Learning to Think Along With a RETech Startup

In the rapidly growing but still under-serviced world of RETech startups, a prime challenge for accelerator consultants from traditional business is learning what exactly these aspiring companies need to grow. The difficulty of this task is compounded by two common challenges: the startup CEO isn’t sure what he or she needs and in what order, and often, neither does the consultant new to the world of startup thinking.

After 16 years in corporate real estate communications and public relations, just weeks ago I became founding partner of MetaProp Advisors, the consulting business of MetaProp NYC, the world’s premier real estate technology nexus and RETech accelerator. As such, I find myself facing both those challenges, but experiencing the excitement of needing to learn and teach communications solutions at a highly accelerated -- pardon the pun -- pace.

Generally, the first requirement of a RETech startup is communications. The necessity of clearly defining the company’s mission and articulating it internally to colleagues and recruits, as well as externally -- through traditional and social media -- to venture capitalists, potential partners and clients is recognized by even the most unknowing of founders as immediately vital. So, how can a new-to-RETech professional communicator and a new-to-public relations RETech founder bridge this information gap? As always, asking the right questions of each other is the best place to start.

So, Ms./Mr. RETech founder: “What’s your elevator pitch?” Task one is to nail the elevator pitch. The RETech founder and the RETech communicator must be able to describe the business to a stranger in less than 30 seconds. This concise speech reinforces mission clarity for originator, which in turn makes it easier to convey your company’s existence, purpose and value to prospective clients and investors.

Next question: “What are your ‘key words’ to attract eyeballs?” Saying “ReTech,” as a key word is not nearly enough. Specificity is all! So, if you’re in the the DIY landlord business like MetaProp Advisors’ client, Rentalutions, you know that your key words are “landlord software,” “tenant screening,” “online rent payments” and “online rental applications.” Key words should be in every message you disseminate. Do you know yours?

Attracting attention through key words leads to the question: “Do you know the media players with whom you want to interact?” If you don’t, your advisor should know them and educate you on who to target to maximize your time and the promulgation of your message. “Coffee talk” introductions to the media -- whether in person, by phone, email or video conferencing -- is an important early step for the RETech CEO wanting to establish his or her identity and authority with the media.

Of course, media relations is a complex, rapidly growing and highly competitive 24/7 landscape, so the trusted communications advisor must from the outset manage client expectations by demonstrating command of the media, from highest-value domain authorities to up-and-coming bloggers. The advisor will have in place rational and clear procedures to measure the results of media engagements and to demonstrate to the client the efficacy of their partnered efforts, completing at least the initial steps in learning from each other how to think like a RETech startup and communicate that knowledge to the world.

- Philip Russo (Founding Partner, MetaProp Advisors)