8 min read

Alex Blackwood of mogul: Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Launched My Business or Startup

Alex Blackwood of mogul: Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Launched My Business or Startup
Written by
Doug Noll, Authority Magazine
Published on
May 21, 2023
Control the “Controllables”
Stressing over something you cannot control is a waste of brain power, and when building something, you need all of your mental capacity trained on your goal. Instead, work with your team on the controllables and trust the process. If you believe in your startup, you just need to find the market. Think of Wawa or In-n-out Burger — they targeted a specific geography, and they are now a countrywide brand with a ride or die loyal following. The internet is massive! Target a niche, and don’t quit until you find that niche.

Taking the risk to start a company is a feat few are fully equipped for. Any business owner knows that the first few years in business are anything but glamorous. Building a successful business takes time, lessons learned, and most importantly, enormous growth as a business owner. What works and what doesn’t when one starts a new business? What are the valuable lessons learned from the “University of Adversity”? As part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alex Blackwood.

Alex Blackwood is Co-Founder and CEO of mogul, the blockchain based investment platform creating efficiencies throughout the real estate industry. Prior to mogul, he worked in Goldman Sachs’ Real Estate Investing group and in the Investment Banking Division, advising blockchain-focused financial institutions and fintech players across the New York and San Francisco offices. During this time, he saw first-hand how blockchain technology could eliminate unnecessary processes within the archaic real estate industry, and in 2022, he started mogul with the mission to bring all of real estate onto Web3. For more information, visit or find him on LinkedIn.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Before founding mogul, I worked in Goldman Sachs’ Real Estate Investing group, as well as the company’s Investment Banking Division, advising blockchain-focused financial institutions and fintech players. Prior to joining the workforce, I graduated from Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, where I was a recruited student athlete on the men’s heavyweight varsity rowing team. My career path, and the founding of mogul, was heavily influenced by my experience purchasing a property in Dallas, TX in the early days of my career. Even after my work in the industry, and obtaining my real estate license, I found the industry maddeningly convoluted and archaic. I utilized my “garden leave” (a month off in between Investment Banking and Real Estate PE) to theorize on how one of my passions — blockchain — might be able to fix the industry and put the idea to work. Along with my co-founder and fellow former student athlete, Joey Gumataotao, we built mogul to address the industry head-on and make a better way for people to invest in real estate.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

In responding to this question, I can’t help thinking about Murphy’s Law: “Everything that can go wrong will go wrong.” As a blockchain startup, we could not have picked a worse time to start, and Murphy’s Law proved the one constant in our life. When we began fundraising for the first time, venture capitalist funds were limited as crypto prices came hurtling back down to earth. From there, unfortunate occurrences became the daily norm. In a span of about three months, we had several VCs back out of our funding round. Staying dedicated to our mission, my co-founder and I decided to pause fundraising to dedicate our focus on efficiency and weathering the storm. After a few months, we were ready to start taking meetings with investors. Then, the FTX collapse happened, followed shortly by BlockFi. These unpredictable events fully halted our fundraising until the New Year. While I may have lost a few years off the back end of my life, I would not trade a single moment of the past year. Initially, the events were like body blows. As one after the other hit, we began building up our defenses. My co-founder and I fed off one another in coming up with new, efficient strategies to grow the company and not only survive but thrive. We became nimble, proactive and more determined than ever — a “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” mentality. While this year has presented its own challenges, our lessons learned from the past year have shaped our strategies. Not only were we able to mitigate any potential disaster (in a time when most companies are consolidating), we are hiring, growing, and staying attentive to the events yet to reveal themselves.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

My drive to continue through hard times is partially inspired by Kobe Bryant vs. Lebron James. Back in 2011, Kobe lost to arguably one of the greatest teams assembled in the LeBron and Big 3 Miami Heat era. After attending that night game, I learned Kobe stayed in Miami Heat’s home court practicing his shooting until 3am. Even though he was at the tailend of his career with a legacy already etched in stone, Kobe was driven to learn, grow and avenge the loss.

I dissect drive through external drivers and internal drivers. External drivers trigger a motivation to better yourself, like in the case of Kobe losing to Miami. Most people have one of two reactions to an external driver, either they shrink away from the challenge, or they internalize the drive and it becomes a part of them as necessary to their existence as breathing. While it sounds extreme and most people would characterize it differently, the internal driver becomes an obsession impossible to shake. The night Kobe lost to Miami he could have gone home after the game; instead, he became obsessed with solving a problem only he could see. When you internalize and become obsessed, drive feels natural. Problem solving becomes a hobby. Chores become a breeze. The truth is I do not know where my drive came from, but I sure am glad it’s in there.

So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

mogul is growing steadily despite a very tough market for startups. The team and I have been very proud to weather the storm, and we have excellent investors including Tim Draper, Rosa Rios, and more, all of whom are some of our greatest supporters. The time we spent meticulously planning in the early days of mogul has definitely paid off. We look forward to continuing this resilient growth, onboarding more people onto Web3 and expanding access to the real estate asset class.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘fake it until you make it’ followed by stories like Google naming its first office space, “Building 42” in an effort to appear larger than the company was at the time. When it came time to raise institutional capital, my co-founder and I were ready to make the motto our reality. When we had our first raise meeting, we decided to rent out a conference room with video meeting capabilities in a snazzy office space. Only one problem, the video call happened during one of the worst possible snow storms. Undeterred, we made our way to the office, myself spinning out of control multiple times in a 2WD car, and Joey witnessing a full on collision. The meeting could not have gone worse. The two participants joined the video meeting by calling in via phone, not video. Additionally, the meeting was apparently with a venture debt fund who only lent on revenue. The whole conversation lasted 15 minutes for a 30 minute time slot. We learned multiple lessons that day. First, there is a time and a place for overconfidence, and in a meeting with someone looking to invest in you, transparency is absolutely essential. Second, venture capitalists have specialties, investment themes, and mandates that could rule you out prior to a conversation. We took the lessons in stride. Since that meeting, we have only conveyed our truest, most genuine, transparent self to investors, and we have only worked with funds that fit. This has resulted in investment from incredibly stellar advisors.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Had a platform like mogul existed prior to us, we would not be around. Over the past decade, retail investors have gained unprecedented access to new forms of investment. Unfortunately, because of the nascency of the full democratization of investing, platforms were created with access as the selling point, rather than attractive opportunities. Blinding users through offering access to real estate or alternative asset classes, platforms were able to charge ridiculously high, hidden fees, offer dilapidated properties, and profit from offerings that can barely be classified as real estate investments (all cash buys in terrible markets). Many of these platforms were founded by tech veterans rather than real estate veterans. As real estate investors, we have created the platform we had wanted to use. We vet each property prior to offering it on the platform. For every 1,000 properties vetted, only one is offered on the platform. We have partnerships with lenders to provide the best financing possible, with property managers to provide discounted property management fees (so much less, that if you were to go out on your own, you could not find better rates), and with inventory partners to offer investment properties in target markets. We are transparent with our fee structure and charge the lowest among competitors. We are finally offering a true real estate investing experience to those looking to start with $100. We as founders believe in the deals and invest alongside all our other users.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Over the past decade of my life, I have voluntarily devoted years of my life to some of the most sadistic hobbies, sports, and careers. From rowing, which can be characterized as a medieval form of torture turned D1 sport, to investment banking, which in a recent survey by my former group is described by someone who had been through foster care as “arguably worse [than foster care].” Between 2k workouts and 120-hour work weeks, two strategies that have helped me get through startup life are:

Routine and a sense of control over one aspect of life

In college, waking up at 5am everyday to brave the cold water of the Potomac, rain or shine, can begin to mess with you. I weirdly credit my morning routine for not quitting. In the morning, immediately when I woke up, even prior to putting on contact lenses, I would chug a massive Nalgene full of water. It was a challenge, and the feeling of drowning mixed with rapid hydration would wake me up and immediately provide a sense of accomplishment. Following the water torture, I would play music, make coffee, and stretch. Drinking the coffee on the way to the boathouse, I would collect my thoughts and intentions for the practice. The routine centered me, and I would feel a greater sense of purpose around the practice than it being a chore.

Plan something, anything to look forward to

When working through some of the darkest stretches of investment banking during COVID, I would plan a cereal break on Fridays. While we still had work on Saturdays / Sundays, I would wrap up work for the night on a Friday and pour a bowl of Fruit Loops. The 10–20 minutes spent eating the Fruit Loops was the highlight of my week, and while it sounds ridiculous, the Fruit Loops provided a greater sense of accomplishment because I had looked forward to it throughout the week. Little rewards for a job well done incentivize you and break up the monotony of continuous work.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I would not be here today without my co-founder Joey Gumataotao. When I first started theorizing about blockchain and real estate, I viewed it to be a great thought exercise more than anything else. As I thought about pursuing to build out a platform, I knew I would only do so with someone I trusted wholeheartedly and who was able to see a roadblock more as an obstacle than an immovable impediment. Joey checks both of those boxes. He has drive, intellect, and incredible communication skills. Like myself, he had been a student athlete in a past life and he had been trained as a realtor outside of his day job. He had billions of dollars in real estate experience.

A couple of years ago, I asked him to meet me at a hot diner in Dallas, TX, and I fully expected him to laugh in my face. Instead, we spent 8 hours charting a path forward and another 2 hours that night at my house talking through intentions, potential obstacles, and next steps. In discussing why we love working together, we have come to the conclusion we are like yin and yang. He is analytical, operational, and efficiency focused, and I am more the dreamer in the relationship focused on applications, future products, and vision. We work in lockstep, pushing mogul forward every second of every day.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Real estate is the largest, and typically the most profitable asset class for investors. However, rising interest rates and house prices have significantly limited investment opportunities in traditional real estate. mogul is changing the industry for the better, by combining the powers of blockchain and crowdfunding to allow investors to benefit from real estate investments. On mogul, you can get started in real estate investing for just $100. This is a huge departure from the days when investors needed huge amounts of upfront capital, time and resources to partake in the industry. We hope that we empower people to invest who typically would have been locked out of the industry altogether.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first launched my business,” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

1 . Patience — timing won’t always be what you expect

Even though you can expect startups to move faster than their corporate counterparts, you’re still tied to their timing when you work with them. To set expectations for yourself and your partners, ask what the process of our counterparts looks like and pivot when necessary. It’s important to remember that just because you’re prioritizing something does not mean they will.

One thing I have learned to do is ask what the process of our counterparts looks like. If I see something irrelevant to our process, or I see a guard rail that would add a ridiculous amount of time, I ask to either cut the party out entirely or include them in the conversation from day one. You don’t have control over a counterparty, but it does not hurt to ask their process for realistic expectations.

2 . “Grind” culture is not efficient

If you judged Leonardo Da Vinci on the quantity of his paintings rather than the quality, he would be the worst painter of all time. Too many people are wrapped up in the stories of sleeping over in the office as a form of dedication. Yes, some nights will turn into mornings from your office perch (sometimes a few strung in a row), but this is not the norm. If you find yourself spinning your wheels in an effort to prove you can really “grind”, take inventory of the output from your time spent “grinding” — it may not be what it seems. Aim for quality decisions rather than quantity.

3 . Waste some time! You’ll find out time wasted is well spent

A breath of fresh air does wonders for the thought process. If a problem seems insurmountable, go outside, do something completely unrelated to your work. Einstein said, “You don’t get anywhere by not ‘wasting’ time.” Our unconscious brains do the majority of our thinking. When my co-founder, Joey and I are stuck on something, we break up afternoons with tennis, basketball, or a walk outside (not talking about work). Typically, when we come back to the issue, our minds are clear, we are happier from the endorphins, and we have the answer to our problem.

4 . Don’t count your chickens before they hatch

Humans are self-intentioned pack beings. This means they are incentivized by their own goals, and seek acceptance to resist conflict. As a result, humans tend to overpromise and underdeliver. At the beginning of our journey, we would leave a meeting on cloud 9. The counterparty, whether investor or vendor, would promise us the world, only to either pull back on what they had promised in the meeting in a follow-up email, or worse, ghost us entirely. Since our early days, we have learned to never count our chickens before they hatch. On behalf of all startup founders, bad news is better than no news.

5 . Control the “Controllables”

Stressing over something you cannot control is a waste of brain power, and when building something, you need all of your mental capacity trained on your goal. Instead, work with your team on the controllables and trust the process. If you believe in your startup, you just need to find the market. Think of Wawa or In-n-out Burger — they targeted a specific geography, and they are now a countrywide brand with a ride or die loyal following. The internet is massive! Target a niche, and don’t quit until you find that niche.

Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?

As a founder, you will feel the highest highs and the lowest lows all within a 24 hour period. The minute you realize this is the norm, you can take a step back and enjoy the journey. It can be difficult to separate your emotions from your passion, but letting your emotions take control can lead to costly mistakes. Whenever you feel your emotions stirring, this is your time to extricate yourself from the situation. Take a walk, clear your head, talk to a friend, live life, and you will find yourself realizing there is more out there than your work (as important as it may seem). At the beginning of our journey, we connected with investors who outright rejected us. We obviously felt upset and we were left piecing together what could have gone differently. We quickly realized we only needed one “yes”, so instead of considering the “what if”, we changed our perspective to learn what the interaction taught us. Rather than dismiss an investor’s concerns, we would battle test it to see if it held ground or we had not explained it clearly enough. We began A/B testing investor meetings. We looked at the interaction analytically, changing inflections of tones, structuring of answers, pitch deck up vs. not even referencing it (would do the latter). Quickly, each rejection turned into a step closer to achieving the “yes”, and we realized each opportunity was a chance to learn from investors who have seen countless start-ups at various stages. Ultimately, when we received our first institutional check, I had mentioned the accomplishment to family members. Because of the way I stated it, they weren’t sure how to react. While I was thrilled at the achievement of our company and celebrated with my team, we moved forward and took it in stride. Let your passion fuel you, and take emotion out of the decision making process.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I believe firmly in financial literacy from an early age. As a country, we do very little to familiarize our nation’s youth with basic financial information. We make a secondary language mandatory in high school, yet one the most applicable ‘languages’ to our everyday lives is ignored. Eventually, I hope to offer classes and materials to provide everyone direct access to basic financial literacy. For now, our platform is offering what we can in the form of an “Investor Concierge” on our website. When a user signs up for our platform, they have call and text access to a mogul employee. They can ask any question about the platform, what certain financial terms mean, and any finance related questions. We are working to provide financial education to our users with hands-on, accessible experience.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

For more information, visit or find me on Linkedin here.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

About the Interviewer: Douglas E. Noll, JD, MA was born nearly blind, crippled with club feet, partially deaf, and left-handed. He overcame all of these obstacles to become a successful civil trial lawyer. In 2000, he abandoned his law practice to become a peacemaker. His calling is to serve humanity, and he executes his calling at many levels. He is an award-winning author, teacher, and trainer. He is a highly experienced mediator. Doug’s work carries him from international work to helping people resolve deep interpersonal and ideological conflicts. Doug teaches his innovative de-escalation skill that calms any angry person in 90 seconds or less. With Laurel Kaufer, Doug founded Prison of Peace in 2009. The Prison of Peace project trains life and long terms incarcerated people to be powerful peacemakers and mediators. He has been deeply moved by inmates who have learned and applied deep, empathic listening skills, leadership skills, and problem-solving skills to reduce violence in their prison communities. Their dedication to learning, improving, and serving their communities motivates him to expand the principles of Prison of Peace so that every human wanting to learn the skills of peace may do so. Doug’s awards include California Lawyer Magazine Lawyer of the Year, Best Lawyers in America Lawyer of the Year, Purpose Prize Fellow, International Academy of Mediators Syd Leezak Award of Excellence, National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals Neutral of the Year. His four books have won a number of awards and commendations. Doug’s podcast, Listen With Leaders, is now accepting guests. Click on this link to learn more and apply.

Stay up to date
The latest releases and tips, interesting articles, and exclusive AMA's in your inbox each week.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.