The Innovation Conversation is a series of Q&A sessions between the real estate technology industry's top leaders and MetaProp NYC 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.
Jonathan Wasserstrum, Co-Founder at TheSquareFoot
What are your day-to-day responsibilities in your organization?
At TheSquareFoot, I make sure there is money in the bank, that the team doesn't have roadblocks in their way preventing them from excelling, and recruiting new people to join our awesome team (we are hiring btw!). I still love working on deals too so I spend time there as well.
Describe how you became interested in real estate technology and innovation.
My background is in commercial real estate. Several years ago I got a call from a high school buddy who was looking for space for his last company and struggling through the process. Aron was able to go online and find a place to eat dinner and his new apartment but no dice on office space. I hadn't thought about it much before then, but after talking more with him and Justin, the lightbulb went off and we were off to the races.
How is today’s real estate technology different from when you started your career?
I remember when I was at JLL and we were being asked to start using a CRM system. It was revolutionary at the time. Today it's table stakes.
We've been working on TheSquareFoot for more than 4 years now. When we were first doing business development in Texas, people on the other side of the table looked at us like we had a third eye. The industry has come along way to embracing technology since then.
What is the most important innovation and technology-driven initiative in your organization today?
Everything. We just brought on a senior product executive from a very successful technology company. That's not a typical move for a real estate company. Product and tech is at the core of our business and it enables our transactions team to provide a superlative client experience.
What do you do to stay on top of cutting edge trends and developments in real estate technology?
While real estate technology has blossomed in the past few years, there are still a manageable number of players (especially on the commercial side). I speak with many of the other founders directly on a regular basis, plus we run into each other at industry events and on panels. So I guess long story short...directly from the horses' mouths.
As a mentor, what is the #1 value you bring to a high-growth real estate tech start-up?
Having a background in the industry has been instrumental in our progress to date. However, building a tech company from the ground up is something that we hadn't done before. We are on our way to doing it now and have learned an insane amount along the way. I’m excited about showing the next groups how to avoid the potholes.
Who have been your most important mentors and why?
Cliche, but it's true...my mommy. She was born in a Lower East Side tenement and after a lot of hard work went to HBS and eventually had a long career climbing the ranks at JPMorgan Chase in Texas. She did this all at a time when women in the executive suite were even less common than they are now.
Also, my boss when I was at JLL, Steve Collins. I learned a lot about the industry obviously and also more important life lessons like not to use your cell phone at the table.
Both of them also illustrated that having a great career and a great family are not dichotomous.
What is your favorite business book?
Power Broker by Robert Moses.
What is one interesting thing about you that most people don’t already know?
I once tried out for the Amazing Race with a buddy from college. I had never seen the show but he was all in. We made a video and everything. We are still waiting for that callback…