To me, resilience is the capacity to overcome failure, outside of raw luck, I think resilience is likely the single biggest determinant of success — because failure, at least at the local level, is inevitable. I think resilient people typically have a lot of grit and determination and recognize that failure is not as bad as most people think.
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases, it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market. I had the pleasure of interviewing Noah Isaacs, co-founder and co-CEO of Bowery Valuation.
Before co-founding Bowery, Noah worked for BBG, valuing over $2.5 Billion worth of commercial real estate in New York. In 2010 he started his career in Baseball Operations, “Money-Balling” for the Toronto Blue Jays. Noah graduated from McGill University with a major in Statistics and a double minor in Operations Management and Labor-Management Relations. He has on multiple occasions lectured at Columbia University, with a primary focus on PropTech and the future of the real estate. Noah loves numbers, all things data related, and scones.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Igrew up in Berkley, Calif., and actually that’s where I met my co-founder, John Meadows. We’ve been friends since meeting at summer camp and bonding over a shared love of baseball. In fact, that love of baseball led to our first entrepreneurial venture — the California League Review — an online resource for scouting information about college and minor league players in California. Six years later, we joined forces again to create Bowery Valuation.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We were founded with the idea that modern technology can enhance a traditional business. This isn’t just in the business plan — it is also reflected in our multigenerational staff ranging in age from 22–62. Our highly collaborative workplace puts some of the biggest names in the appraisal business alongside top product engineers, resulting in a revolutionary approach to an archaic business.
Our product team sits right next to the people for whom they are designing the product. This allows us to make real-time adjustments based on feedback from the people using the product in the market. We also have a distinct advantage in that we are able to attract and recruit top analyst/new associate talent to Bowery. Being a bit more of a “modern start-up” in a very traditional business allows us to bring in top young talent to work alongside and learn from incredibly experienced and talented appraisers.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Once we had our product built, we needed to raise money in order to bring on an MAI-level appraiser, which is required to do business with any of the major lenders. It was a bit of a chicken and egg situation, as raising VC money without any customers is not ideal, but we couldn’t get a customer without funding. We were fortunate to get into the MetaProp accelerator in NYC and were able to leverage those connections to raise our seed round after that program.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
To me, resilience is the capacity to overcome failure, outside of raw luck, I think resilience is likely the single biggest determinant of success — because failure, at least at the local level, is inevitable.
I think resilient people typically have a lot of grit and determination and recognize that failure is not as bad as most people think.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Steve Jobs — in the 80s Jobs was struggling and losing a fight to IBM, and was eventually forced out of the company he founded as a result. As a founder, it’s hard to imagine a larger blow. I think most people would just give up, but Steve Jobs bounced back and later returned to Apple only to make it one of the most valuable companies in the world.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
People at our previous job told us (me and my Co-Founder John Meadows) that there was absolutely no way we’d be able to build technology in the commercial appraisal industry and that there was absolutely no way someone would invest in us and our idea.
It never felt like those people were malicious and I don’t hold anything they said against them — I just don’t think they saw what we saw in terms of the vision and opportunity. I also think they knew how hard starting a business can be — something that we were lucky to be ignorant of at the time because I’m not sure we would have had the courage to start a business if we knew how challenging the early days would be.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
As we were raising our Seed Round we were told by many investors that we didn’t have a venture backable idea. We got so many “no’s” from seed-stage investors, but in retrospect, we recognize that that is just part of the process. It only takes one yes to get started and we just had to keep reminding ourselves of that.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
Other than my older brother “toughening me up”… I played baseball growing up and was never the best player on the team, but always managed to move up to the next level. It was a constantly humbling experience until my Senior year of high-school when I was cut from the varsity team, which was fair (my high school was over 3,000 people and the team was extremely talented) but stung nonetheless. I played that summer and was able to walk onto the varsity team at McGill University which was a huge win for me, only to be cut the following year (again this was warranted as I was likely the worst players in the league). I think that’s all to say that I’ve had a lot of experience with failure and while it can hurt in the moment, it doesn’t have to hold you back.
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. 🙂
According to the United Nations, there are 18,000 children that die every single day mostly from preventable causes. There are people that spend their lives thinking through how best to solve the world’s problems, so I’m hesitant to give any answer at all here, but preventable child mortality seems like it would be a good place to start.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
I don’t know if you can swing it, but I’d love to meet Melinda Gates. I am endlessly inspired by her rare combination of thoughtfulness, intelligence, and generosity. I think what she and Bill Gates are doing through their foundation is utterly inspiring and humbling and her focus on the really big picture problems of the world gives me a lot of hope for the future. Also, I heard she was an exceptional software engineer!