The evolving face of Commercial Real Estate Technology

| June 24, 2013 | 1 Comment
cre tech photo

Photo courtesy CRE Tech Intersect

‘Commercial Real Estate Technology’ is an impossibly broad term that touches really every facet of a complex industry. Occupier services. Search. Data Exchange. Analytics– and more. Last week’s CRE Tech Intersect conference pulled these diverse items together in a setting that provided attendees with some great cutting-edge information, but still reminded everyone that personal interaction was still our industry’s most important tool.

CRE Tech Intersect was a great opportunity to speak to the leaders of many of the emerging start-ups at the event, and I saw some solid demos of products that may have an impact on the industry.   A lot of interesting stuff, but two innovators really caught my attention:

COMPSTAK: If you read the comments to my Colliers colleague Coy Davidson’s blog post about Compstak, you’ll see that I was more than a bit skeptical about the concept. Brokers have been using data on recent completed leases in the marketplace as currency forever. A lot of veteran brokers, myself included, have regular meetings with colleagues from competing firms to trade lease comparables. We’ve been crowdsourcing comps for years, and pretty effectively at that!

The thing is, CompStak is getting pretty good results. I was checking out their list of comps in my local market a few days ago, and they had some information I hadn’t seen before. CompStak CEO Michael Mandel tells me that they have close to 100% of lease data in New York, the first market in which they rolled out the service. I’m a bit skeptical of that claim, but given the robust data set they have already compiled locally, maybe I shouldn’t be so doubtful.

Compstak’s comps are available to brokers essentially on a barter system– you give comps, you can get some. Again, not terribly different from how we operate amongst ourselves already. Mandel sees a strong market for their data with institutional investors and major developers. CompStak’s aggregated data could supplement– but I don’t think supplant– information that these entities now get for free from their broker.

This brings up a new take on a conversation that’s been going on in commercial real estate circles for a long time. Not the case everywhere, but in the markets where I focus, it has been a very, very long time since information on something as mundane as available spaces has been considered proprietary.  Brokers that base their business model on hoarding information at their desk are going to be forced to change. This applies to lease comparable data, too. Commercial Real Estate data is a commodity, and it’s getting cheaper and more readily available. Knowledge, information, and the ability to synthesize both into a real understanding of the market, though, has value. Smart brokers know this and welcome new players like CompStak.

LIQUIDSPACEWhen I first talked to LiquidSpace’s senior leadership last year, they were focused on a niche that I don’t think anyone had ever tackled before- booking immediate-need meeting space, short term conference rooms, etc. Taking advantage of an increasingly mobile workforce and the growth of co-working space. Talking to CEO Mark Gilbreath at CRE Tech Intersect I learned that they’ve expanded their reach and I think they could become an excellent service provider for Occupiers looking to streamline the process of booking in-house and nearby meeting space.

Gilbreath has an even bigger vision, though. From a real estate perspective, the biggest challenge facing start-ups is appropriately scaling a young high growth operation. What if these early stage players had an efficient method of ordering their office space à la carte instead of in bulk?  Office space needs can be responded to real-time and based on immediate need.   A more dynamic team with the flexibility to respond to the immediate needs of key employees.   Bottom-up facility planning.   Interesting idea– their Enterprise Solutions page is worth a look.

This first CRE Tech Intersect was an impressive event spearheaded by Pierce Neinken, a broker up in The City.  I’m looking forward to the 2014 edition!

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