David Dollinger MRED ’87 advised USC Price School of Public Policy real estate students on how to raise funds for their first deal and detailed the strategy that has made him an entrepreneurial visionary during a presentation on March 14 as part of the Lusk Center for Real Estate Speaker Series.
The audience of graduate students will be among the first to have Dollinger’s name on their diplomas following his $10 million gift in November to rename what is now the Dollinger Master of Real Estate Development (MRED) program.
“It’s impressive and kind of an honor to be part of the program the year he endowed,” said Kendrick Askew, a full-time MRED student. “He gives a good entrepreneurial perspective on things. It’s nice to hear from him that there’s still room in the market for entrepreneurs to succeed.”
Dollinger, the principal of Dollinger Properties, was part of the program’s first graduating class when he received his MRED degree from USC in 1987.
The USC alum made his first real estate purchase as a student, gathering fraternity brothers together who pooled their money to form a partnership, with Dollinger as general partner. He asked each for chunks of $50,000 or smaller.
“The most important thing is for the first deal to be successful,” Dollinger said, “because if the first one does well then they all tell their friends, and it kind of grows. For a long time, I used all my college friends.”
Now he runs a business responsible for more than 60 properties across California representing more than 4 million square feet of retail and research-and-development space. However, he still sticks to his original method of never taking a large amount of money from one investor. His rule is to limit individual investors to $250,000 per deal, which helps keep people from being overly concerned about the money. He said he’s never lost a nickel for his more than 150 investors.
While many developers like to buy and sell, Dollinger Properties has always been focused on long-term ownership.
“For me, sell is a four-letter word,” Dollinger said. “I don’t know if you’ll find anybody in the country who has made a billion dollars buying and selling. I think you’ve got to hold and hopefully let time and inflation take over.”
With many of the bigger institutions unable or uninterested in handling small transactions, Dollinger encouraged the students that there is plenty of room for them to graduate, become entrepreneurs and do their own deals.
He advised them to start off by going to work as real estate brokers. That way they can learn the market and see what deals are out there. When they find a really good one, they will then have the advantage of being in an office with other brokers who will be able to recognize a good deal and provide a network of money.
“What I really like about Dave is the fact that he’s been in our shoes,” said Brad Scott, a full-time MRED student. “He gave us real, practical advice on how to get started for those of us who are interested in being entrepreneurs — to raise money from friends, start small and be consistent.”
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