A conversation on real estate tech with Michael Beckerman, founder of The News Funnel and Duke Long, influential real estate tech blogger. Find out what these two have to say about the current state of residential and commercial real estate tech sectors.
MB: Hey Duke, hope you had a great summer. Let's talk a bit about the state of real estate tech. It’s an interesting time in both the residential and commercial sectors. Seems daily you are discovering a new start up on your blog and we are too. A lot of attention gets focused on the big, early front running sites (rightfully so) like VTS, Compstak, HonestBuildings, Fundrise, Hightower and LiquidSpace. Besides the big names, are there any one or two sites that have caught your attention and that you are keeping a particular eye on?
DL: Great question Michael. There are two specifically. Brevit.as, which I would describe as an international "off market" deal making platform. I love the idea of discovery and transactions on the same platform. More importantly, the team behind Brevit.as has all the ingredients to grind it out and make it a success. The other is Piinpoint, which I would describe as predictive mapping and analytics platform. They busted out of Y Combinator with plenty of momentum and have not let their foot off the gas, boasting more than 100,000 locations under their belt.
MB: I know those sites and totally agree. I am personally keeping a close eye on theSquareFoot and RealConnex. theSquareFoot is building a commercial real estate brokerage business using a tech platform and RealConnex is attempting to build a “LinkedIn” for the real estate market with an emphasis on capital raising for investment and development in particular.
MB: Another topic. So many sites I know are trying to go after CoStar's dominant market share. I know you have a term for CoStar you love to use :). But there has to be other areas of the industry that are ripe for opportunity. Other than the obvious ones like listings and analytics, what’s the area you think that has the most potential?
DL: "The Built Environment." Everything that is not transactional or always analytical. Transactional is 25-30% of commercial real estate. The rest is the built environment. It's how CBRE, JLL, and others make money. If it works for them why not focus there.
MB: I am fortunate to be able to be in a position to advise a few start-ups. By the way, the first thing I always tell them to do is to call you:). I find myself being a bit of a bummer though when I typically first meet someone thinking of entering the space. I tell them how hard this will be and how few professionals are equally even looking, forget about being engaged, for anything tech. It blows my mind actually. So why is this so damn hard?
DL: Creating a product that someone will actually use and buy is hard. Creating a company that will support and sell that product is even harder. I don't look at commercial real estate any different than any of the other major asset classes. It can and will change and adapt when necessary. You mentioned the "big" startups before that are gaining traction and selling products. How did they make it to this point? It's simple, they are better entrepreneurs than the others who have tried and failed. It's a major grind every day, every hour, every minute. Michael, you know what I am talking about. You have done it yourself. Commercial real estate does not need to embrace or adapt to anything that does not work. What commercial real estate needs are better, leaner, tougher people creating products and companies that will thrive and survive.
MB: When I left my PR firm in 2011/2012 to enter this space full time, most people thought I was nuts (and still do). But for me, it’s always been about the journey and the growth, not about keeping score. I was always fascinated with the risk takers, the artists and creative types. Those that saw things before others did or made something out of nothing. That’s where a lot of my personal inspiration comes from. So where do you get your inspiration from Duke?
DL: Brown liquor!
MB: Classic Duke Long answer! And for the record, I am a tequila guy! Thanks Duke.
DL: Thank you Michael.