Brandon Middleton believes NFTs will soon be an integral part of the real estate industry and he wants his new venture to be the center of all the action.
Middleton, the president and founder of the Tampa-based USA Portfolio Real Estate firm, is opening the New Wealth CoLab, the first-ever real estate and blockchain-focused collaborative workspace in Seminole Heights.
The USA Portfolio Real Estate team renovated the space at 4007 N. Taliaferro Ave., which also serves as the real estate group’s headquarters, to attract entrepreneurs interested in attending workshops on NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and who need a co-working space.
Middleton said the group has been running weekly classes for over a year now and it has attracted local investors, startups and developers, but it needed to create a destination for entrepreneurs to conduct their business, meet with clients and serve bigger groups for the weekly classes.
“The classes we have are on everything from NFTs, marketing, financing and finding properties,” he said. “The space is different than any others because you are walking into an environment where you already have real estate company angel investor in the building, as well as a digital marketing agency (as part of the firm’s operations).”
The 7,000-square-foot New Wealth CoLab will open Feb. 26.
The office building once served a mix of uses, from doctors’ offices to housing an architect firm. Middleton and his company moved into the space over a year ago and leased one of the suites on the second floor.
When the opportunity to buy the property came knocking by way of a foreclosure, Middleton knew he wanted to pursue it.
Middleton had an existing relationship with the lender and purchased the building in a $1.7 million deal in November. The suites on the first floor have now been fully cleared out, allowing Middleton and his team to build a bigger and refreshed open collaboration space.
The open collaboration and co-working hub will be furnished with desks and phone booths, where members can make private calls and conduct business.
There will be sliding barn doors that will separate the collaboration space from a modern cafe, which will serve drinks and snacks.
Embracing NFTs in Tampa Bay
The ultimate goal of the incubator is to educate the community and create a pool of potential clients who want to delve into the world of NFTs and real estate, but may not have the know-how.
“We are lowering the risk by us being a built-in lender and we provide the collaborating space for a fraction of what others cost,” Middleton said.
He explained the real estate group will create 300 minted NFT access passes. “The way we are teaching about NFTs is by creating one of our own and inviting more partners to bridge real estate and blockchain projects.”
If someone wants to join, they will have to purchase someone else’s access pass once they reach the 300 pass limit.
“I have spent over $500,000 on attending seminars and classes and some were great and some were not. After all of that spending, there’s no way to get your money back,” Middleton said.
Middleton understands the fear of what it means to put all your cards on the table when starting a new business venture, as he has experienced overcoming multiple financial barriers in his life.
Middleton grew up in a poor Los Angeles neighborhood, where he watched his mother struggle. Middleton’s father wasn’t in the picture, and his mother was in an abusive relationship.
He remembers living in shelters, and his mother working multiple jobs while her health deteriorated.
Later in life, when Middleton and his wife first dipped their toes in real estate and bought two homes, the market crashed, and they were forced to do a short sale.
Middleton has faced numerous obstacles, and in every situation, he said, he regains the strength to stand back up and start anew. “The whole reason I got into this business was that I grew up without opportunities,” he said. “I struggled and there aren’t opportunities without the pay-to-play concept.”
For over five years, Middleton, who also has a digital and marketing background, helped people invest in turn-key and wholesale real estate opportunities and avoid the dangers and pitfalls of real estate investing.
In addition to overseeing his business and creating a destination to cultivate innovation and inspire entrepreneurs, Middleton also wants to make a difference for those who have suffered similar triumphs as he did growing up. Therefore, he is teaming up with the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay – and will also open a food pantry.
The food pantry will be in a designated space inside the CoLab cafe.
“We want to show other investors how you can give back to your community in a seamless way and pay it forward,” Middleton said.
Those interested in connecting with Middleton can do so here. He will also be attending the Synapse Summit event in Tampa next week and will be at the Re Block Miami event in April, which is a real estate blockchain and fintech conference.