Ryan Cox lived a lot of life before he found his best one.
A sampling of the whirlwind experienced by the native Texan:
- Ryan loved everything about his four years at the University of Oklahoma, including his Sooners winning the 2000 national championship;
- The gamut of experimental careers ranging from industrial real estate to freight shipping in the oil and gas business to software sales to management and marketing;
- Time alongside his wife, Valerie Henderson, another lover of live music and the Grateful Dead who is always up for the next trip to see the legendary band;
- A Swiss Family Robinson adventure of living on a Brazilian beach for eight months, where shoeless and shirtless, he discovered your passion comes to you when you stop looking so hard.
Ryan started Founders Grove Capital in 2016 with a commitment to being a good steward of investors’ money and making a positive impact on their lives. He prides himself in bringing honesty, integrity and transparency to every interaction. Relationships matter to Ryan. So does keeping his word.
“I have a high say-do ratio,” he says. “What I say I’m going to do, I’m going to follow through and do. There’s bumps in the road and challenges but that comes back to the honesty and transparency of being upfront about them.”
Ryan grew up in Arlington, Texas, where riding bikes on ramps he built and backyard baseball occupied what he regards as an idyllic childhood that also included plenty of fun and games with his two younger sisters. Every summer, he spent two weeks in Oklahoma with his grandparents. Lucky for him his grandfather owned a cookie shop.
“I felt like king of the castle getting to go there,” he says. “I could pick out whatever I wanted” and that only meant one thing. “Chocolate chip all day long.”
He loved his time in Sooner nation as a communications major. He made lots of friends, preferring the social aspect of college more than the academics.
Like many kids in their 20s, Ryan graduated unsure of what he wanted to do so he did a lot. He sold phone services to small businesses, left to go to Dell Computers, overcame a bout with mono, dabbled in industrial real estate and worked alongside his uncle in the freight forwarding business. He thought that job would lead to international travel but instead his uncle sold the Houston company leading Ryan to return to Austin for a spell, selling restaurant equipment.
Two years into the job, he had something of an epiphany. “I cared nothing about what I was doing,” he says. “I sold everything I owned and crammed what was left of it into a backpack and moved to Brazil.”
“What are you running away from?” his dad asked.
“I’m running toward something,” Ryan countered.
The island of Florianópolis on the southeastern coast of Brazil is a tropical paradise often referred to as “Ilha da Magia,” magical because of its unspoiled beaches. Ryan called it home for eight months.
“Adventure has always been a big part of my life,” he says. “Travel is a big part of that, to see and explore and try new things. I lived on the beach and surfed every day and made friends all over the island.”
Ryan returned with a determination to grind at his next professional opportunity and stay with it for five years. He landed at SHI, a $4 billion business-to-business technology sales company. Starting in inside sales, he moved into management and later learning and development, eventually relocating to San Francisco as West Coast field director.
“Over the course of 10 years, I probably had 15 different jobs inside the organization,” he says. “I really thrive with some ambiguity, love creativity and any kind of problem solving.”
In 2016, Ryan began exploring real estate again, trying to find a niche that appealed to him. He founded his own company, Founders Grove Capital, that initially worked to modernize muti-family properties in the Dallas/Fort Worth market by adding value to them through improvements and exceptional amenities.
In 2020, Ryan teamed with Blake Gallagher for a partnership that focuses Founders Grove on acquiring outdoor hospitality assets, largely RV parks, to implement a similar value-added strategy.
“We toggled through a number of niche asset classes, where there were a lot of mom and pop owners and an opportunity to improve a property,” he says. “We started looking at RV parks that tend to be in beautiful locations. They’re on the water and we’re creating experiences for families. We bought a handful of those and sold them to a private equity group and still have two – Camp Cardinal in Hayes, Virginia, and Flatonia RV in southwestern Texas — that I’m actively working on.”
Founders Grove is more than another company to Ryan.
“In November 2015, Valerie and I found out we were pregnant with our son, Dylan,” he says. “I really want to build legacy, have a mission and a purpose. He was really a big motivator for me to make the transition to real estate and build a company to last.”
Ryan never tires of networking, learning and the sharing of ideas, which he did for 100 episodes of his own podcast, The Real Estate Innovators.
“I’m thrilled by the unexpected, the story , the twist and the turn,” he says. “The unique, original idea inspires me in day-to-day life, whether that’s how I show up in my relationship with my wife or my son or my friends or in business.”
In free time, Ryan remains drawn to the eccentric of Wes Anderson films and the wisdom found in Haruki Murakami books. Travel remains a lure and a longtime fascination dating back to his boyhood fondness for the educational video game Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
“I love the author Tom Robbins and how his books are told in his singular voice. I like Kirk Vonnegut books in the same way,” Ryan says. I’m really into meditation and like to read books of people going through a journey of self-discovery.”
Ryan’s own journey continues to unfold, each new chapter building on the one before yet bold enough to evolve and embrace what’s coming next.