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By Michael Steinberg ’18
On March 28th, 2017, the Real Estate Association (REA), with support from the Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate, presented Columbia Business School’s third annual Real Estate Technology and Entrepreneurship Panel. The event began with a networking reception for current students, alumni and industry participants to mix and mingle.
Next, Professor Chris Mayer, Co-Director of the Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate and moderator of the panel, introduced the discussion as well as the five panelists; all founders and leaders in the real estate tech space. The panel included:
Marcos Alvarado, Head of Acquisitions, Cadre
Matt Daimler, Vice President Strategic Initiatives, Zillow
Chris Happ, Co-founder and CEO, Goby
Alex Robinson, Co-Founder and CEO, Juniper Square
Min Suh, Founder and CEO, ASSESS+RE
With expertise spanning from the commercial to residential space markets, and bringing knowledge from both the largest institutional real estate investment firms including Blackstone and Starwood, and technology giants such as Microsoft and Expedia, these panelists all held a common belief that technology’s impact on real estate is accelerating.
A key topic of discussion was transparency and liquidity in commercial real estate. Historically, commercial real estate has been a market of asymmetric information with traditional fund models that have not changed much over the past several decades. Cadre is seeking to disrupt the real estate investment space by creating a platform where accredited investors have access to carefully vetted deals. It differs from the traditional fund or REIT model by offering increased investment-level transparency and discretion, lower fees, and a more flexible commitment structure.
Aiding in the efficiency and transparency of traditional work flow are firms like Assess+RE, a Financial Data Engine for smarter, faster decisions. By offering a streamlined interface and simplified yet powerful analytical tools, the company aims to radically improve the efficiency and transparency of commercial real estate investment.
The panelists discussed the difficulties bringing new technology into an industry that doesn’t necessarily welcome change. Chris Happ of Goby discussed some of the ways he is able to pitch his firm’s competitive advantage to clients and immediately add value to their firms’ operations. Alex Robinson, founder of Juniper Square, is automating and integrating more tedious back office functions that are time-consuming, costly, and error prone.
Finally, all five panelists weighed in on the topic of entrepreneurship and some of the hurdles faced working at or founding young companies. With multiple successfully exited startups, Matt Daimler brought a unique perspective, offering both words of wisdom and encouragement, and words of caution to the would-be CBS entrepreneurs.
The panel concluded with each of the panelists offering the students career advice and culminated with Q&A from the audience of students and alumni.
Michael Steinberg ’18 is the AVP of Communications and Technology for the Real Estate Association. Prior to Columbia Business School, he spent 5 years at Reis in the Research and Economics group, where he provided economic insight, investment consultation, and portfolio analytics for institutional real estate investors. Michael graduated from the College of the Holy Cross with a degree in Economics.