How Joseph Nakhla built a foundation for growth

Jul 20, 2021


In the final week of May, Joseph Nakhla, founder and CEO of Tribe Property Technologies Inc., was about to speak on his company’s first-quarter earnings call. Jennifer Laidlaw, his marketing VP, spoke ahead of him and ran through a series of statements that surely came from a compliance department, not a marketing department. She had to remind listeners that the discussion would feature forward-looking statements, and these forward-looking statements were “based on management’s current views and assumptions,” and that the discussion is “qualified in its entirety by the cautionary note regarding forward-looking statements” that was appended to the company’s press release which had been released the prior evening after the market closed.

Right before everyone’s eyes glossed over, Laidlaw handed the mic over to Nakhla. He sounded confident, maybe even boisterous, and why not? He had good news to share.

A few months ago, Tribe had begun trading on the TSX Venture Exchange. The company’s Board of Directors was flush with a slate of industry veterans. The management team had added a new CFO in Jim Defer (surely, the person responsible for those forward-looking statements and the requirement to mention them). Nakhla also highlighted a recent acquisition—his company’s sixth—of Gateway Property Management.

Business was good. But you may be wondering, what, exactly, is Nakhla’s business? He made sure to remind the call’s listeners of this, too. There are at least three things you should know about it.

First, on a basic level, Tribe is a technology company that provides a suite of products and services for building and managing residential communities. They develop solutions to support everyone in a living community—building owners, councils and boards, developers and contractors and tenants.

Second, they make money in three ways: software and service revenue (paid by real estate investors, developers and condo corporations); transactional revenue (from tenants in their communities paying rent, for example), and; through other digital services and partnerships (like selling financial services and other products to people in the communities they manage).

And third, they’re objectively on a roll. How fast are they rolling? At the time of that earnings call, Tribe’s revenue was up 253% year-over-year.

Reporters and analysts may also have wondered, “What’s driving this growth?” On the call, Nakhla said acquisitions played a part. He said Covid-driven digital transformation was a strong contributor, as well. But those are recent catalysts. In business, just like in real estate, nothing gets built without a solid foundation. So for a complete accounting of Tribe’s current success, I think you need to broaden your scope of inquiry far beyond last year. You must consider the journey of its founder and the unique mix of insights and experiences he has collected over 30 years in business.

Based on a recent Zoom call I had with Nakhla, I believe decades of curiosity, hard work and an obsession with building community have set the groundwork for the business he is building. And if you really want to understand what has brought him to this moment, it helps to trace the unconventional steps he took to get here.

This story doesn’t start on an earnings call—or a Zoom call, where this writing stems from. It begins on a coast, but not one most Vancouverites are likely familiar with.

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