Q&A with Jeff Finn, President and CEO at RealNex
I have written a lot lately about how the race for the CRE tech market share will come down to a few sites. It's really inevitable. The professionals who work in this industry simply don't have the time or inclination to use several different sites. Maybe two or three, maximum, depending on the solutions they are looking for. But ultimately it will be the "Bloomberg" model that will win.
One site that does many things. One site that professionals use throughout the day. One site that is mobile and desktop.
My friend Jeff Finn, President and CEO of RealNex, is on a mission to become that site!
I spoke with him about the launch of his new mobile product which he believes will give them a big competitive advantage in the marketplace and raises the bar on building the ONE site for multiple solutions and services.
Michael: Tell us about the new app? What does it do? What’s so unique about it?
Jeff: Thanks for the opportunity to talk about our new RealNex app, Michael. We are really excited about what we have built and the incredible value and capabilities it offers our clients and the industry. We have seen a lot of apps that try to serve the CRE industry but none with all the power and functionality that we have been able to deliver. It is an incredible deal management and time management solution.
The app puts all the power of our industry leading CORE CRM in the palm of the user’s hands. All of their data is instantly accessible! And they can update their information wherever they are and whenever they need to.
The app also syncs with Outlook or Gmail, immediately making available all contacts, emails, and calendar items. The app enables users to link contacts, properties, projects, companies, and spaces while automatically recording a history of tasks and events. It automatically logs and associates phone calls, emails, notes and completed calendar events to the appropriate contacts and deals. The app’s ability to easily aggregate, capture and utilize information makes pipeline management, securing leads and deals, and completing transactions faster and more efficient.
We ease the burden of data collection with innovative tools like Auto Address, which instantly enters the property’s location, and Auto-complete, which fills in addresses as you type. Integrated voice-to-text facilitates note-taking and data entry, and in-app directions grant access to Google maps directly from the app. There is even the ability to integrate the use of card scanning solutions.
The robust grouping and filtering capabilities make the app even more powerful.
M: What was the build process like? How did you integrate so many features? How long did it take? Who was involved etc?
J: It started out as a very stealth pilot in the summer of 2016 when our lead developer began to experiment with the possibilities. We were deep into the process of migrating our CORE CRM platform to the cloud and we realized that with that move we could take a step forward and bring the platform to an app as a natural extension and advance. Once we completed the cloud launch in September the full corporate team got behind the development and scoping effort.
We had an initial external evaluation team start to work with us in late Fall. This group gave us incredible feedback that we were able to quickly adopt and implement. We expanded that group to a full beta towards the end of the year and continued to hone and refine the functionality which leverages the broad-based power of our CRM database as well as Deal Rooms and Property Listing MarketPlace. Without the foundation of the RealNex Suite we never could have delivered such a robust product and so quickly. Now with this existing framework and first release, we are overwhelmed with positive feedback and insights into future development that will put even greater functionality in the palm of our clients’ hands.
M: What was the thinking behind the app? What led you to determine it was something needed in the market?
J: Commercial real estate is a very mobile business. Brokers are constantly on the run. In fact one of the big challenges of technology adoption historically has been the refrain “I can’t be tethered to my desk…I make money when I am with clients”. Clearly our customers are on site tours, at client meetings, providing updates and advice, and at events or otherwise engaging in the field. While they do touch down in the office and get a lot of work done there, they make their money in the field. So now we cover all the bases. We have the most robust desk top functionality for the heavy lifting needed in the office and we empower the industry with all of their data when on the fly.
M: How’s business overall at RealNex?
J: Business is great. It was another productive year in 2016. We rebranded and streamlined our product line and portal, brought the CRM to the cloud and added a record number of new customers. With the new app we are starting of an exciting new 2017. By mid-year we expect to complete the primary initial development objectives and we have an exciting roadmap that we expect will truly delight our users.
M: You’re three years into building your company. What are you most surprised about in the CRE tech space and where do you think we are overall in the cycle?
J: I am less surprised than pleased. Our team consists of industry veterans. We understood well the issues and challenges of technology adoption. We believed that while the market was slow to adopt that it wanted to adopt, but weren’t being served with the right solutions. What we are finding now is that there is an aggressive approach to adopt and embed technology. There is a recognition that the technology won't “disrupt” as much as those that use technology well will “disrupt" and lead the market. We have positioned RealNex as “The Technology Behind the Deal” to enable our clients to be the disruptors and market leaders, which is consistent with our philosophy to be a partner to the industry. More and more companies are adding to their budgets and making commitments to leverage technology to drive efficiencies and enhance client service. While still quite early in the cycle, it is rapidly accelerating.
M: What’s next for the company?
J: We have a number of exciting initiatives underway. In addition to the great suite of tools which we will continue to hone and enhance, we are moving aggressively forward with our 3D virtual reality technology as well as broadening the scope of our MarketPlace. Our 3D offerings RealFit and RealNex VR provide the leading edge of immersive property experience and visualization. With RealNex VR, we can reimagine a downtown, a building or a greenfield site to accelerate planning, approval and marketing. While with RealFit, we streamline the leasing process by enabling on the fly reconfigurations and space build-outs by adding walls, furniture, fixtures and finishes to assure that workflow and budgets are on target. These immersive and interactive visualization tools are designed to drive efficiencies and reduce cycle times. We expect to drive further efficiencies with our RealNex MarketPlace by bringing together buyers and sellers, tenants and spaces, capital and market makers. Stay tuned, we have a lot more to come!
As President & CEO of RealNex, Jeff brings a wealth of CRE knowledge garnered during his tenure as the Chief Executive Officer of NAI Global. During his tenure, Jeff’s branding, technology and globalization strategies led to NAI Global’s expansion into 55 countries. This extensive experience in marketing, business development, management and strategic planning have helped position RealNex as a leader in the commercial real estate technology solutions space.
Jeff is a cum laude graduate of Boston University School of Management. He was a founding and advisory board member of the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton Real Estate Center, two-time recipient of RealComm’s Digie Award, and is a trustee of Peddie School.