Thinking outside the box is great for coming up with new programs, initiatives, and solutions in business, but it takes an acute sense for analysis to figure out if the outcome will be worth the effort.
Bennat Berger is a property development expert with extensive experience in multifamily and commercial property investments. As cofounder and CEO of Novel Property Ventures, Bennat oversees the acquisition, development, and sale of commercial and residential buildings in some of the most desirable neighborhoods in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Bennat and his team seek out promising multifamily and mixed-use properties that provide high returns on investment. They have worked on several multifamily projects throughout popular neighborhoods across Brooklyn and Manhattan, including Cobble Hill, Park Slope, Williamsburg, Harlem and the East Village.
Bennat Berger acquired extensive volunteer experience that helped shape his personal and professional identity through Dartmouth College Hillel’s Project Preservation. He led two separate trips to restore Jewish cemeteries in Eastern Europe that had been destroyed under Nazi occupation. He also had the opportunity to travel to Belarus and Ukraine.
After graduating with a BA in English Literature in 2006 from Dartmouth, Bennat moved back to New York to start his career in real estate. Bennat worked as a paralegal for real estate law firm Goldberg Weprin Finkel Goldstein and at a construction company in New York before accepting the position of Director of Development with Quantum Partners. During his tenure with Quantum, he oversaw the construction of the Tempo building in Manhattan, a 20-story condominium tower with 98 luxury units in Gramercy Park. In 2009, he moved to Kushner Companies, where he focused on multifamily development and acquisitions.
Bennat Berger co-founded Novel Property Ventures in 2011. He and the Novel team have become a pioneering force in the Brooklyn multifamily space and would go on to purchase approximately 50 buildings in Brooklyn in the next 5 years. Bennat’s first purchase was a 70,000 square-foot mixed-use retail and residential block known as Atlantic Gardens in Downtown Brooklyn, an area that was in close proximity to the Barclays Center still under construction at the time.
At Novel Property Ventures, Bennat specializes in adding lasting value to each property within the company’s portfolio by handling structural upgrades and aesthetic renovations. Always striving to provide the best housing and the best service at a fair price, Bennat holds core values including customer satisfaction, proactive and ethical property management, quality design and construction innovation, positive social and economic community growth, a passion for learning and a culture of accountability.
Bennat Berger is a regular contributor to Entrepreneur and VentureBeat, and shares his perspectives on topics including urban planning, New York real estate trends, and other insights on his blog. When he is not busy with work-related projects at Novel, Bennat enjoys spending time with his family and friends, practicing yoga, and reading.
Where did the idea for Novel Property Ventures come from?
My mother was a real estate entrepreneur, and has done some amazing things in the industry. I’ve always admired her, and though it wasn’t always my intention to follow in her footsteps, I definitely inherited her DNA for real estate and entrepreneurship. Novel Property Ventures was a response to the needs I saw in the field for a property management business that catered to communities, prioritizing tenant well-being and satisfaction rather than just profit alone.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
As an entrepreneur, you’ve heard it before: no day is quite the same. That said, I commute to work like every other New Yorker. I read the news, too, because it gives my days a sense of context that drives me to accomplish whatever tasks are at hand.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I attended a liberal arts school for writing, which I think very much informs how I form, test, and implement new ideas. I’ve found creativity and critical thinking to be imperative in this regard. Thinking outside the box is great for coming up with new programs, initiatives, and solutions in business, but it takes an acute sense for analysis to figure out if the outcome will be worth the effort.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I’m really excited and interested in new technology like artificial intelligence and Bitcoin. These trends verge on sci-fi but are very, very real, with implications most people don’t realize. I’m looking forward to seeing how these become mainstream, but not without a healthy dose of skepticism as to their ethics.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Staying in touch with my family. It keeps me grounded and motivates me to get things done. If you’re not checking in with the people you love, I’ve found you get really stuck in your head, lose perspective, and worst of all, can’t see the greater things in life. So I make sure to reach out in order to feel connected and ready to take on any challenges that come.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would advise myself to volunteer more. As it is, I was lucky to get to volunteer with a cause I cared about as a young person, but there’s always more you can do, right? It’s an amazing way to connect with people in need and teaches business skills as well. I think as young people we can be pretty myopic, and I wasn’t immune from that tendency, but I would definitely have liked to be.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
Social media is ruining the art of storytelling. It’s something I’ve written on before, and I really believe it: “tweetstorms” don’t qualify as artful sharing, but they do diminish the way we share our stories and life experiences while socializing in person. If you share all the time, it throws a huge wrench in the “catching up” part of friendships, damaging relationships overall.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I spend time away from my phone. We’ve all become really technology-dependent over the past few decades, and research shows it can negatively impact the way we think, work, and operate. Spending time offline is necessary to mental health, so I think everyone should make a concerted effort to create no-phone time.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I’ve looked closely at the neighborhoods and communities I’m working within before making really big decisions. New York real estate doesn’t have the best reputation, and part of that is because tenants feel ignored. My company has been successful by showing we care about things like community, sustainability, and affordability.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
As an entrepreneur, I fail all the time. One constant struggle we face is to make the property management arm of our firm profitable. It is this division of the company that allows us to redevelop property, but it has always been a loss leader. We are finding out that the only way out of the hole is to expand our business. It is a chicken and egg sort of problem. We have never purchased property for the sake of buying and creating fees, so the only way to create profitability is discipline and rigor over the long term.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
We are missing access to quality pomelos in the United States. They are grown in California but those varieties are mediocre compared to the ones in Southeast Asia. Pomelos are not only delicious but highly nutritious fruit, and there is definitely an untapped market here in America. I know it’s a far cry from real estate, but there’s definitely some potential in the pomelo business.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Probably a ticket to a concert I enjoyed. I see a lot of live music so it’s tough to narrow it down, but the arts play an important role in my life and are worth every penny spent to experience it firsthand.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I mainly use excel and PDF viewers, Google docs, and other simple stuff. One app that helps me organize my life is Wunderlist, which also happens to be great for keeping track of gift ideas.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I think How by Dov Seidman is an important book. It aims to define the value of character in business in the 21st century. According to Seidman, it is no longer what you do that matters most and sets you apart, but how you do what you do. I couldn’t agree more.
- Think outside the box is great for coming up with new programs, initiatives, and solutions in business
- Stay connected with family and spend time away from devices
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Bennat Berger on Twitter: https://twitter.com/BennatBerger
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.