Wow! What a year in CRE tech. Many amazing things happened. Challenges remain for many. Opportunities for all. That’s kinda how I see things, always. Great upside but with the realization that it takes hard work, lessons learned, discoveries and then, ultimately, there is progress. It’s never a straight line. Nor should it be.
For me personally, it has been an extraordinary year in CRE Tech. Our platforms are all growing, our team is rock solid and the overall commercial real estate tech sector is growing big time. While I am not one to spend much time looking back, or looking too far out front either, when I think about this past year my main takeaways in CRE Tech are as follows:
1. The CRE Tech tribe is absolutely growing. It seems that everyday I am connecting with a new startup, landlord, broker or investor who is active in the space. And, it’s not just the quantity but the quality of who I am connecting with. From when I entered the space six years ago up until today, the sheer numbers of those active in the sector has grown substantially.
2. You should pay attention to the brokerage firms and landlords in 2018. I think the real action in the year ahead will be seen in the largest brokerage firms and what they are doing INSIDE their organizations. I would expect that we will see the same as it relates to the top landlords. As an example, I recently met with one of the largest office owners/developers in the world and they showed me an APP they built for their tenants that would make even WeWork envious. That’s where I really think the big trend in CRE tech will be in the year ahead… the largest players in the industry acquiring or investing in their own tech solutions to give them a competitive edge in the marketplace. Think the “Intel Inside” campaign as an example of how they will soon be branding themselves as tech-enabled companies.
3. While our own research shows investing in the sector is down, the amount raised in 2018 will be massive. I know of several existing Funds raising large new rounds and several others coming into the space raising significant amounts of money. While the money invested might not drastically change, the money raised will be impressive.
4. Mergers and acquisitions will finally emerge. The pack is separating for those with resources and traction and those with great ideas but who lack in resources and traction. This will result in some serious M&A activity in 2018.
5. And my biggest prediction is… something HUGE will happen and no one knows what the hell it is! Not trying to be clever or evasive, but one of the things I have learned in my almost thirty years in business is that you can never predict when something truly profound is going to happen. But it always does. Did we see Amazon buying Whole Foods? Maybe some did. Did we see Microsoft buying LinkedIn? Perhaps. My bet is that some big company that isn’t on the radar screen is coming into the sector and it will have a profound impact on the space. Is it Google? Is it Amazon? Is there a Zillow on the horizon? A few people probably know but most of us don’t. With all of the momentum including positive press, increasingly big Funds paying attention to the space and a few notable exits, the CRE tech sector is on the radar screen of more large tech companies than we probably realize.
One last note on what won’t happen this year…. driverless cars won’t be widespread, blockchain won’t disrupt everything and drones won’t be the “last mile logistics” solution. But, in 2020, I bet I will be writing about those trends as completely disruptive to everything we know.
While I never claim to be an expert in anything and am more of a listener than prognosticator, I do know that change is constant and those that are investing and embracing tech now will be the winners in the future!
Thanks to everyone I have been in contact with this past year, everyone who supported our events and really just everyone in the CRE tech sector for their passion, investment and ideas that made 2017 such an extraordinary and meaningful year!
Here’s to a wonderful 2018!