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?
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!