Lev Capital, a new commercial real estate finance brokerage, has lured debt broker Justin Piasecki from Avison Young as one of its first big hires.
Piasecki was among Canada-based Avison’s first New York recruits when it expanded here in 2012. He’ll join Lev Capital as a managing partner, and will help lead the tech-focused firm’s strategic growth, said founder Yaakov Zar.
Zar started Lev Capital in 2019 and has raised nearly $5 million in seed funding, according to Crunchbase. He sold a prior startup, Dispatch, a logistics management software firm, to Vista Equity Partners in 2018.
Lev, which facilitates financings ranging from first mortgages to complex capital raises, bills itself as combining the expertise of traditional brokerage with an AI-powered database. “We can identify lenders that might not come up otherwise, predict lender pricing, tell sponsors or owners how to optimize their portfolio,” Zar said.
“Too many people are focused on trying to build technology to get rid of the humans in the transaction,” he added. “The transaction is too complex and nuanced to do that.”
Prior to Avison, Piasecki spent eight years as a principal in its debt, joint venture and structured capital group. Before that, he worked at the Carlton Group and Zurich Mortgage Solutions.
Along with Piasecki, Aaron Prager and Avi Zukerman will join Lev.
Zar said he couldn’t overstate the importance of the new hires. “It helps confirm that we have the foundation of technology, and commercial real estate knowledge, to execute here,” he said.
According to Zar, Lev closed $100 million in transactions last year. He projected the 22-person firm would do $1 billion to $2 billion in 2021. The firm is raising a $10 million Series A to accelerate growth.
Piasecki said he was happy at Avison, but came to realize commercial real estate needed to adopt technology. Joining Lev, he said, was an opportunity to overlay new tools with his career experience.
“This is something I see the rest of the industry all trying to solve,” he said. “Lev has figured it out.”