TBY talks to Luca Piccolo, CEO of Venit Investments, on culling the right investors with the right mechanisms and the importance of developing projects in smaller and mid-sized cities.

Luca Piccolo
Luca Piccolo holds an MBA from the Universidad San Pablo CEU in Madrid. Between 1998 and 2007, he worked for various businesses, including Dbrains Web Studio, an internet company, and Grupo Integer, the corporate manager of more than 100 schools and universities throughout the Americas and Europe. From 2007-2016, he worked at BIN Desarrollos, first as a COO and after 2009 as CEO. He has also lectured on HR, business ethics, and management skills at Universidad Anahuac Monterrey (ISEF) and VALIA, an institution created by several companies in Monterrey with the mission of forming ethical professionals. He is the secretary of the Mexican Hotel Association in Monterrey and a member of the Executive Committee of Capital Real Estate, a private equity fund specializing in real estate assets.

What was the thinking behind your recent rebranding, and what does it mean for the company?

It was a natural move given the changes of our business project. We first started as investors and then went into developing real estate and invited other partners to invest with us. In that transition, we decided to rebrand ourselves as Venit Investments since it better reflects the real purpose of the business, which is to develop real estate and find a good investment for our clients' capital. When we develop a project and go to the public to invite them to invest, we have to think about it as an option they are considering for their capital. If your project is not well thought-out or has unattractive returns on investment, potential investors will invest in other ways, but not necessarily in other real estate projects.

How does your investor background define the strategy you use to identify investments?

There are a different ways of doing it, but there are several key things we do. The real challenge today in Mexico is finding good projects, not the capital. The problem with this lies with the planning and layout of cities themselves. There are cities such as Monterrey that have a market that does not reflect the real driving force.

What is the role of ego and prestige in making decisions about where and how to create new developments?

Many developers began in the business not as investors, but as people who wanted to make something to reflect their ego. They want the glamorous part of being a developer, building the tallest towers in Mexico. That is reasonable if the developer is a large and experienced company and if there is a market for the project. We often wonder if developers are building profitable products when they do it with someone else's money. One of the reasons for changing our name was to reflect that we are interested above all in profitability; afterwards, we think about the aesthetic and size of the developments. It is about a product that is profitable and at the same time specifically designed for someone's needs.

What were the three projects you closed this year and what made them different?

They were really different projects, but the three are in Querétaro. Querétaro is interesting because there are many well-designed residential developments, and it is developing nicely into a large city. One of our projects is called Nova; it is a 10-year project of 100,000 rentable sqm of office, commercial, and residential space. It is in an area of the city that is growing quickly. We are developing one part of the land, and another company is developing a different complex. It is an interesting project because of the way it is structured: everything is seen in the long run. It is a project focused on developing the community. We are seeing more long-term projects that create a community where people can make their lives without having to cross the city in their daily routines. The second project is similar. We are developing the commercial and office space, which accounts for 20% of the entire project. This is a four to five-year project. The last is an apartment project we have been working on for years, condominiums. On the business side, it is attractive to develop in medium-sized cities such as Querétaro or Merida.

What are your goals for the next few years?

The main goal is to keep growing and develop projects that are profitable. My investors are happy, because the projects are working. This also creates value for the whole city and community. We are going to try to expand the apartment projects to a couple of other cities in the next couple of months and solidify the two big projects we are now working on. In the long term, we will try to replicate such projects in other cities.