Eric Thomas, Principal at Cresa

The Innovation Conversation is a series of Q&A sessions between the real estate technology industry's top leaders and MetaProp Co-Founder and Managing Director Aaron Block.  Topics include thoughts on the future of property and technology, corporate innovation activities and executive development in the real estate technology space.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities in your organization?

Advising Cresa clients on all stages of transaction management process.

As a Principal of Cresa New York, I am also involved in day-to-day operations and the long-term vision and direction of the office.

Describe how you became interested in PropTech and innovation.

I have been interested in the technology around the CRE business since I started in 2000 and saw the first wave of technology disruption.

I have been lucky enough to build relationships with companies and individuals personally invested in the innovation of the industry through technology.

In the next 10 years, what area of the real estate industry do you think will change the most dramatically?

Commercial Real Estate Leasing. There is opportunity for the innovation of better processes for the client around technology workflow and data analytics. The real estate broker model will continue to shift from the “space expert” to an advisory role for businesses as related to real estate strategy and leasing. The ability to build business cases for stakeholders and decision makers in the real estate process will continue to be paramount. These decisions will continue to involve financial, workplace, labor, infrastructure, technology, and demographic considerations. But, how that information is collected, analyzed, and presented through technology is ever changing and is extremely interesting to me.

What is the most important innovation and technology-driven initiative in your organization today?

Adoption of Salesforce on a global level at Cresa as a front-end business development and client relationship management tool and back-end budgeting and revenue projection resource.

What role have mentors played in your success? How would you advise others to develop strong relationships with mentors?

I have a small group of mentors and advisors from various stages of my professional career and personal life.

I recommend to everyone to develop your own “personal board of directors” and to rely on them for advice when making strategic decisions for your clients, your own business, and yourself.

What is one interesting thing about you that most people don’t already know?

Aaron Block introduced me to my wife and was the best man in our wedding in Romania!.

Adam L. Stanley, Global CIO at Cushman & Wakefield

The Innovation Conversation is a series of Q&A sessions between the real estate technology industry's top leaders and MetaProp Co-Founder and Managing Director Aaron Block.  Topics include thoughts on the future of property and technology, corporate innovation activities and executive development in the real estate technology space.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities in your organization?

Driving strategic vision of technology and innovation. Managing all operations for client facing and internal technology.  As part of the Executive Leadership Team, I have responsibility for all information technology and systems, processes and solutions including client-facing technology services. Focused on leading initiatives that improve productivity, increase agility, enhance shareholder value, and strengthen client services.

Describe how you became interested in PropTech and innovation.

I am CIO of a Real Estate firm! There is no other option than to be interested. And having been a part of disrupted banking and insurance industries, I know how fast things can change. When I first joined what was then DTZ, I started looking for people in the industry that got tech and quickly built relationships. People like Jordan Nof of Tuft Ventures and Aaron Block from MetaProp. Plus, attending events like DisruptCRE have been incredible ways for me to meet innovative players. The more I see players coming up with new ideas, the more interested I become in PropTech. 

In the next 10 years, what area of the real estate industry do you think will change the most dramatically?

Commercial Brokerage. It will fundamentally be a different service in 10 years. With increasing transparency and democratization of data, the business model will continue to evolve to focus on insight, analytics, and advisory services rather than traditional search and lease. Value add is critical and the industry must continue to evolve to drive better, quicker, decision making and portfolio optimization.

What is the most important innovation and technology-driven initiative in your organization today?

RPA (Robotic Process Automation) and machine learning. Both initiatives will change the way we manage several services and increase the value we can drive for clients. We also continue to look for ways we can use data to more efficiently manage our client portfolios and services. I continue to say that Big Data in itself is hype, but Information based analytics is the best of our business.

What role have mentors played in your success? How would you advise others to develop strong relationships with mentors?

Two mentors, both of whom started as bosses but became great friends, have helped me through almost every career move I have made. Their counsel is diverse in both style and content, often giving me very different perspectives to consider. Mentors are incredibly valuable and I hope I can pay it forward and add value to others.

What is one interesting thing about you that most people don’t already know?

I’m fairly open and transparent so if there is something major people do not know, they have not been interested enough to look.

Dozens of Applications Already Received for MetaProp Pre-Accelerator at Columbia University

Although applications have been open for less than a month, the MetaProp Pre-Accelerator at Columbia University has received more than three dozen submissions promising the possibility of real estate's next big idea. Applicants include university students, recent alumni, architects, real estate professionals, investment professionals and entrepreneurs.The pre-accelerator seeks to grow the next innovative PropTech companies during an eight-week boot camp program running from May to June. The MetaProp and Columbia team is thrilled with the breadth of interest in the program. Managing Director Aaron Block said: “I am absolutely blown away, shocked and stunned, by the quantity and caliber of applications we have received already. It is clear that the highest quality of first-time entrepreneurs are jumping into PropTech with both feet.”


Applicants are using cutting edge technology including blockchain, big data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning to disrupt real estate’s most established sectors from senior housing to retail, food, property development and real estate investment. No more than five companies will be selected. Applications close on April 30, but early submissions will get extra attention.  APPLY TODAY! 

Get Closer to the Science

An old friend (who happens to be an accomplished tech CEO) recently suggested that I listen to a few Neil deGrasse Tyson podcast interviews.  I found a great one produced by The Guardian on Spotify.  

Some of Mr. Tyson's thoughts directly apply to many of the mature real estate corporations' businesses.  In general, I like two of his important points (found at the 20th minute):

  • Investments in science today will be engines of tomorrow's growth economies.  
  • Innovation culture allows cross pollination of one solution to another, frequently unrelated, problem. 

3 examples:

  1. Medical Devices.  Nearly all medical devices (CAT, PET, MRI, X-Ray) are able to work because of principles of physics discovered by physicist who had no interest in medicine.  focusing on medical change delivers evolutionary progress.
  2. Stoves.  If you're an expert in stoves, nobody can ask you to think really hard about ways to improve the pot belly stove beyond a few incremental features.  No matter what, you won't create something as different as a microwave oven.  This can not come about from incremental thinking about your own stove business.  It comes from totally different technologies cross pollinating with your own.   In this case, microwave communications.
  3. Grooved Pavement.  Sometimes solutions are not high tech.  Think grooves on off-ramp pavement.  These originally came from NASA's need to control shuttle drift upon tarmac landings.

The way I see it, real estate organizations need to GET NEAR THE INNOVATIVE SCIENCE so that it can cross-pollinate with their needs and create new, revolutionary ways of doing business.  Create an innovation culture.  Embrace next generation #PropTech!

Point of Entry: Opening the Door to PropTech Education

Part of our mission at MetaProp NYC is to provide the global real estate community with easily accessible entry points to engage with property technology. One of the best and most foundational ways to do this is through intellectually rigorous, real-world education. In an effort to open this important gateway into PropTech, we have partnered with cre.tech to create the industry’s first and already highly regarded real estate tech educations series, cre.techLIVE.

(Left to right) Aaron Block, MetaProp NYC Founding Partner & Managing Director introduces cre.techLIVE expert tech brokers Sacha Zarba, CBRE; Jonathan Wasserstrum, CEO, The SquareFoot;  Jim Wink, JLL, and Eric Thomas, CRESA.

(Left to right) Aaron Block, MetaProp NYC Founding Partner & Managing Director introduces cre.techLIVE expert tech brokers Sacha Zarba, CBRE; Jonathan Wasserstrum, CEO, The SquareFoot;  Jim Wink, JLL, and Eric Thomas, CRESA.

The latest of these thought-leadership events -- Commercial Real Estate Brokers as Change Agents, happened today, March 30, 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at 4 Times Square, Manhattan. 

Nick Romito, CEO, VTS interviewed by proptech expert Duke Long at today’s cre.techLIVE event.

Nick Romito, CEO, VTS interviewed by proptech expert Duke Long at today’s cre.techLIVE event.

This highly curated series touches every part of the real estate value chain, focusing each event on an industry vertical or sub-discipline to bring maximum informational clarity and up to the minute tech knowledge to the specific audience. Whether you are a commercial or residential broker, facilities or project manager, or other real estate professional, the cre.techLIVE events provide expert speakers and panelists with powerful PropTech insights into your business. The events are also perfect for the uninitiated in the PropTech world, allowing ease of access into the language and innovation coming out of the local and global real estate startup community.

Recently, cre.techLIVE presented:

Property Executives Gather to Discuss Commercial Real Estate Technology - An examination of how facilities managers and other workplace experts are relying heavily on rapidly evolving technology. As more advanced solutions become available, it’s increasingly important to modernize buildings and operations. Some of New York City’s top facilities and workplace executives gathered to discuss how technology is making its way into their daily operations. The expert panel shared best practices and the latest hardware, software and cloud-based solutions they have adopted to help keep their real estate on the cutting-edge. Participants included: Adam Edrington, Manager of Facilities and Operations at Compass; Alison Kwiatkowski, Projects and Strategy Lead for JLL’s Deutsche Bank Account; Dennis Sherry, Regional Director of Management Services for Newmark Grubb Knight Frank; and Ron Jerman, Vice President of Commercial Operations for The Durst Organization. The discussion was moderated by Russell Olson, Founder of ROI Consulting Group and an Adjunct Professor at Pratt Institute. Find out more about this event here

Facilities Management Technology - Facilities managers are increasingly expected to play a leadership role in the modernization of our buildings and workplaces. Real-time data and analytics are transforming the way we manage the built environment and boosting FM’s strategic value in a data-driven business culture. Every building system is being transformed by digital innovation — lighting, connectivity, climate control, vertical transportation, and more. Technology is also continuing to make its way into the facilities professional’s daily routine, especially in the form of on-demand services and cloud-based software. As more corporate occupiers and real estate companies move their operations online, they need strategic vendors whose systems integrate seamlessly with their own. Global real estate executive Brian Schwagerl talked about best practices and the latest hardware and software for cutting-edge facilities management and workplace enhancement. Find out more about this event here!