Listening to Chris Brauckmuller deliver an elevator pitch about Fundrise, the real estate investment platform he works for, you’d be sure his résumé would have one—if not multiple—business degrees.
The truth is he doesn’t have any, but his experience at Warrington almost a decade ago has made a tremendous impact on his career.
Brauckmuller (BA ’08) thought his plan was set when he enrolled at the University of Florida in 2005. He majored in Political Science and minored in Business with the hope of attending law school.
That plan took a drastic turn when he answered a job advertisement in the Alligator for a student graphic designer position in UF’s Department of Recreational Sports. Brauckmuller dabbled in graphic design in high school, and thought the extra money would come in handy.
The side job became his new passion.
“I found myself really enjoying it,” Brauckmuller said. “By that time, I was almost finished with my [political science] degree so I thought it was ridiculous to change my major.”
Brauckmuller changing his minor, however, was not going to happen. His Warrington experience encompassed only six introductory courses—accounting, finance, macroeconomics, management, marketing, and microeconomics—but was incredibly impactful. He said Dr. Craig Tapley’s finance course was his favorite.
“I did not have a good understanding of how the financial system worked,” Brauckmuller said. “I didn’t know about interest rates, cost of capital, debt and equity. Looking back, those were the most valuable classes.”
That business knowledge has become even more important in Brauckmuller’s current position as Director of Design & Creative at Fundrise based in Washington D.C. Brauckmuller blends his artistry and business acumen to create an online presence that is both visually stimulating and informative. Fundrise’s vibrant photos, engaging graphics, and straightforward messaging highlight the company’s innovative crowdsourcing strategy.
“Fundrise's technology-driven real estate platform delivered a 13 percent average return to investors in 2015, and we believe that our formula will continue to drive superior returns over the long term,” said Ben Miller, Fundrise’s Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer. “Team members who understand both worlds—business and design— are critical to our success, and Chris has been an excellent example of this mentality.”
Fundrise allows everyday investors to invest in commercial real estate projects, circumventing large institutional investment partners that essentially serve as middlemen. The crowdfunding approach wasn’t permissible until Congress passed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act in 2012, but has grown significantly since then.
Fundrise now boasts more than 80,000 members, and has invested in almost $3 billion worth of real estate. The company recently raised $31.5 million in Series A funding in 2014 as it looks to widen its national scope.
The company’s growth is exciting for Brauckmuller, who was Fundrise’s second employee and resides on the company’s senior management team. Thanks to his early entrance into the company, Brauckmuller, 29, also has an equity stake—which makes him more invested in the company’s performance.
To think, just three years ago, Brauckmuller would have been content operating a small design studio in Florida. Now, he’s helping guide one of the nation’s most innovative real estate platforms, and sharing a boardroom with colleagues with business degrees from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and Duke University.
“It’s funny how things pan out,” Brauckmuller said. “I never thought I would be in this position.”