Strongest Class Yet for Startup Competition Finals at MIPIM 2018

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For the third consecutive year, MetaProp is proud to be a global partner for MIPIM’s Startup Competition, unveiling the most innovative PropTech startups on the market. Each startup thrives in tackling some of the largest urban challenges faced throughout the world.

MetaProp has helped lead a fierce semi-final round of pitches and competition which took place in a number of cities around the world including New York City, London, and Hong Kong. The MIPIM Startup Competition Finals, one of the can’t miss events in Cannes, will take place on March 14th starting at 4pm in the Grand Auditorium.

With the upcoming group of finalists being the strongest ever, I’m honored to serve as the Master of Ceremony. I will be accompanied by a superstar jury committee, all of whom are real estate leaders and trailblazers including James Dearsley, Dan Hughes, Sandy Jacolow and Joern Stobbe.

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This year’s top 9 finalists have already survived a round of intense competition and are demonstrating some of the highest potential within the PropTech startup world. Again, this will be an unforgettable and monumental event taking place in Cannes on March 14th from 4:00 - 7:00pm. Following the event will be a Yacht Party co-hosted by MetaProp and Lennar. Additional details can be found here.

Details on the Finalists include:

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Makes setting up a new home a one-click affair, with all of your required services automatically signed up to and trackable.

Disruptive Technologies
Radically accessible and complete solution for sensing the physical world.

Grid Edge
Changing the way that people use energy by putting intelligent control into the hands of commercial energy consumers.

The first and only company to provide completely transparent windows, which generate data by sensing the environment and convert sunlight into electricity, simultaneously.

Changing the construction sector sustainably through optimizing workflow and reducing costs up to 70% through new server optimizing tools.

The first online marketplace for commercial real estate debt financing that connects borrowers with a network of lenders who want solid returns.

An application where you can find your flat (apartment) for rent with an agent without fees as well as get paid 15% of the rent when you move out.

Connecting the service technician and the customer on a simple interface integrating innovative features.

Ensures quality care that is everywhere and helps prevent workplace injury prevention with the industry’s most respected therapists across the country.


Looking forward to unveiling the winner on March 14th!

  Aaron Block  Co-Founder & Managing Director  Email

Aaron Block
Co-Founder & Managing Director

What We Learned From the Tel Aviv Roadshow


The third roadshow stop for the MetaProp Bridge @ Columbia University took our partners to sunny Tel Aviv, Israel.  It was particularly exciting to visit during the widely celebrated Purim holiday.  Amazing costumes everywhere!

We’ve had our eyes on the Israeli PropTech startup market for a couple of years now and are very impressed with its recent development.  During our short visit, we met almost a dozen real estate tech companies and many industry enthusiasts, mentors and investors.

We thought our readers might appreciate some quick observations from the road show trip:

  • Cybersecurity, computer vision, robotics, and, quite frequently, automotive were the most commonly mentioned local industry clusters generating buzz.  For more information on what’s happening on the ground, we recommend checking out Forbes’ “The Tel Aviv Tech Startups To Watch In 2018.”

  • While “Startup Nation” has long been a hotbed of technology and innovation, VCs, corporate R&D, innovation and venture arms are all further increasing their presence in Israel - from Haifa, to Herzliya, to Tel Aviv, to Beersheba.  We frequently heard names like Intel, Microsoft, HP, Volkswagen, etc.--along with many other corporate names that one might not traditionally associate with technology (e.g. insurance, infrastructure and CPG companies)--cited as players increasing their local activities. Tech is on everyone’s mind.

  • Startups naturally remain very interested in growing outside of Israel.  The most common expansion locations we heard were North America, China and Western Europe. Read Forbes’ “Israeli Entrepreneurs Are Shaking Up The American Real Estate Market.

  • We saw tremendous interest in the PropTech space - especially Construction Tech (Astralink, Siteaware, Beyon3D).  This makes sense as the country is experiencing an enormous real estate boom.  There are more cranes flying in Tel Aviv than Aaron has seen since his time in Moscow in 2006.

Special thanks to our friends who supported and hosted during the trip - especially the entire executive team at market leading PropTech firm BMBY!

  Aaron Block  Co-Founder & Managing Director  Email

Aaron Block
Co-Founder & Managing Director

  Zak Schwarzman  Partner  Email

Zak Schwarzman

Location matters: NYC is the best place to raise money


New York City is a great place for PropTech startups to grow. We believe, in fact, that it is the best place. We’ve designed an entire accelerator program around that hypothesis. Our Bridge program is designed to bring companies from Europe, the Middle East and Africa to NYC to raise money and grow their revenue.

Although there is more venture investing than ever before, it is still hard to raise the money needed. The ability to raise additional funding rounds is often what can prevent even great companies from progressing. There are many things that make NYC a good place for ambitious and young startups, one of the most notable is the volume of venture capital activity. It is easier to raise money in NYC than anywhere else in the world. 

Fred Wilson, Managing Partner at Union Square Ventures, touched on this the other day in a post on startup funding by geography. (Fred Wilson has a daily email blast that is fantastic, if you don’t already get his emails, you should sign up here.) He explains that raising gets harder with each round, “Getting VC/angel funding is hard, but even if you do secure it once (1st round), the probability that you will secure it again is only 50-70%, and the probability that you will secure it five more times is between 0-5%.”  

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So what can increase a company's chances of follow-on funding? It seems like location is a determinant of fundraising success. Fred Wilson referenced a great report from CB Insights that surveyed 8 tech hubs: Silicon Valley, Boston, NY, LA, China, Germany, India and the United Kingdom. US-based companies were far more likely to raise a second round, according to the report. Furthermore, the report found that within the US, NYC and Boston were the best cities to raise a second round. Even more surprising, NYC companies are the most likely to exit with a stunning overall exit rate of 35% -- even higher than in Silicon Valley.

Although Silicon Valley may produce more unicorns than any other region, NYC is the best place to raise money.

  Leila Collins  Senior Associate  Email

Leila Collins
Senior Associate

MetaProp Accelerator Graduation: Exit Interview with Ardalan Khosrowpour, CEO & Co-Founder of OnSiteIQ

Last Thursday, we graduated seven of the best PropTech companies from the MetaProp Accelerator at Columbia University. This year we added an Open House before our New York City Demo Day as well as an Investor Lunch before our West Coast Demo Day. In total, over 1000 people registered for the graduation events.


Leila Collins, Senior Associate at MetaProp interviewed Ardalan Khosrowpour, CEO and Co-Founder of OnSiteIQ to learn more about his experience of the program.

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Ardalan, why did you decide to apply to the MetaProp accelerator?

I was constantly looking for advisors and mentors who could help me navigate through the construction and real estate industry. For example, I needed to understand the construction insurance underwriting process to get my business to the next step. Since MetaProp is the main hub for PropTech, I was hopeful that I could develop a network of advisors, customers and investors through the program.


Specifically, what goals did you have for the program?

I wanted to grow the number of pilots, sell more and attract strategic capital.


So, in reality, what did you get out of it?

By the end of the program, we had full sales infrastructure in place, had increased our outbounds by 9x and increased our sales by 6x.

As a direct result of the program, OnSiteIQ got multiple contracts, sales and investment. Perhaps most importantly, Joe Charczenko was assigned as my mentor and became the best possible advisor. "Joe got us in front of literally every insurance carrier. Without him, we could not have established insurance partnerships." 


Tell us a little about the graduation, what happened and what came out of it?

The Demo Days and particularly the Open House exceeded my expectation. At each we were approached by several highly qualified potential customers and investors. For example, after presenting at Demo Day in NYC we were approached by several real estate VCs who were uniquely positioned to invest and advise us.


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Leila Collins
Senior Associate

Third Annual MetaProp New York City Demo Day Grows with 2017-18 Accelerator Startups

Last week, MetaProp NYC and our partners -- NYCEDC, REBNY, RICS,  DLA Piper, EisnerAmper, Millennium Partners, Silicon Valley Bank, Warburg Realty and Zillow -- proudly presented the third annual MetaProp Accelerator @ Columbia University New York City Demo Day. The full-day event was bigger and better than ever. Congratulations to the 2017/2018 class graduates!

In addition to the media and venture community, our startups mingled with top executives from Blackstone, which graciously hosted NYC Demo Day, as well as with Ackman Ziff, CBRE, Cushman & Wakefield, Kimco, KPMG, Millennium Partners, Partnership for NYC, REBNY, Related, Savills Studley, Toll Brothers, Warburg Realty and many more.

The day kicked off with a first-of-its kind Open House for the general public and broader PropTech community. MetaProp portfolio company Spacious hosted the event in their gorgeous HQ on 53rd Street.  Guests were treated to coffee, live demos and casual networking.

Video: 2018 MetaProp Open House

In the evening, our startups revealed their progress to the world during the third annual NYC Demo Day.   Some pre-presentation highlights:

  • MetaProp partner Clelia Peters welcomed international guests;
  • Blackstone’s Tyler Henritze gave an overview of the firm’s PropTech innovation strategy;
  • MetaProp partner Zak Schwarzman shared the latest venture capital and market trends;
  • MetaProp partner Zach Aarons shared his annual “Bold PropTech Predictions;”
  • MetaProp partner Aaron Block gave an update on MetaProp’s three business lines:
  • Venture Capital Investments, Advisory Services and Startup Acceleration.

Video: MetaProp Demo Day at Blackstone

Of course, the majority of the NYC Demo Day was spent hearing from the graduates. Some presentation highlights from social media:

We will distribute summary videos in the coming days so make sure you are subscribed to our newsletter. In the meantime, please join our West Coast Demo Day on February 8 in San Francisco! Limited tickets are still available here.


  Aaron Block  Co-Founder & Managing Director  Email

Aaron Block
Co-Founder & Managing Director

2017: A PropTech Year in Review

In summing up 2017, it was a big year for the global PropTech community.  Some of my favorite highlights included PropTech IPOs/exits for Redfin, Qube, Real Matters, and ForRent; high profile equity rounds for PropTech leaders like WeWork, Cadre, Compstak, Honest Buildings, Convene, Common, Compass (All NY based) and Nested, and new venture fund announcements from FifthWall, Aurum, PiLabs and Navitas.

Additionally, 2017 was also one heck of a year for MetaProp NYC and our portfolio companies. Here are some of my favorite highlights:


  • Team highlights

    • Added key players, including Marketing Director Deedee Chong, Associate Director of Operations and Events Evan Petitt in addition to a number of internal promotions.  
    • Special mention to our former fellows and interns securing big jobs at Goldman Sachs, BofA Merrill Lynch, Citi, Moelis & Co. and other prestigious shops.

I’m so impressed with the overall PropTech community. However, I’m beyond proud MetaProp’s partners, directors, associates, fellows/interns, investors, mentors and supporters for making so much magic in 2017.  

Look out 2018!!!



  Aaron Block  Co-Founder & Managing Director  Email

Aaron Block
Co-Founder & Managing Director

MetaProp’s Global Expansion


Today, I’m pleased to share that MetaProp is going global.  We’re starting with EMEA  -> North America early next year and will expand via Asia -> North America in 2019. See the exciting specifics below.


Some Background

Over the past 2.5 years, our investment and innovation activities (including the MIPIM Startup Competition) have spanned the globe. MetaProp partners have explored PropTech scenes in much of North America and quite a bit of Latin America, Europe, and Asia Pacific. During this time, we’ve witnessed demand for international expansion from some exciting real estate technologies. Most obviously, established goliaths like WeWork and MRI are moving into key international markets from their US homes. Additionally, emerging category killers like VTS, CompStak and WiredScore are expanding their influence into Western Europe. However, most interestingly, we’ve seen startups in Europe tackling new markets outside their home countries. Examples include our own portco WeSmartPark, plus dozens of other high-potential, tech-focused startups including Appear Here, Medici Living, and Industrious.


The Problem

We all know that crossing borders is difficult; our friends at OpenView Labs have a lot to say about this subject.  International growth is restrained by time zones, legal peculiarities, including privacy and culture differences and localization challenges (language, currency, etc.). There are also back-to-basics commercial challenges. The usual “build” and “partner” options may be viable, but rarely can a startup “buy” its way into a new market. Emerging CEOs have to redirect an existing (frequently under-qualified) employee, or recruit a new local growth leader who can identify sales prospects, distribution partnerships, human capital pools, capital sources and media relationships.  Historically, the PropTech community has offered little help.


The Opportunity

In listening carefully to local innovators, we’ve learned that EMEA PropTech startups crave proven teams, programs and networks to assist with new market entry. The new MetaProp Bridge @ Columbia University was conceived to speed and facilitate cross-border PropTech into North America. Startup needs we expect to address include:

  • Acquiring tests, pilots and customers across North America,

  • Securing new US venture and strategic capital, and

  • Quickly recruiting new key employees in the US in major markets like New York and Silicon Valley.

Introducing the MetaProp Bridge @ Columbia University

What: The first ever cross-border PropTech accelerator. The 20-week MetaProp Bridge at Columbia University connects up to 6 select PropTech startups from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa to award-winning investors, experienced mentors and diverse real estate, technology and institutional partners in North America.  Detailed benefits for participating startups include:

  • Up to $250,000 investment from MetaProp and partners as well as other corporate perks;
  • Intensive enterprise business development and consumer tech coaching from MetaProp partners;
  • Introductions to the real estate, technology and PropTech communities across North America, including broad exposure via a five-city roadshow;
  • Access to Silicon Valley and East Coast-based venture capitalists, as well as to strategic investors from the major North American gateway cities;
  • Individualized conferences with experienced, cross-border executive mentors from MetaProp’s RE200 network;
  • RE301 education sessions with topics ranging from US business protocols, real estate markets, marketing/sales/business development, business strategy and media relations;
  • Temporary workspace in New York City’s Silicon Alley;
  • A community of other international entrepreneurs facing similar business challenges.



The MetaProp acceleration team, led by me, Zach Aarons (Millennium Partners), Clelia Peters (Warburg Realty), Phil Russo, Leila Collins and Columbia’s Josh Panknin has a proven track record. Additionally, MetaProp is  now investing out of our second venture fund, backed by world-renowned LPs, including a who’s who of the US and global real estate industry. Moreover, we have a support network of startups, mentors and partners (most notably Columbia University and, of course, our global industry partner, The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors).  In particular, we’re supported by MetaProp’s 20+ new, cross-border experienced mentors from the UK, US, Western Europe, Israel and beyond, including top UK PropTech influencer Dan Hughes (RICS), Leon Shpilsky (Oxford Sciences), Ben Lerner (MRI/Qube), Julia Arlt (PwC), Lisa Shaforostova (CBRE), Mark Zeevi (BMBY), venture czar Taylor Wescoatt (Concrete, SeedCamp), UK accelerator pioneer Juliette Morgan (British Land) and many more.


Where & When

The MetaProp Bridge @ Columbia University begins in early March 2018 and ends in mid-July. The first 6 weeks will be spent in London preparing each startup for serious international expansion. The remaining 14 weeks of intensive programming will be based in NYC’s Silicon Alley (Manhattan), which acts as a launching pad for developing business in additional North American markets including Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Toronto. Startups then have an option to extend the NYC portion of the program by an additional 12 weeks.  Important 2017-2018 dates include:

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Want more?

Interested startups, partners and investors can meet key MetaProp partners and learn more about the MetaProp Bridge @ Columbia University during road shows in London (January 15 - 17), and in Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam and Tel Aviv (mid-February).  In the meantime, please contact us below:

For Startups


For Corporate Partners & Sponsors


For Investors

Finally, watch out for the MetaProp Bridge @ Columbia University’s expansion into Asia in early 2019!


  Aaron Block  Co-Founder & Managing Director  Email

Aaron Block
Co-Founder & Managing Director

7 Ways Startup Founders Grow and Scale Their Businesses

Nail it and scale it. That term is thrown around loosely when it comes to building out successful startups and companies but what really goes into ‘scaling it’?

We’ve surveyed seven successful Real Estate tech entrepreneurs to understand the key operational moves they made which allowed them to successfully scale and grow their sales and marketing operations. The founders surveyed represent every major type of business model you can think of: B2B, B2C, Marketplace, SaaS and etc. In this research paper, we will discuss the key findings which should provide a roadmap of the key things to do when entrepreneurs move from finding product market fit to scaling their sales and marketing efforts.

Finding #1: CEO’s better be selling! There are no exceptions to this


It doesn’t matter if you are technical or not, the CEO must represent the person on the team best suited to sell. They must have a holistic view of the organization so they can organize teams to develop the product as needed for customers.

Seven out of seven entrepreneurs surveyed said they were in charge of sales in the early days, lending credibility to the early stage customer. Furthermore, early on the CEO should be the point person for product feedback and they usually know the pain point the strongest. The CEO has a few milestones that they can use to help them measure their product. The first being sales and will you get someone to pay you for the product? Second, can you find a way to replicate that? Third, can you outline the process so it can be handed off to someone else to execute?

Finding #2: Successful early sales teams hire generalists


Although it is tempting to hire a senior sale executive early on, a startup has limited resources in the early days (money, time and structure) and as a result, it needs people who can be flexible to handle a number of key functions.

Six out of seven CEOs brought in a junior hire to replicate theirs sales process once they had figured out the first version of how to complete a sale. A sales generalist for these teams would cover a number of different functions: prospecting leads, making cold calls, qualifying leads, setting up client meetings, accompanying CEO on client meetings and ultimately having the responsibility to close business themselves. In addition, these generalists are responsible for the Account Management work once the initial relationships are established. Interestingly, for some of the companies surveyed, 99% of the revenue occurred right at the time of the initial sale. For others, 99% of the revenue came after the initial sale as the company expanded their footprint with the organization.

Another interesting finding was that the generalists were usually junior hires. VTS hired very junior (a year removed from college) and put them through a real estate bootcamp where they learned everything they needed to sell successfully. They were then responsible for the whole sales process. My company, SpotHero had similar employees who were mostly under the age of 24 and responsible for similar deliverables.

Finding #3: Landing one big account is a game changer


One big account can change the trajectory of an early stage company.

Five out of seven entrepreneurs surveyed said that the turning point in their business was closing one big account. The consensus feeling is that credibility is key in scaling a business and one big account can be the difference between making it and not. Here are a few examples of landmark deals that changed the direction of a few of the companies surveyed:

VTS – Won a deal with Blackstone that was covered by the Wall Street Journal. Once other companies saw Blackstone publicly support VTS, they wanted to work with them as well.

Floored – Signed a large multi-year deal with Hudson Yards in NYC. Hudson Yards became a credible reference point that they could always point back to in future business development deals.

Finding #4: Successful teams specialize later in their lifecycle

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Although generalists are key in the early days, after a startup has traction, it is important to specialize sales team.

Six out of seven entrepreneurs surveyed said that they split the sales function up into specialized components at later stages in the company lifecycle.  There was no single specific point at which they did this, however, it does seem to be the case that as generalists started to become overwhelmed with work that it started to make sense to slowly specialize roles to help the organization keep up with the growing amount of work.

On a high level it seems like sales teams will inevitably split into a few of the different functional groups listed below:

  • SDR (or Sales Development Reps) - Prospect and qualify leads

  • Insight teams / Sales operations  - Demo the product and gather preliminary information for sales reps

  • Inside Sales - Sell products over the phone

  • Account Executives - Sell products in-person

  • Sales Operations - Gather data and help support the Inside and Outside teams to be ready to go when it comes to meeting time

  • Account Management - Handle the account once the relationship is closed. Their goals are sometimes revenue growth of existing book of business or client satisfaction

Finding #5: Founders have intimate knowledge of the pain point

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Three of seven founders surveyed had previously experienced the pain point in their professional life. Nick Romito from VTS was an asset manager who built the product for himself, Michael Mandel from Compstak was a broker who knew the frustration of trading data and Doug Chambers, from Fieldlens, was a Project Manager for a decade before founding his startup. The other entrepreneurs learned the pain points as consumers. Caren Maio from Nestio had been through the apartment search process near a dozen times and Jeremy Smith from SpotHero had accumulated $5,000 in parking tickets before each of them started their companies. If someone feels the pain, is trying to build their own solution because the market doesn’t have anything good and/or they are willing to pay money now for that solution are usually good rules of thumb to identify if the problem is worth solving.

Finding #6: Founders are often not technical

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It was also very interesting to see that all of the founders surveyed did not come from technical backgrounds. It could very well be that not having as strong of tech background limited the entrepreneur’s abilities to pivot into different business models the way other teams might. With that said, intimate knowledge of a pain point not only seems to help build the solution but it seems to help in the process of selling. If you’re coming from industry then you might know the key decision makers involved in a process or how to position a solution. It’s up to the entrepreneur to determine how much industry experience is needed to succeed but it’s clear that there are benefits of knowing how all the stakeholders are impacted by a product and why they need it (or not).

Finding #7: Managing Teams


Every team is going to have to determine their culture and managing style as they scale. It seems like meetings are a great alignment tool (when executed effectively) and should be a way of keeping your teams working toward the same goals. There is not one specific formula for how to manage teams but we’ve aggregated a few different approaches to help to provide a starting point on what to do.

Team meetings

For the entrepreneurs surveyed, the team meetings are a lot more thought out than the one-on-ones. Since they take up multiple people’s time they need to be and have a formal structure. A team lead will call a meeting and will serve as the point person and might also be responsible for the follow up that comes from the meeting. There’s also usually a goal to these meetings.  A team might use OKRs, or Mspot or any number of different goal setting methodologies but almost universally there is something to keep everyone focused on. Lastly, teams are mindful of who is in attendance. Having the people who are critical to accomplishing the goal of the meeting is a good starting point. Just ask yourself, “Given the goal, should this person be here?” as a starting point for determining if they should be there or not.


These are meetings that happen directly with a team lead and their direct reports. This is not just for CEO and direct reports but for VPs on down. The frequency is usually once a week. There is all different feedback on how to run the meetings. Some teams like to have the person requesting the meeting send out the agenda, others like to have their subordinates prepare an agenda ahead of time and then there are those who prefer a less structured free-flowing discussion. Reading between the lines, it seems like this time can also be used to understand how someone is feeling about things outside of work. Some teams like to have once a week, purely social meetings and others like talking about some of these social items in the one-on-ones.


All in all, there are a number of ways to build a successful business but a few things really hold true. Of the companies surveyed, each CEO had the responsibility of selling the product. For a majority of the companies that are bias toward sales led the company to making one large sale that ultimately changed the trajectory of the company. A number of the other milestones for the businesses surveyed came after having some of these early first customers, so it’s important to not overlook the importance of sales in the early stages. Later stages of these companies lifecycles are about specialization and getting the right people in the right places to be successful. Hopefully these lessons can help you figure out the blueprint for your next successful startup venture.


  Jeremy Smith  Entrepreneur in Residence  Email

Jeremy Smith
Entrepreneur in Residence

Portfolio Synergies

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Most established venture capital investors take advantage of economies of scale to help their startups grow.  Over the years, we’ve studied and taken cues from the way other venture funds bring together startups for their LP investor days. In addition, we love how investors like OpenView have created a "Labs" team to serve startups' needs..

This is even more pronounced with a domain-focused firm like MetaProp NYC.  Since we invest only in real estate technologies (“PropTech”), we have the chance to regularly serve the highest potential startups, individually and collectively, in ways that continue to pay dividends. The MetaProp world (70+ PropTech startups) is designed to be greater than the sum of any individual parts.At our firm, we call this “portfolio synergy.”

Some examples of our recent portfolio synergy initiatives include:

 Co-Founder Aaron Block presenting at Cushman & Wakefield Pilot Day

Co-Founder Aaron Block presenting at Cushman & Wakefield Pilot Day

  • Live presentations during public demo days, private pilot days and ideation/innovation workshops with top global real estate firms including Blackstone, Howard Hughes, Cushman & Wakefield, Zillow and more.
  • Speaking opportunities and discounted/free tickets to major and niche industry events around the world.

  • Establishment of a Slack channel dedicated to problem solving and lead sharing.

  • Implementing Young Presidents Organization-style “forum” norms to MetaProp Accelerator and MetaProp Pre-Accelerator @ Columbia University group meetings.

But, more importantly, our startups are connecting and starting to create synergies on their own.  Notable MetaProp “portfolio synergy” wins:

  • This week’s announcement that Jetty and LoftSmart launched a Security Deposit API partnership (first of its kind) to bring Jetty's security deposit product to the LoftSmart platform, saving college students everywhere time and hundreds of dollars: article here.
  • Fortunately for us, the partnership between Jetty and LoftSmart was not the first example of a MetaProp “portfolio synergy” event.  Earlier this year, tech-enabled title and escrow company Spruce worked with tech-enabled mortgage broker Morty to finance and close a residential home purchase transaction.


What do you see in the market? Any suggestions for ways to increase portfolio synergy or lift the tide for all companies in an ecosystem? 

Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below!



  Aaron Block  Co-Founder & Managing Director  Email

Aaron Block
Co-Founder & Managing Director

  Aaron Block  Co-Founder & Managing Director  Email

Aaron Block
Co-Founder & Managing Director

PropTech in Europe

Have you noticed an increase in PropTech programming at major real estate events in Continental Europe?

Earlier this month, I went to ExpoReal in Munich. ExpoReal is the largest real estate gathering in Central Europe, with over 40,000 attendees.

 Fortuitously, ExpoReal starts right on the heels of Oktoberfest.

Fortuitously, ExpoReal starts right on the heels of Oktoberfest.

This year, there was a new focus on technology and startups. For the first time at ExpoReal, an entire section was dedicated to PropTech programming. The programming included three days of panels and speakers focused on technology and investment. In addition, there was an ongoing startup showcase. MetaProp was asked to join a panel about PropTech and Accelerators with Fifth Wall and Concrete.

 Panel on VCs and Accelerators

Panel on VCs and Accelerators

Historically, the UK has been the center of both the European startup ecosystem and European PropTech. The European Investment Fund (EIF) was once an anchor investor into UK funds, providing €2.3 billion for 144 UK venture capital firms between 2011 and 2015. Since Brexit, however, the EIF has halted all new investments into UK funds. In order to fill the investment gap, Europe’s second and third largest venture ecosystems, Germany and France, will likely be boosted by a flood of redirected EIF funding. The effect of Brexit on the UK will be compounded as immigration barriers will make it more difficult for UK firms tech firms to attract top talent. Continental Europe is bracing for a startup boom.

As a direct result of a boom in Continental Europe, more startups from the region will be expanding into the US. Startups will have increased access to funding that will eventually allow them to reach the necessary maturation to expand to the US. However, the reverse is not true. Increased resources and interest in Continental European PropTech will not make an immediate impact on early-stage US PropTech startups looking to scale internationally. The property market in Continental Europe is extremely fragmented, with each country operating under different laws, regulations, and languages. Furthermore, many European countries have less transparency in property markets as compared to the US. It would be impractical for early-stage American PropTech startups to scale in Europe since the cost to enter each market is high and the market is relatively small.

On November 9th, I will be on another panel in Vienna and am looking forward to meeting more PropTech companies from Continental Europe ready to expand to the US.

Dispatch From The Future


I am writing to you from the year 2079.  We just experienced a total solar eclipse over New York City and it enabled us, along with modern technology, to create a brief time warp.  For some silly reason, people think that instead of hearing about our great medical advances over the past 62 years or the technology that enables us to travel through time, you would like to hear about how we evaluate complex real estate transactions in the future. 

My granddaughter just joined the real estate business.  Her first assignment is to conduct diligence and potentially acquire a development site on Mars.  We started successfully landing people on Mars in the 2030’s and the real estate business started to evolve in the 2050’s once we discovered sustainable water sources deep underground.  Crude “bubble cities” with poor vegetation eventually gave way to more developed urban areas with larger, more permanent structures. 

Mars is an interesting market, as almost everything is 3D printed using Graphene on site within days.  So, a project has to be fully baked, so to speak, and ready to go, as soon as it’s underwritten.  The days of change orders are long gone.  Therefore, one has to move fast in this market to win deals.

Although doing business on Mars has its challenges, it also has its benefits.  The land registry system on Mars was created in the 2050’s and was built on a best in class, scalable, blockchain based infrastructure.  People began creating copious amounts of data on each property as soon as the system was set up, so each token that represents a property can be seamlessly exchanged for multiple different types of cryptocurrency.  Tokens also contain detailed information on all the previous transactions of the property, as well as detailed environmental reports, surveys, and other key items. 

I have had my eye on one site in particular.  It is located close to a newly discovered source of Niobium, one of the most valuable metals on Mars.  I believe that this city will attract many new immigrants looking for work, and therefore I would like to build one of the first multi-family developments.

I tell my granddaughter about it and she gets to work.  I send her access to the virtual deal room.  Almost all diligence and valuation work nowadays is done within this environment.  She puts on a headset and finds herself staring at the site on Mars, which is currently a parking lot for mining equipment.  After getting a feel for it, she heads to the control center to do her fieldwork.  The control center looks like the cockpit of a spaceship, and she has 12 screens at her disposal, showing her the survey that is currently being conducted by a small army of drones in the air, and robots on the ground.  With the latest technology, a new survey and Phase I report can be completed within minutes, and automatically recorded on the digital token. 

After getting comfortable physically with the site, she imports the zoning code of this Martian city into her headset and gets to work creating massive studies of what can be built. 

The zoning allows for both office and residential, so she consistently toggles between each use case, while using her AI audio chatbot to solicit proposals from architects who would want to design either type of structure and general contractors who would want to build it.  Within two hours she has obtained three designs for each use that she really likes.  She is ready to start underwriting. 

Underwriting is now done in tandem with chatbots.  The bots pull data from the cloud on construction pricing, office rents, and apartment rents near the area.  They quickly scan expected macro trends for the area based on the expected influx of workers and residents and bump up the most recent comps accordingly.  After one hour of iterating with her chatbots on the best possible scenarios, she is ready to stress test it in the market.  She also obtains feedback from her construction team.

She creates a quick virtual flythrough of the presentation and sends it out to thousands of potential equity and debt partners globally.  Within minutes she begins receiving feedback messages on its viability, and then goes back and redesigns the building, tweaking a few assumptions.  Once she goes back out to the market, the response is positive.  Within one hour, she receives two term sheets for debt and three for equity. 

We are in business!  We still have a few more hours to bid on the property.  People are bidding from all over the globe so we hope we can secure this site.  If we win, the graphene will be shipped up to Mars within a few business days and they will begin the two-week construction process.     

Grant Wernick, The Art of The Pivot, and The Launch of My Career

Pivots over the years have become something of lore in Silicon Valley.  The mantra of “fail fast but pivot faster” is usually in the back of every entrepreneur’s mind as he or she looks to bring product to market.  In 2010, a shopping application called Tote was failing fast.  However, the app’s founders noticed that users were bookmarking images instead of buying them; the team decided to focus on the “pinning” of images and created a new platform called Pinterest.  When Evan Williams was not gaining any traction with his audio platform Odeo, he decided to shut it down, and soon launched a completely new product that eventually became known as Twitter.

These stories are now famous because the companies have become large and influential.  Over the years, I have invested in many companies that have pivoted their product and strategy into something more successful.  However, I have only once experienced a situation where almost the same technological concepts failed in one sector but succeeded in another.  This is the tale of a story that can only happen to who dream big, work hard, and get lucky.  

The year was 2011 and I was struggling to figure out what to do with my professional life.  I was in the process of winding down my walking tour business, Travelgoat, I was a student at Columbia Business School, and I was doing consulting work for Millennium Partners in Los Angeles, working on the Millennium Hollywood project.  Nonetheless, I was still yearning to build my own mobile application in the local travel space, and I was working with my friends at Gin Lane on wireframes for an artificially intelligent itinerary generator app.  Tourists (or locals) would input preferences and the application would spit out a perfect day in a city, with a mix of good meals, cultural activities, museums, parks, and other activities.  

I had started networking in the NYC technology scene and was planning to attend the TechCrunch Disrupt conference that year.  Unfortunately, I had an important meeting in Los Angeles during the conference so could not attend in person.  Instead, I would watch the videos of the startup presentations after work.  I watched many of the impressive presentations but there was one that left my mouth agape in awe and envy.  A new application called Weotta launched, and lo and behold, it was an artificially intelligent itinerary generator.  However, the difference between Weotta and what I was trying to build was that Weotta had a team in place of expert natural language processing and semantic search engineers; I had jack squat.  

After watching the presentation video, I quickly made two phone calls.  My first call was to my friend Dan Kenger at Gin Lane.  I told him to burn the wireframes we had been working on.  Instead of building my own thing, I had decided that I just needed to invest in Weotta.  I was determined to convince the CEO Grant Wernick that he needed my help to build his business, even though I was an unknown quantity in Silicon Valley at the time.  My second call that day was to my friend Rachel Bassini, who was working at NewsCred at the time.  I knew that she was at the conference and was also totally shameless, so I asked if she could introduce herself to Grant and start talking me up.

Never one to back down from a challenge, Rachel complied with my request, and within a couple of days we had scheduled a conference call with Grant.  I was able to impress Grant but to my mild surprise he was non-committal about allowing me to invest in his company.  He said he had to discuss my potential involvement with some of his advisors.  This type of business was new to me as I had come from industries where if people offered you money you typically took it.

A week later I received a call from Grant.  He told me that he wanted me to invest because he was sure I could provide value to Weotta, but others were nervous; after all, I was an unknown quantity.  He told me that it made some of his advisors skittish that I wasn’t a known entity in the Valley and that I did not have a presence on Angel List.  “Angel List?” I asked.  “What is that?  If that’s the only impediment to me investing, get me on the platform immediately.”  Grant explained to me that Angel List was a new technology platform he helped create where startups looking to raise money could meet angel investors looking to invest in startups.  He introduced me to their team and I was allowed to create a profile.  After that I became addicted to Angel List, but that’s another story for another day.

I took the plunge, invested in Weotta, and started to help the team on strategy.  The “special sauce” behind the Weotta application was its core semantic search querying capabilities, which were designed by the company’s co-founding CTO Jacob Perkins.  Within a couple of years, Weotta had built what I believed to be the best search engine for local data on the web and because of this Grant was able to attract investment from venture funds like Google Ventures and Data Collective.  Unfortunately, even though the product was used in 1000’s of U.S. cities monthly potential users of the app just didn’t seem to care how good the semantic search technology was.  

In the summer of 2015 Weotta was at a crossroads.  The company was running out of money and it’s only direct path to monetization was going the local ad route or selling data to hedge funds.  Grant knew that he needed to raise more money, sell, or pivot.  He put together a deck showcasing the technology behind the app.  He took a sample local query, like “What’s a great place to have tacos and Margaritas for Sunday brunch at 11 AM with my girlfriends?”  Weotta spit back multiple options of places that served tacos and margaritas, and was open on Sundays at 11 AM, just like magic.  The competitors, mainly Google, Bing and Siri, responded with disjointed and incoherent responses.  

Although investors viewed this demonstration as impressive, monetization around local search wasn’t compelling, given the grueling local sales efforts needed to turn a buck in in the space, and the issues the leaders in the space like Foursquare and Yelp have had. Grant knew local search wasn’t the path forward, so he started exploring taking their technologies to the enterprise. Right away there was a lot of interest around utilizing it for querying all sorts of data from CRM to logs. Through Data Collective, one of the investors in Weotta, this deck found its way into the hands of senior executives at Splunk, the publicly traded machine data and cyber security company.  They saw something that no one else did at the time; this semantic search technology, with a few tweaks, could become a powerful weapon to combat potential cyber-attacks at large organizations. Also, they saw an opportunity for meaningful partnership. Splunk is a super powerful product, but only a handful of people in any given organization could use it – could Grant and his team be the partner they had been looking for to unlock the value of Splunk?

After many interesting conversations and a small investment into the company from Splunk itself, Grant, Jacob, and the entire team decided they needed to make the hard decision and shut down Weotta, take a hard pivot, and become a deep enterprise product.  Despite the hardship, the team stayed together and launched a new company called Insight Engines.  Insight Engines would run on top of Splunk, and allow Splunk’s Fortune 500 CIO clients to query important information about potential cyber breaches in a faster and more efficient way.

When you visit the homepage of Insight Engines today, you can see an example of how the technology works.  


It’s obvious when looking at this query why a Fortune 500 CIO would be interested in quickly obtaining the answer from a cyber security perspective.  What’s less obvious is how similar this query is to a query that I would have asked on Weotta:

Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 10.51.43 AM.png

The pivot has worked!  Their product is used daily by some of the largest organizations on the planet, they just raised a new round of financing, and they continues to push the envelope.  They are off to the races.  I couldn’t be happier for them as they stuck to their belief that this type of technology would prove valuable and they showcased a willingness to listen to the market.

40 Reasons To Attend The 2017 MIPIM PropTech Summit


Like PropTech? Here’s 40 Reasons You Can’t Miss the 2017 MIPIM PropTech Summit!

We are in the midst of next great revolution of technology and there is no better time to be in PropTech than right now. With PropTech accelerating at a breakneck pace, with billions of dollars being funneled into hundreds of startups, it's hard to keep up with the change that is occurring each and every day. To stay better connected and informed, you need to attend the MIPIM PropTech Summit during NYC Real Estate Tech Week.

Quite simply, the MIPIM PropTech Summit is the gold standard of PropTech events, in the center of the PropTech universe. The PropTech Summit serves as an international exchange of ideas and insights into the thriving PropTech industry, where hundreds of leaders from over 15 countries and 100+ companies culminate to discuss and promote innovation, entrepreneurship, and social impact in PropTech. At the same event, you will find scrappy startup founders, Fortune 500 company executives, expert investors, and top government officials, all united under the ideology that PropTech has and will continue to have a profound impact on the world. Through their willingness to share and exchange ideas at the PropTech Summit, the participants enrich the entire real estate ecosystem with diverse perspectives and experiences. The event features influencers like Duke Long and Drew Meyers of Geek Estate Labs who have helped transform PropTech and drive a change in an industry that has just realized its potential to impact the world.


From entrepreneurial superstars like:

Matt Ables, CEO, BuiltWorlds

Doug Chambers, VP, WeWork

Al Goldstein, CEO, Avant

Ro Gupta, CEO, Carmera

Brad Hargreaves, CEO, Common

Stephen King, CEO, REXMLS

Riggs Kubiak, CEO, Honest Buildings

Ragnar Lifthrasir, CEO, Velox.RE

David Lyman, CEO, BetterView

Caren Maio, CEO, Nestio

Michael Mandel, CEO, CompStak

Cindy McLaughlin, CEO, Envelope

Ryan Simonetti, CEO, Convene

Leonard Steinberg, President, Compass

Jonathan Wasserstrum, CEO, The Square Foot

Brandon Weber, Co-founder, VTS


To corporate heavyweights like:

Guy Bradley, CEO, Swire Properties

Aine Brazil, Vice Chairman, Thornton Tomasetti

Ric Clark, CEO, Brookfield

Robert Entin, EVP, Vornado

Chris Gregg, CEO, British Land

Karen Hollinger, AvalonBay

Takeshi Kodama, PM, Mitsui Fudosan

Will O'Donnell, Managing Partner, PLD Ventures

Johnathan Pearce, SVP, Ivanhoe Cambridge

Lisa Piccard, CEO, Equity Office Properties

Kim Scharf, SVP, DDR Corp.

Jeff Stein, Head of AECOM Ventures, AECOM

Colette Temmink, Executive MD, C&W

Owen Thomas, CEO, Boston Properties

Jacob Werner, MD, Blackstone

Bob White, CEO, RCA


We even brought in an all-star panel of judges for the Startup Competitions:

Bob Courteau, CEO, Altus

David Eisenberg, SVP, CBRE

David Goldberg, General Partner, Corigin

Brad Greiwe, Co-founder, Fifth Wall

Dan Hughes, Director of Data, RICS

Sandy Jacolow, CIO, Silverstein Properties

Maria Seredina, M&A, Zillow


This culmination of leaders will guide attendees through the realm of PropTech. While the star studded speakers, expert led conferences, and industry lauded Startup Competition provide tremendous value to PropTech participants, the greatest value of the PropTech Summit lies in the attendees who have the opportunity to learn and network with top real estate and technology minds from around the world. See you October 11th in New York City. You can’t afford to miss it! Learn more and reserve your ticket here

Why New York City is the Center of the PropTech Universe


Undoubtedly, New York City is the world’s best market for real estate, where total property value crossed the $1.0 TRILLION mark for the first time ever in 2017, according to the Department of Finance. Real Estate has been notoriously slow adopting new technology, lagging behind other major industries such as FinTech and HealthTech over the past two decades.

However, this lack of technology adoption actually represents an enormous opportunity in PropTech, especially in New York City. Startups are increasingly recognizing this special moment in time, and as the real estate capital of the world, New York City has become a breeding ground for new PropTech companies to operate. Don’t believe us? Just ask BuiltWorlds, who recently dubbed New York City “the hottest place for tech in the built world.” Just prior to BuiltWorlds’ proclamation, MetaProp NYC was excited to have a few of the BuiltWorlds team members in our Flatiron, Manhattan office to talk all things PropTech!

  Pictured from left to right: Sam Huffman, Phil Russo, Bryant Donnowitz, Evan Petitt and Matt Gray

Pictured from left to right: Sam Huffman, Phil Russo, Bryant Donnowitz, Evan Petitt and Matt Gray

Who calls NYC home?

In order to stay relevant in the ongoing real estate tech revolution, all the biggest PropTech companies have an established presence in New York City. WeWork, the sixth largest privately held startup now estimated to be worth more than $20 billion, calls NYC home. In addition, heavy hitters VTS, Compass, StreetEasy, Compstak and many more, have their headquarters in New York City. Other PropTech power houses such as Airbnb, Zillow, RedFin, and OpenDoor have offices in the Big Apple. Even tech behemoth Google has dipped its toes in PropTech’s waters with urban innovation organization Sidewalk Labs, the headquarters of which is -- you guessed it -- in New York City.

Quite simply, if you’re a booming PropTech company, a presence in NYC is essential.

Support at the government level

One major endorsement that New York City has working in its favor is the highly enthusiastic backing of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), helping to further establish NYC as a most favorable place for technology companies. The NYCEDC’s recognition and dedication to PropTech in NYC has given the city a competitive advantage in the rapidly growing PropTech world. Thanks to their efforts, New York City (specifically Silicon Alley) has become the second most dynamic ecosystem for tech, trailing only Silicon Valley. With steady cooperation and support at the government level, New York City is well equipped to retain its PropTech dominance.

Elite academic institutions

Another key factor in NYC’s PropTech dominance  is the high concentration of universities with specialized programs in real estate and technology that make the city a magnet for entrepreneurs. In this regard, Columbia University’s dedication to PropTech has been the gold standard. This year, the university’s Center for Urban Real Estate (CURE) and MetaProp NYC teamed up to successfully create the world’s first Pre-Accelerator for earliest-stage PropTech companies.


In addition, Cornell Tech’s massive expansion on Roosevelt Island will churn out tech-savvy entrepreneurs with its highly immersive program starting this year. In addition, NYU’s Schack Institute of Real Estate, as well as Fordham’s Real Estate Institute, are premier universities that graduate talented individuals every year who either go on to start their own companies or become major influencers in the space. This dedication to PropTech at the student level has made NYC a hub of youthful innovation and has attracted the attention, investment and validation of New York City as the PropTech capital of the world.

NYC Real Estate Tech Week and the MIPIM PropTech Summit 2017

Finally, New York City hosts NYC Real Estate Tech Week which has become the “Davos of PropTech”. Hundreds of PropTech leaders, entrepreneurs, strategists and influencers from around the world will meet in October for a week-long series of events, anchored by the MIPIM PropTech Summit, the single biggest global event in PropTech. Last year, Reed MIDEM, the #1 global real estate conference organizer, chose New York CIty as its first host city in the United States. With more than 500 attendees from 15 countries, the Summit has become a magnet for the best of the best real estate and technology leaders to come together to share their latest innovation insights. For more information on NYC Real Estate Tech Week and the MIPIM PropTech Summit visit and

  Bill Rudin, CEO of Rudin Management Company speaking at the 2016 MIPIM PropTech Summit

Bill Rudin, CEO of Rudin Management Company speaking at the 2016 MIPIM PropTech Summit

What We Learned from the Latest Open Application Season


PropTech has never been more exciting and we're thrilled to be living in the middle of the action.  The MetaProp Accelerator at Columbia University team is proud to share that we again received hundreds of applications for our program.

Unsurprisingly, we'll all be swamped trying to get through the flood of applications over the coming two weeks. Although I find the stack of applications a bit intimidating, I am also excited for this final push.

One of the best parts of my work at MetaProp is having the opportunity to meet passionate entrepreneurs from different backgrounds and places every day. Historically, both technology and real estate have lacked diversity and inclusivity. Our open application season is an opportunity for our team to work to make our little corner of the world more inclusive by inviting everyone to engage with us on a level playing field.

We crunched the numbers last night and found some interesting stats.  I figured that our community would appreciate some real time insights from the open application period...

Geographically, nearly 25% of the companies came from NYC - our home base and the center of PropTech. The other 75% or so of the startups came from 69 different cities and 25 different countries. Most interestingly, almost 30% of program applications came from outside of the US.


There are more interesting and truly different ideas buried in this stack of applications than we have ever seen before. It is clear that more entrepreneurs are focused on real estate than ever before and as a result, founders are thinking way outside of the box and we are very excited to see how this type of thinking will affect this industry. We'll be looking at applications from startups solving big problems in interesting areas of PropTech, including smart cities, residential brokerage, tenant advocacy and sustainability.  I'm confident that we'll be able to select a great group of entrepreneurs again for the 2017 accelerator program.

However, there is one glaring area for improvement...Despite our best efforts to find and recruit female entrepreneurs, less than 15% of 2017 applications came from female founders. From a social and cultural perspective, the technology industry -- and venture capital in particular -- is often not a comfortable place for women.  This is bad for society, bad for our PropTech community, and bad for business: statistically, female founders perform better.

We're committed to solving this problem.  In fact, the partners at MetaProp have been discussing a number of specific initiatives inside PropTech and the broader business and social communities to identify, promote and support female entrepreneurs.  In addition, this year I made it my mission to reach out to all of the smartest people I could think of who have promoted women in technology and real estate. What was their take?  Generally, I heard the same thing.   It is a "pipeline issue."  If this is true, that means that there simply are not enough women who are encouraged to take the leap and to start their own PropTech company.  Therefore, there are not enough women applying to any accelerator programs.

So, here's a 2018, I'd like to challenge our MetaProp team and our partners to have 40% of total applications submitted by female founders.

Internally at MetaProp, we are working on even more innovative solutions to achieve this ambitious goal.  More on that soon.  But, change has to come from the community too.  Everyone can be a part of the solution.  If you have ideas for ways that MetaProp, our partners, friends and community can build a stronger pipeline of female PropTech founders, please respond in the comments section or send us an email at

We will be announcing the 2017 class in the next couple of weeks. Please stay tuned!

How We Choose You: A Look Inside Our Open Application Process

With applications closing tomorrow, we are busy reviewing applications, interviewing startup CEOs and making offers. It is a very exciting time in the office but I also understand that it can be nerve-wracking and confusing for CEOs. This blog post is intended to demystify the application process for you if you are currently finishing up your application or waiting to hear back.

In terms of the process, after we receive your application on F6S or Angellist we will review your application and reach out to schedule an interview if we think your company might be a good fit. Typically, a CEO will be interviewed two to three times throughout the process by myself, Aaron and often one or more partners. Our Investment Committee reviews the application after the interviews. If you make it through the Investment Committee, I will reach out to start due diligence. If a company makes it through due diligence, we send an offer letter.

Sometimes this entire process can take less than two weeks. Other times, it takes months. For any applications submitted recently, we will expedite the process and get back to you before the end of the month.

Throughout the process we try to be respectful of each entrepreneur’s time — your job is, after all, to build a company — not to prepare for interviews and put together data rooms. Still, if you are selected for the accelerator you will enter our portfolio and we have a responsibility to our LPs to vet each company thoroughly. That means we cannot take any shortcuts.

The interview process for the accelerator is different from our process for a fund investment because we are looking for more than just great investments -- accelerator companies need to be excellent investments AND a great part of the cohort. We have found that the best cohorts consist of companies that are ready to start selling into real estate and that represent a broad range of asset classes. It is extremely important to us to have a diverse group of CEOs with experiences and personalities that will compliment each other. For a cohort to be successful, we need each CEO to bring a unique perspective to the forum and also to be supportive to the other CEOs. We work hard and our program is very serious, but we also care about building a lasting community with shared values.

Below is a list of some quick tips for a successful accelerator interview:

  1. Explain the problem. Make sure to fully explain the problem you are looking to solve early on. We want to make a bet on someone who is obsessed with solving a big problem — and willing to pivot to solve it.

  2. Be professional. This one may seem obvious, but make sure to respond promptly to emails, return requested materials quickly and show up on time.

  3. Make it a conversation. We are, at the bottom, investing in you and your team. The more conversational you can be during your pitch, the more you will connect with us.

  4. Talk about your team. We want to know you have the team to grow your company by 500% by February.

  5. Have a plan. Our team can help you the most if you are ready to grow very quickly. Show us that you know who you want to sell to and how you want to reach them.

  6. Be ready. We can move quickly, so have your basic diligence materials ready to go so you can send them to us right away. It shows us that you are professional and ready to fundraise.

  7. Know what you want. We are here to help you and we appreciate when you have already thought about how you would get the most out of our program.

If you have any questions, send me an email at Good luck!


Apply for MetaProp NYC’s 2017-18 Accelerator

Building Culture at Fast Growing Startups

  hOM employees doing yoga together, including co-founder and CRO Ryan Freed

hOM employees doing yoga together, including co-founder and CRO Ryan Freed

While building a scrappy, fast-growing startup what is the balance between developing a positive company culture and moving quickly?

My first meeting at our accelerator alumnae hOM's office began with meditative breathing led by hOM co-founder, Corey. I was more than a little confused, but when we opened our eyes and gave a final exhale of OM, I found myself thinking more clearly. For hOM, a tech enabled facilities manager that provides yoga classes and more to residential and office buildings, fast growth and a positive culture have been directly linked.

According to the Journal of Organizational Behavior, a positive company culture can boost performance, but performance does not necessarily boost culture. Work environments with negative cultures, on the other hand, often see a decline in performance and even unsafe work environments. The latter has famously played out very publicly at Uber.

A strong company culture can give an early stage startup a defensible advantage over not only the startup competition, but even incumbents -- particularly in real estate, where incumbent culture can be stagnant. Unlike other characteristics of early stage startups, culture is almost impossible to copy.

The following exhibit pulled from a book on corporate culture call “Corporate Culture and Performance” by John Kotter and James Heskett shows the vast differences in revenues, employment growth, stock price and net income based on culture.

Each company that we work with is, of course, unique and culture is not one-size-fits-all. The founders of hOM set out to build a company that treats fitness professionals as they should be treated: with full benefits and job security. Like Managed by Q’s philosophy that “everybody cleans,” (read CEO Dan Teran explain more here), at hOM everyone is involved in the core business: teaching yoga. Yoga organizes hOM’s entire culture because at hOM, everyone does yoga. Part time yoga instructors at hOM also happen to be anything from full stack engineers to growth hackers to content marketers. The result at both companies is a culture where the business leaders deeply understand the service provided and the experience of those providing it.

Since hOM is organized around yogic principals, Fran, the CEO of hOM, explained that transparency is the core tenant of hOM’s culture. “We want everything to be open -- even if it isn’t fair,” Fran explains.  hOM has baked that transparency into the company from the ground up. During weekly team meetings, everyone has a chance to flag things, “we take a lot of notes about how people are responding to each other and if one person is overwhelmed you can see that it affects the entire department so we need to note that and fix it.” In keeping with the company’s yogi mission, hOM incorporates mindfulness and Dharma into their weekly meetings as well. As I experienced, each meeting begins with three, seven-second breaths and a “clearing” where each member of the meeting announces what is on their mind and keeping them from being present. It can get personal -- breakups, family problems and even death. The meeting is closed with a “Dharma Talk,” a 15-minute workshop. “We get very hippie at the end of the meeting but it is all about acknowledging being human but then having to be in a work environment and having to be ultra productive,” Fran explains.

Dharma Talks and meditation are of course not a fit for most companies, ours being one of them, but for hOM it has quite literally paid off:

  • Almost every employee has taken a pay cut to join hOM, with culture being the most commonly cited reason.
  • In four years, only two of hOM’s employees have chosen to leave -- and both of them were leaving to switch careers rather than to go to a different company.
  • Their unique culture has been key in closing deals -- property managers realize that it will boost tenant retention if their tenants have someone cheery and positive from hOM to interact.
  • Finally, hOM has received several acquisition offers from legacy companies who are looking to rebrand and who like hOM’s image as a positive, calm and friendly tech enable facilities manager.

Since starting our accelerator in September, the company has more than doubled its MRR, almost tripled its number of customers and doubled its team. When we evaluate companies to invest in and to join our accelerator, we are looking for teams that can scale quickly. A big part of that, is an open and inclusive company culture that supports employees, promoting sales and customer service.


Apply for MetaProp NYC’s 2017-18 Accelerator

The 2017-18 MetaProp Accelerator only has two openings remaining. Applications close on August 15, 2017. The companies already committed span the industry and focus on issues such as door-access, retail site selection, parking and indoor climate control. PropTech startups interested in applying for the 2017-18 Accelerator class can get further information and apply here.


The Relationship Between Corporate Culture and Performance | WSJ

Which comes first, organizational culture or performance? A longitudinal study of causal priority with automobile dealerships | Journal of Organizational Behavior

Building Better Cities with PropTech

Historically, the real estate industry has often perpetuated inequality in cities. As PropTech booms, could technology enable industry leaders to build more equitable cities?

This past Tuesday, we announced that Noelle Francois, Executive Director of  Heat Seek, has joined MetaProp as an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR). Noelle is researching how technology can improve life for tenants living in government-owned, subsidized and affordable housing.

When I moved to NYC a year ago, excited to work on urban issues through technology, I was introduced to Noelle. Noelle advised I look into working at MetaProp because - she explained - one critical way to make cities more livable is to address issues in the environments where people spend most of their time: the buildings where they live and work. Now, almost a year later, I feel so grateful for that initial conversation I had with Noelle. Working at MetaProp has been, and continues to be incredibly meaningful.

Noelle’s NGO, Heat Seek, offers tenants affordable temperature sensors that collect and transmit ambient temperature data to Heat Seek NYC’s servers. Heat Seek then crunches this data and provides it as a comprehensive report indicating when the building's temperature is below the legal limit. Heat Seek has shed light on a little-known problem: many New Yorkers suffer from apartments that are too cold and lack the resources to advocate for safer conditions.

Despite excellent, cutting edge technology and tight operations, after four years of fighting for tenants through the nonprofit model, Noelle and her team have found that nonprofit funding for new technology is limited and slow. Ultimately, it has been hard to scale and maintain Heat Seek services.

Unwilling to give up on tenants most in need and determined to help more tenants, Noelle has begun to ask if those with the most resources in the sector -- the owners and property managers -- might actually have a profit motive to make tenants safer and healthier. Noelle is begging the question: what if the NYC real estate industry, notoriously a promoter of an increasingly unequal city, could actually find profits in making life better for those in need?

Noelle will spend the next four and a half weeks taking a new approach to her work: she will work with MetaProp to research the market demands for technology in the government-owned, subsidized and affordable housing sector. Her research will enable her organization -- and its mission -- to sustain itself by attracting resources for tech-enabled tenant advocacy.

I am so excited to work with Noelle to research how technology in real estate can make our city a safer, healthier, and more equitable place to live for all New Yorkers.                                   


Apply for MetaProp NYC’s 2017-18 Accelerator

The 2017-18 MetaProp Accelerator only has four openings remaining. Applications close on August 15, 2017. The companies already committed span the industry and focus on issues such as door-access, retail site selection, parking and indoor climate control. PropTech startups interested in applying for the 2017-18 Accelerator class can get further information and apply here.

How An Idea Becomes A Company

  (From left) Amol Sarva, Knotel| Susannah Vila, Flip | Jonathan Wasserstrum, TheSquareFoot | Zachary Aarons, MetaProp NYC | Stu Ellman, RRE Ventures

(From left) Amol Sarva, Knotel| Susannah Vila, Flip | Jonathan Wasserstrum, TheSquareFoot | Zachary Aarons, MetaProp NYC | Stu Ellman, RRE Ventures

People have ideas for companies all the time; sometimes they come from personal experience, sometimes they come from a hunch.  Some ideas are good and some terrible.  Very rarely, does an idea moves past that stage to become a product or feature; even more rarely, does that product become a company; and, almost never, does that company becomes a successful company.  Usually, for an idea to become a company, an entrepreneur needs the following attributes: intelligence, energy, charisma, stubbornness, and luck.  A founder also usually needs to rope in cheerleaders and champions along the way.

Over the past couple of months, both Andy Weissman and Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures have written excellent blog posts about why they a huge investment opportunity in the MetaProp NYC portfolio company Flip.  Posts like these as well as an ongoing content marketing effort has helped Flip grow its customer base significantly over the past few months.  Like all startups, as evidenced by the comments on these posts, Flip still has its fair share of super fans and skeptics.  While the company still has a long way to go, customers are seeing the pain point and using the service. Although it is very much still a nascent business, Flip has made the transition from idea to product and now recently to a company.  The next challenge will be executing on the vision.

I’m not writing this post to extol the value of Flip (although I think it’s immense), or even to discuss the company’s business model.  Instead, I would like to take the opportunity to show aspiring entrepreneurs what it takes to turn an idea into a company: the correct mix of intelligence, energy, charisma, stubbornness and luck combined with a stable of cheerleaders.

In March of 2015, MetaProp did not yet really exist.  Aaron and Clelia, in anticipation of the upcoming public launch of our accelerator program in August of 2015, were pushing me to “get out there more” by doing things like panels and thought leadership.  The executives at the Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate at Columbia University were kind enough to allow me to moderate my very first panel on PropTech at the University.  The panel was a big hit and featured really interesting startups like Compass, Honest Buildings, Travtus, The Square Foot, and SiteCompli.

After the panel I was bombarded with students from the business school coming up to me and pitching me on their ideas for a startup.  After the mayhem subsided, one final student came up to me and explained what she was working on.  I can’t remember exactly why I decided to pay attention to her as opposed to the others; maybe she seemed more poised and less scattered.  Regardless, she mentioned that she and her classmates were experiencing frustration with the rigidity of the current apartment lease structure and she was building a product to help ease this pain.  

I was intrigued and gave her my email address to follow up.  Below, please find a screenshot of that original email:

The following week we decided to meet at a Breather space near my office for a white boarding session.  One of the things I liked about Susannah was that she really lived by the Lean Startup methodology.  Between the time she had emailed me and the time that we met a few weeks later, she had already released a prototype of her product in private beta with her friends up at Columbia.  She had received feedback on the product and was already iterating.  

We discussed everything from residential leases to commercial leases to a vision of the future where leases exist on the blockchain and are completely fluid.  I could tell almost immediately that I wanted to invest in this company, but I wanted to make sure that she was going to do it correctly.  I told her that she needed to find early investor champions as well as a co-founding Chief Technology Officer if she really wanted to make a go of it.  I also let her know that an accelerator would be a good idea and she should apply.

After another month or so, she was ready to graduate business school.  She was taking a venture capital class that I had taken a few years before with Stu Ellman and Will Porteous of RRE Ventures.  We took the deck that she created for that class and got her some very valuable angel investor introductions with that, including Joanne Wilson, who became an early champion for Susannah and ultimately joined the Board of Directors.  The deck can be viewed here.  It’s certainly come a long way since then…

The next major domino to fall, and in my opinion when Flip made the transition from idea to product, was when she began the TechStars New York accelerator program in the Fall of 2015.  Alex Iskold, the program director, immediately understood that Flip could be a massive business.  He also understood that Susannah couldn’t do it on her own and needed a strong technical co-founder.  Luckily for both of them, Roger Graham was hanging around TechStars at the time and entertaining many different offers.  A talented full stack engineer, Roger was unfortunately feeling the pain of carrying three residential leases at the same time.  He joined the team within a week and they were off to the races.

In the Spring of 2016, we began to discuss with Susannah the possibility of Flip joining our second MetaProp NYC accelerator class.  While she was now steeped in technology and the startup industry, she had still never had a job before in commercial and residential real estate.  We could offer her a 22 week crash course that she needed on the industry itself, and how to navigate within it.  We were lucky to convince her to join, and she became a valuable contributor to our forum sessions.  Since she had already gone through TechStars, she was able to serve as a mentor for some of the younger entrepreneurs in the cohort, especially the co-founders of Bowery Real Estate Systems.  

Fast forward to the summer of 2017 and it’s safe to say that the idea has now become a company.  Thinking back to that first meeting at my panel in 2015, it’s amazing to reflect on all they have built in such a short time.  However, now the truly hard work begins. She now has a working product, product/market fit, a great team, and fantastic investors behind her.  It’s time to get to work!

Apply now to our 2017 accelerator program.