“A Good Tech CEO Has Half a Dozen Jobs”: Altrio’s Raj Singh on How He Made It

Altrio hosts three of the four biggest real-estate investing companies in the world on its platform
Altrio CEO Raj Singh (photo illustration: Anthony Gebrehiwot)

Raj Singh’s real-estate start-up may only be two years old, but it’s gone through a tremendous growth spurt. Altrio’s goal is to modernize the real-estate capital market by bringing it online with Origin, its flagship software, which helps property investors use data to make better deals. In June, the company raised $8 million in Series A funding, and Altrio now hosts three of the four biggest real-estate investing companies in the world on its platform.

Age: 41
Based in: Toronto
Degrees: B.A. in political science and economics (University of Toronto) and M.B.A. (University of Calgary)

My earliest memory:

As a toddler, I clumsily walked on top of a board game in progress between some of my cousins, and they got very upset that I had basically just destroyed their game. I remember wondering why everyone was yelling at me. I guess I was an early disrupter.

I thought I’d grow up to be:

A scientist. I literally read physics textbooks for fun—and my heroes were all scientists, so that seemed like a natural path. I started my university education in engineering before switching to political science and economics.

The best advice I’ve ever heard:

A consultant once told me to avoid being promoted into management too early because you don’t get opportunities to keep learning in the same way once you make the move into leadership. Now that I manage people, I often remind them that they have an opportunity to learn.

My major break:

At 19, I got a summer internship at Brookfield Asset Management. I worked in IT and had a great boss who spent a lot of time teaching me skills that were beyond the scope of what I had to do. I knew how to code and wrote a visual basics application that the CEO used to model interest-rate scenarios. I was allowed to experiment as a student at one of the biggest companies in the world.

My most memorable mistake:

It was right after I sold my first company, a data start-up called Voyanta, to Altus Group. I took a job as a product director at a company called Cadre after having a taste of being my own boss. I learned pretty quickly that if I was going to work for a company, I probably needed to run it. It was hard not being the one driving the vehicle.

I never confuse:

Sales with value. It’s a lot easier to convince someone to buy something than it is to create something that genuinely makes someone’s life better. In the long run, sales is a poor, often misleading indicator of true value creation.

A great leader is:

Someone who is tuned into what their team needs—a push, resources, guidance or inspiration.

My version of a power suit:

In a very deliberate attempt to avoid having to pick what I wear every day, I wear pretty much the same thing all the time. In the summer, it’s a T-shirt and jeans, and in the winter—wait for it—it’s a hoodie and jeans.

One thing that needs to change in my industry:

Real estate is famous for being laggard on technology—its idea of state of the art is email and spreadsheets. At the institutional level, finding people you can work with happens almost entirely offline—at conferences and through mutual friends. This means investors end up with suboptimal portfolios because they’re selecting assets from a very small pool. That’s the problem my company is trying to solve by building a platform that brings all the counterparties, the data and the transactions online.

My current obsession:

Avoiding getting obsessed with any one thing. A good tech CEO has half a dozen jobs. Having too narrow a focus is a luxury we can’t afford.

This article appears in print in the fall 2022 issue of Canadian Business magazine. Buy the issue for $7.99 or better yet, subscribe to the quarterly print magazine for just $20.