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

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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.  

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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:

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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 realestatetechweek.nyc and www.mipim-proptech.com/en.html.

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

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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.

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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 challenge...in 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 info@metaprop.org.

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 lcollins@metaprop.org. Good luck!

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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.

Sources:

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. 

How to Sell

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When an entrepreneur tries to sell a software or hardware product into a large commercial real estate company, they often make a huge mistake by assuming all the stakeholders at that company have the same motivations, goals, and incentives for adopting (or not adopting) a particular technology solution.

In fact, part of the reason why PropTech is such a hard nut to crack is because often entrepreneurs have to make three to four separate sales pitches within one organization before they find the internal champions that are key to securing at least an unpaid pilot and ideally a paid recurring revenue contract.  The different personalities that an entrepreneur needs to convince to close a deal in this industry are: the property/asset manager, the building engineer (when hardware is involved), the Chief Information Officer (CIO), and the CEO/COO of the company.  Each of these players has their very own quirks.  

It’s imperative to understand these dynamics and we spend a large amount of time working with companies in the MetaProp accelerator to drill into these.  To further complicate these issues, often different real estate companies will have different power dynamics.  At some firms, for example, the CIO has a lot of power.  At some other firms, the CIO has no power and all decisions are made at the building level.  If you want to learn more about how each firm deals with new technology, please apply to our program, but for a cursory introduction, please continue reading here.

The Property/Asset Manager

The property/asset manager is often the first person to become acquainted with a new technology. They are typically younger than those in the C-suite, very ambitious and often more open to new technology. Ultimately, though, they only care about three letters: NOI — and they know that technology can help them exceed their goals.  If they can increase the NOI on their property, by either increasing revenue, decreasing expenses, or ideally both, they will look like a hero and have a better chance to catch the attention of C-Suite executives, move up the food chain and advance their careers.

Thus, the property manager is often the simplest target for an entrepreneur to make a sales pitch. The pitch to these people is simple: purchase my technology product for $1 per year, and increase NOI by $2 per year or more.  If your technology can accomplish that, then chances are the property manager will become an internal champion.

The Building Engineer

The building engineer has a very different set of incentives from the property manager.  In many cases, especially when hardware and IoT solutions are involved, it’s the building manager and their staff who are actually implementing the technology on a daily basis.  Building engineers are typically not compensated like property managers; they do not make more money when the building has a “good” year or less money when the building performs financially poorly.  They also do not have the same upwardly mobile career trajectory that a property manager might. Once someone attains the status of building engineer, that is typically the job they hold until retirement.

Therefore, building engineers want technology solutions that actually work and save them time.  They don’t want to spend a huge amount of time deploying the solution and training their staff to use it.  They also don’t want to deploy a piece of technology that will make them or their staff obsolete.  They are fiercely protective of their turf and their staff, rightfully so.  Thus, to sell a building engineer, an entrepreneur has to focus 100% on efficiency.  Deploying solution X will lead to Y fewer hours of time for your staff.  However, solution X still requires a full staff to run it, and is not displacing anyone on your team.  

The Chief Information Officer

The CIO is primarily concerned with two things: security and integration.  They do not care how much money the product will make for the firm, or how much time it can save the building engineer.  The CIO wants to know if the technology is secure and encrypted.  S/he does not want to worry about yet another potential breach in the infrastructure of the company, or worse yet, the physical building infrastructure itself.  Also, the CIO spends the day trying to integrate between twenty to thirty disparate technology solutions that are not built to integrate neatly with one another.  They want to understand how your product will integrate seamlessly with what they already use.  If it can’t integrate, the CIO will most likely kill the deal, even if the property manager and building engineer are on board.

Pitches to the CIO, therefore have to focus on security and integration, not NOI and efficiency.  

The CEO/COO

The top of the organization varies the most on their incentives for adopting technology.  Of course, they are motivated by revenue growth, expense reduction, and efficiency.  And like the CIO, they also are concerned with cybersecurity.  However, what they are most concerned with is corporate culture, both internally and externally.

The CEO wants to know how the company is perceived as an early adopter of technology.  Does this make the company more desirable to the ever elusive potential millennial employee?  Do marquee tenants want to be in the company’s buildings because they embrace innovation?  Are current employees more likely to feel content in their jobs because of this technology adoption?  

That’s why pitches to the C-Suite need to be primarily driven by culture.  As an entrepreneur, you need to understand how to tug at the heart-strings of the CEO.  Make them believe that their company is special for adopting your product.

Conclusion

PropTech is not an easy business. This is the unfortunate reality that entrepreneurs face when selling into this industry.  Instead of throwing up your hands and bemoaning the difficulties, embrace the challenges and quirks associated with the space, because once you finally close a deal, it will be all that much more rewarding…

The Global PropTech Awards

Next generation PropTech is coming of age. How can I tell?

Maybe it's the $30b WeWork valuation? Maybe it's the Redfin IPO? Maybe it's the VTS/Hightower merger? Maybe it's C&W, CBRE and JLL all making major moves in the innovation space? Maybe it’s the influx of sector-focused professional investment capital from our own MetaProp Ventures of from friends at Camber Creek, Moderne, Corigin, Tusk, Fifth Wall, and others? Maybe it’s the rise of local organizers and influencers like James Dearsley and Eddie Holmes in the UK, Wouter Truffino in the Netherlands, Julia Arlt in Austria. Maybe it's the increasing volume of technologies sprouting from ambitious entrepreneurs around the world?

It's all of this, actually.

MetaProp was recently asked to organize an annual awards program and winners ceremony for NYC Real Estate Tech Week. It's only fitting that the world's top next generation PropTech startups, founders, investors, corporates, executives and others will be recognized for their contribution to the industry and community right here, every year, in NYC. After all, NYC is widely recognized as the world's #1 city for real estate and the #2 city for tech.  

Nominations open tomorrow July 15th and close September 15th. Finalists will be announced October 1st and Award Winners will be presented at a ceremony during NYC Real Estate Tech Week 2017. The expert judging panel is independent and influential. The judging criteria is clear and simple. Each of the awards categories, six total, has a three or five-member team selected from the Awards Committee, made up of industry leading CEOs, global press, founders and producers. Judges give a numerical value based on the quality and merit of responses to a series of open ended questions within the corresponding nomination form. The scores will then be combined, resulting in a cumulative score for each nominee. Awards will be given to the highest-rated nominee in each category.

Congratulations to the entire community for, yet again, making NYC the center of it all. Special thanks to James, Kate and Wilson at the NYCEDC and our esteemed Awards Committee from around the world including Columbia's Patrice Derrington, EG's Emily Wright, Real Estate Weekly’s Linda O’Flanagan, CRE.Tech’s Travis Barrington, REBNY’s Ryan Baxter, Warburg Realty/MetaProp NYC’s Clelia Peters, PropTech Consult James Dearsley and Reed MIDEM’s Arnaud Simeray,

Nominate someone today!

Top 5 Highlights of NYC Real Estate Tech Week 2016

With NYC Real Estate Tech Week less than three months away, we wanted to take a look back at our favorite moments from 2016. Here are five of the best events and highlights from the NYC Real Estate Tech Week 2016. Don’t forget to reserve your spot at NYC Real Estate Tech Week 2017!

Did we miss anything? Share your favorite moments from 2016 with us in the comments section!

5. Real Estate Tech Leaders Breakfast Roundtable

Founders Marshall Cox, Radiator Labs (2nd from left) | Arie Barendrecht, Wired Score | Ross Goldenberg, SiteCompli at RETech Leaders Breakfast Roundtable

Ryan Slack, of GreenPearl, Ross Goldenberg, of SiteCompli and Aaron Block, of MetaProp NYC hosted NYC RETech Week’s only invite-only event at The Altman Building. CEOs from the 2016 MetaProp NYC accelerator class attended and had an open discussion about the issues facing PropTech startups and the real estate industry as a whole.
 

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4. Real Estate Tech Unbundled at Columbia University

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

Zachary Aarons, Co-Founder of MetaProp NYC, moderated “The Founders” panel at the Columbia Entrepreneurship Mini-Conference: “Real Estate Tech Unbundled,” in the Convene Conference Center, 239 Park Avenue. The panel featured Amol Sarva Ph.D., Founder & CEO of Knotel; Stu Ellman, Columbia Business School professor & co-founder of RRE Ventures; Jonathan Wasserstrum, Co-founder and CEO of TheSquareFoot, and Susannah Vila, Founder of Flip, the anchor startup of MetaProp NYC’s 2016 accelerator class. Introduced by Columbia’s RED Program Director, Patrice Derrington, and moderated by Columbia University Trustee Marc Holliday, CEO of SL Green Realty Corp, the second panel, “The Practitioners,” featured Robert Entin EVP & CIO, Vornado Realty Trust; Denis Hickey, CEO LendLease the Americas, and Jamie von Klemperer, President KPF.

3. Startup Competitons at MIPIM PropTech Summit

(From left) Richard Santhouse & Tim Milazzo, Stack Source | Alex Rangel, Ravti | Sara Rozenfarb, Reed MIDEM | Cindy McLaughlin, Envelope | Aaron Block, MetaProp NYC

The MIPIM PropTech Summit hosted the North American leg of the MIPIM Global Startup Competition. The competition recognized the most dynamic international startups offering real estate and urban management solutions and provided those competing with an opportunity to meet and pitch their business to relevant investors, developers, financial companies, media analysts and other key influencers.

The winners of the NYC MIPIM Global Startup Competition were 2016 MetaProp Accelerator graduate Ravti in the Building category, Envelope in the City category and StackSource in the Transaction category.

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2. Eisner Amper Real Estate Private Equity Summit

More than 485 real estate leaders packed into Pier Sixty for the Fourth Annual EisnerAmper Real Estate Private Equity Summit. The full-day event brought together deal makers from across the country to talk about trends in development and critical issues affecting deal flow, investment and capital sourcing. EisnerAmper’s Lisa Knee led a “State of the Union” panel featuring Samantha Davidson, Managing Director at Goldman Sachs; Hugh Macdonnell, Managing Director & Head of Client Capital Management at Clarion Partners; Christopher Schlank, Founder & Co-Managing Partner of Savanna; David Schwarz, Managing Director at Colony Capital; James Nelson, Vice Chairman of Cushman & Wakefield, and Brandon Weber, Founder & CEO of Hightower. Partner Ken Weissenberg of EisnerAmper discussed the marketplace in a special, “Titans of the Industry,” session with Leslie Himmel, Founder of Himmel + Meringoff Properties; Jonathan Kaufman Iger, Chief Executive Officer of Sage Realty Corporation, and Phil Watkins, Principal at Megalith.

1. Star Studded Keynote Speakers at MIPIM PropTech Summit

Bill Rudin, CEO, Rudin Management Company

The MIPIM PropTech Summit, the flagship event in NYC Real Estate Tech Week drew an all-star cast of speakers. The Keynote Speakers included: Alicia Glen, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development for NYC; Brad Hargreaves, Co-Founder, General Assembly - Founder & CEO, Common, and Paul Massey, President, New York Investment Sales, Cushman & Wakefield. Bill Rudin, CEO, Rudin Management Company, made the day’s introductory remarks.

Alicia Glen, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development for NYC

Alicia Glen, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development for NYC

Among the other speakers and moderators at the the Summit were:

  • Arie Barendrecht, Co-Founder & CEO, Wired Score
  • Karin Brandt, Founder & CEO, coUrbanize
  • Michael Britti, Senior Vice President M&A, RealPage
  • David Eisenberg, Founder and CEO of Floored
  • Ned Gannon, CEO, eBrevia
  • Geoff Lewis, Vice President of Product, Honest Buildings
  • Ragnar Lifthrasir, Founder & President, International Blockchain Real Estate Association
  • Duke Long, PropTech blogger and CRE broker
  • Caren Maio, Co-Founder & CEO, Nestio
  • Michael Mandel, Co-Founder & CEO, CompStak
  • Nick Romito, Founder and CEO of VTS;
  • Maria Seredina, Senior Manager, Corporate Development, Zillow
  • Sara Shank, Managing Director and Head of Portfolio Management at Beacon
  • Adam Stanley, Global CIO at Cushman & Wakefield
  • Karina Totah, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at the NYC Housing Authority
  • Bradley Tusk, Founder and CEO of Tusk Strategies and Tusk Ventures
  • Jameson Weber, Vice President of Product Strategy, Hightower
  • AND MANY MORE...
Adam Stanley, CIO, Cushman & Wakefield | Nick Romito, Founder & CEO VTS | Gunther Schmidt, Founder & Managing Partner, Medici Living | Raja Seetharaman, Co-Founder, PropStack

Adam Stanley, CIO, Cushman & Wakefield | Nick Romito, Founder & CEO VTS | Gunther Schmidt, Founder & Managing Partner, Medici Living | Raja Seetharaman, Co-Founder, PropStack

PropTech, Nikola Tesla and the Power of Sound

In the venture capital world, looking out for founders’ collective mental health is nothing new. The most prominent example of this trend is the Investor Pledge for Mental Health.  San Francisco based Kip created the pledge and many prominent funds like Slow Ventures stepped up to the plate and began sponsoring therapy sessions for their portfolio founders.  Starting a company and dealing with the vicissitudes of that journey can be immensely stressful.  

At MetaProp, we have begun working with sound therapist Jarrod Byrne Mayer from Brooklyn Healing Arts.  In these sessions, Jarrod utilizes tools like tuning forks and Tibetan gongs to “re-tune” the bio rhythm of the human body.  Founders exit these sessions experience a feeling of clear mindedness, stress relief, peacefulness, and balance.  It is my experience that the greatest innovations occur when talented people enter this type of mental state.  Sound therapy is only one of many potential gateways.

Interesting things seem to happen during these sonic sessions.  Although I typically keep my eyes closed during these sessions, at one point while the vibrations from the gong filled the room, I opened my eyes, and the sound itself had appeared to “disrupt” the air around me, making it look different.  The sound was almost palpable in the way that a solid object would be.  It made me question whether sonic vibrations created by the proper combination of gongs and tuning forks can disrupt space as we know it.

As I continued to ruminate on the power of sound, I remembered a famous quote by Nikola Tesla, perhaps the most legendary inventor and startup founder of all time.  He once said, “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” Tesla was well aware of the power of sound, vibrations, and ambient energy, and this belief system imbued many of his most famous inventions, including radio communications and alternating current.  Tesla claimed that he could sense when his mother had died because they were both “tuned to the same frequency”.

Although he didn’t characterize it in this way, Tesla was hinting at the much-debated concept of a “collective consciousness” within a particular society or group.  The idea of a collective consciousness was first presented in 1893 by French sociologist Émile Durkheim.  Proponents of this theory provide examples of simultaneous invention and discovery as evidence for the existence of this collective consciousness.  For example, is it just a coincidence that Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz both formulated modern calculus at the same time without having any traditional form of communication with each other?  Was there something “in the air” in the 17th Century that led to these simultaneous discoveries, or more likely, were these two geniuses just tuning into the same frequency?  On a lesser scale, we frequently see startups in the same exact space popping up in different parts of the world at the same exact time.

This leads us back to our portfolio sound therapy session.  Is there a way, through sound therapy session, for me as a venture capitalist to influence the collective consciousness of our portfolio?  If all 32 portfolio founders at MetaProp were tuned into the same frequency, what more could we accomplish?  Many of our portfolio CEOs have become friends with each other and communicate via our Slack channel as well as in person to share ideas, experiences, and challenges.  This communication often leads to things like partnerships, joint ventures, API integrations, and more.  However, I often wonder what else we could accomplish together as a group through the power of sound?  Can we collectively put our own dent in the universe?  I don’t yet know, but I am sure going to do my best to find out…  

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!