From the time the telephone landline was invented in the late-nineteenth century, it took 75 years to reach 15 million users. Mobile phones took 12 years to reach the same milestone. And the hugely popular augmented reality mobile game Pokémon Go? 19 days.
Now is an extraordinary time as technological innovation is revolutionizing our personal and professional lives at breakneck speed. The commercial real estate industry’s bad rap as a slow adopter is 100% accurate, and those of us relying on a handshake and our last deal to build our future book of business will be left in the dust if we don’t evolve with technology.
According the Center for Real Estate Technology & Innovation’s Real Estate Tech Venture Funding Report, private investment in proptech hit $32 billion in 2021, a 28% increase from the year prior. There are currently 8,000 startups targeting commercial real estate with some level of VC funding. Proptech is creating more efficiency and greater transparency between a broker and client, altering the corresponding expectation in service delivery. Instead of feeling like the technology is threatening long-standing relationships, CRE brokers need to embrace the opportunity to be a better, more informed advisor.
Recently the president of SIOR Global, Robert Thornburgh, SIOR, spoke to a group of SIOR Chicago Chapter members and shared his insights on how brokers can embrace this more digital future. Here are five ways he proposed to get started:
5. Know what’s out there. If you have no comfort level with proptech, start with familiarizing yourself with companies like Cherre, Juniper Square and VTS. These powerful digital platforms can do things like manage and centralize leasing reporting, raise investment capital, automate building operations, and drive digital marketing efforts. VTS is particularly well adopted with more than 45,000 CRE users.
4. Subscribe to podcasts, newsletters, and blogs. There is no end to our industry’s desire to share tech-related opinions and trends. Take advantage of it! MIT’s CRE tech blog is interesting, digestible, and relatable to everything we do in CRE. America’s Commercial Real Estate Show is a weekly podcast designed to keep CRE professionals in the know. Connecting with LinkedIn groups specific to CRE tech will give you a steady stream of insights.
3. Seek youthful opinions. If everyone in your organization or project team or service line is over 40 and you don’t have connections to Millennials and Gen Z workers, your competitive advantage is eroding. They have new ideas, challenge things, and don’t have long-term employee baggage. Actively seek their opinions and knowledge and integrate those ideas into your business.
2. Attend tech conferences. This is a largely overlooked opportunity to not only learn about tech, but to be where your clients are. Conferences like MIPIM can totally transform your outlook, and with just three or four key takeaways you’ll be able to communicate with your client on a much higher level.
1. Find time for professional development. We are all busy and consumed with client demands, but once you’ve found the resources that you find most helpful, make sure you carve out consistent time each week to dedicate to them. Take those learnings and develop an annual business plan for yourself that includes technology as its North Star.
A piece of technology is not going to replace a broker. However, what’s here to stay are expectations about a broker’s level of sophistication and how services are delivered. Local market knowledge is critical, but to compete your personal story needs to include tech in a meaningful way. Brokers that view tech as a fundamental threat have the most to be worried about.
Sam Badger, SIOR
President, SIOR Chicago Chapter