Unlocking Financial Freedom: Bala Krishnan’s Investment Journey


In a world where financial freedom is the ultimate goal for many, Bala Krishnan’s story offers a refreshing perspective on how to achieve it through disciplined real estate investing. From his humble beginnings as a tech entrepreneur in Silicon Valley to his current focus on ground-up build-to-rent communities, Bala’s journey is a testament to the power of strategic thinking and unwavering commitment. Grab the key points from his interview with Chad Ackerman on the Passive Investing from Left Field podcast

The Tech Entrepreneur’s Awakening

Bala’s entrepreneurial spirit was ignited in 2008 when he founded Peel Technologies, a pioneering company that aimed to revolutionize the way we interact with entertainment devices. With initial seed funding secured on the fateful day of September 15th – the same day Lehman Brothers collapsed – Bala and his team navigated through turbulent times, eventually raising an impressive $96 million from top-tier Silicon Valley investors.

Despite the company’s remarkable success, Bala’s foray into real estate investing would prove to be a game-changer. After acquiring a multifamily property in Dallas in 2013, he quickly realized that the passive income generated from the investment, while consistent, was not enough to achieve financial independence at a satisfactory pace.

The Birth of the 10Y Model

Dissatisfied with the limitations of traditional real estate investing, Bala and his mathematician wife embarked on a journey to create a model that would accelerate their path to financial freedom. They recognized that the true wealth lay in the value appreciation phase of a property, where returns could reach 100% or more, rather than the modest 3-5% annual returns generated by holding properties for cash flow.

Thus, the 10Y model was born – a strategic approach that maximizes exposure to the high-return value appreciation phase while minimizing exposure to the lower-return cash flow phase. By selling properties after the initial value appreciation and reinvesting the proceeds into larger projects, Bala and his wife were able to compound their wealth exponentially.

The remarkable success of this approach was evident when Bala’s first real estate investment in Dallas yielded a staggering 2.35x return on his initial investment in just 22 months. This pivotal moment solidified his belief in the power of the 10Y model and set him on a path to financial independence far sooner than anticipated – in just 8.5 years, instead of the projected 10 years.

The Wealth Multiplication Mindset

At the core of Bala’s philosophy is the belief that wealth multiplication, rather than cash flow or tax advantages, holds the key to life-changing financial outcomes. He challenges the conventional wisdom of investing solely for cash flow, arguing that small cash flows are insufficient to achieve significant wealth accumulation.

“If your goal is simply to get 5% cash-on-cash every year, then you should do that,” Bala says. “But in my own personal journey, I discovered that the 5% cash-on-cash is not enough to get to retirement. It’s like investing without a strategy or investing without a destination.”

Instead, Bala advocates for a laser-focused approach on wealth creation, which he believes can lead to transformative financial events much faster than either cash flow or tax mitigation strategies.

The Ground-Up Build-to-Rent Approach

One of the pillars of Bala’s 10Y model is the emphasis on ground-up build-to-rent developments. This strategic choice is not driven by market trends but rather by the inherent advantages it offers in executing the mathematical precision required by the 10Y system.

By building from the ground up, Bala can precisely control the number of units and the scale of each project, ensuring a seamless transition from one investment cycle to the next. This level of control is essential for maintaining the exponential growth trajectory envisioned by the 10Y model.

“If I have to only look at properties that are already existing, then it becomes pretty challenging because with the capital I have, I need to deploy all the capital,” Bala explains. “If I’m doing ground-up, I can dial the knob perfectly for the math. I know exactly how much I’m going to exit with, and I can then plan ahead for exactly how many units I need to be building.”

The Discipline of Sticking to the Plan

While the 10Y model is undoubtedly compelling, its success hinges on unwavering discipline and a willingness to walk away from deals that fail to meet the stringent criteria. Bala firmly believes that making money begins with buying the right property, and he is uncompromising in his approach to underwriting and deal evaluation.

“We are always updating our underwriting model,” Bala says. “We tweak it to current market conditions, and then all the deal flow that is coming in gets thrown into that. If it can stand the test of our underwriting, then we’ll do those deals. If not, we will simply pass on those.”

This steadfast commitment to the model, even in challenging market conditions, is what separates the 10Y approach from more conventional real estate investing strategies. By remaining true to his principles and refusing to deviate from the proven path, Bala has created a replicable system for achieving exponential wealth growth.

The Road Ahead

With the sale of his tech company behind him and a newfound focus on real estate, Bala’s journey has come full circle. He now resides in Paradise Valley, Arizona, where he pursues his passion for ground-up build-to-rent communities and land development in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Through 10Y, Bala has packaged his experiences and insights into a product that invites other investors to participate in the wealth-building potential of his model. His unwavering commitment to discipline, mathematical precision, and strategic thinking has not only paved the way for his own financial independence but also serves as an inspiration for those seeking to break free from the constraints of traditional investment approaches.

As Bala’s story illustrates, the path to exponential wealth is not about chasing the latest trends or succumbing to the allure of quick fixes. It is a journey that demands patience, perseverance, and an unwavering adherence to a well-crafted plan – a mindset that has guided Bala’s remarkable transition from tech titan to real estate visionary

If you enjoyed Bala’s wisdom and stories, the Left Field Investors (LFI) Community offers more great resources to advance your real estate investing education.

Become an LFI “Infielder” to access:

  • Exclusive educational content and investor training programs
  • Off-market investment opportunities from vetted sponsors
  • A network of thousands of like-minded passive investors
  • Virtual and in-person events to engage with experts
  • The support to confidently build your investment portfolio

Whether you are new to passive real estate investing or a seasoned veteran, LFI provides contacts, knowledge, and opportunities.

Join now to take your investing to the next level!

Chris Franckhauser

Vice President of Strategy & Growth, Advisory Partner

Chris Franckhauser, Vice President of Strategy & Growth, Advisory Partner for Left Field Investors, has been involved in real estate since 2008. He started with one single-family fix and flip, and he was hooked. He then scaled, completing five more over a brief period. While he enjoyed the journey and the financial tailwinds that came with each completed project, being an active investor with a W2 at the time, became too much to manage with a young and growing family. Seeing this was not easily scalable or sustainable long term, he searched for alternative ideas on where to invest. He explored other passive income streams but kept coming back to his two passions; real estate and time with his family. He discovered syndications after reconnecting with a former colleague and LFI Founder. He joined Left Field Investors in 2023 and has quickly immersed himself into the community and as a key member of our team.  

Chris earned a B.S. from The Ohio State University. After years in healthcare technology and medical devices, from startups to Fortune 15 companies, Chris shifted his efforts to consulting and owning a small apparel business when he is not working with LFI (Left Field Investors) or on his personal passive investments. A few years ago, Chris and his family left the cold life in Ohio for lake life in the Carolinas. Chris lives in Tega Cay, South Carolina with his wife and two kids. In his free time, he enjoys exploring all the things the Carolinas offer, from the beaches to the mountains and everywhere in between, volunteering at the school, coaching his kids’ sports teams and cheering on the Buckeyes from afar.  

Chris knows investing is a team sport. Being a strategic thinker and analytical by nature, the ability to collaborate with like-minded individuals in the Left Field Community and other communities is invaluable.  

Jim Pfeifer

President, Chief Executive Officer, Founder

Jim Pfeifer is one of the founders of Left Field Investors and the host of the Passive Investing from Left Field podcast. Left Field Investors is a group dedicated to educating and assisting like-minded investors negotiate the nuances of the passive investing landscape and world of syndications. Jim is a former financial advisor who became frustrated with the one-path-fits-all approach of the standard financial services industry. Jim now concentrates on investing in real assets that produce cash flow and is committed to sharing his knowledge with others who are interested in learning a different way to grow wealth.

Jim not only advises and helps people get started in passive real estate syndications, he also invests alongside them in small groups to allow for diversification among multiple investments and syndication sponsors. Jim believes the most important factor in a successful syndication is finding a sponsor that he knows, likes and trusts.

He has invested in over 100 passive syndications including apartments, mobile homes, self-storage, private lending and notes, ATM’s, commercial and industrial triple net leases, assisted living facilities and international coffee farms and cacao producers. Jim is constantly looking for new investment ideas that match his philosophy of real assets producing cash flow as well as looking for new sponsors with whom he can build quality, long-term relationships. Jim earned a degree in Finance & Marketing from the University of Oregon and a Master’s in Business Education from The Ohio State University. He has worked as a reinsurance underwriter, high school finance teacher, financial advisor and now works exclusively as a full-time passive investor. Jim lives in Dublin, Ohio with his wife, three kids and two dogs. In his free time, he loves to ski, play Ultimate frisbee and cheer on the Buckeyes.

Jim earned a degree in Finance & Marketing from the University of Oregon and a Master’s in Business Education from The Ohio State University. He has worked as a reinsurance underwriter, high school finance teacher, financial advisor and now works exclusively as a full-time passive investor. Jim lives in Dublin, Ohio with his wife, three kids and two dogs. In his free time, he loves to ski, play Ultimate frisbee and cheer on the Buckeyes.

Chad Ackerman

Chief Operating Officer, Founder

Chad is the Founder & Chief Operating Officer of Left Field Investors and the host of the LFI Spotlight podcast. Chad was in banking most of his career with a focus on data analytics, but in March of 2023 he left his W2 to become LFI’s second full time employee.

Chad always had a passion for real estate, so his analytics skills translated well into the deal analyzer side of the business. Through his training, education and networking Chad was able to align his passive investing to compliment his involvement with LFI while allowing him to grow his wealth and take steps towards financial freedom. He has appreciated the help he’s received from others along his journey which is why he is excited to host the LFI Spotlight podcast and share the experience of other investors and industry experts to assist those that are looking for education for their own journey.

Chad has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business with a Minor in Real Estate from the University of Cincinnati. He is working to educate his two teenagers in the passive investing world. In his spare time he likes to golf, kayak, and check out the local brewery scene.

Ryan Steig

Chief Financial Officer, Founder

Ryan Stieg started down the path of passive investing like many of us did, after he picked up a little purple book called Rich Dad, Poor Dad. The problem was that he did that in college and didn’t take action to start investing passively until many years later when that itch to invest passively crept back up.

Ryan became an accidental landlord after moving from Phoenix back to Montana in 2007, a rental he kept until 2016 when he started investing more intentionally. Since 2016, Ryan has focused (or should we say lack thereof) on all different kinds of investing, always returning to real estate and business as his mainstay. Ryan has a small portfolio of one-to-three-unit rentals across four different markets in the US. He has also invested in over fifty real estate syndication investments individually or with an investment group or tribe. Working to diversify in multiple asset classes, Ryan invests in multi-family, note funds, NNN industrial, retail, office, self-storage, online businesses, start-ups, and several other asset classes that further cement his self-diagnosis of “shiny object syndrome”.

However, with all of those reaches over the years, Ryan still believes in the long-term success and tenets of passive, cash-flow-focused investing with proven syndicators and shared knowledge in investing.

When he’s not working with LFI or on his personal passive investments, he recently opened a new Club Pilates franchise studio after an insurance career. Outside of that, he can be found with his wife watching whatever sport one of their two boys is involved in during that particular season.

Steve Suh

Chief Content Officer, Founder

Steve Suh, one of the founders of Left Field Investors and its Chief Content Officer, has been involved with real estate and alternative assets since 2005. Like many, he saw his net worth plummet during the two major stock market crashes in the early 2000s. Since then, he vowed to find other ways to invest his money. Reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad gave Steve the impetus to learn about real estate investing. He first became a landlord after purchasing his office condo. He then invested passively as a limited partner in oil and gas drilling syndications but quickly learned the importance of scrutinizing sponsors when he stopped getting returns after only a few months. Steve came back to real estate by buying a few small residential rentals. Seeing that this was not easily scalable, he searched for alternative ideas. After listening to hundreds of podcasts and attending numerous real estate investing meetings, he determined that passively investing in real estate syndications was the best avenue to get great, risk-adjusted returns. He has invested in dozens of syndications involving apartment buildings, self-storage facilities, resort properties, ATMs, Bitcoin mining funds, car washes, a coffee farm, and even a Broadway show.

When Steve is not vetting commercial real estate syndications in the evenings, he is stomping out eye diseases and improving vision during the day as an ophthalmologist. He enjoys playing in his tennis and pickleball leagues and rooting for his Buckeyes and Steelers football teams. In the past several years, he took up running and has completed three full marathons, including the New York City Marathon. He is always on a quest to find great pizza, BBQ brisket, and bourbon. He enjoys traveling with his wife and their three adult kids. They usually go on a medical mission trip once a year to southern Mexico to provide eye surgeries and glasses to the residents. Steve has enjoyed being a part of Left Field Investors to help others learn about the merits of passive, real asset investments.

Sean Donnelly

Chief Culture Officer, Founder

Sean holds a W2 job in the finance sector and began his real estate investing journey shortly after earning his MBA. Unfortunately, it could not have begun at a worse time … anyone remember 2007 … but even the recession provided worthy lessons. Sean stayed in the game continuing to find his place, progressing from flipping to owning single and multi-family rentals to now funding opportunities through syndications. While Sean is still heavily invested in the equities market and holds a small portfolio of rentals, he strongly believes passive investing is the best way to offset the cyclical nature of traditional investment vehicles as well as avoid the headaches of direct property ownership. Through consistent cash flow, long term yield and available tax benefits, the diversification offered with passive investing brings a welcomed balance to an otherwise turbulent investing scheme. What Sean likes most about the syndication space is that the investment opportunities are not “one size fits all” and the community of investors genuinely want to help.

He earned a B.S. in Finance from Iowa State University in 1995 and a MBA from Otterbein University in 2007. Sean has lived in eight states but has called Ohio home for the last 20+.  When not attending his children’s various school/sporting events, Sean can be found running, golfing, shooting or fly-fishing.

Patrick Wills

Chief Information Officer, Advisory Partner

An active real estate investor since 2017, Patrick Wills’ investing journey began like many others – after reading the “purple book” by Robert Kiyosaki. Patrick started with single family rentals, and while they performed well, he quickly realized their inability to scale efficiently while remaining passive. He discovered syndications via podcasts and local meetups and never looked back. He joined Left Field Investors in 2022 as a member and has quickly become an integral part of the team as Vice President of Technology.

An I.T. Systems Engineer by trade, he experienced the limitations of traditional Wall Street investing firsthand in his career and knew there had to be a better way to truly have financial freedom.

Unfortunately, that better way is inaccessible to those who need it most. His mission is to make alternative investments accessible to everyone who seeks to take control of their financial future and to pursue their passions in life.

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