Anish Malhotra of Plotify: “Trust your instinct. It’s usually right”

“Trust your instinct. It’s usually right.” — As someone who tends to “follow the data” and seek out information, I’ve found that, more times than not, my instinct on both personal and professional matters is usually spot on. This is especially true as you accumulate more life and business experience along the way. As a part of our […]

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“Trust your instinct. It’s usually right.” — As someone who tends to “follow the data” and seek out information, I’ve found that, more times than not, my instinct on both personal and professional matters is usually spot on. This is especially true as you accumulate more life and business experience along the way.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anish Malhotra, Founder & CEO of Plotify.

Anish Malhotra, Founder & CEO of Plotify, has been working in technology, real estate and investments for more than 20 years. During this time, he has helped convert new concepts into $1bn+ in revenue, including a stint as an early teamer at Bloomberg Tradebook, one of the original electronic trading platforms, and a team that innovated a product which ultimately helped raise more than $7bn for REITs. Malhotra has dedicated his career to helping others unburden the process of real estate investing and real estate management. In doing so, Malhotra believes his mission will allow others to broaden their portfolios.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

From a young age, I traveled extensively across continents. I became immersed in different cultures, which broadened my view of the world and established a sense of purpose and inclusiveness. And I believe the way I think about business has ultimately been shaped by these early global experiences.

Since I started my career more than 20 years ago, I’ve also had an affinity for products that break down barriers and democratize access to platforms that promote broader participation. I’ve been able to translate my perspective into the creation of several innovative businesses, many of which I’ve built from the ground up.

Now, I’m primarily focused in the technology space. And because one of my greatest passions is real estate, I’m enjoying turning my idea of a global real estate platform into reality.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I started my career at Bloomberg L.P. which was and is still considered by many to be the best FinTech company in the world. When you’re in those early stages of your career, you tend to take risks that, when you have more experience, you might not take. I think back to moments where my naive confidence got me into some precarious situations, but there’s one situation that stands out to me now. Looking back I think, “I can’t believe I did that.”

At the time, I was only one year into my stint at Bloomberg. I came up with an audacious concept that involved creating a trading platform in an asset class that didn’t exist. My immediate thought was that I should go straight to the top and pitch this idea to the head of the London branch, knowing that the chances for approval on it were basically zero.

I ended up getting the green light on my idea, much to my surprise, and was told, “Now go build the business.” At the time, I honestly had no idea what to do next. That’s because I hadn’t really thought much about the execution of my idea, I was only focused on the idea itself. I eventually figured it out, with the support of an amazing team, and learned a great deal along the way. Bringing a concept to life that was created without much thought as to how it would work in real life was a very humbling experience.

That situation taught me to think further down the line. If I wanted to be a true innovator, I had to be more than just an “idea person” and understand the nuances and long-term implications that my ideas had from an execution perspective.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Growing up, my very first mentors were my sports coaches. Wally, my tennis coach, and Mr. Davis, the head of sports at my school, both taught me the power of persistence, respect and teamwork. They instilled in me the discipline of practice and honing my craft and, to this day, I remember how they worked with me and my teammates to establish a sense of pride in maintaining quality through hard work.

At Bloomberg, I was surrounded by several leaders that helped foster my learning and growth. Amongst them were Kevin Foley (former CEO of Bloomberg Tradebook), Lex Fenwick (former CEO of Bloomberg) and Andrew Hausman (Tradebook Board Member), all of whom remain respected thought leaders today. I credit all three of these mentors with giving me my first big break, and I was lucky enough to have their support to take on responsibility early on in my career, which I believe is what got me to where I am today.

More recently, Rick Davidson, former CEO of Century21 (owned by Realogy), has been a mentor to me. Rick is also on Plotify’s Advisory Board and is a constant, reliable source of inspiration. He gives me perspective on how to bridge the gap between the old and new worlds of real estate investing. I won’t reveal his age (he’s senior to me, but looks younger!) and he still climbs mountains, which I find inspiring.

Can you tell our readers about Plotify and what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

For me, the best ideas are usually those that are born out of frustration, which is exactly how Plotify came to life.

A few years ago, my team and I were investing in real estate part-time, aside from our professional real estate pursuits. We were constantly frustrated by the fact that there weren’t any consolidated tools in the marketplace that could help us efficiently build and manage our diversified real estate portfolios. Our side hustle began taking up way too much of our time, which added fuel to the frustration we were already feeling.

So, we decided to fill the gap ourselves. Many of us, myself included, had worked in the business in some capacity for the last several years, so it seemed like the natural course to take. We knew the market needed a single, unified platform — an end-to-end solution that could be made available to investors throughout the world. And we knew that we had the expertise to build it, so we did.

How is Plotify shaking up the real estate investment industry? What is Plotify doing differently than anyone else?

Never before has a single platform existed that allows people anywhere in the world the ability to instantly acquire an underwritten, cash-flow positive rental property with optional and immediate point-of-sale financing, property management, insurances, taxes (both domestic and foreign), accounting and full-service asset management wrapped into the transaction itself.

We’ve taken a process that would normally take months and optimized it to take mere minutes. We’ve also allowed our customers to onboard their existing assets to their Plotify accounts, allowing them to see their entire SFR portfolios in one place for the very first time. And since everything is housed within a mobile app, our customers can view and manage their portfolios from anywhere in the world.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I think disruption is a term that is often used incorrectly. My personal opinion is that the word itself is thrown around a bit too loosely in the context of most modern businesses and industries. I’ve also seen firsthand how disrupting for the sake of disruption can lead a company down an unsustainable path.

I guess I would define the difference between a negative and a positive disruption as whether or not the disruption enhances the end user’s quality of life in some way. At Plotify, we’re seen as a disruptor in our industry because our process drastically reduces the amount of time it takes to complete SFR transactions and manage them. This reduces the barrier to entry for potential SFR investors from across the globe and completely eliminates friction from this aspect of their lives.

Personally, I’d like to see us shift away from using the term disruption altogether and instead focus on evolution or revolution. Because, if you’re disrupting for good and making positive change in the world, you’re likely contributing to an evolution of some sort. For example, Facebook created a revolutionary way for people to connect, but were they really disrupting communication, or were they evolving it to meet a modern standard? Sure, there are some people who might say that the world would be better off without Facebook or social media, but I think there’s a much stronger argument for the opposing view.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

“Perfection is the enemy of progress.” — Even if I don’t always achieve it, I have always been someone who seeks perfection. Over the years, though, I’ve learned that sometimes, this natural inclination of striving for perfection can hinder the speed of progress. As a leader it’s incredibly important for me to allow my team to iterate, and not be beholden to unattainable or “perfect” standards.

“The job of a good leader is to build more leaders, not followers.” — In my experience, I’ve found that the easier path for a leader to take usually involves making decisions and asking those around them to fall in line behind said decisions. Although, for me, the better path to take has always been to encourage my teams and those around me to make decisions for themselves. By trusting the people around me to own more of the decision-making process, it promotes greater conviction, ownership and accountability. It is also far more fulfilling as a leader.

“Trust your instinct. It’s usually right.” — As someone who tends to “follow the data” and seek out information, I’ve found that, more times than not, my instinct on both personal and professional matters is usually spot on. This is especially true as you accumulate more life and business experience along the way.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We are still in the early stages at Plotify, so we have many more years of work ahead of us. This will obviously keep me very busy, and I look forward to our evolution over time.

That said, recently, I can’t stop thinking about how we as a global society could democratize access to and real participation in sustainable farming, especially to those outside of the farming community. Not only do I think that farming can make a great investment, being a part of the solution could also be an opportunity to positively impact the environment and leave a more sustainable legacy. Who knows, maybe we will start managing farmland via Plotify!

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I’ve been an avid reader for most of my life, although I don’t get as much time to read these days as I’d like.

One book that I read during law school — “The Justice Game” by Geoffrey Robertson Q.C. — triggered a life-long fascination with human rights and the freedom of expression (or lack thereof in many parts of the world). The belief that every person has the right to live with dignity and respect is kind of existential. It’s also what led me to get involved with the global human rights community. Recently, I was privileged to be asked to join the Board of Directors of The Fund for Global Human Rights, which is based in Washington D.C. and active throughout the world.

A talk that resonated deeply with me was a 2016 TED Talk given by Tshering Tobgay, the Prime Minister of Bhutan. During his talk, Tobgay lays out a blueprint for how humankind should treat our planet and our fellow citizens. At the moment, Bhutan is the world’s only carbon negative state. The country’s mission to put happiness before economic growth and set a world standard for environmental preservation is truly inspirational. And they’ve pledged to remain carbon neutral for all time.

Another book that I have a personal story about is “Losing my Virginity” by Richard Branson. Branson has long been an idol of mine and of many others who grew up in the UK. In November 2019, I was lucky enough to be a part of a cohort of 20 people who spent four days with Branson on Necker Island discussing global issues (thanks to my wife, Avantika, who was the real star of that show). While there, Branson gave me a signed copy of his book. Along with his signature he wrote, “Better luck next time!,” referencing my loss to him that weekend during a doubles tennis match. I’ll cherish that memory throughout my lifetime.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The world is round — keep walking and you’ll find your way home.”

I’ve circled the globe many times. And having started traveling internationally at such a young age, this quote has always seemed to resonate with me. I’ve ridden on planes, trains and automobiles for what seems like a thousand times over, and now I’m so happy to finally feel at home, in place, with my family. The quote resonates even more now in light of the pandemic, which forced us all to think more about our personal definition of what home looks like.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could inspire one movement in my lifetime, it would be creating equal education opportunities throughout the world — providing literacy and education to those who need it most. In this age of information and connectivity, the divergence in opportunity and disparity between those who have access to information and connectivity and those who do not is greater than ever.

To solve that, I would argue that education is almost as essential as having clean water to drink and healthy food to eat. Of course, so many barriers to equal education for all exist, such as financial exclusion, mortality rates, discrimination in all forms and geographical and cultural barriers. Regardless, this is a movement that I believe would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people.

How can our readers follow you and Plotify online?

Readers can find me on LinkedIn here and Plotify on the social channels below:



Instagram: @plotifyapp

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us.

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