The commercial real estate world continues to transform itself into a hotbed of tech innovation...and fast! Among my favorite new CRE tech sites is View the Space (VTS). When I first visited with VTS about a year ago, I assumed they were all about creating outstanding video tours for office buildings. It’s amazing how quickly they have transformed themselves from the platform into a tool developed to streamline and expedite the leasing process through HD video tours and corresponding analytics reports.
The video content works simultaneously with the analytics dashboard, creating rich reports in real-time. It’s engaging, attractive, and centralized for performance.
I had the pleasure to chat with Melissa Libner, Head of Marketing of VTS, about their site, strategy and future plans. I am confident these guys are the next big thing in the CRE industry.
Michael: What are the origins of VTS?
Melissa: VTS was founded in late 2011 by Nick Romito, a former commercial real estate broker. Nick managed a 3mm square foot portfolio in NYC for over seven years. He realized early on in his career that the CRE business was technologically outdated and decided to create a technology platform to help change that. VTS started by addressing one basic problem: helping brokers and their tenants qualify the right office space from their desktop or phone through an online video tour. Once a beta version was born, he worked with the top brokers, owners, and some large tenants to fine-tune the experience. From there, the users quickly told us what else they wanted built into the platform and we were off to the races.
Michael: What are the main industry problems you are trying to solve?
Melissa: The main issue we’re trying to solve is the lack of a central process within the CRE community. We’re working to aggregate all aspects of the leasing process and make everyone associated with the deal / transaction more efficient. The old CRE process was extremely fragmented with multiple parts of the process being done in multiple places (which means deals take longer, there’s no data to optimize, and it’s extremely inefficient for everyone involved). We started with the first part of the deal process (identifying space) and now we’ve started to layer in the next steps of that workflow for landlords and their agents.
Michael: I did notice that VTS has made a really smart pivot to emphasize analytics more on the website? What led to that decision?
Melissa: We’re extremely responsive. To date we have only built what our customers have expressed a need for. While everyone loves VTS videos, what they liked even more was the analytics we could extract from them. That basic data set was the catalyst for all the other data-related tools we’re now building per our users’ requests. I wouldn’t really call it a pivot, more of an expansion of product.
Michael: What is your current expansion strategy?
Melissa: As our contract sizes have expanded, so has our footprint. We currently have product up and running in 14 markets but our focus has really only been NYC and DC. We’re just now finalizing our expansion plans for the end of 2013 into 2014 but it’s safe to say we’ll be aggressively pursing the top 10 markets in the US--things are starting to move very fast here. We’ve built the model so that we can get significant market share in new markets extremely fast and that’s the plan. We don't do anything “small”.
Michael: Tell us about the team you have assembled?
Melissa: We’re all about mixing serious domain expertise with people who really understand product. Collectively, our team has about 40 years of commercial real estate experience on both the brokerage and landlord side of the business. Our engineers could probably be brokers at this point – that’s how ingrained they are with the rest of the team and our users. They understand the problems in the space better than most people. We’re currently 17 people and it’s split pretty evenly between production, sales, and engineers and of course me who spearheads our firm’s marketing initiatives. It is a dynamic group that has a ton of fun in the process. Belly laughs are a key part of our everyday banter.
Michael: Do you have a revenue model?
Melissa: In our 16 months of operating we’ve tried several different revenue models and right now we’re currently using a subscription model. As we add new functionality to the platform that may change, but that’s the core of our rev model right now.
Michael: It's clearly a very exciting time to be in the CRE Tech space - what are some of the reasons why you think there has been such an explosion of new sites being launched recently?
Melissa: The explosion of new sites is more like a domino effect. Once transparency is created in an industry, you can never go back to the old way of doing things. CRE was long overdue for some serious innovation as old methods of leasing space were counterintuitive to the evolution of technology. Residential real estate has been light years ahead of Commercial, in terms of harnessing the power of the Internet to sell and rent more properties. Accountability, accessibility and speed to market are new norms that a landlord / broker will need to adopt to stay competitive.
Michael: What sites in particular are you personally fond of?
Melissa: We’re big fans of Compstak, 42Floors, HonestBuildings and anyone trying to help push technology and innovation into the space. It’ll be exciting to see how all the different start-ups launching this year affect the status quo.
Michael: With regards to social media, how does VTS use it to get its message out?
Melissa: VTS maintains an active presence on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook primarily. Twitter is definitely our go-to social media hot bed, but all forms of social media are ideal for posting links to our building pages. Having the ability to get thousands of prospects in front of an office and actually tour it online in seconds is where the market is shifting. I’m constantly pushing the importance for every landlord to remain active on social media to engage with prospective tenants and stay in the foreground of the real estate community.
Michael: What are your future goals for the site?
Melissa: Aggressive expansion on both the product side of what we do as well as geographically. We’ll be rolling out an entirely new version of the platform over the summer while simultaneously attacking new markets. Expect to see and hear very big things from the VTS crew over the next few quarters!
Melissa - Thanks so much for this exclusive information! Check out View The Space and let us know what you think.