Surrounded by the chic and modern interior design of the the 4 Times Square building, with its living walls and whimsically colored furniture, a group of brokers gathered last Thursday to hear the industry’s thought leaders talk about the current and future use of technology in commercial real estate. We designed the CRE.tech LIVE event series, in partnership with MetaProp NYC, to be more than just another conference room full of vendor tables, watery coffee and veiled sales pitches. Instead, our goal was to bring together top industry performers and innovative technologists to talk, not about themselves, but about the trends that will be shaping their industries far into the future.
The event started with a short talk by Tom Bow, Senior Vice President of Leasing for The Durst Organization. They are the group that was kind enough to let us use the former Condé Nast headquarters to host this installment of the series. We were happy to have them as partners, not only because the space they provided was one of the most unique and inspiring that we have seen, but also because they are one of the leaders when it comes to branding and marketing unique office spaces in Manhattan and therefore possibly the world. He brought up an affirmation that would be repeated multiple times throughout the morning. That is, that brokers play an important role in educating the tenants about prospective spaces. Their expertise could help companies understand their own needs when it comes to leasing and which spaces are able to meet those needs.
Following that we had our “Talking tech over coffee” segment. VTS’s Nick Romito, CRE’s golden boy had a spirited discussion with Duke Long, CRE’s resident bad boy. The two have known each other for a long time and the effortless, jovial nature of the conversation gave evidence to their unique relationship. Nick gave a quick rundown of his switch from broker to tech CEO, “Once a broker always a broker” he joked, and then talked about where he saw technology making the biggest impact. The changes in the industry have started, but Nick thinks this is only the beginning. “No one will want to go back to spreadsheets” was his prediction that was met with chuckles from the crowd. One thing that I found inspiring, being a broker and not a techie, is how he was able to be such a technology leader without a heavy tech background. He understands the big ideas behind the solutions that his company is tirelessly creating and finds people smarter than him, his words not mine, to construct the details.
After that we had presentations by four forward thinking representatives of some of today’s hottest CRE tech companies. Vishu Ramanathan from Buildout gave an inspiring lecture about the societal shifts that stand to change the value proposition of almost every piece of commercial real estate. Adrian Hessen of MarketRex talked about the ability of today’s brokers to form digital connections with selected peers and share data accordingly. Yan Khamish from Ten-X explained the changing role of the commercial real estate broker in today’s digital marketplaces. Finally, Michael Mandel of CompStak, accompanied by a hilarious video, recapped the industry shift towards crowdsourcing of data.
The final part of the series was our panel. We did our best to bring together some of New York’s most influential, notorious and high-performing brokers to talk about the ways they are using technology to be industry leaders. Sacha Zarba of CBRE, Jonathan Wasserstrum of SquareFoot, Jim Wenk of JLL, and Eric Thomas of CRESA were asked probing questions by Real Estate Board of New York’s Joe Barbaccia. They all agreed on one thing: technology was one of the main reasons that they were able to grow to where they are at today. By giving specific examples of which technologies that have actually adopted and how, the panel was able to inform brokers in attendance (and soon to any that want to watch the upcoming video or read the whitepaper) about how to use new tools to their advantage. Mr. Barbaccia, the moderator, did an excellent job of making the panels give concrete examples of which technologies have changed the way they do business and which will change it even more in the future.
Again, we do not see this series as just another conference. Instead, we designed it to be more like an educational session. With the pace of technological change increasing exponentially, staying informed on what forces are affecting the industry and what advancements are being developed to address future trends will become more and more important for successful real estate professionals. Hopefully, our publication and events can be a useful resource for every vertical of commercial real estate. We hope you all will join us on April 27th for our next installment of CRE.tech LIVE where, in celebration of earth month, we are focusing on energy management and sustainability as it pertains to the built world. See you there, gourmet coffee in hand.