Antony Slumbers | Founder of Estates Today

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.


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WHAT ARE YOUR DAY-TO-DAY RESPONSIBILITIES IN YOUR ORGANIZATION?

After 12+ years developing Property Management software for the Commercial sector (as founder I had lead responsibility for Product, UX and Code), today my primary role is consulting, writing and speaking with real estate companies (Developers, Investors and Professional Services) about the impact technology, PropTech and non-Prop Tech, is and will have on how we all use real estate. Therefore, what they should be designing, building, operating and investing in. 

My speciality is #SpaceAsAService within Offices and mixed-use developments.

 

DESCRIBE HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN PROPTECH AND INNOVATION.

I started the first commercial real estate website in the UK, having come across this strange thing called ‘the Internet’ in early 1995, at which time I was working for an independent real estate developer in London. I simply thought WOW, this would be really useful in our business! I am by nature relentlessly curious, so I have always wanted to hang out with innovators. Leopards can’t change their spots…

 

IN THE NEXT 10 YEARS, WHAT AREA OF THE REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY DO YOU THINK WILL CHANGE THE MOST DRAMATICALLY?

HOW we use real estate will be the largest driver of change in real estate over the next 10 years. As “the second machine age” moves inexorably up the cognitive value chain, the work we do will change dramatically, becoming much more reliant on advanced human skills. So the types of spaces we require will change significantly. Asset classes will become less siloed, with live and work becoming intertwined and how we use the hours of the day less formulaically work time, leisure time.   

Driving but also enabling this change will be Artificial Intelligence, leveraging unparalleled computing power, data availability and rapidly developing algorithms. This in turn will change what it means to be in the “real estate” business.

 

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN INITIATIVE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION TODAY?

In my world, AI is the most important focus. Despite having years of coding experience I am not up to coding AI, but I have been working hard to understand how we, in real estate, can make full use of it. We know it works, but we’ve yet to really work out the best uses for it. That is my focus for 2018.

 

WHAT ROLE HAVE MENTORS PLAYED IN YOUR SUCCESS? HOW WOULD YOU ADVISE OTHERS TO DEVELOP STRONG RELATIONSHIPS WITH MENTORS?

I’d advise anyone to take note of what Bill Joy, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, once said: “No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else.” Take advice where you can get it. No one can keep up with everything, but mentors can help you shortcut your way through the roadblocks you will encounter. Problems tend to be of a type that repeat themselves over the years; a good mentor should be able to apply some “been there, done that” guidance in avoiding the ones easy to spot in retrospect. Perhaps more importantly though, and I have been lucky here, a good mentor should help you ask the right questions. I had a much older joint venture partner in my property management software business who was excellent at making me ask questions; he made me come to conclusions through asking the right questions rather than proffering the answers.

 

WHAT IS ONE INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT MOST PEOPLE DON’T ALREADY KNOW?

With a History and History of Art Degree I spent the first ten years of my career as a high end Art Dealer, specialising in 19th Century UK and European painting. I am Steve Jobs’ crossover Tech/Liberal Arts cliche!

Lisa Shaforostova | Director, Investment Advisory at CBRE

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.


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WHAT ARE YOUR DAY-TO-DAY RESPONSIBILITIES IN YOUR ORGANIZATION?

I’m a Director in the Investment Advisory team, Capital Advisors in CBRE, the investment banking part of the CBRE business. My expertise lies is real estate portfolio strategy and execution globally, from acquisitions to portfolio restructuring across commercial and residential property types. I’m also a Proptech lead in CBRE working on bringing technology into real estate to optimise investment decisions and portfolio/asset performance.

My role involves helping my team grow our international investment advisory business and developing products and services to help investor clients achieve their risk-adjusted returns.

 

DESCRIBE HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN PROPTECH AND INNOVATION.

I became interested in Proptech whilst doing the Executive MBA programme in Columbia and London Business School. I was enrolled in the Entrepreneurship Summer School in LBS with a startup idea focused on using AI and big data to help real estate investors identify undervalued properties. Working on my startup as part of the MBA opened up a number of opportunities for me to engage with the proptech community globally and to explore ideas and innovations that could be leveraged in the real estate industry.

 

IN THE NEXT 10 YEARS, WHAT AREA OF THE REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY DO YOU THINK WILL CHANGE THE MOST DRAMATICALLY?

I truly believe that real estate industry will be transformed by the power of data and automation that we see in other industries. Data is oil in the 21st Century and those real estate companies that will manage to collect, structure and leverage data to their own and their clients’ benefits will be the game changers in the real estate market.

 

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN INITIATIVE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION TODAY?

Global enterprise data platform is a massive step forward that CBRE is working on that will allow us to become a truly data driven company.

 

WHAT ROLE HAVE MENTORS PLAYED IN YOUR SUCCESS? HOW WOULD YOU ADVISE OTHERS TO DEVELOP STRONG RELATIONSHIPS WITH MENTORS?

I like the quote of Isaac Newton: “If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants” (1676 in his letter to his rival Robert Hooke). I believe that mentors play a big part in our success and it is impossible to progress and achieve big things in life without help and mentoring of others. I live by this principle and always ask for help and guidance from people who I respect and value as professionals and individuals.

I feel humbled and grateful when people so generously share their advice, experiences and support whenever I reach out to them. I’d like to give back and to help others succeed by being a mentor to them. Hence, the MetaProp Bridge is an exciting opportunity for me to be involved in coaching and mentoring young PropTech entrepreneurs by sharing my global property industry experience and playing a part in their aspirations to make a difference to the world.

My advice is to choose mentors based on respect and admiration to them as people and professionals. Importantly, it should be mutual for the relationship to last over a long time. Most of my mentors are my ex-colleagues and industry friends who I’ve known for many years and whose advice I value a lot.

 

WHAT IS ONE INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT MOST PEOPLE DON’T ALREADY KNOW?

I’m a big fan of fitness and became qualified as a personal trainer a few years ago.

Magnus Svantegård | Global GPO at Stronghold

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.


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WHAT ARE YOUR DAY-TO-DAY RESPONSIBILITIES IN YOUR ORGANIZATION?

First of all, my role is the Global Head of Product at Datscha (I was one of the founding employees.) working with everything from strategy and business development down to what bugs [we should focus on] in the upcoming sprint. Datscha has been around for 20-plus years, but we still keep a very outspoken startup mentality and an effective organization, enabling us to be in three markets: Sweden, Finland and the UK with only 45 employees. In addition to my role at Datscha, I’m also a Partner in Stronghold Invest (the sole owner of Datscha), where we own, among others, the largest property consulting firm in the Nordics (Newsec with 2000 employees and 31 million sqm under management) and the most successful private equity real estate firm in Northern Europe with real estate assets under management of approximately €3.5 billion. Furthermore, Stronghold is an active #PropTech investor.  

 

DESCRIBE HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN PROPTECH AND INNOVATION.

While doing my Masters in Civil Engineering at The Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm in the mid-90’s, I had to use the Mosaic web browser in a course and I did NOT like it all. However, a year later with Netscape and NetAddress I started to see the potential. In 1996, parallel with study, I worked for an internet start up and we pitched (and signed) a project to build a marketing site for a new office development for the largest property owner in Sweden. So, no #PropTech is nothing new…

 

IN THE NEXT 10 YEARS, WHAT AREA OF THE REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY DO YOU THINK WILL CHANGE THE MOST DRAMATICALLY?

Since I’ve always focused on commercial property I will do so also in this answer. I believe the biggest change will be in how properties are managed as an investment. Today one may say that it is very much manual (read Excel), gut-feeling based and within (rather) small networks of people/companies. The investment market of the future will become much more data driven and transparent for everyone in the process.

 

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN INITIATIVE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION TODAY?

The ability to manage, match and drive insights from large sets of unstructured data.

 

WHAT ROLE HAVE MENTORS PLAYED IN YOUR SUCCESS? HOW WOULD YOU ADVISE OTHERS TO DEVELOP STRONG RELATIONSHIPS WITH MENTORS?

There are different types of mentor techniques: Accompanying, sowing, catalyzing, showing and harvesting. Without doubt I prefer catalyzing and showing. Those are also the ones I focus on with my mentor. My advices are two: first of all reach out to the one you would like to have as a mentor. Most often people are more interested than you may think. The second is to give it time. First you need to get to know each other as people and then build trust.

 

WHAT IS ONE INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT MOST PEOPLE DON’T ALREADY KNOW?

I’ve completed the (in-)famous endurance race ‘Ö till Ö’ (‘Island to Island’), which involves passing 26 islands via 65 km running and 11 km of open water swimming. In Sweden. In September, meaning water temperature around 10 degrees Celsius. I assume that tells quite a lot about my personality… interesting or scary; your pick.

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.


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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.


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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.

Richard Winslow | Director of Commercial Banking Product Design at Capital One 

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.


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WHAT ARE YOUR DAY-TO-DAY RESPONSIBILITIES IN YOUR ORGANIZATION?

I lead product management and design for Capital One’s commercial banking digital innovation team. That means building new products and helping bankers think like startups. We have two products in the hopper and a laundry list of great ideas, so the building side tends to take precedence. Day to day, my job feels like helping run a couple of startups: pitching, coffee, stand-ups, coffee, recruiting, coffee, white boarding, coffee…

 

DESCRIBE HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION.

Real estate tech is interesting to me because it’s hard: much more complex than other fintech segments. And I’m attracted to complexity. But I fell ass backward into it. Having studied Chinese, I was completely unqualified to do this work when I started my career. I didn't even own a computer in college. But I somehow found myself leading product development at Reis in the late 90’s. As far as innovation goes, I guess I’m dumb enough to risk repeated career suicide, and smart enough to work with brilliant people.

 

HOW IS TODAY’S REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY DIFFERENT FROM WHEN YOU STARTED YOUR CAREER?

In 1998, when I started at Reis they were shipping data to customers on CD-ROMS in manilla envelopes. Since then, real estate tech has moved forward at a very uneven pace. Residential and property management are far along—transparent, efficient and highly competitive. But despite the emergence of forward-thinking startups (like CompStak), CRE remains an opaque market. And real estate transactions of all kinds are shockingly inefficient. I blame that mostly on a fragmented technology landscape, populated by a lot of startups that for the most part think very narrowly about their product. If anyone had the vision and execution skill that Google, Uber, Amazon or Bloomberg have, we’d be in a different place today.

 

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN INITIATIVE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION TODAY?

CRE is a big part of our business and one of our primary areas for tech innovation. As a technology and information-driven company, Capital One is betting on big data in CRE and a lot of different areas. But I think our most important initiative is team building. We just opened a new innovation lab in the Flatiron, we are ramping up recruiting, and we are investing heavily in training and development.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY ON TOP OF CUTTING EDGE TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS IN REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY?

I follow the usual blogs, but I prefer face time with startups, our CRE relationship managers, and our customers. I also attend demos and go to events when time permits. Our digital strategy team and commercial venture team are continually scanning the startup space; they help with connectivity.

 

AS A MENTOR, WHAT IS THE #1 VALUE YOU BRING TO A HIGH-GROWTH REAL ESTATE TECH START-UP?

Two things really matter: 1) putting your effort into the right things in the right order and 2) keeping a balanced, cross-functional team running effectively. I’m excellent at prioritization, painfully honest, and a generalist in business, tech and design. Separately, I understand the capital markets and lending side of this business. People forget that real estate is a capital intensive financial service. It’s about transactions and investments. There is inherently limited growth potential outside those areas.

 

WHO HAVE BEEN YOUR MOST IMPORTANT MENTORS AND WHY?

My wife and coworkers, hands down. They are all smart, and they see me more clearly than I see myself. I've never had a formal mentor. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the idea of being a mentor either. You may want to think twice about assigning me to be one.

 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BUSINESS BOOK?

I guess "Good to Great" by Jim Collins, but I’m not a big fan of business books. I prefer design and technology books like "The Design of Everyday Things" by Don Norman, "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" by Eric Raymond, “The Mythical Man Month” by Fred Brooks and “User Story Mapping” by Jeff Patton.

 

WHAT IS ONE INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT MOST PEOPLE DON’T ALREADY KNOW?

I enjoy hand-to-hand combat and incredibly loud, heavy punk rock. You really wouldn't guess either by looking at me. 

Riggs Kubiak | CEO at Honest Buildings 

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.


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WHAT ARE YOUR DAY-TO-DAY RESPONSIBILITIES IN YOUR ORGANIZATION?

I’m the CEO which means every day is a bit different. However, my three most important initiatives are building a great team, supporting them to be as successful as they can be, and working closely with our investors, board members, and potential future investors.

 

DESCRIBE HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION.

During more than 10 years in the real estate industry including the last 5 at Tishman Speyer in NYC, I watched technology and the Internet positively impact every other major sector of the economy: finance, travel, retail, even transportation. It was obvious that technology could have a similarly profound impact on real estate.  

Building operations, capital expenditures and construction together represent one of the largest industries on the planet with $8 trillion spent annually. Four times as much money is spent on global construction than in all of e-commerce each year; including Alibaba, Amazon, Ebay, and other industry giants combined. It didn't make sense that the real estate industry, which is addressing all of the most challenging and important cities around the world, still relied primarily on pencil and paper to function.

According to a study by Prudential, in 20 years the commercial real estate will have over $100 trillion in asset value globally. An industry of that size and importance should be driven by the best and most innovative technology on the planet.

 

HOW IS TODAY’S REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY DIFFERENT FROM WHEN YOU STARTED YOUR CAREER?

The industry’s view on CRETech is changing rapidly, primarily because it's working. Owners are seeing very real return on investment from implementing technology across leasing, operations, design and construction. As a result of those wins, it's becoming the standard in the industry rather than something only early adopters try.

Technology is the one of the most positive drivers of change the industry has ever seen. Workflow automation, data parsing, real-time collaboration -  all powerful business drivers that are only possibly with modern technology - allow the industry to be more knowledgeable about everything from building projects to leasing deals to the overall progress of our cities than ever before. Moreover, this information is accessible at a speed that was not possible even 10 years ago. The Internet has already profoundly and positively impacted real estate industry, and I believe it's just getting started.

 

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN INITIATIVE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION TODAY?

Honest Buildings is the industry’s only purpose-built platform for owners' management and construction teams to collaboratively track projects, intelligently compare bids and generate portfolio-level insights, leading to significant value creation. Owners are no longer willing to  bleed asset value because their teams are hamstrung with archaic processes. Operations, capital expenditures and construction projects are too complex and too expensive to be cobbled together using Excel, Outlook, PDFs, and paper-based binders. Management and construction teams are responsible for $8 trillion in spending annually across the globe. They need and deserve world class technology built by industry professionals who are solving for their specific processes and challenges.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY ON TOP OF CUTTING EDGE TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS IN REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY?

I read as much as I can, track the venture capital funding into the space, and spend time with the other CEOs of real estate technology firms in NYC.

As a mentor, what is the #1 value you bring to a high-growth real estate tech startup?

I’d say the value that I bring to real estate technology start-ups is empathy. First, because I spent 10 years working in the NYC commercial real estate scene as an investment banker and then in acquisitions, asset management, and sustainability at Tishman Speyer. I can’t help but think about technology from the lens of how it adds value the owners of the buildings. I’m also very empathetic to what it takes to grow a real estate technology business, team, brand and company in New York City.

 

WHO HAVE BEEN YOUR MOST IMPORTANT MENTORS AND WHY?

The first is my Dad, John Kubiak. He had two successful businesses and not only was he a great father for both me and my two sisters growing up, but he continues to be hugely helpful for me today. He’s taught me nearly everything I know about working hard and making things happen, while being true to your family.

After that, Tom Farrell and Michael Spies, with whom I had the privilege of working with at Tishman Speyer, are my most important mentors. When I was at Tishman Speyer, Tom was the Global Head of Design and Construction and Michael led the company operations in Europe and India. They showed me what it means to be open to new ideas, how to think big about the future, and most importantly, how to execute at the highest level everyday. It’s a really hard balance to strike professionally and their ability to do so makes them the best in the business.

 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BUSINESS BOOK?

Right now, my favorite business book is “The Hard thing about Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz. It’s a must read for any founder of any business today.

 

WHAT IS ONE INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT MOST PEOPLE DON’T ALREADY KNOW?

I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest in Sandpoint, Idaho and Spokane, Washington. I lived in Sandpoint, Idaho, a small town near the Canadian border, until I was 10 years old. Sandpoint is the best kept secret in the country as it is home to the incredibly beautiful, 50-mile long, Lake Pend Oreille and my favorite ski area in the world, Schweitzer Mountain Resort. 

Margaret Porres | Founder and President of Newcastle Realty Services


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"I truly enjoy the intersection of real estate and technology and respond well to positive innovation."

WHAT ARE YOUR DAY-TO-DAY RESPONSIBILITIES IN YOUR ORGANIZATION?

Being the President, I oversee all aspects of the business.

 

DESCRIBE HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION.

To my mind, it is the logical progression and so it has always been of interest. I think since college I have been exploring technology and the built environments intersection, either through advanced computer modelling software, photovoltaics, wireless technologies or even advancements in operating systems.   

 

HOW IS TODAY’S REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY DIFFERENT FROM WHEN YOU STARTED YOUR CAREER?

If we could speak in lightyears…but when I started, technology meant an accounting software or lease modelling; now it truly touches all planes.

 

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN INITIATIVE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION TODAY?

Important is hard to define, so I’m going to go with the greatest positive impact on our environment as the definition of important, and therefore the answer is: wireless controls and gauges. This applies to an ever increasing arena within our industry and company, from watering systems, to heat systems to lighting. Reducing the use of natural resources is both good stewardship of the environment and good for the bottom line.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY ON TOP OF CUTTING EDGE TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS IN REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY? 

Newcastle prides itself on staying not just with, but ahead of the trends in technological advances in the real estate arena. As such, we routinely send our employees to trade shows, on occasion, we have participated on panels involving green technology, and we explore through trial, and constant innovation and research thereof. We are constantly looking for how to do it better, be it through reduced emission production to energy tracking to app development for management in the field, we’re open to all ideas.

 

AS A MENTOR, WHAT IS THE #1 VALUE YOU BRING TO A HIGH-GROWTH REAL ESTATE TECH START-UP?  

I truly enjoy the intersection of real estate and technology and respond well to positive innovation.

 

WHO HAVE BEEN YOUR MOST IMPORTANT MENTORS AND WHY?

Mentors are meaningful to me when they have the ability to give their honest feedback. I also find that kindred spirits who are intellectually capable can be great mentors even if they come from very different walks of life.

 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BUSINESS BOOK?  

I don’t read many, but prefer trade magazines. However, I recently read Profit from the Core.

 

WHAT IS ONE INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT MOST PEOPLE DON’T ALREADY KNOW?  

I love Halloween.

Richard Sarkis | Co-Founder and CEO at Reonomy

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.


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WHAT ARE YOUR DAY-TO-DAY RESPONSIBILITIES IN YOUR ORGANIZATION?

As the CEO, what I do "day-to-day" really runs the gamut from meeting with current and prospective clients, to working with the Reonomy team on new product development, to meeting with the investment community.  Part of the reason I love doing what I do is that it stimulates me in different ways on a daily basis!

 

DESCRIBE HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION.

I was introduced to my co-founder, Charlie, three years ago and I was struck by two things.  His passion for bringing much needed innovation to CRE as well as the sheer scale of the value at stake in CRE.  Basically you’ve got a really big problem that a lot of people care about solving.  That is a pretty special combination that can lead to something very special when you’re looking to start a company.

 

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN INITIATIVE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION TODAY?

One of the things we strive for at Reonomy is to be truly “agile” and customer focused when it comes to product development, innovation, and focus.  We have a team of user experience, design, and product folks who are constantly working with our clients to test new features and products and help provide tangible feedback to our engineering team.  So I’d say the most important “innovation” is the fact that we build our products with and for our clients rather than building something that we think will resonate and then trying to sell it.  Sounds simple but it’s actually pretty hard.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY ON TOP OF CUTTING EDGE TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS IN REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY?

I meet with fellow CEOs of RE Tech companies on a regular basis and run into them on panels, at events, etc…  I also spend a bunch of time with clients and find out about cool things going on from them.

 

AS A MENTOR, WHAT IS THE #1 VALUE YOU BRING TO A HIGH-GROWTH REAL ESTATE TECH START-UP?

Probably a practical mindset.  Having been a tech entrepreneur for 15 years, I’ve learned the hard way that you can spend far too much time focusing on features, products, and strategies that seem optimal in theory, but don’t really work in practice.  Start with what works in practice.  Building up from that is crucial in my opinion.

 

WHO HAVE BEEN YOUR MOST IMPORTANT MENTORS AND WHY?

I’ve learned a bunch from my co-founders over the years.  You learn a lot about yourself (and others) when you’re trying to build a company up from scratch with someone.  I’ve also learned a bunch from my dad who has been a successful entrepreneur for several decades and whose brain I still pick about some of the decisions I make on a regular basis.

 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BUSINESS BOOK?

Right now I really like The Hard Things About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz.

 

WHAT IS ONE INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT MOST PEOPLE DON’T ALREADY KNOW?

I speak 5 languages.

Justin Cohen | CMO at Pangea Properties

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.


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WHAT ARE YOUR DAY-TO-DAY RESPONSIBILITIES IN YOUR ORGANIZATION?

At Pangea I oversee our shared services, which includes our leasing function (marketing and call center components) and product development. With that, my goal in the organization is to drive new renters, build the Pangea brand and improve business operations through technical solutions.

 

DESCRIBE HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION.

I’ve always been interested in solving business problems. Throughout my career, I have worked at technology-enabled startups where moving quickly wasn’t a choice, it was the only option.  When I started at Pangea, we had only 400 units but had big ambitions and knew technology was the only way to grow to the national scale we expected. We now have nearly 11,000 units in three markets and our entire lead-to-lease platform was built and is maintained in-house.

 

HOW IS TODAY’S REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY DIFFERENT FROM WHEN YOU STARTED YOUR CAREER?

The real estate industry, overall, is slow at adopting technology and, in many instances, rather archaic. Over the past five years I have seen a slight shift in trying to advance the industry with things like e-leasing and new property management solutions that are cloud-based, but in the end most of the money (and time) has been spent chasing listing sites. The lack of efficient solutions drove some organizations, like Pangea, to take on the challenge to build scalable platforms more customized to the business’s needs internally.

 

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN INITIATIVE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION TODAY?

At Pangea we have built an in-house CRM that focuses on the leasing cycle allowing us to move swiftly from lead creation, to appointment setting (showings, lease signings), to an online automated application and underwriting process. We have dubbed the proprietary system as ‘pCore.’ This system is built as a composite of modules and is integrated with our data warehouse, which allows us to continually refine our business processes. The modules that are next up for development are maintenance work item dispatching and an e-leasing engine.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY ON TOP OF CUTTING EDGE TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS IN REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY?

I think it is important to note that technology should be looked at as industry-agnostic. With that in mind I look at how other companies apply technology to solve their business problems and try to discern how it might apply to Pangea – this ranges from actual diligence to just keeping an eye on everyday technology solutions that I use. I keep an updated backlog of these ideas and review when it is time to product plan. Last, to stay up on the trends for Pangea I review blogs and use my Twitter feed to quickly view the daily happenings.

 

AS A MENTOR, WHAT IS THE #1 VALUE YOU BRING TO A HIGH-GROWTH REAL ESTATE TECH START-UP?

I bring over 10 years of startup/entrepreneurial experience with five of those years in a real estate company that has grown from a proof of concept to a mature business. My areas of focus are building a multichannel marketing program and finding practical and scalable solutions to business problems.

 

WHO HAVE BEEN YOUR MOST IMPORTANT MENTORS AND WHY?

I've been fortunate to have great mentors throughout my life. My parents taught me to work hard, support those you care about and always show up when you say you will. Early on I was connected to Dave Shorr (from my parents) who helped jumpstart my career, through an introduction to Al Goldstein (someone Dave mentored before).  They had just launched CashNetUSA (which they later went on to sell to Cash America and eventually went public as Enova, NSYE: ENVA). He impressed upon me the power of networking and relationship building, the ability to enjoy every aspect about business and life and identifying opportunities in the market.

I've been able to work closely with Al Goldstein, who has founded EnovaPangea and Avant where he also serves as the CEO.   Over the last 11 years I have been able to watch, learn and try to emulate some of his best practices such as his loyalty to co-workers and business partners, vision and execution of now 3 successful companies, the ability to remain humble and the drive to continue to learn and improve even through all the success.

 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BUSINESS BOOK?

Taking people with you. This book by the Yum! Brands CEO, Dave Novak, dives into the skills it takes to drive an organization in one direction and build effective teams.

 

WHAT IS ONE INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT MOST PEOPLE DON’T ALREADY KNOW?

I am also married to an entrepreneur.  My wife founded a health and wellness company called A Sweat Life that focuses on helping busy professionals stay healthy no matter whether they're at home, work or on the road. Her daily visits are growing exponentially, so we work together, to optimize the traffic, improve their technology and enhance the operations.

Michael Mandel | Co-Founder and CEO at Compstak

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.


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WHAT ARE YOUR DAY-TO-DAY RESPONSIBILITIES IN YOUR ORGANIZATION?

As CEO, I don't have a lot of day-to-day responsibilities.  Mainly I focus on making sure we have money in the bank, and that our team is happy and productive. The only regular tasks I have are weekly 1 on 1s with our team leaders, and our weekly Progress meeting, where we discuss our progress from the past week, where we need help from the rest of the team, and our plan for the next week. Otherwise, I spend a ton of time in both internal and external meetings with our team, prospective employees, our customers, and our members.  I travel a decent amount - mainly for speaking engagements and new market launches. When we're raising money for the company, that becomes my full time job, and it's so time consuming.

 

DESCRIBE HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION.

I've always had an interest in technology and innovation.  I studied entrepreneurship at Babson, and always intended to start a business.  Before starting CompStak, I was a commercial real estate broker.  While working as a broker, I saw tremendous opportunity to innovate in the commercial real estate space.  In truth, if you were looking for it, the opportunity for innovation in the CRE industry was everywhere.  The industry was so antiquated, and the question was not IF there was an opportunity to innovate, but what opportunity was best, and how could I make an impact.

 

HOW IS TODAY’S REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY DIFFERENT FROM WHEN YOU STARTED YOUR CAREER?

When I started working in commercial real estate, the only technology regularly used in CRE leasing in Manhattan was CoStar.  On occasion I would use LinkedIn, Loopnet, RCA, PropertyShark, Jigsaw, or electronic public records data from the NYC DOB. Some brokers used CRMs, but most just used Microsoft Outlook and others used index cards (seriously). Today, there is technology that dramatically improves a broker's workflow in every step of the process.  Prospecting is done on LinkedIn, CompStak, ProspectNow, Crunchbase, and other sites.  Market Data to negotiate deals comes from RCA and CompStak. Deal management, workflow and space tours happen on VTSHightower Property Capsule and Ten Eight. Customer relationships are managed in AptoClientlook or REThink, and space is marketed with VTS, 42FloorsTheSquareFootOfficeSpace.comFloored and others.  All of these new tools provide tremendous value to brokers (not to mention investors, lenders, appraisers and others). They provide transparency in information, and accountability to landlords and tenants.

 

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN INITIATIVE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION TODAY?

I'm most proud of the technology we've built in-house, which our members and customers never see, but which allows CompStak to grow incredibly quickly.  We've built an in-house Mechanical Turk platform, combined with Machine Learning, Statistical Anomaly Detection, and workflow tools that allow us to process an average of over 30,000 comps a month, while maintaining high quality and direct analyst review.  We've then built a sophisticated comp integration process, which allows us to maintain an average of 5 versions of every new comp we receive, uncover the differences between these versions and choose the best comp attributes to deliver a high quality experience to our users. I'm just scratching the surface of what it takes and what we've built to create a scalable platform for managing a massive quantity of data from a ton of disparate sources.  This stuff is really cool.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY ON TOP OF CUTTING EDGE TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS IN REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY?

I really enjoy the various CRE Tech events (too many of which have the word "disrupt" in them).  Other companies in this industry are building incredible things, and a lot of them are taking inspiration from outside of the real estate tech world as well.  I think if we all really want to innovate, that's what we need to do.  We need to look at best in class technology and design in all industries and think about how to apply that to the world of real estate technology.  Our tech team shares their code repos in GitHub, and our product team shares their designs in Dribbble.  Of course, it's also important not to get too distracted with what other people are doing, and to focus on making your product as good as it can be.

 

AS A MENTOR, WHAT IS THE #1 VALUE YOU BRING TO A HIGH-GROWTH REAL ESTATE TECH START-UP?

Personally, I think the value I provide may be valuable to entrepreneurs more generally, than just real estate tech companies.  There are a lot of things I would change the second time around, that would have accelerated our growth. My advice will likely be around effectively telling the story of your company, identifying the biggest opportunity possible, understanding how you will capitalize on that opportunity, and selling that opportunity to investors.  Early stage entrepreneurs need to be tremendous story tellers and salespeople, and while it's partly art and partly science, it's definitely something that can be learned.

 

WHO HAVE BEEN YOUR MOST IMPORTANT MENTORS AND WHY?

Jason Freedman from 42Floors once mentioned to me, that the best mentors are other entrepreneurs who have gone through what you're going through a few months ahead of you.  I think he's dead right.  I love chatting with entrepreneurs who have just closed the type of customers I'm trying to win, just raised the round of funding I'm planning to go for, just hired that big senior employee, or hit that scaling challenge.  It's wisdom that is incredibly relevant, and practical.

 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BUSINESS BOOK?

My favorite recent business book is The Hard Thing about Hard Things. I've also really enjoyed Zero to One, anything by Eliyahu Goldratt, How to Win Friends and Influence PeopleDelivering HappinessBuilt from Scratch and Double Dip by Ben and Jerry (really).

 

WHAT IS ONE INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT MOST PEOPLE DON’T ALREADY KNOW?

I really enjoy manual labor.  I get tremendous pleasure out of fixing things, painting things, organizing things, building things and cleaning things.  I love the sense of accomplishment I get from completing a project.  Incidentally, I get that satisfaction, even if I'm not the one doing most of the work :-).  That's part of what I love about being an entrepreneur.  Our team is always doing new cool things, and there are lots of small wins along the way.

Doug Chambers | Co-Founder at FieldLens

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.


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WHAT ARE YOUR DAY-TO-DAY RESPONSIBILITIES IN YOUR ORGANIZATION?

As the CEO of Fieldlens, I can confidently say that there is no such thing as “day-to-day responsibilities” for the CEO role.  All functional heads report to me and it is my job to provide support to any department or individual that needs my help and make sure the team is happy, understands what their goals are, and understands why they are working on whatever it is that they are working on. 

 

DESCRIBE HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION.

While working as a construction project manager for about 11 years, I found that on every project we worked on - large or small - we were faced with communication breakdowns that caused mistakes and delays. I am determined to fix that.

 

HOW IS TODAY’S REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY DIFFERENT FROM WHEN YOU STARTED YOUR CAREER?

The better question would be, how is it NOT different? It’s different in countless ways. I started working in construction professionally in 1998. I didn’t have a cell phone. I had an email address that I checked maybe three times a week. A week! Any software that was available to us for work was delivered in a box and required loading a CD-ROM.

 

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN INITIATIVE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION TODAY?

Mobile devices. Incredibly powerful computing power to field-based workers and managers is changing everything.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY ON TOP OF CUTTING EDGE TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS IN REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY?

Primarily listen to our customers - find out what they are developing in terms of advanced workflows as well as what their pain points are. We also pay huge attention to mainstream consumer technology trends - fundamentally we believe that enterprise software must be as intuitive and pleasing to use as consumer apps. We read all of the tech blogs and pay close attention to product releases from Apple, Google, etc.

 

AS A MENTOR, WHAT IS THE #1 VALUE YOU BRING TO A HIGH-GROWTH REAL ESTATE TECH START-UP?

I built FieldLens from 2 people to 40. I started knowing literally nothing about building technology, marketing, or selling SAAS products. I’ve learned everything “on the job” and I’m eager to share these experiences with other founders who have the requisite industry experience but are just starting to learn about building a technology product and business.

 

WHO HAVE BEEN YOUR MOST IMPORTANT MENTORS AND WHY?

I’ve had amazing mentors in the form of investors, advisors and board members. Brad Svrluga (Primary Ventures), Scott Maxwell (OpenView Partners), Oren Michels (Mashery), Matt Rightmire (Borealis Ventures), Glen De Vries (Medidata) have all helped me tremendously because they allowed me to make mistakes and figure things out and at the same time provided me with wisdom gained through building countless businesses. Whenever I feel like I’m dealing with a problem that has never been solved they give me context and make sure I understand that what I’m experiencing is normal and solvable.  Pat Muldoon, a former boss in the construction industry, taught me much of what I know about construction and keeps me connected to the industry. And Glen Coates (Handshake) is a peer who is an amazing sounding board and one of the smartest founders in NYC tech.

 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BUSINESS BOOK?

The Art of Doing Twice The Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland.

 

WHAT IS ONE INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT MOST PEOPLE DON’T ALREADY KNOW?

I love to back-country ski, but unfortunately don’t find nearly enough time to do it these days.

Sohin Shah | Co-Founder at iFunding

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.


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WHAT ARE YOUR DAY-TO-DAY RESPONSIBILITIES IN YOUR ORGANIZATION?

At iFunding, I lead daily operations and oversee technical developments. My responsibilities include overseeing all processes related to work on project listings, fundraising, closings, and distributions. I also work closely with our programmers to make sure they can build solutions for our team. Together, my team and I were able to build and maintain the first real estate crowdfunding app in the world which even iFunding uses.  

 

DESCRIBE HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION.

When I was an investment banker, I realized that there was no app for performing financial analysis and startup valuations. So I quit my job and built Valuation App, which I seeded via crowdfunding in 2012. I ended up raising money from 57 different backers. This made me realize the power of the crowd.

It is a known fact that real estate is one of the few industries that has not come even close to benefiting from innovations in technology. I started iFunding after realizing that real estate was an industry that could benefit from such an innovative form of financing (crowdfunding) by using technology like an accelerant to support fundraising efforts. Thankfully, it was also the year in which the JOBs Act was signed so regulations were in place to support this disruption in the real estate world.

 

HOW IS TODAY’S REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY DIFFERENT FROM WHEN YOU STARTED YOUR CAREER?

Three years ago, real estate was ripe for disruption across all verticals. Today, entrepreneurs have gone beyond this realization and built startups that have capitalized on these opportunities by building successful business models around the same. They have created data, technology, and funding resources, which have been validated over the past few years. We now have APIs readily available to leverage these infrastructures.

It is now time for real estate disruption 2.0, where newbie startups can benefit from better infrastructure and resources to further leapfrog into building better solutions. The advent of complementary industries, which didn’t even exist when I was starting my career, have opened up avenues for exciting possibilities. For example, 3D printing could change the face of real estate development, drone technology will disrupt real estate solicitation/marketing, innovations in greentech can further give rise to real estate solutions that are eco-friendly, smart home solutions put us on the verge of RETech solutions beyond our imaginations, and most importantly, crowdfunding shall soon find a place for itself as a recognized form of financing in any developer’s fundraising strategy alongside big banks. Exciting times ahead to be an entrepreneur at the intersection of real estate and technology!

 

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN INITIATIVE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION TODAY?

Making sure that all our systems are built for scale, while reducing the effort required to maintain them on an ongoing basis.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY ON TOP OF CUTTING EDGE TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS IN REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY?

Meeting with like-minded individuals through organizations such as YEC and TiE, which have a lot of successful entrepreneurs from all industries. I am part of a number of angel investor groups as well, such as TiE NY Angels, which help me keep current with the brightest ideas. Organizations such as MetaProp NYC will also help me stay on top of cutting edge innovations.

 

AS A MENTOR, WHAT IS THE #1 VALUE YOU BRING TO A HIGH-GROWTH REAL ESTATE TECH START-UP?

I have background in real estate, finance, and technology. I am an entrepreneur and angel investor. I understand how a certain disruption can have implications across multiple verticals, which allows me to offer unique perspectives of the future.

 

WHO HAVE BEEN YOUR MOST IMPORTANT MENTORS AND WHY?

I have only had one mentor all my life – my brother, who works at DTZ. I have always had entrepreneurial ideas, but used to struggle with bringing them to life. Some challenges I faced were identifying how to commercialize a potential business idea, or how to get access to a network of advisors who could help me connect the dots. He has taught me to build my thought process such that I may break out of my comfort zone, and go beyond just good ideas to allow individuals to see the economic benefits of all my decisions.

 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BUSINESS BOOK?

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and It’s All Small Stuff by Richard Carlson — this book teaches you everything you need to learn about life, management, and leadership.

 

WHAT IS ONE INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT MOST PEOPLE DON’T ALREADY KNOW?

I LOVE going to movies and brunches alone over the weekend. As weird as it sounds, this is the best part of my week, and one I look forward to most. I have struggled a lot with maintaining a work-life balance, and such activities help me reflect on everything that’s going on, while rejuvenating for the upcoming week.

Jeffrey Berman | Managing Director at Camber Creek

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.


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WHAT ARE YOUR DAY-TO-DAY RESPONSIBILITIES IN YOUR ORGANIZATION?

I wear two hats. I am a vice president of Berman Enterprises LP (a multigenerational real estate development & management company that owns more than 9m sf of commercial office & retail space as well as close to a thousand multifamily units with thousands more in various stages of development) and I am also a managing director for our wholly owned venture company, Camber Creek. On the real estate side, I am primarily responsible for leasing & operations. On the venture side, I focus on deal flow and business development for our portfolio companies (we currently have 20).

 

DESCRIBE HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION.

We became interested in real estate tech/innovation roughly 6 years ago when CRE Tech was at its embryonic stage. Whether it was a question of efficiencies, revenue maximization or planning, or permitting & development, it was apparent to us that our industry was lagging behind others that had been radically disrupted & improved by tech. We began evaluating start-ups in 2009 & didn’t make our first portfolio investment until 2011.

 

HOW IS TODAY’S REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY DIFFERENT FROM WHEN YOU STARTED YOUR CAREER?

Night and day. In fact, it’s night and day from just 6 years ago! This is one of the issues we face as investors; similar to the early adopting consumer who buys the latest gadget (I’m looking at you Apple Watch’ers), we evaluate each company by where we think it and its market segment is going – not where they are right now. As I mentioned above, when we got into the tech space, CRE Tech was at its embryonic stage. We think it’s at its infancy just now.

 

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN INITIATIVE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION TODAY?

That’s a tough question. From an operations perspective, it’s a relatively old one (that’s been improved by the cloud): our enterprise network which allows our partners access to any file on our network from any device anywhere we are (i.e. Dropbox).

 

WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY ON TOP OF CUTTING EDGE TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS IN REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY?

As CRE Tech investors, it’s our job to stay on top of the latest breakthroughs affecting our space. We also keep a running dialogue going with other real estate development/management companies who may have been exposed to something that we haven’t.

 

AS A MENTOR, WHAT IS THE #1 VALUE YOU BRING TO A HIGH-GROWTH REAL ESTATE TECH START-UP?

The value we bring as a mentor is the same value proposition we offer as an investor to our portfolio companies: as a potential end-user of myriad CRE Tech products we can offer product/service level strategy that other vc’s may not (though within the MetaProp NYC family I think this is less unique  - which is a tremendous strength of the community!). Perhaps more importantly, due to our size, chances are if we’re using a particular product or service, others will too.

 

WHO HAVE BEEN YOUR MOST IMPORTANT MENTORS AND WHY?

My Grandfather, father & uncle.

 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BUSINESS BOOK?

The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

 

WHAT IS ONE INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT MOST PEOPLE DON’T ALREADY KNOW?

I lived in Russia (on & off) for a five year period from 2001. Nazdarovya!

Jordan Nof, Head of Investments at Tusk Ventures

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.


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WHAT ARE YOUR DAY-TO-DAY RESPONSIBILITIES IN YOUR ORGANIZATION?

As the Head of Investments at Tusk Ventures, I am responsible for overseeing all aspects of the firm's venture practice and investment strategy. My day-to-day responsibilities include sourcing, evaluating and recommending companies that satisfy our investment mandate and are positioned for Tusk Ventures to add significant strategic value in our sweet spot of solving complex problems in highly regulated marketplaces.

We have reached the point where cash has become the least valuable asset that an investor should bring to the table. Along with funding, entrepreneurs need to look for a trustworthy partner who provides the relevant experience as well as access to people and distribution channels that they would not have otherwise. I focus on identifying the right startups (10-12 annually) where we are best positioned to foster these types of partnerships by helping them navigate the regulatory hurdles, incumbent players, and public perception to become the next generation of great companies.

 

DESCRIBE HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION.

I became interested in real estate technology while working as a Director at Blackstone within the Innovations group. My role was primarily focused on the firm's corporate venture capital portfolio, identifying companies that could help accelerate either the firm’s operations or those of our portfolio companies. Given Blackstone's global footprint in real estate, I felt that it was an area where we could really help tip the scales for a company in the vertical.

From this unique position at the nexus of real estate entrepreneurs, investors, and end-users, I led the firm's first real estate technology investment in VTS. Since then, the CRE technology space has experienced explosive growth in terms of dollars raised and number of startups in the space.

 

HOW IS TODAY’S REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY DIFFERENT FROM WHEN YOU STARTED YOUR CAREER?

When I first started analyzing the CRE Tech space, there were no more than a handful of companies in the vertical. Most of the real estate startups were focused on the residential market, chasing the footsteps of Zillow and Trulia. Since then, there have been tremendous opportunities exposed that could bring increased transparency to this once opaque market. Examples of disruptors include:

- Leasing & Asset Management Workflow (VTS)

- Shared/Flexible Office Space (LiquidSpaceBreather)

- Crowdsourced Data (CompStak)

- P2P Lending (RealtyMogul)

- Mortgage Refinancing (Lenda)

- Crowdfunding (RealtySharesFundrise)

- 3D Visualization (Floored)

- Smart Access Building Control (Latch)

- Office Cleaning & Management (Managed By Q)

There are even companies now that can provide owners with ancillary revenues for their unused parking spaces (ValetAnywhereZirx)

 

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN INITIATIVE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION TODAY?

Given that I work in venture, my sole focus is to foster and accelerate entrepreneur driven innovation by providing both intellectual and financial capital.

Tusk Ventures is focused on selectively partnering with startups to solve complex problems in highly regulated marketplaces. Our team develops an underlying strategy and executes full scale multi-jurisdictional campaigns to eliminate regulatory hurdles, achieve policy goals and shape public perceptions. Where possible, we collaborate with governments and incumbent organizations to pursue aligned goals. Where necessary, we challenge regulatory regimes and assemble coalitions to change the status quo. Our mission is to serve as a catalyst, providing sustainable growth for the next generation of great companies.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY ON TOP OF CUTTING EDGE TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS IN REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY?

Taking a similar approach to learning about any new new industry, I have found that speaking to everyone I can in the RE Tech ecosystem is the best way to get a variety of perspectives about the newest technologies and meet high caliber founders. I utilize every aspect of my network to stay on top of the latest trends and developments, including:

- Entrepreneurs

- Real Estate Asset Managers

- Other Venture Capitalists

- Angel investors

- Lawyers

- Investment Bankers

- Accelerators and Incubators

- University Entrepreneurship Programs

In addition, my team and I use private company market data to conduct analyses and ensure that nothing has gone under our radar.

 

AS A MENTOR, WHAT IS THE #1 VALUE YOU BRING TO A HIGH-GROWTH REAL ESTATE TECH START-UP?

Deep real estate tech experience - which allows me to share a first-hand understanding of:

- What investors are looking for in early stage RE tech companies

- What potential enterprise customers will require prior to implementing your software into their businesses

- The hurdles you can expect from large incumbent players and other early stage competitors (and how to overcome them)

- Operating advice on how to build a high-growth business

- How to efficiently raise capital from both strategic investors and traditional VCs by focusing your deliverables on what matters most to them

 

WHO HAVE BEEN YOUR MOST IMPORTANT MENTORS AND WHY?

Bill Murphy (CTO of Blackstone and former Co-Founder of Capital IQ) is a mentor that had a tremendous impact on me and helped shape my career path into venture capital. The only thing better than learning from your mistakes is learning from the mistakes of others, and he gave me the opportunity to do that by sharing the invaluable insights he learned while sitting on the other side of the table as an entrepreneur at Capital IQ. By running his department like a standalone business, he gave me instrumental exposure into being a successful operator.

Finally, his management style was one that really resonated well with me. Tenacity, grit and drive are all imperative to success, and his career is proof of that.

 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BUSINESS BOOK?

I am going to skip From Good to Great and The Art of War and hopefully go a bit off the beaten path here with When Genius Failed by Roger Lowenstein. The book illustrates several extremely important themes in navigating markets and building a sustainable business.

First, no matter how successful you have been in the past, you must continue to push yourself to always strive and learn more. In addition, it is imperative that your business strategy remains nimble. Thanks to Innovation, the world is rapidly evolving. However, that also means that what once was a profitable business model can become obsolete very quickly - always stay on your toes.

The book begins a chapter with one of my favorite quotes - "Markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent", by John Maynard Keynes. Nobody is insulated from rapid changes in market dynamics – every VC could be banging down your door today, but not return your phone calls tomorrow. Founders should always remember that.

 

WHAT IS ONE INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT MOST PEOPLE DON’T ALREADY KNOW?

Although I am originally from Florida, my favorite thing to do (outside of investing in startups) is back-country skiing.

Jonathan Wasserstrum | Co-Founder at TheSquareFoot

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.


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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…