Meet the Co-Founder and CEO of Cogress Ltd
Tal Orly founded Cogress in 2014. With its pioneering proposition that offers access to multi-million-pound property investment opportunities usually reserved for large investors, Tal has managed to build a network of more than 6,000 qualified investors, enabling them to become involved in the development of a mix of residential, commercial and student accommodation projects with a minimum investment of £20,000.
With more than £150m+ of equity raised for 50 projects with a GDV of over £900m and key partnerships signed with leading and established debt providers such as OakNorth, Octopus Property and Avamore, Tal has grown the business into an award-winning equity firm for property firm.
Hi Tal, could you give me an overview of Cogress?
Cogress is a private equity firm connecting qualified investors with carefully vetted property development opportunities. Since its inception in 2014, Cogresshas raised more than £140 million of equity and invested in 50 UK developments in and around London, with a gross development value (GDV) of more than £900 million. The main idea is to present property investment opportunities to a wider audience than previously possible. Historically investors might have had to know a developer personally to get the opportunity to invest in a specific scheme and would have had to be prepared to invest a very large sum of money. Alternatively, they could have invested in property via a fund but without full knowledge of all the different properties that made up that fund. Instead, at Cogress, qualified individuals can share an equity stake in a specific development. We have built an expert team of analysts who apply a rigorous due diligence process to appraising potential development deals brought to us by developers.
We then provide our community of investors with transparent and detailed information and business plans for each project, giving them the freedom to pick & choose those developments that most appeal to them and best fit their investment requirements.
Who or what inspired you to launch Cogress?
Unsurprisingly, my parents have been enormously influential in my life and always inspired me to work very hard in order to achieve my goals. And this work ethic was further reinforced by my time in the army in Israel. I was a property developer for a long time before setting up Cogress. I think that the mindset of a property developer is very similar to other kinds of entrepreneurs –you have to be comfortable analysing all the small details whilst also focussing on the big picture end goal. And you have to be prepared to take calculated risks. I am very focussed on achieving the long-term goals I have set for Cogress and, like any entrepreneur, have dedicated many hours to building a successful business. Launching a business is hard work so you definitely need to believe in what you’re doing in order to make it work.
What makes Cogress unique?
What Cogress offers in the UK is currently unique. We have a proposition that allows investors to take equity stakes (from a starting investment of £20,000) in specific property development projects. And unlike crowdfunding platforms, we provide an end-to-end offering encompassing not only our initial due diligence but also ongoing monitoring throughout the life of the project. We are there to protect investors’ best interests and their success is ultimately our success too. On the flip side, we also work hand-in-hand with developers and offer them a source of funding that differs from traditional financiers. We become their partners in the development, someone they can turn to for advice and help and it is this relationship that means many developers work with us time & time again.
What’s the single most important decision that you made, that contributed to your business?
Embracing regulation and transparency as key parts of our company and personal values. Cogress is FCA regulated and is committed to providing fair and transparent information to all our investors. We really believe that this is hugely important and these values influence everything we do in our business.
How did you conquer those moments of doubt that so often affect entrepreneurs or stop many with great ideas – what pushes you through?
Property investment is a challenging industry in which to work. The property market is affected by economic shifts and government policy changes that can at times be hard, if not impossible, to predict. Recent changes to stamp duty and the Brexit vote caused a fundamental change in the market with respect to the saleability of certain types of properties and the lending strategies of banks. Cogress needs to constantly adapt its own investment strategy and deal with any challenging situations that arise. This can at times be very stressful but we remain focussed on protecting investors’ best interests and will work tirelessly to do so.
My family are incredibly important to me and I am fortunate enough (although some might say crazy!) to work hand-in-hand with my wife who is the COO of Cogress. Whilst we try to keep our work-life and home-life separate, it is nevertheless enormously helpful to be able to share any work-related burdens and doubt that occasionally arise. I also have an excellent team of senior managers and a strong team across the business who constantly inspire me.
Who is your target audience?
Cogress is FCA regulated and therefore our investments are only available to high-net-worth investors or self-certified sophisticated investors. Nevertheless our clients come from all walks of life and backgrounds and we enjoy meeting all kinds of different clients. Many have invested in property before, either simply in a few buy-to-let schemes or others have a much larger portfolio. They enjoy investing with Cogress as it offers them a more hands-off approach to property investment and enables them to broaden their property portfolio.
Some of our investors are entrepreneurs who have made money by successfully establishing and selling their own business. They like the entrepreneurial nature of Cogress and the fact it allows them to pick and choose their own investments and analyse each project as a distinct entity with its own business plan. And many of our clients are experienced investors outside of the property world and are simply looking for new and innovative ways to invest their money. We provide all our investors with complete transparency of information, providing them with answers to all their questions and allowing them to be as hands-on or hands-off as they wish.
What would be your number one tip for young entrepreneurs who are ready to launch their own business?
Be prepared to work hard and make sure to gather a great team around you.
What plans do you have for Cogress over the coming 12 months?
Our main focus is on perfecting our current model and processes. We are very aware that the property market is facing a challenging time and we therefore want to create a range of investment structures that cater to investors’ differing appetites for risk. We are launching more mezzanine loan structures (in addition to equity opportunities) and focussing on developments with lower capital values that will be more saleable. We also believe that our investment model will be attractive in other countries and are keen to expand internationally. Ultimately our focus remains on achieving value for our investors.
What’s the most important question entrepreneurs should be asking themselves?
Do they have a product or service that someone will want to buy! The truth is that entrepreneurs often anticipate a need that customers don’t even know they have until it’s been satisfied. And entrepreneurs often have to educate their target market before customer demand can grow. However, entrepreneurs have to feel confident that customer demand will materialise and that their product/service can genuinely add value.
How do you believe the evolution of tech will affect your industry over the next 10 years?
Technology has already had an enormous impact on the property market and ‘proptech’ has already become a buzzword. Whether you’re a property buyer, seller or investor, the market has changed and there are considerably more options available to you than there were even a year or two ago. In terms of Cogress, we envisage a future where investors can access a range of investment opportunities (perhaps even beyond property) on our investment portal and invest at the click of a button. In addition, technology will enable us to work more closely with our developers and improve the efficiency of reporting and oversight.
However, whilst technology can play a huge role in streamlining all our processes, we’ll always be committed to providing complete transparency to investors and believe that the relationship our investors have with our team will always be key to our success. We believe that our investors should always be able to get hold of us at the end of the phone or have access to any of us for a face-to-face meeting so that we can answer any questions they may have at any stage of the investment process.
What habits do you think helped you to become successful?
I’m very entrepreneurial and am good at spotting opportunities. However, I also know my own limitations and think that success is impossible unless you gather together a good team with a wide range of strengths and skills.