Tech has always been a tricky space for commercial real estate. At first, the industry was a laggard in tech adoption; then it soon caught up.
Tech has always been a tricky space for commercial real estate. At first, the industry was a laggard in tech adoption; then it soon caught up. In the meantime, technology has been evolving to the point where it can remake companies’ business models and go-to-market strategies. Keeping up with these trends requires both tech acumen and a deep understanding of commercial real estate. We’ve identified some of the top people who have accomplished that in the following pages.
Realty Technology Services
Driving innovation for Iowa’s largest commercial real estate company, Luke Anderson manages wide and diverse responsibilities as president of R&R Realty Group’s technology subsidiary, Realty Technology Services. Ensuring best-in-class technology across the firm’s portfolio, Anderson assists with property development, capital improvements and internal support, while leading his team to provide valuable insight and cost savings to clients. He notably designed, engineered and managed the expansion of the firm’s private network of dark fiber to connect each of the firm’s properties. In 2018, Anderson executed the total integration of technical components at the firm’s new corporate headquarters; implementing controlled access, video surveillance, digital signing, connected HVAC systems and new amenities, such as public Wi-Fi, sound masking, digital directories, online booking systems, digital white boards and interconnected focus areas. Providing further value to customers, Anderson additionally launched the independent services package, Intersect, in 2019 to deliver technological industry expertise to clients, such as data/voice consultations, structured cabling, video solutions and more. In addition to his customer-facing duties, he has directed business support systems over the past two years leading the migration of a new company-wide system. Outside of his professional responsibilities, he actively provides technology consulting to numerous charitable organizations.
Erik Bernhardsson has relayed his experience from helping generate Spotify’s music recommendation algorithm (e.g. “Related Artists” and “Discover Weekly”), and applied the same approach to the online mortgage banking world. Upon co-founding Better.com in 2016, Bernhardsson utilized his expertise to create a streamlined, predictive loan origination process. Replacing commissioned loan officers with an automated method, he built a faster, cheaper and more transparent mortgage online system for the borrower. His implemented technology as CTO has generated a 300% growth for the company within the past year. Through his thoroughly designed system, Better.com offers the only no-commitment loan estimate while closing mortgages 50% quicker than the industry average. He additionally created a proprietary internal tool that digitally solves complex calculations and highlights potential risk; allowing the sales team to productively close 55 loans per month, compared to the industry’s 3.8 loan average. While managing a team of 50 engineers and 10 product managers, he has helped Better.com fund nearly $5 billion in loans. In providing the ability to forgo software providers, Bernhardsson has revolutionized the notion of a truly self-sufficient digital mortgage originator. Due to his monumental work in the space, he serves as a powerful voice in the tech community. He has presented at countless conferences, won many awards and secured multiple patents.
Newmark Knight Frank
With nearly 20 years of experience in the real estate technology space, Simon Davis possesses a well-rounded skillset and a unique perspective within the market. Prior to serving in his current role of executive managing director of global technology at Newmark Knight Frank, Davis successfully grew two start-ups within the industry; gaining insight as a seasoned, sought-after professional and consulting on technology matters with large organizations. Helping clients navigate the ever-changing landscape of technology, Davis leads his team to identify appropriate solutions for specific needs. In managing portfolios of various sizes and complexities, he recognizes the importance of data strategy and he significantly exceeds targets year-over-year. Davis additionally serves as a top-rated, lead faculty for CoreNet Global’s Master of Corporate Real Estate program; expanding the visibility of technology and educating post grad students on the industry. As an established thought-leader since the inception of real estate technology, Davis employs an analytical eye and strategic business mindset that enables him to decipher the correct methods to efficiently produce deliverables. While specializing in consultative business development, Davis also serves as a contributing author and a keynote speaker within the industry.
Origin Investments has grown exponentially in recent years, primarily due to the technology that Michael Episcope has implemented, which fuels asset selection, asset management, digital marketing and investor relations. As co-founder and co-CEO of the firm, Episcope has been pivotal in tripling its marketing database, quadrupling its investors and generating its two independent technology-based businesses. Under his leadership, the private-equity investment firm has launched four private real estate funds, accrued more than 800 investors, experienced zero losses across 43 deals and earned significant returns. Additionally, Episcope spearheaded Path by Origins, a “robo-advisor” and mobile app launching in 2020 for investors to instantly access diversified portfolios and place both public and private investments, based on risk tolerance and thematic interest. Fueled by technological innovations, Episcope evolved Origin’s business model to focus on technology, in efforts to successfully attract investors and serve total transparency. Transforming individual investment standards, Episcope has ensured a way to offer the same efficiencies, service and returns that institutional investors receive. Fundamentally changing the individual investment process by developing a multi-media, direct-to-investor model with low-fee, institutional pricing, Episcope has led the firm to nearly $1 billion in assets under management.
Serial entrepreneur, Robert Finlay strives to revolutionize industry behaviors by developing and marketing innovative technologies. Driving the trajectory of service creation, market-entry and adoption, he thrives by the purpose of bringing crucial offerings to market, ahead of their time. With an extensive background in commercial real estate, Finlay has gained a unique intuition for property owners and investors’ unmet needs and challenges. He currently serves as the founder and CEO of Thirty Capital, a SaaS portfolio for technology-driven solutions within the industry. A result of Finlay’s entrepreneurial mindset, the firm additionally serves as an incubator and educational resource for industry professionals. Throughout the past 25 years, Finlay has launched several technology start-ups, in addition to Thirty Capital. He founded his first company, Commercial Defeasance in 2000, which disrupted the industry by providing a one-stop solution for complex processes. He later successfully launched TCAM Asset Management, an independent investment management company focused on the affordable housing market, prior to launching Investor Management Services in 2015, the fastest-growing SaaS platform in industry history. His latest endeavors include the launches of EntityKeeper, SaasTrax and Lobby CRE. Optimizing various assets of the industry, Finlay serves as a conference speaker, a regular publication contributor and a board member to various organizations.
John Helm’s extensive, 34-year background within the industry granted him the connections and insight to launch the first industry-backed, early-stage investment firm, RET Ventures. Capitalizing on an opportunity within the flourishing proptech environment, Helm focused on overlooked rental property owners to help build cutting-edge technology companies – specifically, proptech for the multifamily and single-family rental markets. Helm differentiates the sector with “rent tech,” by securing large multifamily organizations as limited partners of the firm. Indistinctively identifying the market’s top smart technologies to implement into properties, he allows partners to become early adopters and receive financial benefits. As partner of the company, Helm drives collaboration among more than 20 multifamily organizations through a win-win investment model that benefits the firm and its portfolio companies. Positioning itself as a major technology investor, the company’s first-ever fund raised $108 million under Helm’s leadership. Additionally, the firm’s portfolio companies have grown annualized revenues by more than $50 million. Previously, Helm served as the CFO of Marcus & Millichap, he was a venture partner with DN Capital, during which he invested in 13 European early-stage startups, and he also successfully built and sold two venture-backed real estate tech startups that generated more than $500 million in shareholder value.
Newmark Knight Frank
Throughout Carla Hinson’s more than 20 year professional history, she has worked as a contractor, analyst, database manager, service director, VP of consulting and the COO of eBusiness Strategies, prior to serving as the current executive managing director and head of technology for Newmark Knight Frank’s global corporate services division. Upon joining the firm in 2019, Hinson has already made an impact by restructuring the technology team, introducing new services and implementing a consultative approach to ensure client satisfaction. Through her work, she promotes greater communication, integrates adjacent service lines, streamlines internal consulting operations and supports clients by providing rapid return on investments. With a broad technology background, working across a diverse range of industries, Hinson holds a true passion for commercial real estate and strives to seek cutting-edge services for better client experience. Commencing her real estate career by assisting with market and site analysis for an oil and gas company, she serves as a knowledgeable industry veteran. Throughout her various roles, she has notably conducted negotiations, standardized delivery processes, closed more than $8 million in new and existing business, forecasted cash flow, increased revenues, developed consulting teams, implemented streamlined applications and analyzed business processes for identified future improvements. Hinson additionally acts as an industry contributor and an active community volunteer.
A true disrupter of the industry, Adam Hooper has assisted more than 20,000 investors in more than $5.5 billion worth of commercial real estate transactions to date. Helping people overcome the initial hesitation of crowdfunding, Hooper successfully altered the investment process through innovative strategies. Launching RealCrowd less than six years ago, he has grown the firm to become one of the nation’s largest online investment platforms by offering individual investors direct access to capital markets. Continually venturing into new technologies that bolster the industry, Hooper also founded ReAllocate in 2019 as a fintech platform that evaluates investment risks for independent advisors and provides access to professionally-managed, direct investments. As co-founder and CEO of RealCrowd and ReAllocate, Hooper guides both firms’ vision and strategy, while leading growth and ensuring all needs of employees, customers and investors are met. Deeply committed to empowering and informing investors, he regularly produces data-rich, educational content through RealCrowd to help everyday investors understand the market and make the best decisions possible. Furthermore, he launched a prominent podcast in 2017, featuring industry leaders as guests, in efforts to educate listeners on investing. Through his successes, Hooper has garnered national respect and recognition as an industry powerhouse, with a track record for constant innovation.
A master of industry technologies and an expert in data collection, Gregg Katz redefined site selection for the retail industry. Allowing curiosity and precision to drive his ongoing pursuit of innovation, he employed a geographic information approach to better define trade areas in 2014. While others still used traditional drive-time metrics, Katz deployed a structured mapping system that incorporated cellular and GPS data to accurately view customers’ movements and patterns in a space. In utilizing this location-specific data, he successfully guides retailers to recognize the true impact of trade areas, and allows clients to confidently make informed decisions in selecting sites. As chief strategy officer at TSCG, Katz delivers access to real statistics through a cloud-based database, equipping agents with the tools to present the best potential sites to owners. By tracking and integrating the right technology, Katz efficiently shares locations’ stories; setting clients up for success with a more in-depth understanding of markets. Constantly challenging himself to remain on the pulse of emerging technology, he maintains digital relevance for the firm and he keeps clients at the forefront of real estate technology. Under his leadership, TSCG is continuously recognized as a cutting-edge, tech-savvy firm due to its mapping capabilities.
Connell McGill successfully transformed Enertiv from an energy management company into a comprehensive building operations platform tailored to commercial real estate. As co-founder and CEO of the smart building technology provider, McGill recognizes the numerous benefits to landlords and the broader community, when buildings run at optimal levels. In identifying poorly-maintained, ineffective systems that control indoor environments, he leads Enertiv to offer data-driven analytics which help save on repair costs, ensure properly ventilated air flow and verify quality elevator systems. Acknowledging the industry’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions, McGill additionally positions the firm to effectively confront climate change. In efforts to reduce building energy consumption and improve existing building efficiencies, the firm utilizes its unique expertise to deliver actionable insights to transform structures into smart buildings; significantly reducing emissions. Combining creativity and pragmatism, McGill sets the firm’s vision and product development as a mainstay within real estate technology. In his role, he is responsible for developing key client relationships, solving complex issues for large portfolios and raising money from venture capital and strategic real estate companies. He has significantly fueled the firm’s rapid development within recent years; growing its customer base with industry leaders across various property types.
Upon joining Savills in 2002 as a junior financial analyst, Patrick McGrath rose through the ranks of the brokerage business to lead the firm’s digital transformation as EVP, chief information officer and head of client technologies. A creative entrepreneur, McGrath drives the firm’s innovation through research, data and analytic functions to create value for corporate real estate occupiers. As the youngest C-suite executive at the firm, he oversees more than 100 professionals worldwide, while managing client technology functions and delivering a prominent occupier-focused brokerage platform. Within the past three years, McGrath led the successful post-merger integration of the firm’s largest acquisition, he established several new data partnerships, developed the firm’s cross-border transactions group service line, deployed the first companywide CRM and launched a global digital brokerage platform for flexible office solutions, Workthere. Additionally, he built the business line, Knowledge Cubed, in 2016; a digital platform that offers mobile-friendly apps to help solve challenging real estate problems. The platform has generated significant revenue growth for the firm through a steady stream of innovation, by transferring content online, integrating advanced machine learning techniques and incorporating 3D visualization technology, for increased broker efficiency and better client experience.
Early in her career, Felicite Moorman formed a partnership that became the most coveted marketing and management team in Baltimore; expanding the companies to offer national services while overseeing $1.5 billion dollars in transactions in less than five years. She later launched GE’s Consumer and Home Electronics Emerging Technologies Division and lighting line, which is now integrated in nearly every home, automation and security platform within the US. Quickly earning an international reputation as a renowned technology entrepreneur, a go-to internet of things expert and an attorney with more than 25 years of experience, she secured eight Fortune 500 companies, entered new vertical channels and created a strategy to dominate the internet of things lighting peripherals market. Developing strategic partnerships and unprecedented technology initiatives, she co-founded STRATIS IoT as a smart apartment platform for multifamily and student housing. The firm has now installed its software in 325,000 units nationwide and in 18,000 units internationally. Under her leadership as CEO, the firm has doubled its employees and grown its customer base exponentially. As the primary spokesperson for the company, Moorman presents at industry conferences on a monthly basis. She has led the firm to receive countless awards and she serves in numerous volunteer leadership positions.
BKM Capital Partners
Upon joining BKM Capital Partners in 2017, Victor Morales led the firm to utilize a holistic, company-wide approach in adopting and implementing new technologies. As the information technology manager, he plays a key role in many initiatives, serving as both an in-house technical expert and a liaison between the firm’s business and technology operations. Morales’ solution-oriented mindset allows him to create best practices, establish operating procedures, identify needs and solutions, ensure database security, conduct business analyses and communicate findings. He has successfully implemented more than 15 software systems within the past year, while tailoring a full-scale, learning management methodology; developing digital content and user guides while hosting routine webinars across 11 offices to compliment new projects and ensure employees are properly informed. Leveraging his diverse past experience across various industries, he elevates standards to expand the firm within the light industrial asset class. He credits his ambition and work ethic to his childhood experience; struggling through poverty and watching his immigrant parents overcome obstacles to offer him life’s greatest opportunities. He is now the only member of his family to become a US citizen, attend college and vote.
With a background in technology entrepreneurship, Sonu Panda entered commercial real estate in 2017, with plans to disrupt the industry’s outdated practices. As CEO of Prescriptive Data, a subsidiary of Rudin Management Company, he builds and executes groundbreaking technology strategies. Using machine-learning technology to predict, prescribe and influence building performance with the firm’s flagship product, Nantum, Panda implements artificial intelligence algorithms in client portfolios to decrease carbon emissions and achieve energy savings. Allowing properties to run more efficiently, the product is currently used in more than 10 million square feet of real estate. Panda’s efforts have been instrumental in achieving a 41% electric consumption reduction, a 44% carbon emissions reduction and a 48% steam consumption reduction across 17 Rudin buildings, and the tool has additionally reduced comfort complaints by 70%. Creating an all-encompassing ecosystem for the industry, he combines the Nantum OS with a management app and tenant engagement app, allowing operators, managers and tenants to connect seamlessly. Placing the firm at the forefront of smart building technology, Panda focuses on automated startup time, peak demand management and building anomaly detection. He has grown the firm from four employees to 29, with an impressive client list including Brookfield Properties, Blackstone, JPMorgan Chase and the General Services Administration.
Identifying a need within net lease, Camille Renshaw founded B+E two years ago, as a modern investment brokerage firm. Focusing on net lease real estate and 1031 exchange, Renshaw leverages the largest data set in the NNN industry by creating the first NNN trading platform that features user-friendly dashboards, real-time predictive pricing and an AI-driven exchange. In 2018, B+E launched the first trading platform for 1031 exchanges, 1031 Trade, and additionally announced its exclusive partnership with Inland Real Estate and RCX Capital Group. Leveraging AI for a more transparent process, the firm’s brokers are able to examine the market, review properties, match criteria and run entire exchanges through the platform’s specialized databases. As CEO, Renshaw has overseen the firm’s rapid growth into six cities within two years. Under her leadership, B+E brokered a $324 million sale-leaseback in 2019; the largest commercial real estate deal transacted on a digital platform. While managing all operations, Renshaw ensures the proprietary process allows buyers and sellers to conduct transactions online and review current credit, news and tenant data as they trade; affording greater speed, unrivaled efficiencies and strong asset value. An industry leader, Renshaw frequently speaks at conferences and contributes to leading publications.
Recently shifting his focus to the burgeoning dynamic technology sector, Mitchell Schear has long foreseen Proptech’s potential to drive innovation and revolutionize commercial real estate. With more than 35 years of experience in the industry, Schear previously served as the president of Vornado / Charles E. Smith, a division of Vornado Realty Trust, for 14 years. In the role, he directed the strategy, performance and growth for the firm’s more than 20 million-square-foot portfolio. He was also instrumental in the transformation of Crystal City (now “National Landing”) into a vibrant hub for innovative technology, through his forward-thinking placemaking. He was additionally crucial in the merger negotiations of Vornado / Charles E Smith and JBG, to form the largest publicly-traded, real estate company, JBG Smith; for which he navigated the newly-formed management team’s smooth transition. Currently, the executive partner at real estate technology capital firm, Camber Creek, Schear oversees the investment process from selection to development. An early adopter of tech initiatives, he provides valuable perspective on which Proptech companies have the greatest industry impact. A renowned leader, Schear has received many industry and community accolades throughout his career and is additionally involved with a variety of charities and organizations.
Adam Segal differentiates his firm from other shared workspace companies by leveraging its services, occupancy model and patent-pending, proprietary technology, to reimagine office building engagement. Striving to innovate the concept of work, Segal creates dynamic, modern workspaces through advanced technology, as the CEO and co-founder of cove. Rather than signing leases as building tenants, much like traditional co-working providers, cove partners with owners and landlords to bridge gaps, create tailored incentives and think holistically about tenant experience. Segal leads the firm to build productive, personalized workspaces that fit the specific needs of occupiers. Solving daily obstacles for firms, ranging from individual organizations to Fortune 500 com-panies, cove utilizes its custom app to manage every aspect of the workspace from lease negotiations and Wi-Fi, to coffee services. Recognizing cove’s ability to activate structures on street levels and interior spaces, building owners are embracing the alternative workspace strategy. Under Segal’s leadership, cove manages thousands of members and platform users, with plans to open 15 new locations in 2020. Leading cove’s vision, strategic planning, product team and fundraising efforts, Segal leverages surrounding community support to prove that the shared workspace model can be an asset to the industry, rather than a liability.
Logan Soya founded Aquicore in 2012 with the mission to create a global impact by helping clients understand their physical world. With a background in physics and technology, Soya accesses useful data and reports of built environments to offer a holistic view of financial and environmental impacts, in efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Through the software firm, Soya provides advanced portfolio-wide solutions through a cloud-based platform, featuring built-in, on-demand reporting, automatic diagnostics and self-installable IoT sensors, to make any building more sustainable, productive and profitable for long-term success. Through machine-learning, intuitive tools, owners and operators may better track, monitor, analyze and predict key performance factors in real-time; improving overall building performance by unlocking actionable insights, streamlining business operations, improving tenant relations, increasing energy efficiency and driving asset value. Additionally, the platform offers tenant billing, utility bill management and detects irregular usage in a building’s energy curve to alert building staff immediately. As CEO, Soya has successfully deployed the technology in more than 250 million square feet of space nationwide. By leveraging its platform, Aquicore has attracted prominent clients such as Hilton Worldwide, FedExField, Marriott International, Cushman & Wakefield and Facebook. Responsible for handling business strategies, investments and resources, Soya’s recruitment of his diverse team is a proud achievement; currently spanning ten nationalities, 14 languages and comprising a 50% female executive team.
Stan Johnson Company
Nichole Trobare set out to build an encompassing, automated marketing platform at Stan Johnson Company, five years ago. With the notion to remain at the forefront of commercial real estate technology, she created an integrated platform that connected each listing from the firm’s website, email campaigns and third-party listing systems; allowing brokers to view all digital interactions across databases. Creating a more efficient marketing process by leveraging behavioral information, Trobare generated a data-driven form of decision making by targeting listings specific to buyers. Demonstrating immense value to clients through the successful shift, Trobare’s efforts significantly increased the firm’s average email open-rate, click-to-open ratio and memorandum downloads per listing. Offering measurable outcomes and insights to brokers and clients through the automated platform, she serves as a clear differentiator for the firm. As digital products manager, she oversees the firm’s platform, including all internal systems and potential products entering the market. Diving deeper into behavioral analytics and marketing automation, she continually opens up new opportunities for the firm by understanding workflow requirements and translating data for a better digital experience. She constantly implements initiatives to attract, identify, retarget and capture new leads as emerging private capital buyers enter the market.
Bringing transparency and fairness to the industry, Jonathan Wasserstrum caters to small and medium-sized businesses; offering the same level of customer service and attention that large, CRE brokerage firms provide. Through SquareFoot’s tech-enabled brokerage model, Wasserstrum accompanies these often overlooked companies as they grow. As founder and CEO of SquareFoot, he profitably represents and serves these valuable firms through innovation. Demonstrating all available listings in the commercial market, he launched his platform to display offerings, increase speed and provide everyone access to the spaces they desire. Rapidly expanding the start-up to be an industry leader in recent years, Wasserstrum currently runs the firm’s day-to-day operations and leads its brokerage team, while remaining a broker himself. He has raised more than $20 million in venture capital for the firm and he additionally oversees recruiting efforts to ensure a diverse team with similar values, which has more than doubled in size within the past year. Within the company, he launched FLEX, allowing growing companies to move into offices with custom lease terms, and he oversaw the firm’s acquisition of PivotDesk, a flexible office space company. A passionate mentor and advisor, Wasserstrum additionally spearheads the firm’s philanthropic initiatives; offering donations to clients’ charities of choice and organizing employee volunteer events, raising millions of dollars.
Original article contributed by: GlobeSt.com