Literally every other day, I get a call from someone who has either recently launched a real estate tech company, or is planning on launching one soon. While I clearly have not accomplished much, my guess is it’s because my name is out there (because our site is pretty heavily promoted by my amazing team).
Although I am not one to feel like I have any words of wisdom on the subject (our site is still in its infancy), I typically refer them to folks like Jason Freedman of 42Floors, Nick Romito of View The Space, Brandon Weber from Hightower, Michael Mandel of CompStak, Riggs Kubiak from Honest Buildings and David Eisenberg from Floored as having built really amazing sites. I also often point them in the direction of Duke Long, Coy Davidson, Pierce Neinken, Barbi Reuter, Chris Clark, Allen Buchanan and Jeremy Neuer, who are professionals on the front lines of tech and are also at the top of the list for getting in front of the masses.
But, the question I keep getting asked over and over and over again is, "why is this so damn hard?” And my short (and I hate that it sometimes sounds negative) answer is always "cause that’s the nature of this beast we all decided to try to slay!" It’s hard, not getting easier any time soon and if the headwinds you read about are true in the tech sector, which has drumbeats as loud as ever predicting a correction of sorts, it’s gonna get a heck of a lot harder.
I, for one, am ok with that. It’s what I signed up for when I left my PR firm, Beckerman PR, to become a CRE tech cowboy of sorts. So, why is it so hard when literally everyday you read about VCs throwing stupid money (is my jealously pretty evident?) at startups, when I can’t even understand what the site does and they don’t even have revenue!
So, why the struggle in CRE to get traction? Well, I think it’s fairly obvious actually. If you look at other industries like tech (duh), finance, healthcare, energy etc., they all embrace tech as a way that they do business every single day and in almost every single way. Think about what traders on Wall Street do. They sit at a Bloomberg terminal and use technology to get a competitive edge. Think about how many years now the healthcare industry has been embracing digital medical records, etc. Think about how the energy sector has embraced clean tech.
Now, think about the commercial real estate industry. Tech is just not part of anyone's daily life. Buildings are still being built pretty much the way they have for years. Brokers still transact with clients much as they have for decades, based on relationships and contacts, etc.
So, when a tech site appears in the CRE space and creates something new, a lot of times it’s met with a yawn and no interest or, worse yet, complete bewilderment about what the heck it even is.
The residential sector went first in embracing tech due to the simple fact that homebuyers were embracing technology, so agents HAD to keep up or get left behind. Now, look at how well Zillow and Trulia made out as a result!
But, if you look around, it’s starting change. Corporations are embracing technology as never before. Look at the growth of cloud storage companies like Dropbox and Salesforce, with huge growth in CRM and now, even Apple is focusing on enterprise solutions with IBM. It’s only a matter of time before clients in CRE start demanding that real estate professionals use all of the same tools that those clients are using. When that really starts to happen, the growth of the CRE tech space will explode. And I for one, and many of my peers, will hopefully be there to take full advantage.
Until then, it’s gonna be hard as hell, and that’s ok with me!