, have been important for us to have meetings in. At the same time, we’re able to have our small space that meets our needs and I didn’t have to invest in furniture and stuff, so I was able to just get in and get right to work.
SP: Dead or alive, who are your dream dinner party guests and why?
MO: I think I’d be very excited to have dinner with John D. Rockefeller to talk about how his career progressed from being a clerk to being one of the largest industrialists in the entire country, but also the largest philanthropist that’s probably ever lived and how everything came about.
John D. Rockefeller