Patrick Lashinsky was recently appointed CEO of Austin-based commercial real estate marketplace RealMassive. You have probably already heard that. What you might not have heard is that Patrick is the inventor of GoGurt. For those of you without kids, that is yogurt packaged in a convenient tube for easy consumption. But, don’t be fooled, Patrick is not just a consumer goods innovator, he has the experience and background that could help RealMassive be one of the biggest players in commercial real estate technology.
After his time in marketing and product development for companies like General Mills and Del Monte, he decided to joins some of his friends who were starting a real estate technology startup. That company was ZipRealty. With Patrick first as the head marketer and then as CEO ZipRealty grew to a $135 million per year tech company. Alongside similar open marketplaces like Zillow and Redfin, ZipRealty has shifted the power of the residential real estate industry. By empowering the buyers and sellers, technology has left brokers scrambling to adopt technology and local MLSs evaluating different revenue streams.
Based on the state of the residential real estate now, it is easy to forget that not long ago things were quite different. “When I started at Zip if a client wanted to see an online listing we had to FedEx them an eight-page document to sign, then have them send it back so we could verify and send it over to the local MLS,” Patrick recalled.
His experience doesn’t stop there. After leaving the real estate world he got recruited to help early ridesharing entrant called Taxi Magic. They later became Curbed. “This was pre-Uber, so when Uber came out in order to compete we really had to speed up our technology and focus on mobile. I got to know mobile pretty well.”
Now, this seasoned tech CEO has identified RealMassive as his next springboard for innovation. When I asked him why he chose to lead RealMassive instead any of the other offers he received from growing tech companies he said, “RealMassive is in a giant space that hasn’t evolved like it should. There was a need for good competition and I think we could become the innovation leader in the space.”
I pushed him on his plans to innovate. Where did he see that innovation occurring? “First we need to do our best to create tools to help brokers do their jobs better.” I thought that was interesting because of what has happened in the residential space that he was so instrumental in disrupting. Brokers have seen the power of their license diminish. More and more I hear of people either buying or listing directly through tech companies like Redfin.
But, he sees brokers as an important part of the commercial real estate ecosystem. “We see the role of the broker as changed. We don’t see them as being vital for helping the tenant finding property. But they can still be a huge help for every other part of the process. Most people don’t do this very often, and even national firms need a local expert that knows the landscape and regulations. We think that the brokers will always be valuable for that. Brokers that stick to the idea that they need to be the only one that helps their client find listings will have a tough business development strategy going forward.”
We see the role of the broker as changed. We don’t see them as being vital for helping the tenant finding property.
How he will develop tools to help brokers has everything to do with the next initiative: to be the best source for data. “Our industry still doesn’t have true, real-time data. There is no central database because people don’t want to give their valuable information to competitors,” he said. Although he was not able to give details, he believes that RealMassive is rolling out a collection process that will allow data to be ingested in ways that the industry will support. “Once brokers see how they can get more done and have more visibility by using our system, they are very supportive and appreciative.”
Once RealMassive is able to compile comprehensive data Patrick wants to use it to devise ways to create powerful tools for the industry. “If Amazon drops the price of a product by five cents, they know the immediate effect on their demand curve. If an agent drops the price of his listing from twenty to nineteen dollars per square foot, no one knows what impact that will have. Those are the kinds of insights we want to bring.” Data itself is nice, but for it to be truly useful, it needs to be analyzed in a way that allows it to shed light in dark patches of our understanding. In order for data to create the most value, it needs to be the inspiration for new processes.
I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t talk to Patrick about how he plans to avoid infringing on copyrights of other data collection companies. In particular, CoStar, which is currently in litigation with Xceligent over its possible violation of CoStar’s proprietary data. Patrick thinks that RealMassive is in a good position due to their previous $1 million settlement with CoStar in early 2016. Since the terms of the settlement are concrete, Patrick thinks that it will help RealMassive avoid legal issues in the future. “It really helps us by defining the rules of the game,” as he puts it. They have also created automated safety nets that will pull any possible violations before they are even published. Companies often underestimate the importance of technology as a compliance tool. A line of code is a great witness in court.
As for additional thoughts on the future of the industry, Patrick still sees a long way to go for mobile platforms. He thinks this is due to the sheer demographics of the industry. He predicted, “Once the younger generation becomes the leaders of the industry we are going to see a push towards mobile-only, not just mobile-first.” But, he sees the power of mobile in a far more all-encompassing way than most. “People think about AR [augmented reality] and they imagine bulky headsets, but really the mobile phone is one of the best mediums for that technology.” He thinks someday soon we will be able to scan a panorama with a camera type app and see all the available spaces light up.
Many of his ideas are quite forward thinking, but that is exactly why RealMassive chose him. He is the kind of CEO that can focus and inspire a company. He takes a holistic approach and relies on his team to boil down the elements. He sets the tone for the company in a way that will hopefully turn them into a true innovator, if not disruptor, in the space. “My job is to create the best possible environment by focusing on the most important things.” We are all excited to see the environment he is able to create at RealMassive and what kind of inspiration it will cultivate.