how to start your own real estate firm

Starting your own company in the real estate industry is a complicated endeavor. What does it take to make the leap? You need to have not only the right knowledge and skills, the ability to execute, and money, but also patience, kindness, and humility. This panel will explore the actual experiences of successful entrepreneurs from the many sides of the real estate industry, including architecture, construction, development, and investment.



Atif Z. Qadir (Moderator)

founder, amanat properties

Atif Z. Qadir started Amanat Properties in 2017 to focus on the renovation of historic real estate in New Jersey. He also works with other developers and investors, for whom he provides financial, design & construction and marketing consulting services. Previously, he was at Extell Development, where he was on the acquisitions and development teams for deals across the United States and Canada. Prior to that, he was at Turner Construction and at Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman & Associates Architects. He is a licensed architect and a member of the American Institute of Architects. Atif serves as a city planning commissioner in Hoboken, where he also lives. He is on the boards of The Hudson School, Haven Adolescent Community Respite Center and En Garde Arts. He has previously spoken on real estate entrepreneurship at Columbia, Harvard, Michigan, MIT and Yale. Atif received his bachelor's degrees in architecture and in urban planning from MIT and his MBA from Columbia Business School.


Matthias Hollwich

Principal, Hollwich Kushner


Matthias Hollwich is the Co-Founder and Principal of HWKN (Hollwich Kushner) and the Co-Founder of He has established himself at the forefront of a new generation of groundbreaking architects. He believes the key to successful architecture lies in finding new and exciting ways to create dialogues and relationships between people and buildings. He was a winner of the prestigious MoMA/PS1 Young Architects Program. More recently, he was honored in Fast Company’s ranking of the world’s top innovative architects and in Business Insider’s list of top business visionaries. His work has been published in leading media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Wallpaper*. His latest book, “Architecture Can!”, was co-authored by Marc Kushner and published by Images Publishing in 2018. Matthias speaks regularly at events such as TED and has taught architecture as a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Matthias previously worked as a senior designer at OMA. He received his architecture degree from the Munich University of Applied Sciences.


Liah Chin

founding principal, avela real estate partners

Liah Chin started Avela Real Estate Partners in 2018. She was previously a vice president at Artemis Real Estate Partners, a real estate investment management firm with approximately $4.0B of equity under management. It invests in multifamily, office, industrial, retail, hospitality and senior housing across opportunistic, value add and enhanced core strategies. While there, Liah was responsible for supporting the acquisition and asset management activities of the firm. Previously, she was an associate at The Praedium Group, where was responsible for the analysis, due diligence, financing and transaction execution functions for the acquisition of new assets, as well as for the management and disposition of existing assets. She also worked on the origination of mezzanine debt and the development of condominium projects in New York City. Prior to that, she was an analyst at Sorin Capital Management, a real estate hedge fund, where she focused on the evaluation of high yield real estate debt investments. Liah earned a bachelor's degree in political economy from Princeton University.


Jerome D. Smalley

CEO & Co-founder, blueprint robotics

Jerome D. Smalley founded Blueprint Robotics in 2015 to improve the process of residential construction. Prior to starting Blueprint, he formed Stonington Partners, a Baltimore-based real estate development firm focusing on residential and commercial projects in Maryland. He started his career at The Rouse Company, where he began as a construction project manager and eventually rose to Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer. He was also the President and Chief Executive Officer of Haven Custom Homes. Jerry currently serves as a board member of Rebuild Metro and previously was a board member of the Maryland Film Festival, The Reinvestment Fund, Enterprise Homes, Enterprise Social Investment Corporation, University of Maryland Biotechnology Research Park, Walters Art Museum and New Song Academy, a Baltimore charter school. Jerry served seven years of active duty with the US Army, achieving the rank of Captain while holding positions in the Corps of Engineers. He received a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Loyola University.


Jason Morganroth

partner, capital solution

Jason Morganroth is a partner at Capital Solutions, a private equity firm based in Philadelphia. Capital Solutions currently has over $400M of equity deployed in over 65 investments across the United States. Jason is focused on originating and structuring principal investments and creating new partnerships for Capital Solutions. Prior to Capital Solutions, he worked at Gazit-Globe, both in Miami and New York. While there, he focused on European and US investment opportunities, including new acquisitions, mergers, capital raising and operational improvement projects for subsidiaries.  He was part of Gazit-Globe’s mergers & acquisitions team, where he was involved in analyzing and raising debt and equity for over $700M of new investments. He was also part of the acquisitions team for ProMed Properties, a private subsidiary of Gazit-Globe, which invests in medical office and life science facilities. Jason earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.


Joe Furey

president, michael graves architecture & design

Joseph Furey is the President of Michael Graves Architecture and Design, where he is responsible for client relations, internal operations, people and culture as well as overall strategy for the firm. In addition, Joe serves as the Chief Financial Officer of Hollister Construction. With Hollister, Joe has led the acquisition of an affiliated firm, Top Safety Products, Inc., as well as the purchase of equity in Michael Graves Architecture & Design. He was previously a vice president at CSC, an information technology & services company, where he was responsible for a business unit P&L of $3.0B. He started his career at Salomon Smith Barney. He currently is on the board of Michael Graves Design Group, the product-design focused company, Top Safety Products, Inc and UGO Technologies, as well as of Montgomery Youth Football and Cheer Association. Joe earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Marist College.