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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