Rotem Peled
From a UXUI project manager to real estate entrepreneur

I grew up in a house where both my parents were entrepreneurs. I was educated from a young age to be location independent. When I was 20 years old, they told me, “whatever you do, don’t limit yourself to a place”.

When I was 10 years old girl, I used to love watching TV shows about real estate. I liked everything about it, from real estate investing to apartment makeovers. I didn’t much like school at that time, but hell, did I love this type of shows. Instead of Bob Sponge, I’ve watched real estate. It was clear to me that real estate is what I’ll be doing in my adult life.

I was 19, serving the IDF military service, working around the clock while planning what I will do next in my life. I signed up 3 times to a real estate course in a college near my base. They never had enough people signing up, so they never opened the class.

Towards the end of my service, I went to an agency in my neighborhood. It was RE/MAX. I was 19 years old, without any real estate experience, still in IDF service. I was looking for a job with them to start right after my IDF service ends.

I don’t know how to begin explaining to you how unusual it was. You see, Israeli teenagers hardly finish high school and they are already in a green IDF uniform. At that age, you just want to have fun as your personality is being shaped. Then, you find yourself under an even more rigid framework. We don’t think what to do in life, we think about how to stay alive.

An average Israeli at the age of 21, for the first time in their life, can be “free”. They can wake up when they want during the weekdays. They can have a no-worries vacation. Basically, they can do whatever they choose to do. No parents, teachers or commanders choose their day.

So when someone is choosing to start their career, get a job around sharks as a golden fish, knowing they will have to work much harder than ever before, it’s not exactly usual…

By the way, the IDF was probably one of the best gifts life gave me because I’ve realized what I am capable of. I’ve learned plenty of skills. I’ve learned about myself that I am a problem solver and that I work much better under high pressure.

Around that time that I was accepted to my future dream job, I and my closest family went through one of the most difficult times in our family history. Details are not important but it did lead me to take a different path.

Back to being raised by entrepreneurial parents. It was time for me to figure out what I want to do in life… I and my mom started to design jewelry for fun. Then friends wanted to buy our pieces which lead me to open my first online jewelry shop.

So I’ve self-learned online marketing. It was 2013. I’ve experienced the power of online groups and communities. I was able to get high traffic to the new site with zero marketing costs.

I was 21 years old, with plenty of ego boost by the IDF. I had a crazy need to prove mostly to myself that I can do it alone. So I did plenty of mistakes. One of them was not researching who is actually buying online at that time. But the traffic was good (:

Then started a period of my life as a digital nomad. I and my parents traveled around the globe for several years. We’ve experienced different cultures, mentalities, and languages. In a period of about 6 years, we’ve lived from a couple of months to a couple of years in England, France, Andorra, Costa Rica, Panama, Bulgaria, Georgia, and Germany… It was a fascinating time and it was all possible as we all worked just with a laptop and internet connection. Maybe I’ll write about it in a separate post.

A lot has happened during that period. Long story short, I ended up learning product design and was the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) and CPO (Chief Product Officer) of a startup I’ve built with my team. My father, a well-experienced web developer with a business background and my mother who has lots of business experience, marketing and strategy.

We did some things very well and some not…

That was going on for three years. We started as a three-person team on a mountain overlooking the jungle and the ocean beach in Costa Rica, to a 12 employees company in Tbilisi Georgia. We did it all, pitch decks, presentation, development, marketing and all SHABEM of a startup. Our goal was to create a SAAS (Software As A Service) platform for topic-based online communities. Forbes Georgia integrated our product on their website and other follows it.

Now we are in 2017, moving on to Berlin so we can get into the European market. Wow, the bureaucracy was insane. We understood that not all of us were able to work in this startup. To be honest, we had such a long way to go still that I said I am done. I was 25 years old, still living under my parents’ umbrella, looking to make it big one day. It seemed like it’s going to take forever.

Not taking a break after the IDF service? changing “my dream career”? I am not sure what made me make a stop. Maybe I was just tired. Not sure exactly to be honest.

If I will write what I’ve learned from it all, this blog will become the longest blog post in history.

I became a freelancer: I had clients that I provided them with product design, from prototype to a complete UX/UI design. I had others that I’ve created their website with my added value as a marketing consultant. In many cases, I gave them so much more info and tips than they asked for from my several years experience. In my first week as a freelancer, I’ve made 1200 EUR.

Finding an apartment in Berlin was crazily difficult. I was lucky. for my parents, it took nearly 8 months to find an apartment. From time to time I’ve helped friends if I could, as I really understood their pain.

One day, my mother said, “there’s an opportunity here in the real estate market in Berlin and I’m not sure yet, but I’ll see.”

Meanwhile, my father started to work for a big international company and my mother worked as a business consultant for too many companies.

February 2019

I’ve introduced my mother to a young couple my age. She worked as a tour guide and her partner was doing online trades seeking his next big opportunity.

During the conversation with them, complaining about the complexity of finding a Berlin apartment, my mom came up with the idea of a business that helps people in the process.

My mom suggested that he’ll run the business while she’ll consult him and put the initial funds. Of course, they contacted me for the website.

They didn’t really understand what and how to go about making it a working business. We all did some homework and came up with the first concept.

The rental market in Berlin is frustrating to the renter as much as to the Management Companies or brokers. The demand is so high while the supply is quite small. For one apartment you’ll get 300 people standing in line for viewing and submitting their application.

These “application” is a long list of documents required to be able to rent an apartment in the city.

Both renting and renters needed something that will make their life easier. After three weeks I’ve found myself so much into it. I was so much happier waking up in the morning. I gave them my contacts and built a beautiful website. After two months I was the main person moving the business forward. My business partner had figured out this life is not for him. My mom trusted me fully and so I’ve hired another freelancer to work with me.

We helped many clients and the business is doing GOOD. This business, Easy Move Berlin, had opened my appetite for real estate.

I didn’t fully realize how being a freelancer UX/UI designer had made me feel depressed. Suddenly I had my work, made money and also had time to live.

You see, with technology moving forward so fast, working in hi-tech means living around the clock. You choose your hours, and every time I didn’t work or didn’t learn about a new trend or upcoming technology changes, I felt like I am going backward.

Working with companies in Berlin is different. They have limited working hours. There is no one to talk with after 6 PM or in some cases at 7 PM. I didn’t have any guilt.

My mom was searching for a bigger real estate opportunity. She was offered to look at the possibility of transforming abended villages in Spain into an international artist village.

The first was that she’s working way too much and should slow down and the second was a different business opportunity haha… I gave her the idea to bring a high-quality internet to the parks of Berlin.

Berlin is very much behind in terms of communication infrastructure. Instead of working from home or from the coffee shop, people can be working in the green beautiful parks.

My mom took it a step farther and said let’s do a working station “capsules” in the parks. Meanwhile, after deep research, she said she will consider Portugal and not Spain for the artist village.

About the co-working capsules, we realized the municipality in Berlin will never approve it. As she was traveling into the rural areas of Portugal, she phoned me. Let’s put the working station across the empty fields of the highways and other beautiful locations… I said to her you are insane, call me back when there is something better.

When she arrived back in Berlin she invited me to their home for a family consultation. She said let’s make a village for digital nomads… And there I was falling in love with the new business idea all over again. A new positive pregnancy test 🙂

These villages became Harp Micro Cities: a network of Micro Cities all over Europe and the rest of the world.

A Micro City has the facilities and lifestyle as in a regular main city but on a small community scale. It is adapted to the needs of Digital workers. These micro cities will be built in rural areas.

This project is a giant real estate business. For me, the most difficult part was to understand how much time it will take to actually have a “product” or in this case a Micro City. Coming from hi-tech, you are expected to have a running product in 6 months. With Harp, it’s 6 months just planning a micro-city.

I also think that the unusual path we’ve had allows us to think outside of the box. This is why we came with a different action plan to have the first Micro City ready in six months.

It’s a completely different world in terms of the action plans; getting from an idea to a working business. I personally enjoy the ride. The fact that our target tenants are digital nomads like us makes me enjoy the process. It is a dream lifestyle for those who care to experience it.

Our experience as digital nomads and ex-pats entrepreneurs gives us many benefits. We understand how to build a community in each Harp and across the Harp network. There are plenty of people who know how to build four walls. Being able to take these walls and make them a profitable business needs much more than that.

Currently, there are over three million digital nomads in Europe. Our target group is much bigger but let’s be modest. Let’s say that just 1% of them are going to move from one Harp location to another. That’s 30K people. A Micro City can be profitable from just 200 people living there.

As a product designer, my goal was to build habit-forming products. I’ve asked myself how we can make living in Harp a habit in people’s minds. That’s a line of thinking only my background gives me.

I had to live as a digital nomad to understand the pain points.

Anyway, what I am trying to say is that from this entire journey, I’ve learned that the things you really want in life come at the times you are 100% ready for them. Looking at myself today I don’t think I was ready to back then to work for RE/MAX or do anything in real estate.

As much as Easy Move Berlin had a demand, I would have not succeeded without the things I’ve learned by then. Harp would have never existed even as a concept without mine and my family’s digital entrepreneurial lifestyle.

If you have arrived at the end thank you for taking the time to read.

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