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.
Richard Sarkis, Co-Founder and CEO at Reonomy
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.