You need to be unique and offer something different from the competition.

As a part of my series about the ‘Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Real Estate Industry’, I had the pleasure of interviewing Diego Ojeda.

Diego Ojeda is a visionary real estate developer and President of Rilea Group, a multi-faceted real estate development and management company that’s been shaping the South Florida skyline for over 40 years. Being an alumn from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and Boston University, Diego is uniquely equipped to tackle the challenges of modern real estate development. His focus on sustainable, financially successful, and iconic structures has earned Rilea Group a reputation as a leader in the South Florida real estate industry.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?

After graduating college I went to work in the entertainment industry and was employed at MTV and later NBC Universal. I was producing and directing commercials when I got the chance to produce a feature length independent film called “Mancora.” We were accepted into the prestigious Sundance Film Festival and later sold the film to HBO. It wasn’t until a year later however, that I got the real estate bug. I was living in NYC, and found myself at a crossroads not knowing whether to stay there or move back to Los Angeles.

My father owned a successful real estate development business and pitched me the idea of coming to work for him. He pointed out the similarities between being a film producer and a real estate developer. He explained how in film production you hire a director and production company whereas in real estate development, you hire an architect and a construction company to serve similar functions. In both worlds you need to spearhead all the logistics, from budgeting to schedules to later distribution or sales.

As I began to explore the industry more practically, I found that it was a perfect fit for me. I loved the fast-paced and dynamic nature of the business, as well as the opportunity to work with investors and bring projects to life.

Over time, I was able to build up my skills and experience in the industry, and I have now been working in real estate for 14 years. I’m proud of the incredible journey I’ve had so far, and I’m excited to continue growing and evolving in my career in real estate.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or takeaway you took out of that story?

When we were selling a residential project inspired by British fashion “The Bond on Brickell”, it was also the British Consulate’s “BritWeek”, which is a week where they do all types of British themed events to promote Great Britain. Coincidentally, it was also the time that David Beckham was in Miami promoting his soccer team. We reached out to the consulate and offered our sales center as a location for him to do his pitch to the press on his new team and stadium.

The event attracted a ton of press, and we made a really large event out of it where we invited the entire broker community in Miami to attend. We had David Beckham all to ourselves in our sales center, and it was all free.

There was a great lesson there, as I learned how to create a lot of value with very little money.

Do you have a favorite “life lesson quote”? Can you share a story or example of how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson quote is from my father, who said “life is in the street.” By that, he meant that it’s important to be out and about, encountering people outside of your physical office. This can lead to serendipitous moments that turn out to be of great importance, such as meeting an investor or finding inspiration for a new project. I think about that quote on a daily basis.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes, I’m working on three very exciting projects; two in Wynwood called Mohawk at Wynwood and The Rider and then one in Dania Beach called The Mangrove. The Wynwood projects are going to be in a complete class of their own as the architecture and finishes are going to be really special and unique to Miami. We’re adding a ton of indoor and outdoor amenities as well as a lot of green space along with pickleball courts, an outdoor kids’ area and an awesome roof-top bar, inspired by Sugar at the East Hotel in Brickell.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think what sets our company apart is that we always go the extra mile when it comes to our projects. For example, our 1450 Brickell, JP Morgan tower project was the first building to achieve LEED Gold certification, when incorporating sustainability was in its infancy. We installed the strongest glass curtain wall in the nation, which helped the building lease up extremely fast and win the ULI Vision Award.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Yes, my former boss at MTV and NBC Universal, Ricardo de Montreuil, gave me the opportunity to work and learn from him. After years of working together, I developed a great eye for design and creativity. I like to think that a lot of the creative vision I insert into my projects comes from the schooling I received from Ricardo. The same can be said about my father who is passionate about photography and taught me how to appreciate the work of great photographers like Cartier Bresson, Robert Capa, Sebastião Salgado and more.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry? If you can please share a story or example.

One of the most exciting things about the real estate industry is the entire creation process of new projects. Having the opportunity to be a part of shaping a city’s everlasting skyline is a real privilege.

The most gratifying aspect of the industry is the creation of jobs, which can have a significant impact on local economies. Each real estate project we develop, leads to the creation of hundreds of direct and indirect jobs in construction, property management, and other related fields. These jobs not only support individuals and their families, but they also contribute to the overall economic health of the community.

Finally, one of the most exciting things of the real estate industry is the collaboration that takes place among world-renown architects, designers, and consultants to bring a unified vision to life. This type of teamwork can result in some truly remarkable projects, as each member of the team brings their unique skills and expertise to the table. For Mangrove at Dania Beach, the architect and designers we’re working with are creating a completely eco-friendly experience.

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest? Please share stories or examples if possible.

There are three major concerns that I have about the Real Estate industry, which include project financing, the significant increase in construction costs, and the frustrating delays that developers face when seeking permits and approvals for their projects in different municipalities.

I’m a big believer in the crowdfunding concept as it democratizes the capital raising process and let’s average investors have access to invest in projects they would normally never have access to. We’re working with Realty Mogul, the industry’s premier crowdfunding platform and have had great success on our “Mohawk at Wynwood” project.

Second, I would invest in technology that can help assess projects, improve efficiencies, and manage construction costs. By leveraging the latest technological advances, we can make better, data-driven decisions that optimize the use of resources and ultimately deliver more value to clients.

Finally, I would work to streamline the approvals and permitting process, making it more efficient and rapid. This is a critical step to eliminating red tape and bureaucracy, and it will allow developers to move forward with their projects more quickly, with fewer headaches and get much needed impact fee tax dollars into the hands of municipalities so they can invest in much needed things like education and infrastructure.

What advice would you give to other real estate leaders to help their teams to thrive and to create a really fantastic work culture?

I think making companies flat, with horizontal management, tends to make it a more enjoyable workspace for everyone and allows people to grow. I think allowing team members to benefit from project economic success should be encouraged as it aligns everyone and lets employees have a sense of ownership.

Ok, here is the main question of our interview. You are a “Real Estate Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non-intuitive things one should know to succeed in the Real Estate industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?

  1. You need to be good at math and understand pro formas and data.
  2. You need to find common ground between a high-flying architect and an overly pragmatic general contractor.
  3. You need to be unique and offer something different from the competition.
  4. People appreciate substance, so invest in tangible reasons that will represent a benefit to your clients.
  5. Reputation is sacred. Make a name of yourself as an honest hard working person and good things will follow.

Because of your position, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to create a social media app that revolves around donating to various charities, making funded activism socially cool. Given the large presence that social media has these days, using that capability to allow people to donate to charities, rather than buy another pair of sunglasses they saw some random influencer wearing, can really change the world for the better.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Follow us at

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!