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 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.
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