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By Danielle Greirson '23
Moderator: Atif Qadir '14, Co-Founder & CEO of REDIST
Panelists: Martin Picard, Co-Founder and Global Head of Real Estate at Sonder; Jamie Hodari: Co-Founder and CEO at Industrious; Brad Griewe: Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Fifth Wall
The impact of Technology and Consumer Behavior panel at the 14th Annual Real Estate Symposium featured industry leaders who discussed how technology enables them to approach their companies in new ways to meet the evolving demands of the consumer. The panel was moderated by Atif Qadir ’14, Co-founder and CEO of REDIST, a PropTech startup focusing on public financing for commercial real estate.
The conversation began with a discussion of the growth strategies for the founder’s companies after reaching major investment milestones. Jamie Hodari’s company, Industrious, had received a $250M investment from CBRE. He highlighted the importance of strengthening ties with the traditional real estate services world because of stead-fast changes in consumer demand mainly influenced by the pandemic. Prospective tenants are increasingly looking for flexible leasing agreements and creating synergies with traditional real estate players can help his company meet these demands more effectively. Brad Griewe, Founder and Managing Partner at Fifth Wall, also mentions that the evolution and maturation of prop-tech in the last 5 years has attracted new types of capital in the space enabling investors to monetize their portfolios more effectively with an eye towards the future.
Atif then asked each panelist how their ideal customer has changed since the pandemic. Jamie illustrated that the pandemic has accelerated 5-10 years of customer evolution into a very short timeframe. Pre-pandemic, only about 20-25% of businesses were seeking ways to restructure their workplace strategy, however, this ideal customer now makes up a much larger proportion of the market, accounting for upwards of 80% of all business owners. Martin Picard, Co-Founder and Global Head of Real Estate, examined a change in trends in consumer behavior post-pandemic. Guests of Sonder are staying for longer periods with the average length of stay increasing from an average of 2-3 nights to an average of 10-12 nights. Additionally, he has seen significant growth in the consumer segment for 30+ day stays. Brad explains that the pandemic has ensured that technology innovation needs to be a core component of any real estate organization moving forward. For those that understand this shift and how to position themselves to take advantage of it, there will be endless opportunities.
The next topic of the panel was the need to raise awareness of the effect of real estate on climate change and the call to incorporate sustainability efforts into current and future real estate business models. Industry leaders need to start investing in the future to solve issues around climate change globally. Martin explained that sustainability is much more top of mind at Sonder than it had been years prior. He detailed that at his company, they’ve made efforts to rethink how they source materials, like furniture, making sure to vet more suppliers that are keen on reducing their carbon footprint. Jamie noted that the type of subscription-based leasing model that his company specializes in, including leasing options where you rent a portion of a space based on the utilization rate, lends itself to a lower carbon footprint.
The panel offered a multifaceted and in-depth discussion from the perspective of leaders driving change in the industry. Collectively, the panelists laid out a future in which technology must be integral to the framework of any real estate business model in order to adapt to the changing demands of the consumer. The changing nature of work as well as the need for climate change reform will force companies to reimagine their business models and invest in opportunities that keep them aligned to the future.
Danielle Greirson ’23 is a first-year student at Columbia Business School focused on real estate and private equity. Prior to Columbia, Danielle started her own real estate investment venture creating and handling the investment strategy and property management of her entire portfolio of single-family homes. Danielle graduated from Barnard College with a degree in Political Science in 2013.