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From Humble Beginnings to Becoming a Real Estate Developer

James Wong is the Co-founder and CEO of Vibrant Cities, a multifamily real estate development firm creating some of the most community-driven, liveable, and leading-edge buildings in Seattle and Portland. He is responsible for site evaluation, acquisition, development, funding, and banking relations.

James is a seasoned entrepreneur, investor, and founder of multiple successful companies. He’s also a sought-after thought leader, speaker, and writer on real estate, technology, and entrepreneurship. James has been an active real estate investor and property manager for the past 20 years, acquiring, developing, and managing over $800 million in real estate projects.

Intro  0:04 

Welcome to The Future Is Borderless podcast with David Nilssen, we feature top entrepreneurs and thought leaders from around the world, those who bring a global mindset and a unique perspective to their life and business. Now, let’s get started with the show.

David Nilssen  0:20 

Hey, David Nilssen here and I’m the host of the show. Here I connect with leaders from around the world who have a borderless mindset and can share ideas and innovations, best practices, things that can be applied to both life and business, ultimately helping us to continue to lead and grow in a rapidly changing world. Now, this episode is brought to you by Doxa Talent. Doxa Talent helps businesses to source full time highly dedicated workers from all over the world. And as a result, their companies can scale faster increase margin and improve culture. Most common roles that they help fill are things like virtual assistants, finance professionals, sales and service and software engineers. To learn more about Doxa, you can go to Okay. Now for today’s guest, James Wong is the co-founder and CEO of Vibrant Cities, which is a multifamily real estate development firm in Seattle, Washington, creating some of the most would say community-driven and livable, and leading-edge buildings in the greater Seattle and Portland areas. He’s responsible for everything from the evaluation of the investments they make to the acquisition, the development, the funding, even the bank relationships. James is a seasoned entrepreneur and a founder of many successful companies. And as a sought-after thought leader and speaker and writer on both real estate and technology and entrepreneurship, James has been an active investor and property manager for the past 20 years. And he’s acquired almost a billion dollars in real estate projects. And I say almost, it’s 800 million, but I’m going to round it up, because it’s such a freaking impressive number that I just I wanted to do that. So James, welcome to the show.

James Wong  2:04 

Thanks, David. Thanks for having me.

David Nilssen  2:06 

All right. Well, I want to dig into real estate, clearly have a lot going on right now. But before we get into that, I want to talk a little bit about you in the early years how you got started, because, you know, people don’t just jump into building hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate on their own. So help our listeners understand a little bit about your background and sort of how you got there.

James Wong  2:25 

Well, I’m an immigrant. I was born in China and I came to America at the age of eight people as well. Why did you come? I was born in 72. And so I just had a big fight over this past week. So it’s very tough and grueling getting up to it. Getting a five in front of the name is in front of my age is a very, very tough thing. But now that I’m here, I’m here to embrace it and looking for an awesome decade. So when I left China at eight, we left because we had no food, really, I mean, for my birthdays, that type of birthdays, when our birthdays, on the day of my birthday in China, my mom would give me one red egg to celebrate. And before we go in, you know, eat that a mom would go, hey, go around the neighborhood and show everyone you have one round egg. It was like not to brag. It’s kind of interesting content, right? It’s not to brag, but to have people celebrate with you that you actually have an aid to eat on your birthday. And so that’s kind of the humble beginnings of where I came from. And so came to America when I was eight. My mom worked as a seamstress. My dad worked in Chinese restaurants. So you typical Chinese American immigrant story. We lived in the projects were done food stamps, give you a quick story about that is when we first moved to Seattle, my parents didn’t have jobs. And I had one young sister with me as well. And so we moved on top of this church. It was kind of an ugly, rundown building. There was a small church on it. There’s a small abandoned store next to it. And then there were three small apartments on top. And we live in one of those apartments. And on Fridays and Sundays, we’re told not to run around the house. You know why? They were having tricks service on the bottom right, we learn very quickly, don’t do that. So this building was literally across the street from my elementary school. I had to do the go home was just walk across the street. But instead of doing that, I walked around the block, went through the alley, and went through the back, because I didn’t want my friends to see that I lived there. For whatever reason, a 10 years old, I felt a lot of shame living in that ugly rundown building on top of a church. And so that I think that carry with me in when we would take the bus from our apartment to Chinatown to visit my dad and buy groceries for the family I crossing from Beacon Hill into Chinatown, we would see downtown Seattle in Capitol Hill. And I said to myself, these are beautiful buildings and I said to myself, someday, I’m going to be able to afford to live in these spaces. Someday I’m going to frickin owner. And I’m going to go build an own apartment buildings that kids don’t have to feel ashamed of living in. And so that’s actually the mission statement of our company. We build vibrant, smart communities that people feel proud to call home. And I think that’s driven me all the way from 10 years old today.

David Nilssen  3:22 

Wow, that’s a pretty powerful story. And by the way, I appreciate that. I mean, oftentimes, when I do these interviews, I ask people to give me the 5%. Right, tell me, not just the story, but tell me the real story behind it. So I appreciate you sharing both of the story and the emotions behind it. Connect the dots for me, at what point from, here you are, this 10-year-old child was saying, I want to someday create these homes for people so that they can feel proud to live in them. There’s a very personal connection there. But in between there, like when did you first identify with being an entrepreneur? And what was that moment that made you think like, no, I can actually do this?

James Wong  6:36 

So I didn’t know I could do this. But I come from China in Guangzhou. And I think back then, when I was growing up, they said, whether you work there not because it was a communist country, you made $36. So there was a lot of, you wouldn’t think about it that way. But there were a lot of very unmotivated people, because whether you work or not, you got paid $36 And so there were a lot of side hustles that actually happened on the side. Because and so I think it came from various side hustles as growing extra vegetables so that you can sell it right making extra, I don’t know, tires, my grandmother sold on the side to make money for the family. And so, I think these side hustles is an entrepreneur, entrepreneurial gene, I think I just grew up with, and so having grown up with not a lot of money, and I when I grew up, my parents argued a lot. Now, I love my parents, and, but my dad, he was very, blaming man, and he had a lot of ambitions, I think that was lost, and he would blame my mom for a lot of things that guess what they would argue about money. And so for me, being an entrepreneur, and getting money was a way to solve problems. So, you know, when I got married having grown up in America, I said, my first I’m Chinese, I was born in China, my first language is Chinese, but my better language is English. But even having grown up with all that I told my wife, hey, honey, we can argue about anything. But let’s not argue about money. So in my career, I’ve had money, and I’ve had no money, right, okay. And very bankruptcy like most entrepreneurs never bankrupted a company, you could think, okay, but we’re close, multiple times, right, with several companies. But thank goodness, we’ve never had to argue about money with my wife and I. 

David Nilssen  8:34 

How did you do that, though? I mean, it is something that is a real stress for most families, right. And as you said, a minute ago, you guys have had your ups and downs financially. So how did you avoid that in those moments?

James Wong  8:47 

I think that’s a great question. I think my wife is a super, super supportive wife, being the wife of an entrepreneur is not easy. Okay? As entrepreneurs, our emotions go up and down with our sales is inaccurate. Right, when we close a big deal, it’s a high, we lose a customer, it’s a low, okay, it goes up and down. I know nothing about that. And so, I think which we both didn’t come from much. And so I’ve always had a nice fallback. And what gave me confidence to go and swing for the fences, right? And go build was always I always knew that, if I actually ever failed, I would have places to live. Like, I could always go move in with mom, or move in with my sister or my aunts and uncles. Right. Okay. worrying about food or clothing. That was never a concern. And so I knew it was always a fallback. So it’s almost, like God’s saying, go and conquer the world with confidence.

David Nilssen  9:23 

Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, I think having a clear understanding of your options if things don’t go well, this sort of alleviates some of that stress. By the way, I will just say, it resonates for me. I, I’ve never said this out loud. But it makes sense that being an entrepreneur is hard being the spouse of an entrepreneur is even harder. So I totally, totally appreciate that. That’s it for me how you got into real estate. So I know you’ve had a successful career as a tech entrepreneur, and you’ve invested in many other different types of businesses. But tell me about how you ended up in real estate. What was that process like?

James Wong  10:28 

Great question. So I built my first tech company, a year after working for one of the large firms and I studied accounting in business school. And then I went to work for one of the large, big six at that time, and I went to work in New York City, and it was great and glamorous job. But then it was during days. And so then, I was leader, and we did some pretty innovative stuff inside that big firm. And so I got paid when I started that job, I got paid $36,000 salary, okay, half of that I got paid twice a month, and half of that one paycheck was not enough to pay for my rent, I needed a little bit extra money, the other paycheck, the fee for the day for my rent, it’s a struggle we enjoy, went clubbing and spent a lot of money on beer and stuff. But so what I did was we were working inside that large company is Arthur Andersen. And I was able to get like half a million dollars’ worth of business for Arthur Andersen, we know what the hell we’re doing. But we went and talked to this big bank. And we talked to the partners that were tech guys in this how you outside yourself, we’re tech guys, in a financial services industry. guy knew a little bit about tech one up so with a partner say, hey, there’s a different way to analyze this deal. Would you like to do it because I don’t know what the hell you’re doing. But it’s working well. And we’re able to connect people in New York, London and Tokyo, real-time instead of FedExing information, and we’re creating the sense of the first extranet when that name didn’t even exist. And so we created that. And then there’s a pain that’s really innovative. Why don’t you bring this out? Why don’t we ask our customers if they want this right? And they said, We don’t know what the hell you’re doing. But you go do it, okay, and we’re going to bring in half a million dollars. Now remember, I got paid $36,000. And we brought in half a million dollars. Like, man, my colleague and I, at that point, we’re like, holy crap, we know the math on that one. Okay. So then we came out to try to do it on our own. But what we found out was that it wasn’t actually interesting. It wasn’t us that close that half a million-dollar business deals, it was the brand of Arthur Andersen that closed that business. And so, it took us a long time to learn that truth. Right? Okay. But we came out, struggled really hard for six months and then found a customer. Actually first customer was Arthur Andersen. They hired us back as consultants, and we got paid more than triple what we get paid. But that’s a different story.

David Nilssen  13:14 

So it worked out.

James Wong  13:16 

Yeah. So, we came out start on business was during the .com days work super hard. I said, if I know what I know, now, I was young, dumb and broke. If I know what I know. Now, I would never have started that business. But we didn’t know we thought we were gonna be the next. Arthur Andersen a century and we worked their butts off, and we actually 24 year old and my partner was 23. We both came for Arthur Andersen and we built a multimillion-dollar business. And then we got acquired five years later, almost five years later, it was during days, I didn’t even know you could sell companies back then. I did. Working, but we sold it. And it was kind of in what Chinese call our first pot of gold. So we’re going to sell the business. And with that, I became a pretty active angel investor. And so I invested in tech companies. The tech companies either make a lot of money, or lose everything, nothing in between. So to balance that risk of I started investing in real estate, because that was the risk. So I started with single-family homes. And I even was a property manager myself. So I rented it out I fix things and I was told to buy almost rundown homes, fix them up so that you can create the value yourself. And so I kind of did that and soon enough, I own a dozen homes and then started getting into apartment buildings, developing homes and investing with other people and went into apartments and here I am today 1415 years later.

David Nilssen  14:47 

That’s amazing. I love the fact that you left Arthur Andersen to start a business and your first client ended up being Arthur Andersen and they paid you 3X. That’s amazing. So James, you guys, you guys are doing some pretty amazing things. I’d love to understand Yeah, how do you differentiate in the market today? Like when you think about Vibrant Cities and the things that you guys are building, and you’re doing, what is unique about your model?

James Wong  15:09 

Sure. So I think it gets to the concept of borderless, right. I grew up in Asia, well, grew up in China, and then came to the US, but I traveled back to Asia a lot. And I have investors from Asia, I think affinity plays a big part of things, right? We have investors in every one of our projects, most of them are Asian American, similar to me, who grew up in America made some money, now they want to invest in real estate. And so they also have investors in Asia. So with the Asian background, and thinking Americans love big apartments, but what won’t change around the world is great locations. A lot of people say, oh, real estate, you can buy land, you should buy land, because they’re not making any more. They said, that’s why real estate is valuable. That’s actually not true. What’s true is the right land has value. You can drive, even in a big global city like Seattle, right, you can drive an hour away, and you can buy land super, super cheap, they’ll probably never be valuable. But the right land is worth 10,000 times more, right. And so what’s true around the world’s great locations are key. But size is a cultural thing. And so what we’ve done is we’ve created smaller apartments in urban areas, and also created smaller retails. I also live in New York, right, you don’t need 2000 square foot retail to be successful. If you got 1000 square foot, or even seven 800 square foot, I think we’ve all been to the New York delis who, or the Chinese takeout store, which is a big, but they make a nice living from it. And they said that most retailers, especially restaurant tears, if the rent is somewhere between four to five or $6,000, they always survive. It’s when it’s like 10, 15, 20,000, that it’s too much of a burden for them. And so that’s kind of our thinking of, hey, what do we take from what’s culturally Asian, or other high density areas, even in Europe, right, okay. And then take it to the big, big box American and actually go and create great communities design with it?

David Nilssen  17:37 

That’s fascinating. And I’ve never really thought about it that way. But, you know, when I traveled to Europe, I’m always a little bit surprised by how small even the nice places are, and how the amenities are even a little bit different, right, more understated in some places. It’s funny, when you go to New York, you’re right, again, smaller sizes. So as you get into these higher density, more sort of developed areas, they start to maximize space more and more and more. And so you’re on the leading edge of that in the Seattle area. It sounds like very cool.

James Wong  17:37 

I think people are in our thesis as always, we feel some of the nice micro apartments nice is, we go there see do small efficiency dwelling units in our thesis is that we give people half the space for two thirds the rent, and two thirds of rent, they’re saving for 500 bucks a month. That’s very meaningful. When I was right out of college, you know, okay, young, four or 500 bucks a month is a lot of money. And they’re willing to give up great space because they’re not there that much anyways. Right. Okay. They’re out hanging out with friends, and doing work and other stuff.

David Nilssen  18:45 

Wow. Yeah. Well, I mean, I think there’s also culturally something shifting with the younger demographics, too, right? They’re, they’re valuing more community and proximity more so than space, right? I remember, boomers, my parents still haven’t moved out of their 5000 square foot home. And there’s only two people there. Right. I mean, that’s a generational thing. All right. So let’s talk about some of the journey along the way. I love that you came out of the gate sharing some more authentic components of your childhood. Tell me a little bit about the challenges that you’ve encountered along the ways you’ve been trying to build Vibrant Cities.

James Wong  19:23 

So I mean, look, I’m an entrepreneur, and I have so many arrows behind my back, right? I made all kinds of mistakes. So I would say that, I was learning from a mentor about real estate development. I was in Rotary. So I said, I tell people you are who you hang around with. And so when I found out that my mentor, his name was Jim, he was in real estate development investment, which at that time, I was a tech guy. I wanted to hang around with him. And so then he says, well, you want to hang out and Learn about real estate, no problem, come join me. I have a running group on Saturday mornings, okay, in afterwards then we go and have breakfast and hang out together. Okay, and we meet at those 7am. Okay, so I’ll tell you, I hate waking up early on Saturdays. And I hate running. But because I wanted to hang out and get to know these guys, right, I went and did it. And I actually ran two half marathons, and I’m very proud of myself. And it was good. But that’s what you do, right? You want to learn, you go hang out with people. And so I learned from him. And over a 14-year period, I learned I started investing with him, he was very generous man. And I spent time following him on spent the days with him and went to meetings with them. And so he was very generous with his time. And then I invested with him, I helped them raise money, I learned how to structure deals, right. And so I always tell people, look, you don’t have to do everything on your own. Go learn, right, go learn from people that have done it, it will save you a lot of time and money. And so that was kind of one of the things that I did. I also believe having come from Tech, and real estate. Tech is an innovation game. The smarter people win and you fast speed, all that kind of stuff, right? Real estate is a wisdom game. I think the more wisdom you have in real estate, it’s a longevity game, you actually make more money and actually have better results.

David Nilssen  21:39 

Very cool. Let’s go back to challenges though. James, I want to we just went through two years of a pandemic. We’re now sitting with inflation. It’s a real thing. How have these things affected your business? And like, what are you doing, if anything to sort of protect yourself? Your business your people?

James Wong  21:56 

Yeah. I mean, real estate has a lot of nuances. Okay, so the challenges wise. I’m a good finance fan, the financier, but I didn’t know the nitty-gritty’s of construction, in terms of design, getting it belt, getting all the architects and consultants engineering involved, right, it literally takes like 10,000 decisions made right to get a building from the ground up to something there, it may be even more than 10,000. So, I didn’t know a lot of that what I knew was I knew the numbers, the finance, sighs Excel, always, you know, you can always make the deal work through Excel. We joke about that in business plan. So yeah, but so Excel is one thing, right? Okay. And so, when I first got in the business, I was like, what is this contingency? Why do you need like a 5% Contingency? If everybody agreed to it, architects already drawn the plan. Okay, the GC already got it priced. Okay. And engineers told you what it takes to get a build. Why do you need this 5% contingency? Well, one thing I’ve learned is that, okay, plans will never be perfect. There’s always something that comes up wrong. Okay. And that 5% contingency, you need it. Okay. And so now, we just went through two years of COVID. Right. Okay. This is like unprecedented time. And so one of the challenges we’ve invest in the urban core in Seattle and Portland Pacific Northwest. Well, guess what happened in and it was in the history of the world kind of that no one moves out of the urban core when bad things happen, right? They always come from the outside in, right? Well, during their COVID all the reasons of living in the urban core. So it was like, Holy crap, our real estate values went down, went down, right. And we’re like, holy crap, that slack. Okay. Second, to get we had a lot of projects under construction. We had like four projects under construction, over like $200 million. Okay, so it was taking much longer to build, costs are rising because oh, one week is no steel. Another week, no lumber, another week, no joints. You’re like what the hell right? Okay. Also, my vows are going down, costs are going up, delays are getting longer. I’m telling you January 2001, I was usually a pretty optimistic person. But I was like, at my game, I mean, I felt so much pressure costs were going up and I built up a nice decent net worth, man, my cash flow was getting drained. Okay, because things are taking longer, and I was in pain. And I was like this was probably one of the toughest, toughest times in my career. And so I was like, how much longer is this going to last? I need the market to come back. And thank God and in the first half and so but guess what I didn’t feel like, there were mornings, I didn’t feel like waking up going to do things, but I’ve been doing these entrepreneurial things along and I’ve really got, you know, I feel like we’re gonna get the hell up anyways, and go move forward. And so we did that and just every day went to work and solve the problems. They weren’t fun problems. They were tough problems. But by the middle of the year 2021, market was back, rents are back up, we’re getting buildings completed, people were moving back into the city. And so thank God, so, we have to deal with cash flow issues, you know, investor upsets, right, okay. And city problems, I mean, just all kinds of stuff, real estate developments, not easy. I always say everyone thinks they can be a real estate developer until they try it. And then some of them, maybe they go bankrupt, the first attempt deals.

David Nilssen  25:57 

Well, it’s funny, I just during the pandemic-related story, certainly not on the same scale, my wife and I decided to start building a home for our family and is right before the pandemic started. And of course, the pandemic hit, and we went through all the same things you did, it’s like, one day you’ve got, they’re putting in your foundation, and then you’re waiting 90 days for a framer, because nobody’s available. And then when the framers come and 20%, more than they told you, so that contingency bucket was gone, like halfway through the project, it can be really useful, right? So what I did learn, too, is that there’s so many decisions to be made in just one home that I would never want to be a real estate developer, I’m a real estate investor instead. So maybe I’m a customer of yours someday. One thing else that you said that I think is relevant to the audience. And that is, once you read a business plan, it’s wrong, right? Like a spreadsheet can tell you anything you want it to, but until you actually get in there, get your hands dirty, it just, you need to validate when you got product-market fit into that your assumptions are right before you ever start to really hit your wagon, any specific strategy. And so I think that’s a fair feedback. And it’d be interesting to see how the future of work changes. I mean, as you know, we’re a fully remote operation, we got people all over the world. Thankfully, when the pandemic hit, we didn’t have to send people home. And now we’re not having to call them back because we were already there. And now there’s this tension in corporate America between do I work in an office, do I not like call my people back to a not? So that’s going to be an interesting shift.

James Wong  26:07 

All right, I want to add something to that from a borderless standpoint, it’s really interesting to me that they said, Look, development, design is super important in getting people all together in the same room. Because you’re dealing with so many different trades, in development. And so it was very important in some of our meetings, we had like 20 people in the same room talking right. And so you needed that felt like free flow. It was amazing to me that during the pandemic that we’re able to do these creative sessions online. And so that’s surprised and shocked us, right. And so now sometimes you’re like, yeah, we still like do meetings in person, right? Okay. But it’s like, sometimes let us doing on Zoom, right. And it still works right? So faster.

David Nilssen  28:07 

It totally works. It’s fascinating, too, because if this pandemic had happened 10 or 15 years ago, it literally would have stopped business, almost across the board. But instead, we adapted and what we always knew that the work from home or the remote sort of employee thing was coming. But I think the pandemic just accelerated the future. And now, the future is today. So we got a lot still, we got to work through. James, I want to talk about something recently, I saw as I was doing a little bit of research for this particular show, I saw that you welcomed a new addition to your team. And I saw the announcement on social media, it seems like you’re pretty excited about that. Can you give a little bit of a overview to the group on who you just welcomed into the family at Vibrant Cities and why that’s exciting for you?

James Wong  28:54 

Oh, thank you for asking about that. When I was running tech companies, there was always a finite time to these tech companies, right? You build them and then you grow them, you either IPO them or you sell them. And that’s kind of the lifecycle in tech, but in real estate, it’s a multi-generational thinking. And so I’m proud to say that, you know, my smart son, he is kind of smart. He went to Harvard, I don’t know you’d heard of that school. But he graduated from that. He went into tech investing and you know, did all kinds of stuff in real estate. So he recently three weeks ago, join our company. And I think that’s one of my most proudest moments as a entrepreneur and dad, that my smart son, find it worthy, right, find what I’ve created worthy of his life’s devotion and dedication. So thank you for asking.

David Nilssen  29:51 

That’s super cool. I think that’s entrepreneurs. Like you said, always looking at this timetable. When am I selling right? And many businesses, many entrepreneurs say to create businesses that are more lifestyle-related, they expect it to be generational, something they keep in the family. So I thought that was a really cool moment that I could tell based on your posts, you were really excited about that. All right, we’re getting close to the end, I want to just, I guess, ask a couple more questions. So let’s zoom out for just a second. When talking about just entrepreneurship in general, the whole concept of borderless is that we’re going through a time where there’s just this transformational change that is happening constantly. And I’m just curious, like, how do you stay on top of the trends in your industry? And how do you stay sharp as an entrepreneur to make sure that you’re putting like today’s best practices to work and continuing to evolve and grow?

James Wong  30:39 

Yeah, so I’m a believer of the more you learn, the more you earn. And so I always, you know, just looking to grow and seek, okay, and I did the one of the best learning I did was, at Harvard, Harvard has a program called OPM, it’s kind of like, they don’t have an executive MBA. But this is a program for business owners and presidents. And I highly encourage your audience, if they to look into that program, if they’re a business owner, and they run a great company, and they want to learn, I love it. It’s a three-year program that I did. I’m also a participant in EO Entrepreneurs Organization. And so I was past president and I helped on the board, but I wasn’t really involved in, I’m a lifer in EO, they love that organization. It’s like my tribe of people, I get energy and learning from it. But I stopped being involved in leadership in EO on a local level for many years. And then recently, I recently got into the global level of being my EO real estate champion, which is trying to build a global group of like-minded real estate development investment people. And that’s got my juices back going and learning from other real estate people from around the world. And so again, I’m a believer you are, who you hang around with. And the more successful real estate professionals investors I hang around with, the more we can learn from each other. And so those are kind of things.

David Nilssen  32:12 

That you’re done. And, by the way, for those that are interested, EO is a peer-to-peer learning organization for entrepreneurs who want to learn and grow and learn from each other. Particularly, it’s been set up in non-competitive industries. But I think some people their head might be exploding right now is that you said, you get together with people that are in your industry and share what you guys are doing, it seems a little bit counterintuitive. So can you share how that works?

James Wong  32:37 

Yeah, I think it’s an evolution of EO because I’ve been in part of these two organizations that, I’ve been involved with that long over 20 years, right, the ones rotary where I give back, and we do philanthropy stuff around the world. And then there’s EO okay. so one part feels my philanthropy, they have part feels my entrepreneurial zest, and thirst for learning, right. And so, EO started with non-competitive industries. And for me, that’s great. But now that I know the EO culture, which is about confidentiality, about safe like, you feel comfort with each other, I think, all then the next step is okay, I want to learn deeper into my industry. And so I think, because we come from that EO culture of trust and respect, we can take it to the next level of being in competitive industries. And but we also are creating forums, where this look, the world is big, right, we believe in, I don’t believe in a zero-sum game, I believe in creating a bigger pie. And so we’re all in different regions globally. And so the more we learn about how to build a better building faster, quicker, cheaper, or how to do a value add quicker, cheaper, faster, we’re all helping each other, whether we get sources capital, who do we talk to? How do we structure a deal? Right, these are important points that we can learn from each other.

David Nilssen  33:58 

Yeah, and I think at the, at its root, when I say borderless and we say the borderless mindset, that’s a mindset of abundance, not scarcity, right? It’s not about protecting what we have, but about creating opportunity that lifts up all people so I love it. James, last question for you. What are you excited about today? Why is today such an amazing time?

James Wong  34:21 

So I think in the real estate industry, prior to the pandemic, we kept saying hey, what inning are we we’ve had almost 10 years of great times and when this this song going to stop? Well, it felt like for us in the industry, the songs stopped during COVID for a little bit and then a lot of people right now oh, rising interest rates it’s scary time blah, blah, blah. Here’s what I believe. We’re still dealing with historically low-interest rates. Yes, interest rates went up but they went up from zero. Come on, guys. Like hey, ladies and gents went from zero. So yes, interest rates are higher, but we’re still dealing with a historic low-interest-rate environment. And there’s still massive demand for housing. Now, I can’t say for certain markets, but definitely for this Northwest or maybe West Coast is an amazing market still. Okay. And so I’m a big believer that the good times are coming, ride the cycle in the next six to eight years. So I’m excited.

David Nilssen  35:28 

Awesome. I love the positivity. Well, we’ve been with James Wong the CEO of Vibrant Cities. James, where can people learn more about you and the work that you do?

James Wong  35:39 

Well, thanks. Thanks for asking. You go to So And you can see the projects that we do and I’m always looking for land to buy. So that’s something that I do.

David Nilssen  35:57 

There’s an entrepreneur for you. We’re just about to close and he starts closing. I love it. James, thanks so much for bringing your thoughts, your insights, and sharing some of your positivity. I appreciate you being on the show.

James Wong  36:09 

Thank you.

Outro  36:12 

Thank you for listening to The Future Is Borderless podcast with David Nilssen. Be sure to click subscribe to future episodes so you can hear from more top entrepreneurs and thought leaders, and we’ll see you again next time.

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