Harris Cohn | Director, Commercial Real Estate at Carbon Lighthouse

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.


Harris Cohn

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

I am responsible for setting the strategy for Carbon Lighthouse's commercial real estate team and supporting the team members as they structure customized financial partnerships with commercial real estate owners. Carbon Lighthouse is a mission-driven company focused on stopping climate change. We are starting with the largest CO2 emitting sector - buildings. We’re making significant progress by aligning our drive to end energy waste with the commercial real estate sector’s focus on growing financial value and net operating income - we believe you can have strong economic growth and achieve environmental goals. Carbon Lighthouse identifies and implements technical solutions customized to each building in an owner’s portfolio, and provides an ongoing service to maintain the financial value resulting from those solutions. The end goals are 1) holding occupant comfort constant 2) reducing operating costs on energy, and 3) boosting NOI as much as possible. So, day-to-day I check on our key metrics to make sure we're making progress and ensure I’m supporting my team to successfully achieve these partnerships with commercial real estate owners.

 

DESCRIBE HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN PROPTECH AND INNOVATION.

Buildings are so integral to how we live today. And they have so much potential to change our lives for the better. People have been creating them for millennia. Yet, buildings haven’t kept up with technology adoption like many other areas of our lives. Sure, this comparison might be a bit unfair; after all, it's much different to program an app than to physically construct a building. I became interested in PropTech for this reason - to see how far we can improve the physical aspects of buildings with the new technology so readily available today.

 

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

The robots are coming! Actually, I don't think they will reach into the real estate industry as profoundly as in other industries, but I do think there will be big winners and big losers when it comes to technology. One area that will be impacted is the people. The Urban Land Institute (ULI) and PwC recently released a survey that found commercial real estate executives are 4x less likely to care about technological innovation and therefore see no need to drive change within their own organizations. While that may be true today, there is a new generation of real estate leadership emerging who will think and act differently about technology. As the workforce moves toward more millennials, the commercial real estate companies that are able to embrace tech innovation will really start to succeed.

 

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

It’s really our business model. We’ve found a way to align our environmental mission with commercial interests. We make it easy and profitable for commercial real estate owners to tap the hidden value in their buildings by eliminating energy waste. The more waste we eliminate gets us closer to our climate change goal and produces exponential financial value for owner portfolios. From a technology perspective, we’re data-obsessed at Carbon Lighthouse. We love to measure everything in our business just as we do in the buildings we serve for CRE owners. That has led to amazing insights and the development of training programs, best practices, and of course our proprietary software called CLUES®, which employs machine learning and artificial intelligence to find the best energy saving solutions for commercial buildings.

 

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

Mentors are amazing and I believe you gain more value when you draw inspiration and guidance from multiple mentors. They have been incredibly useful sounding boards throughout my career and each key decision I’ve made has come with the input of multiple mentors. The key to developing strong relationships with mentors is to be prepared. Have an idea or thought you want to discuss before you show up to that mentorship coffee or meeting. Avoid easy-bake questions like "What's your career path been?" At the same time don't be afraid to rethink or reapply a mentor's advice. If you’re looking for a mentor, spend just 5-15 minutes researching potential contacts and figuring out what you want from them before you meet. You'll have mentors willing to give you so much more time and effort.

 

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

My team, Doughmance, placed third out of 30 teams two years in a row in a pizza making contest.  Our best pie is the Reverend Al Green, a Margherita pizza with chimichurri sauce on top.


INNOVATION CONVERSATIONS GALLERY

Ryan Freed, Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer at hOM

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.


Ryan Freed hOM

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

As Chief Revenue Officer, I am involved in sales, strategy, management and advisor/investor relations. I spend a large part of my day in meetings with potential clients, current clients, strategic partners, employees, advisors and my co-founders developing business strategy. When not in meetings I am often prepping for my meetings or following up with pitch decks, strategy plans, contracts and other items to close deals, push forward initiatives and train/develop employees.

 

DESCRIBE HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN PROPTECH AND INNOVATION.

I've been an entrepreneur my whole life. My first interest was in business, entrepreneurship and innovation, from my ice hockey goalie coaching business to my small business eBay store to my food delivery service on my college campus plus many more endeavors. My passion in wellness started when I dove into the world of yoga, meditation and mindfulness from an experience in becoming a partial caretaker for my mom on her journey with cancer. Her transformation inspired me to bring wellness to the world in the most convenient way possible -- directly to people’s homes and offices. I then fell into PropTech as a result of our distribution channel of selling to landlords so that we can create a more enjoyable experience in peoples’ homes and offices.

 

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

Workspaces and the idea of what a work-life balance means. WeWork, Convene and corporations like Google and Facebook are carving the way to making work a more enjoyable experience for everyone; one that provides flexibility through hot-desking, creative design, remote plus distributed work-forces, as well as an enhanced amenity experience where everything you need is just a click or step away. Large single-tenant corporations have been latching on to this concept and now every major landlord is making their play into what they think the future of the workforce looks like. This will help them attract the small, mid and larger tenants at premium price-point, by providing these experiences for the corporations, rather than the corporations having to create these workplaces themselves.

 

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

I think the most important innovation is our workforce structure and culture. We provide the work environment outlined above in addition to being the first company to provide full-time employment opportunities for yoga instructors. Our yoga instructors run the services in the building by teaching yoga and meditation. They are core to our customers, while also running an operational component of the business like sales, app development, marketing, operations and more. We've built an environment where everything starts from a shared passion -- community, wellness and self-love. Our most important technology driven initiative is to support our current workforce structure and enhance the experience for our clients and their tenants (our end users) by creating the highest quality experience through efficiency of time. We are using technology to maximize our employees’ time through an internal artificially intelligent scheduling system that creates an ideal schedule for our service providers and our end users, providing services at the ideal times and locations.

 

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

I would not be where I am in my career without mentors. Mentors have helped me excel personally and professionally by helping me question every step of the process. In my experience the best mentors have asked questions and helped me come to self discovery. It takes a long time and a lot of persistence to find the best mentors. Try out multiple mentors, show them you respect their time, their knowledge and keep pushing until you find the right one for you. It can be a mentor that helps you with strategy, fundraising, sales, connections or just emotional support. Not everyone is right for for everyone - so find the right person for you and list the skill sets that you think you’re missing.

 

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

Disney World is my favorite place on earth. I've been there roughly 15 times.


INNOVATION CONVERSATIONS GALLERY

Alex Edds | Director of Innovation at JLL

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.


Alex Edds Innovation Conversations MetaProp

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

I advise senior members of JLL’s UK business on the risks and opportunities of digital disruption. This includes horizon scanning the best PropTech solutions in the market, as well as establishing the governance associated with digital transformation and innovation within the UK business. Also, I provide thought leadership and strategic advice to key clients, participate in industry networking events and public speaking.

 

DESCRIBE HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN PROPTECH AND INNOVATION.

My background is sustainability in real estate. I became frustrated at the pace of change in the industry and seemingly high barriers to entry to scale good ideas and solutions (usually technical) to solve critical problems in our industry. From this starting point I began to learn more and more about the possibilities of digital technologies and how they could be used to solve all sorts of problems in the real estate sector, and open up new possibilities. I am still learning, every day.

 

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

I would say most of the professional services will be subject to significant change, as they all become far more data driven. But if I had to choose I would say valuation and transactions will be hit first.

 

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

Sounds boring and simple, but it is the creation of property and client information databases linked with APIs. Why was this not done 20 years ago?

 

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

I would say yes very much, but not in the sense of actual mentors. Most of my mentors I’ve never met. I watch TED talks or read books and listen and learn from others. The real estate industry is pretty behind the curve so there aren’t that many “innovative leaders’ in our industry. I tend to look outside our industry for inspiration. However, that makes it difficult to make personal connections. This is actually one thing I am trying to solve for myself and others: I will be facilitating small private sessions for like-minded people to meet and learn from out-of-sector leaders

 

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

Despite my role and the intellectual stimulation I get from doing it, I would much rather be living a simple life away from technology.


INNOVATION CONVERSATIONS GALLERY

Bradford H. Dockser | CEO & Co-Founder at Green Generation Solutions, LLC

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.


INNOVATION CONVERSATIONS Bradford H. Dockser  Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Green Generation Solutions, LLC

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

As CEO of Green Generation Solutions (GreenGen), my responsibilities include setting strategic direction and then securing people and resources to achieve our goals. GreenGen is a global energy solutions provider that engineers and implements energy efficiency solutions to lower buildings’ operating costs while improving sustainability. As a fast-growing company, I like to think my job is to set the boat into the wind and then let the team sail.

 

DESCRIBE HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN PROPTECH AND INNOVATION.

As a real estate professional for more than 25 years, PropTech and innovation have always been critical, even before the word “PropTech” existed. We always focused on expenses; but as technology became more powerful, we realized that most companies didn’t have strategic focus on how to use technology to lower energy related operating costs. This lack of strategic focus is what spurred me to start GreenGen, a firm that has PropTech and innovation at its core. We focus on identifying technologies and then implementing them into a solution that will drive a financial outcome that builds value for investors while improving sustainability. At GreenGen, technology is at the heart of how we innovate and bring value to our partners.

 

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

In the next ten years, the opportunities to use data will change the most. The real estate industry is still quite archaic in its approach to the collection and analysis of data. Data has the ability to inform decisions from operations to leasing to overall strategy and is a massively overlooked area of opportunity.

 

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

The most important innovation in our organization today is the interrelationship of data, energy generation and efficiency to optimize occupant outcomes and experience while using a lower amount of decarbonized power. This means that technology must enable a systems/solutions approach that integrates technology to achieve specific outcomes. The ability for facilities to better correlate physical occupancy to energy consumption is a perfect example of the systems approach we develop.

 

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

Mentors are critical because they can impart their experiences to accelerate an entrepreneur’s path to growth. I often say that the first time is a lesson and the second time a mistake. Mentors have the benefit of lessons that can let entrepreneurs avoid the mistakes. I have had mentors at every point of my career and that would include today.

 

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

Most people don’t know that after high school I played soccer for Bristol Rovers in the English League Second Division before returning to the US to attend college. This experience included relegation to the English League Third Division. An unbelievable and humbling experience.


INNOVATION CONVERSATIONS GALLERY

Conan Lauterpacht | Vice President, Corporate Development at Altus Analytics

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.


INNOVATION CONVERSATIONS Conan Lauterpacht.png

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

I am the Vice President of Corporate Development for Altus Analytics, which is the technology business of the Altus Group and owns ARGUS software and Voyanta amongst other real estate technology solutions. My role currently involves sourcing, evaluating and investing in emerging companies that have the potential to be or become a partner with ARGUS or other Altus solutions. In the last year or so we have invested in Waypoint Buildings, an operational expense performance management platform, REIX, a market data platform, and Honest Buildings, the procurement and project management solution. Day-to-day I spend time speaking to early stage (commercial) real estate technology companies as well as our internal product management and partner team in order to ensure that our product, partner and investment strategies are aligned.

 

DESCRIBE HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN PROPTECH AND INNOVATION.

My journey has been somewhat unusual as I don’t come from a real estate background other than as a small residential buy-to-let investor. I joined Voyanta, a real estate data management platform for institutional real investors, as COO and raised a Series A round. We sold the solution to a number of the largest financial institutions in the world and were then acquired by Altus Group. I joined Voyanta in 2013 and have been with Altus Group since the acquisition, transitioning into my new Corporate Development role in 2016. As such I have had a front-line seat for this “third wave” of PropTech, of which Voyanta was one of the early participants. I have also had the benefit of seeing the development of PropTech from both start-up and incumbent (Altus/ARGUS) perspective and on both sides of the Atlantic, as I am based in London. However, our investment focus thus far has been in the US.

 

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

Looking at the commercial side of the industry, I expect to see changing working habits driving further reductions in lease or occupancy terms and consequently an increase in both transaction volume and velocity in the leasing and investment markets. These changes will drive further technology investment as increased transaction velocity and volume will necessitate greater operational efficiency and quicker decision-making, which in turn will be dependent on access to better data sets and analytics. This increased transaction volume will also likely drive increased liquidity in the market whether on private platforms or through the emergence of public exchanges for real estate assets.

 

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

The development of further cloud functionality for our flagship solution, ARGUS Enterprise, and the creation of cloud APIs to enable the supported integration of AE with other best-in-class solutions.

 

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

I have worked with some very talented people, but have never taken the time to develop a strong relationship with a mentor. This is something I regret as building long-term relationships with mentors can be very valuable for personal and professional development. And particularly so for entrepreneurs, who will have fewer opportunities for the structured development available in corporate environments.

 

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

If I’m not spending time with my wife and two young sons, I’m happiest skiing powder anywhere I can find it.


INNOVATION CONVERSATIONS GALLERY

Duke Long | Managing Partner at PUR Ventures

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.


Duke Long Innovation Conversations MetaProp.png

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

Finding people. Meeting with, talking with, connecting with people. I am continually seeking out strong teams and team builders. As much as I am interested in seeking out ideas it’s more important to find the people who can and will implement and execute them.

 

DESCRIBE HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN PROPTECH AND INNOVATION.

At the very start, it came out of frustration as a broker and the incredibly antiquated way of doing business. It was the “there must be a better way” thought process that leads me to start seeking out innovative and forward-thinking solutions. Think of where we are today compared to 10-20 years ago and then think how far we can go from there.

 

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

Construction. The basics of providing shelter and space for the entire world. Think of the resources needed to do that today. What are we wasting now that we can never get back? How can we improve and innovate far beyond anyone’s expectations and do we have a choice?

 

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

Data acquisition and accumulation of [it]. It is and has always been the basis and market-maker for real estate. The implications of how that data is used touches every aspect of real estate.

 

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

Without my early mentors I’m not sure my real estate career would have even existed. The value of their honesty, experience and willingness to share not only their knowledge but their time is incalculable. Be willing to take the tough answers and use them to your advantage. Anyone can be friendly and helpful, but are you looking for a friend or someone who will tell it to you straight and be a true mentor. Seek those people out, they want to help you grow. Are you willing to let that happen?

 

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

I am a devastatingly fantastic putter. Seriously, just stay in the cart, I got this. And if I miss it is a once in a lifetime moment so be sure to acknowledge that fact. I’m also humble about my golf game, which is a character trait I am most proud of.


INNOVATION CONVERSATIONS GALLERY

Taylor Wescoatt | General Partner at Concrete VC

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.


taylor wescoatt concrete vc

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

Explaining PropTech to investors, getting real estate folks excited about possibilities, keeping founders focused, keeping the office clean and putting my kids to bed.

 

DESCRIBE HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN PROPTECH AND INNOVATION.

In my career I have worked across many sectors: commerce at eBay, media at TimeOut, community at AOL, but I haven’t worked in a sector that has such a long upward growth horizon since perhaps 1995 when this web browser thing started to catch on.

 

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

Jobs, jobs will change. The simpler work will be automated and customers will demand higher levels of service with greater insight. We will see a greater concentration of power in the space as the smaller, less tech-enabled players struggle to compete. In real estate, end users will come to the fore, where they belong.

 

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

The cloud. Stop using MS Office, start using online tools. Sharing is caring.

 

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

Seedcamp, the original and still leading early-stage institutional investor in Europe, has always been the most incredible advisor. Everyone on that team really, from communications to investment to events.

 

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

I have all the Lego LOTR sets. My kids have other kinds.


INNOVATION CONVERSATIONS GALLERY

Ryan Coon | Co-Founder at Avail

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.


INNOVATION CONVERSATIONS.png

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

As co-founder and CEO of Avail, a fast-growing startup with 65,000+ DIY landlords nationwide, my primary responsibility is hiring great people and removing obstacles for our team. At the stage our company is at, I’ve accepted that our success largely depends on the work of our team, not my own brute force efforts.

To hire and retain great people, we invest a significant amount of time and effort in ensuring everyone on our team is constantly being challenged to learn and grow. We’ve had such great success with this, that no one who has started with Avail has left the company.

I also spend a lot of time removing obstacles and minimizing distractions for our team. In some ways, the most important thing I do every day is to say “no” to projects that sound exciting but would detract from our team’s focus.

 

DESCRIBE HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN PROPTECH AND INNOVATION.

I became interested in real estate at an early age. My parents are both entrepreneurs and own a small portfolio of rental properties. After finishing college, I moved to Chicago and took over day-to-day management of these rental units.

When this transition happened, I was looking for technology to simplify every part of my life. I was working 80+ hours per week at an investment bank, and time was precious. Uber changed how I got around the city and Grubhub ensured I was never hungry.

I looked for technology to simplify the management of the rental properties, and was surprised to find that there weren’t any tools available for part-time landlords like myself. Platforms existed for institutional real estate investors, but DIY landlords were completely ignored.

Believing that a solution needed to exist, I quit my job and learned how to code. My co-founder Laurence and I launched Avail in 2013 and have been building the business since then.

 

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

I believe the biggest change over the next 10 years will be the realization that owning your primary residence is NOT a good decision. Owning your home is not a good financial decision and it also ties you to a certain location, limiting your flexibility and mobility.

As more people recognize the importance of freedom that comes from renting, we’ll see continued growth in the rental market and other shared housing models.

 

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

At Avail, we provide rental management tools and educational resources for DIY landlords. These landlords, who have full-time jobs and typically own less than 10 rental units, have never had access to the same tools or resources as larger, institutional real estate investors.

Although each individual landlord controls a small number of rental units, collectively the 8 million DIY landlords in the United States own and manage more than 24 million rental units. This represents 55% of all rental units in the country.

By providing these landlords with a beautiful, intuitive rental management platform, we make it possible for them to manage properties themselves without the need for expensive middlemen.

 

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

As a first-time startup founder, I have benefitted from the advice and guidance of a lot of people. The most valuable way for me is to learn from others’ experiences.

When I encounter a problem or situation that I’m unsure about, I’ll often reach out to an individual who has experienced the same challenge. I’ll ask questions about what they did in a similar situation and how it played out. Listening to the person and asking a lot of questions will typically help me make the best decision.

To develop strong relationships with mentors, I believe you get out of the relationship what you put in. Always ask mentors what you can do for them. The more that you provide value for your mentors, the more value you’ll get out of the relationship.

 

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

Prior to starting Avail, I spent three weeks trekking in Nepal and hiked up to Mt. Everest Base Camp. Getting from Kathmandu up to the Himalayas required flying into the most dangerous airport in the world.

Matt Abeles | Co-Founder and Managing Director at BuiltWorlds

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.


INNOVATION CONVERSATIONS.jpg

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

As a co-founder of BuiltWorlds, I am responsible for a bevy of different things. My core responsibility, however, is leading BuiltWorlds' efforts on revenue generation and enterprise partnerships. In this capacity, I am ensuring that all of our conferences generate a certain margin of revenue and that we are on a path to continued growth based on not just sponsorship dollars, but on overall excitement from the events. That excitement stems from our thought leaders and attendee experience.

Working with enterprise partners from companies as large as Dewalt and CAT to our valued partners at MetaProp also remains a core part of my responsibilities. Occasionally, I will do some speaking engagements for our non-profit partners as well.

 

DESCRIBE HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN PROPTECH AND INNOVATION.

While I have been involved in the building and real estate industry for much of my career, my heavy interest and excitement around PropTech and innovation didn't truly begin until I started my journey as a co-founder of BuiltWorlds in 2014. At the time, Matt Gray, the other co-founder of BuiltWorlds, and myself tried to help companies in the building industry adopt technology as a research company. We quickly realized, though, that there was a much larger need to educate the lagging industries who make up about $9-$11 trillion of the GDP. Fast forward to today and we have built the largest network of thought leaders in the building industry through our interest in educating the PropTech and building community.

 

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

Co-working space will change the most dramatically. Look at WeWork, which is on pace to build 1 million square feet a month globally starting this year. They are going to change the industry in a way it's never seen, and more players will emerge in that space as well.

 

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

Education and adoption are vital. That is our sole purpose as a media company poised to educate, connect, and bring thought leaders together. In the near future, we will be able to have our members connect with each other digitally as well, so thought leaders don't need to always travel to connect with one another, or go through our employees. Those connections will help people adopt innovation more rapidly, which while not a specific technology, is an initiative that makes everyone in PropTech stronger.

 

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

My original mentor, Michael Silver, who was Entrepreneur of the Year in 2008 nationally, opened my eyes to the entrepreneurial world and how exciting it could be. He also taught me the importance of relationships. The best way to develop a strong relationship with a mentor is to simply reach out and keep in touch. That's the hardest part, and from there you will find most mentors are willing to not only help, but introduce you to others who can help in ways you may not even be aware of. Relationships are key, and there is no replacement for having a good mentor who you have good connection with.

 

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

I am a 6-time Chicago Marathon runner on behalf of the charity Imerman Angels, with whom I have been on the board of for over 10 years. (Best time 3:25:00)

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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.