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Network: AJ Steigman on the key moves to spotting opportunity

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Whether it’s a game of chess or life in general, every move you make has consequences. Just ask AJ Steigman 08BBA.

AJ Steigman

Chess master at the age of 13, Steigman ranked first in the U.S. in his age cohort for eight years in a row. He says that his ability to assimilate information fast, assess opportunity costs and take strategic risks is responsible for an exceptional career in chess—and a series of entrepreneurial successes.

In 2014 he successfully sold his first company, Soletron, a social networking and e-commerce platform. Today he is CEO of Steignet, an Atlanta-based B2B real estate arbitrage platform start-up that identifies undervalued properties and shares knowledge with institutional buyers.

Steigman’s passion for chess and business coalesced in 2004 when he came to Emory to pursue a BBA in finance and management, and to help set up the university’s chess program.

“Annually, I held a chess exhibition where I would play 40 people simultaneously, and I offered anyone $100 if they could beat me,” he said. He remained undefeated.
Steigman attributes his success in business, as in chess, to an appetite for calculated risk. He also credits an ability to see patterns.

“Pattern recognition kicked in with interest rates being at all-time lows. I saw the opportunities: both from the real estate acquisition perspective and from recognizing that people had the income to rent, but didn’t necessarily have the credit clout to qualify to purchase a home. So, I started to analyze commercial and residential deals to see which one had more kick.”

In 2012, Atlanta was one of the worst affected cities during the financial crisis.

“People thought I was from Mars [deciding to invest in single-family homes], but in chaos comes a lot of opportunity—and not just for investors, but for the people affected by the downturn.”

While not everyone is a chess prodigy with exceptional quantitative skills, Steigman explains that his approach to entrepreneurship can be replicated in part through risk assessment and analysis of opportunity versus cost. And self-belief.

“To survive, you have to have inner drive and tenacity and real self-belief—that’s the number one. But if you are passionate, then you have to go all in and believe in yourself.” — Áine Doris

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