Calvin Cooper

Faces of Entrepreneurship: Calvin Cooper, Rhove

Our 'Face of Entrepreneurship' for the week is Calvin Cooper of Rhove

Calvin Cooper

Rhove turns renters into owners. The company’s mission is to expand access and opportunity for everyone to own a stake in their community. Before founding Rhove, Calvin Cooper spent nearly a decade helping entrepreneurs build their companies. Most recently, he was a director and venture partner at an early stage venture capital firm. He also serves on the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center’s Advisory Board. 

What does “entrepreneurship” mean to you?
CC: Entrepreneurship is a passionate journey to bring light into the world. I believe there are infinite opportunities to solve problems that inspire and improve lives. This can be done from within existing organizations, but sometimes this journey is not possible without starting a new venture. In these cases, the problem is so compelling that people are drawn to joining a team to collaborate and iterate towards fulfilling an unmet need in the world. It is an endeavor rooted in purpose and destiny. It’s about doing the thing that you can’t not do.

How did your company come to be? 
CC: I felt overwhelmed by universal joy when Rhove came to me. My dad was on the phone and my partner Ian was in the room as I rattled off the statistics, complaining again about the gap between renting and homeownership. Millennials on average have negative net worth and young people will spend over $200,000 in lifetime rent. Homeownership is getting further out of reach. Philosophers have written about the relationship between land ownership and government for centuries. If we don’t solve this problem, it will perpetuate a growing wealth gap and threaten our democracy.

Something needs to change. The current system is outdated. The binary choice between renting and owning increasingly leaves too many of us without a choice at all. Why can’t we just buy a stake in our apartment? What if every renter was an owner? What would you call that? Eureka!

At that moment, I gave the idea a name and wrote myself a note to “see it through.” I thought I’d just explore the market, learn, write out an investment thesis and find a company to support. However, I’m lucky that along the way there were incredible people that joined me in this journey and encouraged me to take the leap. There’s no problem that I’d rather be solving right now.

How has your business changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
CC: We leaned further into our core values and focused on helping renters with even greater urgency. Within days of the shutdown, we built a same day withdrawal mechanism so that renters could quickly access their funds, at no cost to them. Typically it takes 5 to 7 days for funds to settle through the ACH network. We wanted renters to be able to quickly have access to their funds during this time of need. In addition, the pandemic caused us to reflect and make our long-term plan our short-term plan. We decided that the most important contribution we could give to the world was to speed up and launch Rentership sooner.

What is your proudest and darkest moment so far? Share a key high and a key low from your journey if you can.
CC: My darkest moment was coming to terms with having to start a business. I was not seeking to start a business when the universe called. Being a venture capitalist was a dream come true, and I was looking forward to building my career as an investor. Moreover, I realized that leaving venture would disappoint several people and that I would lose friends who were depending on me to help them fulfil their dreams. I knew that there were a few people close to me that would not understand my motives and that would resist change as I worked on leaning into my light. I didn’t want to let them down. However, I knew that this problem was too important to let my own need for their support and validation get in the way of doing what needed to be done, how it needed to be done.

My proudest moment was becoming a stakeholder when we launched Rentership. I was among the first to own a stake in my apartment community along with several pioneering neighbors. It was a special moment and I was moved to tears for two reasons. 1) I was pretty much homeless ten years ago. It dawned on me that I now owned a stake in a commercial real estate development. 2) Being surrounded by our team at Rhove brought me joy. Seeing the sparkle in everyone’s eyes and experiencing the passion that everyone poured into this product was pure magic.

Our love was felt around the world. The launch of our first Rentership community was written about and shared by people all across the world. I did not expect to read about that moment in French, Portgueuese and Spanish. This was the proudest moment of my life because we inspired the world to be better. Now, renters can be owners and that is beautiful. No matter how it turns out from here for Rhove and myself, we answered the call of the universe. The world now knows that it is possible to turn renters into stakeholders. That light has already inspired others. One way or another, renters will be owners in every major city, it’s just a matter of time.

How is your company changing the landscape?
CC: We are turning renters into owners. By default, every renter is a stakeholder when they live at an apartment community that offers Rentership. Ownership is not just about finance. It’s about citizenship and social responsibility. This is a new paradigm in real estate that has the potential to transform society. The time is now.

What do you wish you knew when you started? Is there anything you would do differently?
CC: Yes, I would have released our first product sooner. I would not have wasted six months moonlighting and mapping out a 12 month product road map. We would have gone all in and put out a product in less than 3 months.

What advice/credo do you live by as you grow the business / what is your professional and personal mission statement?
CC: Love and light. My core purpose is to inspire by solving problems and I believe that everyone should do what brings them love. Rhove’s vision is to turn every renter into an owner. Imagine the love that would spring from everyone owning in our community. This moves me.

Calvin Cooper quote

Where do you find inspiration when faced with challenges?
CC: From within. Every moment is an opportunity to inspire or be inspired, from a place of infinite love and light. We are one. Lean into your light.

What does “success” look like for you? What do you think will help you achieve it?
CC: Success for me is a state of mind and lifestyle that is in alignment with my core. A few strategies include solving problems that inspire, daily meditation, working out, journaling, resting, and taking periodic vacations.

Has personal or professional “success” changed for you since the COVID-19 pandemic?
CC: No, the pandemic has not changed “success” for me. However, the world is hurting and there are more opportunities to inspire or be inspired.

What’s it like to work alone or with your partners? What advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs about building and leading teams?
CC: Leading teams requires you to first lead yourself. Then align work with passion, from a place of love. Find amazing people, facilitate success, and get out of the way.

Many entrepreneurs continue to perfect their daily routines to support their work and greater vision; would you mind sharing your morning routine or a regular ritual that grounds your work each day? How has it changed in recent months?
CC: I’ve had the great fortune to work with and observe people operate in high stakes environments for the past decade. Some people are very happy and fulfilled. Others let the pressures destroy them, their families, their team and their companies. The most important thing that I’ve learned is that sustaining high performance is only possible if you invest in yourself every day. Being on requires being off with intention.

My daily routine includes waking up at 5:30 am, getting to the gym by 6:00 am, working out for an hour, stretching and meditating. When the gym was closed during the shutdown, I replaced my morning gym routine with a daily running challenge.

What keeps you motivated during this time?
CC: I only work on problems that inspire me. Turning every renter into an owner is one of the most important challenges of our time.

What kind of an entrepreneur do you want to be known as, as in, what do you want your legacy to be?
CC: If I am remembered, I’d like to be remembered as a philosopher. Hopefully, I ask the right questions, solve important problems, contribute to society and inspire others to do the same.

What is a quote or some words of wisdom that help get you through the tough days?
CC: “If you want to become whole, let yourself be partial. If you want to become straight, let yourself be crooked. If you want to become full, let yourself be empty. If you want to be reborn, let yourself die. If you want to be given everything, give everything up.” – Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Verse 22 

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