Day in the life: Harley Courts

The Nooklyn CEO on real estate tech, skateboarding culture and being a vegan
By Miriam Hall | October 01, 2017 01:00PM

Harley Courts (Photo by Emily Assiran)

Harley Courts founded Nooklyn in 2010 as a blog focused on rental listings in Williamsburg, Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant. By the next year, Court’s pet project became a real estate brokerage, and he and his partner, former property manager Joseph Friedman, opened Nooklyn’s first office at 28 Scott Avenue in Bushwick. Now, the six-year old firm has 248 agents, 465 exclusive rentals and four offices in Brooklyn. And since 2015, Nooklyn has moved more than 15,000 people and processed over $29 million in rental payments. Courts, 31, said that investing in the brokerage’s own tech development is key in appealing to its primarily millennial users. Last month, the firm launched “Nooklyn Apply,” which allows renters to submit applications and deposits for rentals online. Nooklyn’s listings are primarily in Bushwick, Williamsburg, Crown Heights, Greenpoint and Ridgewood, Queens, and Court plans to expand the business to Harlem, Lower Manhattan and as far as Seattle.

Before venturing into real estate, Courts founded Substance Skateboards, a company that built skateboard decks. It shuttered when its investor pulled out in the 2008 downturn. Courts, who grew up on Water Street in Manhattan, now lives in Ridgewood with his wife, Tristin, their newborn daughter and his 6-year-old son.

6:45 a.m. I get up with my 2-month-old daughter, Harley June. I take care of her for a while. I let my wife sleep in. Then my son, Hayden, gets up. Generally, he goes down into the playroom and watches YouTube videos of other families. It’s kind of weird. I’m like, “Why? Do you not like our family?”

7:45 a.m. I drop Hayden off at school. Then I head to the coffee shop and get two iced almond lattes for me and my wife. We met at Caffe Vita in Bushwick last year, where she was working. I came in for coffee a lot more after I first saw her. We got married this year.

8:30 a.m.   I walk to our headquarters at 456 Johnson Avenue. I call Moiz Malik, our chief technology officer, and check on where he is and what’s going on. We’re a very interesting team. Moiz is a Muslim and a women’s rights activist. Chief Operating Officer Joseph Friedman is a Hasidic Jew. And I’m a skateboarder. I’ll sometimes have to meet with a landlord before going to the office. Recently, I met with one of the investors of Full Time Management about 44 Kent Avenue, which we have the exclusive on.

9:00 a.m. I follow up  on specific projects with developers and Nooklyn agents. I’ve been going out for acai bowls with our brokers Alexandria Lust and Diego Paixão to discuss the marketing strategy for Cayuga Capital Management’s 626 Bushwick Avenue, a 98-unit rental building that was converted from a church. I really look at my job as demolition — like, literally removing all obstacles for everyone to walk through. I do all the jobs no one else wants to do, like dealing with a renter in a tricky situation.

11:00 a.m. I check our key performance indicators (KPI) on open deals and web traffic. I’m very obsessive about KPIs, our finances and certain things like that. I’m constantly like, “What is the burn?” I will often call Noble Novitzki, our head of agent development, and see what issues we need work on.

12:00 p.m. I’m reaching out to landlords and planning events. I really think events drive the business. We’ve helped plan the Bushwick Collective Block Party for the past five years. This year we had Harlem rappers
Juelz Santana and Cam’ron perform.
Last year we had Jadakiss, and the year before that we had Fat Joe. I also co-host a monthly real estate tech dinner with a few people including Rentlogic’s Yale Fox and ABC Design Lab’s Adam Chaloeicheep. We’re all just kind of nerdy about real estate tech.

1:00 p.m. I’m a pretty picky eater, and I’m eating mainly vegan right now. I’ll eat what’s around, like a Kind bar. I sometimes order stuff from Toad Style in Bed-Stuy … you have to go out of your way to find vegan food.

2:00 p.m. I meet with potential new hires and am constantly telling them about the company culture and our focus to keep
improving renter experience.
Coming from a skateboarding background, I definitely push
everyone to have more of a shared culture.
When I was skating at Tompkins Square Park in the East Village, everyone would be like, “I have 50 cents, you have 50 cents, now we have an Arizona Iced Tea.” People get too caught up in a deal. You need to be able to split deals to make a living in real estate.

4:00 p.m. I always have a big-picture project I’m working on. Right now I’m working on our Manhattan expansion plan. Once a week, my wife and I will go into the city and get a massage and go to dinner. I really like this vegan pizza place called Double Zero in the East Village.

6:00 p.m. I recently went to a tech meet-up put on by seed stage investment fund Brooklyn Bridge Ventures at Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. It’s for venture capitalists and venture startups. Nooklyn is interested in private or venture funding, but in the meantime we will continue to bootstrap. We raised our seed money primarily from real estate developers who are also angel investors.

7:00 p.m. I pick up my son. He’s either with a babysitter or with his mother. Then I’m usually pacing in front of my house,  fielding a ton of calls, emails and questions from agents. I’m sure the neighbors think I’m weird.

8:30 p.m. Once the kids are asleep, my wife and I listen to records and watch documentaries. I’m into folk music like Hank Williams, Mississippi John Hurt, Marty Robbins and Bob Dylan. My wife’s favorite is Patsy Cline. I play guitar just for fun. I’m now learning a style of fingerpicking called “Travis picking,” which is named after Merle Travis.

10:00 p.m. I like to read a lot of business books. One of my recent favorites was “Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike.”
I also read a lot about Zen. Moiz
recently recommended “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind,” which was apparently one of Steve Jobs’ favorite books.

11:00 p.m. I sleep like a rock.