Real Estate students, Graaskamp board members, alumni and guests are invited to join us at this year’s Graaskamp Center Innovator Award. This event is co-hosted by the Graaskamp Center and the Real Estate Club. No registration is necessary.
Each year, the Innovator Award is awarded to an individual that embodies the creative and innovative spirit of the Wisconsin Real Estate Program. We have been innovative in our teaching, in our research, and through the accomplishments of our alumni and practitioners – all dedicated to making a positive impact in our community and beyond.
Ryan Williams began his career in real estate technology during his undergraduate term at Harvard. He was inspired to create a system to track foreclosed homes after seeing the impact of foreclosures during a trip to Atlanta. By using data about properties and neighborhoods, he was able to start a business purchasing deeply undervalued homes and restoring them to occupancy. This business “flipping” homes with classmates and others as investors was his first entrepreneurial venture.
In 2020, he highlighted the importance of Citizens Trust Bank, an Atlanta bank founded by five Black businessmen and currently a Black-owned bank, to his early success. As a young Black man he was denied loans by 10 other banks before the then-chairman of Citizens Trust personally called to say that he believed in Williams.
After graduation from Harvard, he worked at Goldman Sachs and Blackstone before founding Cadre in 2014. He worked at Blackstone in their real estate private equity division.
At 26 years old, he left Blackstone to found Cadre, a financial technology platform that seeks to make the real estate market more like a stock market. Williams currently serves as CEO of Cadre and has led it through a $65 million Series C fundraising round led by Andreessen Horowitz. He has been quoted as saying “Cadre’s mission is to create a more efficient economy, where we can connect the world’s buyers and sellers in opaque assets that have been inaccessible to many.”
He believes that increasing the ability of investors to participate in alternative asset classes (such as energy, natural resources, oil, infrastructure or anything that’s historically been privately held or inaccessible will expand the opportunity to build multi-generational wealth to many more members of the world by “giving people direct, deal-by-deal access to commercial real estate, like you would buy and sell something on Amazon.” To him, that mission includes a secondary market and the ability of investors to select the deals they are most interested in, at lower cost. The Economist compared Williams’ Cadre to other tools that will “make markets for all kinds of assets as liquid as the stock market.”
He is a regular speaker at conferences and in news programs regarding real estate technology.
In 2020, he published a plan to help increase economic opportunity for diverse communities through “formal mentorship programs to provide hands-on guidance, and … comprehensive skills-training programs that help people of all ages get a start in careers that will allow them to succeed in a fast-changing economy. He has spoken on the importance of remedying racial wealth and power disparities in the United States, noting for example that only 21 of over 4,700 banks in the United States are Black-owned or Black-led. He further committed to partner with diverse operating partners and lenders, as well as committing at least 10% of Cadre’s cash holdings to be held in minority depository institutions to empower them to lend into underserved communities.
With a real estate program ranked consistently as one of the top programs in the country by U.S. News and World Report, the James A. Graaskamp Center for Real Estate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is a world-renowned institution that prides itself on academic excellence, a commitment to ethics, and real-world experiences for its students. Established in 1920, the Graaskamp Center was one of the first real estate programs in the nation. Today, it proudly educates students from all walks of life with its nationally recognized real estate programs, including undergraduate, MBA, Global Real Estate Master and PhD.