Michael Beckerman, Founder of The News Funnel and CEO of CREtech, joined us on the podcast to discuss how real estate is being reimagined through the adoption of the latest technology and innovation.
Michael serves as CEO of CRETech, the largest event, data and content platform in the commercial real estate tech sector. He also owns other successful brands such as The News Funnel, the largest commercial real estate news aggregator and The Content Funnel, a social media and blogging platform for the commercial real estate industry.
Click here to learn more about CREtech.
Adam Hooper (00:00):
All opinions expressed by Adam, Tyler and podcast guests are solely their own opinions and do not reflect the opinion of RealCrowd. This podcast is for informational purposes only. It should not be relied upon as a basis for investment decisions. To gain a better understanding of the risks associated with commercial real estate investing, please consult your advisors.
Michael Beckerman (00:22):
But I've never seen so much interest in innovation and technology in the real estate industry as I've seen over the last couple months, and I think that, hopefully, is here to stay. And I'm not talking about downloading Zoom. I'm talking about, obviously, real tools and applications across the board.
Adam Hooper (00:46):
Tyler Stewart (00:47):
Hey Adam. How are you today?
Adam Hooper (00:49):
Tyler, I'm doing good. We're back at it. Another episode today.
Tyler Stewart (00:52):
Another episode, with a very exciting guest, Michael Beckerman. Friend of the show. He is the CEO at CREtech and The News Funnel and he is also the CEO of his new initiative, FUTURE PropTech.
Adam Hooper (01:08):
Yeah. He is a busy guy, for sure. The world has changed a little bit since we caught up with him last in New York at his big conference out there in the fall. Talked a little bit about how they're changing their conference game and going virtual with all of that, the opportunities in digital transformations and some really interesting conversations around how the technology world, quote unquote, "big tech", is viewing the real estate space as something of interest, which is a shift from what he's seen in the past.
Tyler Stewart (01:36):
Yeah. The word of the day for this episode was repurpose, and how are prop tech companies helping real estate properties to repurpose and meet the needs of their consumers in this changing world we find ourselves in.
Adam Hooper (01:51):
Yeah, and we talked again… Given the changing world, talked about some of his productivity tools. Again, an interesting conversation around tools versus culture.
Tyler Stewart (01:59):
Tyler Stewart (01:59):
Adam Hooper (02:00):
When you're talking about remote work and this working from home environment that we find ourselves in. So, they're doing a lot of interesting stuff there to, as he says, reimagine real estate, and hopefully listeners will get a little taste of what they're up to and how they can keep in touch with everything that Michael is doing with CREtech. Again, awesome community.
Tyler Stewart (02:20):
Adam Hooper (02:20):
Just a huge, huge group that we support. And what they're doing with their virtual conferences going forward should be pretty exciting stuff.
Tyler Stewart (02:26):
Absolutely, and I know I'm definitely going to attend their summit that's coming up here at the end of July, and we'll be sure to have links to sign up for that free summit in the show notes, so be sure to check those show notes and sign up for that summit.
Adam Hooper (02:41):
Yep. It should be a pretty packed and powerhouse event.
Tyler Stewart (02:44):
Adam Hooper (02:45):
Also, I'm curious how the digital booths are going to go. We'll see what he's going to pull out of his sleeves for that one. So, as Tyler Stewart mentioned there, check the show notes for links to all the great stuff that Michael is up to. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please send us a note to email@example.com. And with that, Tyler Stewart, let's get to it.
Adam Hooper (03:10):
Michael, thank you so much for taking the time today to come on the show and catch up. It's been a while since we connected out in New York at your annual conference out there. A little different world since then, last fall. How you guys been holding up?
Michael Beckerman (03:23):
When was that? That was like 10 years ago, right? It feels like.
Adam Hooper (03:27):
[crosstalk 00:03:27] Feels like it. A short 10 years ago.
Michael Beckerman (03:30):
It feels like it was a lifetime ago. I can't…
Adam Hooper (03:33):
Michael Beckerman (03:33):
It's actually only December.
Adam Hooper (03:34):
Michael Beckerman (03:35):
But yet it feels like a lifetime ago. But, family's good and healthy, most important thing. And hopefully it's same for you guys and thanks for having me back on.
Adam Hooper (03:46):
Absolutely. So, how have things changed for you? Obviously, the conference business and in-person connections like that have been a little different environment here in this current crisis, and who knows what that looks like going forward. You guys have moved to a virtual event going forward. How has that transition been and what are you looking forward to there?
Michael Beckerman (04:12):
I mean, so, it's a great question. So, our industry, the conference industry, I think was one of the first ones to really feel the impact of COVID-19 because we started to see earlier in the year, conferences were getting canceled in Asia, in Europe, and it was inevitable it was coming here. So, we had a conference scheduled for Austin, Texas in April and we just had to make the hard decision, even before things got bad here, to cancel that. Just to err on the side of caution. So, we canceled that.
Michael Beckerman (04:47):
We had another conference coming up for London in May. We canceled that. And then we had another one, our big one where we connected last, in New York in September, and we just made the decision that, look, for this year, for 2020, physical meetings, business travel, conferences as we know it, it's just not going to be the same, so let's just punt 'til '21. And in the interim, what can we do, though, to innovate? I mean, as a company. So, we're still core to this mission of driving innovation in the real estate industry. It can't be the only way is that we're going to do this in person. And like everybody else, let's just pivot to virtual and see what that looks like.
Adam Hooper (05:30):
Michael Beckerman (05:30):
So, we've got a four-day conference coming up July 27th through July 30th with our company in London, FUTURE PropTech, that we acquired last year. So, we're super-excited by it. We're not charging admission for it, for the first one at least. We just want to see how it goes and hopefully people come on board and give us lots of good feedback. And we've already… We just announced it recently. We've already got a couple thousands people signed up.
Adam Hooper (05:56):
Michael Beckerman (05:57):
And the interesting thing about it is… Which I know now, having stepped into it, will be a core part of our offerings when the physical events come back.
Adam Hooper (06:07):
Michael Beckerman (06:07):
Virtual will be a core part because one of the things you find is just like we're doing now, is it's a lot easier to get people to speak when they don't have to travel and they've just got to book a half-hour, 45 minutes out of their time. It's a lot easier to get people from all over the world to tune in and to watch something. And we're still going to offer the same offerings. There'll still be trade show booths and there'll still be our hugely popular meet up app. So, super, super, super excited about this virtual conference at the end of July. And I hope we will do a couple more in the fall.
Adam Hooper (06:40):
So, I want to pick a little bit on this…
Michael Beckerman (06:44):
Adam Hooper (06:45):
This current crisis accelerating a lot of trends that were already in place, right? And there is a huge opportunity now to look at how doing things digitally will just be the new normal going forward. But how the heck are you doing conference booths virtually?
Michael Beckerman (07:03):
Well, the good news is, is that there's a lot of great technology at the disposal of companies like ours that we can utilize to give our audience all these great tools. So, they're readily available. There's a lot of them. It's so interesting that now, in this environment, what technologies are hot that weren't before. So, digital conference, networking, trade show, communication tools for conference companies like ours is a very, very hot category. So, there's a lot of… Lot of great tools [crosstalk 00:07:41] we're using.
Adam Hooper (07:40):
I guess we'll just have to… We'll have to set it up and attend and see. Yeah.
Michael Beckerman (07:45):
Yeah, you'll have to come on board and check it out.
Adam Hooper (07:45):
So… Okay, so back to that thread of…
Michael Beckerman (07:47):
Adam Hooper (07:48):
This transformation to digital, right? So, there's just… There's so many of the, I guess, pre-COVID, old normal business practices that are just completely disrupted right now, completely turned on their head, and they're scrambling to try to figure out how they can operate in this new digital remote virtual landscape. Is that…? I mean, I think that seems like a pretty big silver lining, if you can call it that, of what we're going through right now, this acceleration to those eventual business models. Do you think this is a one-time thing that we're just responding to right now? Or do you think that's something that will persist beyond this crisis?
Michael Beckerman (08:23):
Ugh. Isn't that the billion dollar question?
Adam Hooper (08:28):
That's why we're talking to you.
Michael Beckerman (08:33):
I wish I knew the answer. I mean, I always try and be a realist. So, one of the things I just wrote about recently in my blog was we knew at CREtech that… It wasn't a secret. You guys knew as well because you're sort of deep into the ecosystem and so thoughtful about it and such great leaders that while money over the last six, seven, eight years [inaudible 00:08:54], money, investment dollars were coming in at record paces. I mean, extraordinary amounts of capital being invested.
Adam Hooper (08:59):
Michael Beckerman (09:00):
And the number of start-ups… I mean, the last time I looked, it was 7,000 or something like that. I mean, just extraordinary amounts of innovation and progress on the capital front. But on the adoption side, it's still been a laggard. It's still been very, very hard. There's a lot of reasons why. One, it's the greatest, probably, 10 year bull run, bull market, anybody's ever seen in real estate. So why the hell take a chance on technology? I totally fricking' get it.
Michael Beckerman (09:25):
Two is the real estate industry doesn't have a lot of infrastructure to adopt technology. They don't have a professional class of CTOs, CIOs, across the board. You see it in a lot of the larger companies. But you don't see it top down from small, local, regional, mid-market companies in every aspect of the industry, from brokerage development, ownership, asset management, investing. So, it made sense that technology was lagging.
Michael Beckerman (09:55):
And again, I'm not going to call it a silver lining. I'm just… I'm too clumsy with my language to come up with the right description. But the byproduct of the pandemic on our industry is that it has greatly accelerated innovation and technology.
Adam Hooper (10:12):
Michael Beckerman (10:12):
So, it's unfortunate it took this, but I've never seen so much interest in innovation and technology in the real estate industry as I've seen over the last couple months, and I think that hopefully is here to stay. And I'm not talking about downloading Zoom. I'm talking about, obviously, real tools and applications across the board.
Adam Hooper (10:34):
Well, another… There's two different parts there, right? There's adoption and there's innovation, right? And I think the… Those haven't necessarily… As you mentioned, those haven't necessarily been aligned in the real estate space. Real estate is obviously one of the slower industries to adopt new technology. Are you seeing more interesting things on the innovation side or are you seeing…? Is it more interesting how these are being adopted within the real estate space?
Michael Beckerman (11:00):
Well, I think… So, the first area that we started to see adoption and the great sense of urgency was on… Say, on the deal side. You had to have some kind of virtual showing tools that would enable spaces to be shown.
Adam Hooper (11:14):
Michael Beckerman (11:14):
So, VR, AR and what have you all of a sudden became very much in demand in the very early stages of the pandemic because, yeah, there's vacancies, and whether it's an apartment or a condo or an office building or a warehouse or retail or what have you, there had to be showings, either for sale or for lease. So, I think that was the first sort of part of the drives, anything sort of virtual for leasing and marketing. And then it became, okay, access. Let's talk about… I think we're starting to get back to work and we're starting to think about it and then we're going to try to re-entry. What are the tools that companies need to get people in and out safely?
Michael Beckerman (11:58):
And so, the whole back to work theme, movement, really made a lot of technology really important. Building access, people… Monitoring people and traffic flow, HVAC controls, etc. So, it became very asset-driven in terms of the technologies that people were looking to adopt.
Adam Hooper (12:26):
Michael Beckerman (12:26):
And now I think it's also now, okay, so let's just say we're working from home part-time. We're going in and out of the office. What does that look like from an asset management, from a portfolio management, from a transaction management side? So, I think now we're starting to see companies really look at it as to what can this do to enhance the way that they operate as a company and [inaudible 00:12:52]. And, obviously, I think in a challenging economy, people turn to technology to help become more efficient with their corporations with fewer people. So, I think it's kind of been this wave of… But I think it's here to stay.
Adam Hooper (13:05):
Yeah. And were these… What you described there, it seems like that's mostly kind of pre-COVID technologies that are either being accelerated in how they're being used or modified to fit this new environment. Have you seen anything truly new that's in response to this or since this pandemic hit? New technologies or new ideas that are exciting or interesting out there right now?
Michael Beckerman (13:30):
It's such a great question. I mean, I'm getting… We're starting to see…
Adam Hooper (13:36):
Or is it still too soon, right? Has that not really hit yet?
Michael Beckerman (13:37):
[crosstalk 00:13:37] It's… No, it's a great question, Adam Hooper. It's a fantastic question. Honestly, we're not there yet. What we're starting to see is some really important signs that big tech, companies outside of our ecosystem, are starting to pay attention to our world. So, you're starting to see the Amazons and Microsofts and Salesforces of the world and many, many others start to pay attention to what is happening in the commercial real estate industry because we've gone from sort of this domain where it was very, sort of, proppy… Prop tech driven… And I try not to use that language because it sounds very, very specific.
Adam Hooper (14:18):
Michael Beckerman (14:19):
And we're talking now about work. How do we work? What is the new nature of work and what does this look like? So, the workplace, I think, is where all the innovation's going to take place, and there are some… Whether it's from big tech or some new founders that are coming into the ecosystem, they are poking around and going, "Okay." There's probably three large industries that are going to be most impacted by technology going forward as a result of the pandemic and what it's done just to sort of shake, rattle and roll this very stable, somewhat staid industry. So, I think there's no doubt that ours is one of those industries that people are starting to look at, along with others like education. Just things that have not changed in decades.
Adam Hooper (15:10):
Michael Beckerman (15:10):
Education, probably, and health care.
Adam Hooper (15:13):
[crosstalk 00:15:13] Health care. Yeah.
Michael Beckerman (15:15):
And real estate.
Adam Hooper (15:16):
Michael Beckerman (15:16):
So, we're getting a lot more attention, but I think it's too early to say specifically what innovation is occurring as a result.
Adam Hooper (15:22):
Yeah. And so, with the… Sticking on that work topic… Again, we're going through the biggest remote and work from home experiment that has ever been.
Michael Beckerman (15:32):
I hope it's not an experiment, by the way.
Adam Hooper (15:35):
[inaudible 00:15:35] So, I'm curious, right? [crosstalk 00:15:36]
Michael Beckerman (15:36):
[crosstalk 00:15:36] I hope it's permanent. [inaudible 00:15:37]
Adam Hooper (15:37):
Yeah. And that's one of the…
Michael Beckerman (15:39):
Because [crosstalk 00:15:39] for one. I'm on board. [inaudible 00:15:40]
Adam Hooper (15:39):
The most interesting parts for me is what from these changes will stick, right? And how will this… How will this affect the nature of work going forward, right? What are you seeing, I guess, in terms of…? It sounds like you're obviously a pretty big fan of working from home and working remote.
Michael Beckerman (15:58):
I am. I am.
Adam Hooper (15:58):
Were you historically…? Did you have a distributed team?
Michael Beckerman (15:58):
Adam Hooper (15:58):
Or how does that change your outlook, I guess, on this?
Michael Beckerman (16:06):
It accelerates my passion and it validates decisions that we've made. I mean, we're a small company. There's 16 or so of us, so we're not… We're not the size of Twitter or Facebook or some of the others, a Salesforce that's thinking about distributed workforce [inaudible 00:16:22] in some form of it. But I… As an old dog, I always do try and pride myself on paying attention to what is leading edge and to teach this old dog some new tricks, I think keeps me energized and hopefully somewhat relevant. And I was always fascinated by this concept of distributed work, and so we… At CREtech, we had an office in New York and then we allowed people to work from home because our team was in D.C., it's in Connecticut. It was distributed throughout. And it worked phenomenally.
Michael Beckerman (17:04):
And now, I think there's so many more tools that are available to companies, whether it's Microsoft Teams or what have you, that it's not just Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom. It's… There's just so many tools, whether it's Slack, that you can work from home. We use Airtable to keep track of processes and what have you. There's no reason why you have to be in the office, in my opinion, five days a week. I think also, one of the things that I've seen is that there's just a better quality of life.
Adam Hooper (17:36):
Michael Beckerman (17:36):
I mean, I was a commuter into New York, riding the train into Penn Station, which is just a horrific experience for anybody. It's a crime that Penn Station looks the way it does in New York if you haven't been. And it's just a horrific experience. So, now I'm home with my family more. I mean, it's probably not good news for them, but it is for me. And, yeah, will I go back to work? Of course. Do I want conferences to come back? Of course. But I think it's a better quality of life. I think a more productive, more efficient [inaudible 00:18:07] and I've always believed that. And I think… The conversations that I'm having with, say, heads… Corporate real estate directors, HR people for large, medium-sized, small businesses, is like… They kind of think, "Hey, we're not all going to work from home. That's just not practical. There's a value for culture and connectivity for people to come to an office."
Michael Beckerman (18:29):
But maybe headquarters becomes a perk. Maybe headquarters and the office space is a perk, where people come together to collaborate. And maybe it's a couple days a week and it's not every day. I mean, I think that would be wonderful for society, for the environment, for people who have back issues like me from sitting forever on airplanes and trains and cars. So, I think it's a good thing. I think it's time we shook up what it means to work and how we work.
Adam Hooper (18:55):
Yeah. I agree, and that's…
Michael Beckerman (18:57):
How about you guys? How have you guys done it?
Adam Hooper (19:00):
Yeah, so we've always been kind of quasi-distributed, right? So, headquarters here in Portland.
Michael Beckerman (19:05):
Adam Hooper (19:06):
But then we've got folks down in California. We've got folks back East, Canada, Brazil. So, we're a little bit… Little bit distributed in terms of how we've always operated. And I think that's more typical in the technology space than it is in a lot of the traditional industries, right? So, we were somewhat ready for that, so obviously we're all on Slack and we have the… Kind of the culture of communication to be able to make that happen, right? And I think that's something that's challenging for companies that are used to that day-to-day, in each other's space, relying on that for communication. Once you break that down and you have to figure out how do you now communicate digitally in this distributed environment, that seems to be one of the biggest points of breakdown, right? And again, there's so many tools right now, whether it's Slack or, like you said, Microsoft Teams or even Zoom or whatever you want to use to keep in touch with the team. Managing that productivity, I think, is one of the biggest challenges, and a lot of times that's just a breakdown in communication, it seems.
Michael Beckerman (20:08):
Yeah. I think that's absolutely right. And I mean, you guys have done so well as a company and your growth and your success and what have you. And I think it also comes down to the leadership, right? You and Tyler Stewart are great leaders and I'm sure you create that culture within your company. I'm probably not as good a leader. That's why I'm not the one that dictates how we work and I turn that to Lindsey, our COO, and the rest of the crew, and they're terrific at it. But I'm probably the laggard. But I'm the biggest fan.
Adam Hooper (20:45):
So, I guess, on that productivity and communication, what does your productivity stack look like? What are the most crucial tools that you guys are using, for listeners that are maybe… Again, we have a lot of real estate managers that listen to the show. They're probably trying to figure this out right now, and this kind of maybe dovetails into what you guys are doing with the consulting platform. But I'm just curious for you guys, what have you found to be the most effective tools and most essential tools in this distributed remote environment?
Michael Beckerman (21:17):
Well, I think it's such an interesting question because the team, of course, uses Slack. We use tools like Airtable. But it really comes down to the culture more… And that's the thing I've realized, I think, through the pandemic, is as efficient as I think we are as a company and we operate really well… We have so little in terms of waste and we try… I'm still a little old school with the email and what have you and I know I drive my team crazy. But the thing that I've really learned more than anything during the pandemic is it comes down to culture and leadership and how do you inspire your organization to be motivated around a collective goal and a shared set of core beliefs in terms of… Whether it's customer service or whether it's integrity and what have you, and work ethic.
Michael Beckerman (22:19):
And the greatest tools in the world are only as good as the people that use them. And I don't mean use them in a way that is in a productivity sense. Just in a cultural sense. And I have really, really come to see that more than anything. And you look at companies that continues to inspire me in our industry and our world and you take a company like RXR, a big, big, big landlord in New York City, and you look at Scott Rechler, the CEO, who's a good friend of mine. And if you've watched how RXR has positioned themselves, how they have led this dialogue, discussion, movement, implementation of getting their tenants back to work and their buildings repurposed, reconfigured for allowing people to come back in, and if you talk to people within Scott's organization, they all buy into it. Right?
Michael Beckerman (23:16):
So, I probably know 10 or 12 people at RXR. Every single person is bought into that vision. So, the greatest technology, leading edge, but it really takes leadership to inspire people to want to adopt to what that big vision is.
Adam Hooper (23:33):
Michael Beckerman (23:35):
And that's kind of one of the things I've really, really noticed during the pandemic, this [crosstalk 00:23:41].
Adam Hooper (23:41):
Yeah. And how have you seen that change, right?
Adam Hooper (23:43):
I mean, have you seen corporations and companies that are in your sphere…? This has caused a pretty big shakeup for a lot of… Understatement. To what that core belief or core vision might have been prior to this crisis. Have you see…? How have you seen that change? Is it a…? Is it a new cause that people are rallying around? Is it sticking to what those same kind of cultural beliefs were before this crisis? Or how have you seen that dynamic play out in some of the companies that you guys are working with?
Michael Beckerman (24:16):
It's such a thoughtful question, Adam Hooper. So, I mean, again I think just in a very esoteric, conceptual way, I've definitely seen… You can really notice in a remote work environment which people, professionals, teams are going to take advantage of the loose structure and others that are going to thrive in it, on it. And I think that's the new world. So, I think people that don't need to be held accountable to showing up to an office and punching in a clock, those people that have that DNA, that culture within, I think they're going to thrive in the new work environment where there's less structure.
Adam Hooper (25:06):
Michael Beckerman (25:06):
And those that are regimented in a way that they have to have meetings and they have to have this sort of old world thinking structure around the office, I think are going to be left behind. And I don't think it's a young versus an old thing. I think it's just a mindset that this sort of… The infinite learners of the world, I think are thriving today. And you can see it. I mean, even in my little neighborhood where I walk around in my little town and I know some of my neighbors who are CEOs or COOs at big companies, and I see them outside, on their headsets, talking, having meetings. They've adapted so quickly.
Adam Hooper (25:51):
Michael Beckerman (25:51):
Others just are not going to adapt so easily and I think those are the ones that are going to be left behind. I think as it relates to our… Specifically our industry, clearly there's such an enhanced, greater sense of urgency on innovation across the board, and I'm hopeful that ours is an industry that embraces it and accelerates it going forward.
Adam Hooper (26:17):
Adam Hooper (26:18):
And are there… Are there any bright spots that you have an early look on in terms of what directions that might go? And I guess…
Michael Beckerman (26:27):
[crosstalk 00:26:27] I think the… Yeah.
Adam Hooper (26:28):
[crosstalk 00:26:28] Industry-specific, right? I mean, we've talked about office a fair bit. Are you seeing anything in multi-family or retail that's interesting?
Michael Beckerman (26:32):
I think… Yeah, I think… Adam Hooper, I think multi-family, to me right now, is really showing itself to be the leader in innovation and technology adoption. I felt this was happening pre-COVID and now it's really, really happening. I think if you look at how quickly they pivoted from what the amenities look like on an… The physical amenities at most multi-family complexes to now how they've reverted to sort of digital amenities and communications, using a lot of the tenant engagement, tenant communication apps that are really scaling in adoption, to using tools like Openpath for access and so many other wonderful tools, to virtual leasing.
Michael Beckerman (27:25):
And I think if you look at companies like Mill Creek and Avalon and Equity Residential and Berkadia and… I mean, on and on, and I'm leaving out so many. They're really, really leaning in to technology. So, it's very, very exciting to see that. We just have to hope… Hopefully that trickles down throughout the entire ecosystem. But I think multi-family… For me, it's been one of the more exciting and dynamic areas to watch.
Adam Hooper (27:50):
And why do you…? I'm just curious if you have any thoughts on why that multi-family space has been one of the quickest to adapt and adopt.
Michael Beckerman (27:56):
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. It's pretty… It's pretty obvious because it's the same reason that residential… And you guys know this as well as I do. Residential moved first in terms of innovation, then commercial. It's because the consumer is a… The customer is a consumer.
Adam Hooper (28:16):
Michael Beckerman (28:16):
So, people that are renting apartments or buying homes, they're just more sophisticated in terms of their use of technology. They're more… They're putting in more devices in their homes than an office user is. The office user is beholden to just a bigger ecosystem to determine technology tools being used, and it's a fewer number of people that'll make those decisions, where I think when you look at a renter, they're very comfortable… They're mobile first and they're comfortable seeing apartments first virtually or buying a home virtually. So, naturally, I think that the landlords are very, very responsive to that consumer mindset, as opposed to the B-2-B mindset, which is slower. It's more difficult to change.
Adam Hooper (29:06):
Right. The feedback… The feedback loop is so, so… It iterates so quickly.
Michael Beckerman (29:11):
Yeah. You guys know that.
Adam Hooper (29:11):
Within… Yeah. Within the multi-family space.
Michael Beckerman (29:12):
Yeah. Yeah. What did you guys see? Enough asking me the questions. Let me freaking ask…
Adam Hooper (29:16):
Turn the tables.
Michael Beckerman (29:18):
I'm talking too much.
Adam Hooper (29:18):
Michael Beckerman (29:19):
What… Tell me what you guys have seen in terms of adoption on technology and innovation from your lens.
Adam Hooper (29:25):
That's a really good question. I mean, I think from… From our perspective, it's still… And again, our world is focused very much on the capital market side of the transaction environment.
Michael Beckerman (29:38):
Yeah. Yeah. Sure.
Adam Hooper (29:40):
And it still baffles me that, to this day, when we have an initial call with a real estate manager about what we do and how we work seven years after this regulation has changed, they still have no idea what we're talking about. So, it's… From our side… And again, the capital markets side and what we do, crowdfunding and raising capital digitally, we're still very much fighting an uphill battle of just education.
Michael Beckerman (30:04):
Adam Hooper (30:04):
But in terms of… You meant the actual asset and operating level. I would agree. I think there's a lot of interesting stuff going on in multi-family. Office, to me, is still a bit of a wild card, right?
Michael Beckerman (30:15):
Adam Hooper (30:15):
Because those… Again, those iterations are so slow. You've got this competing narrative that we've talked about before on the show of how much of the workforce will remain remote or continue this work from home environment competing with… Which would demand less office space. But then you've got this move for, "I don't want to be two feet away from my person. I want more than my 30 square feet of allotted office space when I get back to work." So, there's some interesting dynamics there. But the retail is one… I'm curious and I'm going to flip it back to you here. How do you see retail adapting to this? Are there any technological innovations that can help the retail operators of the world start to kind of get back into operating mode? Is there anything that you've seen on that side?
Michael Beckerman (31:06):
So, my interest actually with retail and hospitality is more about on the asset side, that I think that we're about to enter a period where I think it's going to be a very hot investment target and I think… I've already talked to a lot of big institutions and big investors that are really starting now to look to buy to repurpose, and what that might look like. And I think… I've been privy to some really fascinating, interesting conversations about how people are sort of re-imagining what retail might look like and how to re-purpose it. So, I think it's… For me, it's less about the specific technology as it is…
Michael Beckerman (31:50):
It's like… Our whole new positioning at CREtech is… Not to turn this into an infomercial, because I'll make myself sick [inaudible 00:31:58] hearing myself talk like that. But when we started down in Germany, it was about prop tech. It was about tech tools. It was about start-ups. And then we started to see the industry mature. We needed to innovate as well and keep up with… Be ahead of the industry and the conversation [inaudible 00:32:17]. So, we started to talk about, use language like "re-imagining real estate." And that's our new tagline, it's our new positioning. It's our new platform. We've got a new website coming out talking all about that.
Michael Beckerman (32:28):
And what does that mean? It's like, let's not talk about specific applications, bells and whistles and tools. Let's talk about the entire asset class and how we re-imagine the whole thing from an innovator's mindset, right? Let's just not look at these things as boxes that are, historically, you fill in the box with whatever that use case has always been. Makes sense. Cap rate, boom, done, refinanced, here we go, rinse and repeat. So, that's how I think about some of these asset classes now [inaudible 00:32:58] retail. How do we re-imagine retail and what will that look like?
Adam Hooper (33:02):
Michael Beckerman (33:03):
And that's what I've been thinking. I don't have the answer, but it's certainly something I've been thinking about a lot, and others are as well.
Adam Hooper (33:09):
Michael Beckerman (33:09):
So, I think in the next couple years, absolutely going to see hotels, malls, be re-purposed for some really new and exciting uses.
Adam Hooper (33:18):
Michael Beckerman (33:18):
I think it's also… If you look at mixed use… Ginny Miller of Jamestown. I'm a huge fan of Ginny and she heads innovation at Jamestown. You just look at how they're re-configuring, re-staking mixed use. It's incredibly exciting.
Adam Hooper (33:34):
Michael Beckerman (33:34):
That's what excites me.
Adam Hooper (33:36):
Well, and Jamestown, too… I mean, on the innovation side, right? They're one of the first what we would consider truly institutional players to do something in the Regulation A+ space, right? With their latest [crosstalk 00:33:46] offering, right?
Michael Beckerman (33:46):
Yep. You got it. Absolutely.
Adam Hooper (33:48):
That just speaks to their innovation. They're not afraid to push some boundaries, which was great to see. Hopefully that'll encourage more in the space to do the same.
Michael Beckerman (33:56):
Adam Hooper (33:58):
So, and I agree with you on looking at our industry with a much broader brush than some of the granular thing, right? There were trends within our industry. There were shifts that are already occurring that this crisis is only going to accelerate and make some of those changes happen more quickly, right? So, retail was already on this path of trying to re-imagine what it was itself, right? This shift towards more experiential, more showroom, relying on more logistics and kind of back-end delivery for that.
Adam Hooper (34:32):
Industrial. I mean, it seems like it's kind of just doing its thing. Has there been much of a shakeup, other than doing more of its thing? Is there anything interesting on the industrial side that you guys are seeing right now, whether that's, again, converting a mall to a node for last mile stuff? What's going on in the industrial space?
Michael Beckerman (34:53):
[inaudible 00:34:53] Yeah. You guys, again, are probably better experts at it than I am. But, I mean, when I think about industrial, I think of my friend Will O'Donnell and his team at Prologis and they're so far ahead of what anybody else is doing in the logistics space that… And the innovation. It's light years ahead of what the rest of the industry is doing.
Adam Hooper (35:17):
Michael Beckerman (35:18):
So, I would say just go look at whatever…
Adam Hooper (35:21):
Whatever Prologis is doing.
Michael Beckerman (35:22):
Whatever Will and his team are doing at Prologis and that's it.
Adam Hooper (35:25):
That's it. Okay.
Michael Beckerman (35:25):
Just, whatever they're doing, study it, [inaudible 00:35:28] for what they'll tell you, check it out. That's where the industry's heading. And I think it's… Again, it's one of these asset classes that is thriving right now.
Adam Hooper (35:35):
Michael Beckerman (35:36):
Given… I think it was thriving before and given this environment and given the challenges in retail, I think you're only seeing… You're going to see logistics and warehouse industrial accelerate in its demand and popularity.
Adam Hooper (35:49):
Yeah. Well, maybe we'll get him on the show next to talk about what's going on in that space.
Michael Beckerman (35:51):
Adam Hooper (35:52):
There we go.
Michael Beckerman (35:53):
You must. Far smarter than I am on this stuff.
Adam Hooper (35:56):
Well, switching gears a little bit…
Michael Beckerman (35:58):
Adam Hooper (35:58):
You guys are very much entrenched in the venture side of the world. We talked a little bit before about how over the last handful of years, there's been so much money pumped into, I think, real estate in general, technology. How has that changed in the current crisis? Is there still venture money being placed into operating companies? Has that taken a bit of a pause? What's that landscape look like right now?
Michael Beckerman (36:19):
So, I think when the pandemic first hit, sort of the general consensus from the outside world was, "Oh, the tech industry's going to get wiped out, particularly the real estate tech sector. You're going to see massive failures." It hasn't happened.
Adam Hooper (36:35):
Michael Beckerman (36:35):
I mean, is business tough? Yes. Is it challenging? Yes, but it was challenging before.
Adam Hooper (36:41):
Michael Beckerman (36:42):
So, I think that this notion that there's been massive dislocation in terms of start-up valuations and what have you… I think there's been some correction, but I think it was necessary to happen. But I think most of the venture community has done well. There's been some, again, big challenges. I think some of the challenges that we've seen and some of the pain… I don't know if some of those companies were tech companies. I think they were real estate companies with a tech overlay and I think that's where you've seen a lot of the valuation dislocation, speaking with the WeWorks of the world.
Michael Beckerman (37:32):
But I think most of the startups have held their own, whether it was just slowing down. Probably the biz dev pipeline was the worst thing that happened and of course there's been some retrenchment and some layoffs and good people have lost their jobs. I don't mean to minimize it. But I think the venture community is still alive and well and, while cautious for sure, I think what they're doing now as a whole is re-evaluating what the must-have technology tools are right now, and I think it's probably also going later stage. So, you're seeing some start-ups that are thriving, whether they're on the fin tech side or whether they're on… They're the RealCrowds of the world. Money, it's being attracted to those that are successful in the space and have shown scale and are scaling further. Those are… Again, I would put those sort of in the fin tech-y world of real estate tech.
Michael Beckerman (38:34):
But I think it's harder, though, to get early stage funding, for sure. But I think that's been a trend that's been going on for a while, so I think you're seeing the smart money going later stage to help companies that are already successful scale even further. I think where we've always had a problem and a challenge and that's something I've always tried to encourage people to take a look at is the angel network. There's folks like Matt Knight that are focused on it and a lot of others. But we need more angel investors in this space because there are a lot of great deals. There's a lot of really interesting start-ups out there and they need support and funding and that's where I'm really focused on, is that early stage.
Adam Hooper (39:18):
Yeah. And that's so crucial, right? Because if you don't have funding at the early stage, how do you get to that growth stage to really make that difference?
Michael Beckerman (39:27):
Adam Hooper (39:28):
What are some of the problems that VCs are looking at it, for new companies or operators that might be listening to this show? What are some of the more interesting technologies that you see demand for on the VC side? Or what problems are they looking to solve?
Michael Beckerman (39:45):
That's a good question. I mean, I haven't seen much money being invested in anything sort of new. I think it's been going towards helping those companies that already have some degree scale, scale faster or bigger. So, I'm not… I think there's definitely pockets like construction that are really starting to come on now because, again, you've got to accelerate construction. I think anything on the payment side is really popular now. I think things like insurance. I think if you look at start-ups like Jones or States Title on the title side. Really great. Again, I'm a big fan of RealCrowd, which you guys are doing.
Michael Beckerman (40:31):
But I don't think it's anything earth-shaking right now. I think it's like, "Okay. How do we make this process from… On the real estate side, from investing to management to transparency to execution. How do we make it more efficient?" So, everything in, I think, real estate tech, is about efficiency right now. And I think the other thing you're starting to see… You're starting definitely to see some M&A. I think if you look at CoStar's acquisition of Ten-X. I get it.
Adam Hooper (41:01):
Michael Beckerman (41:01):
I think we're going to see more of that. I think we're definitely going to see a race to build a marketplace, sort of the Zillow of CRE, and you're starting to see some companies that are challenging that. You're seeing BTS obviously make a big investment in that place, in that space. You've got the CREXIs and the Biproxis of the world that are coming on strong. So, I think acceleration is absolutely going to happen in CRE tech, but I think it's going to happen in fewer categories for the next… For the foreseeable future. I don't think there's new categories opening up. I think the money is going where it's safer and there's some degree of scale already there, you're starting to see.
Adam Hooper (41:45):
Yeah, the M&A side has been… I think it's… I don't think we've seen as much activity in that space as we might have expected.
Michael Beckerman (41:51):
Correct. I agree.
Adam Hooper (41:53):
It just… It generally… I mean, even pre-crisis, right? It'll be interesting to see how, as companies get a little bit more stressed and as balance sheets maybe get a little bit thinner, how that M&A activity shapes up, because it seems like there's potential for consolidation, right? I mean, CoStar is just kind of gobbling up everything. But it'll be interesting to see if there's others that get involved in the M&A space and how that landscape might change going forward with, again, so much capital having gone into this space in the last handful of years. It'll be interesting to watch that, that dynamic.
Michael Beckerman (42:35):
Yeah. And it'll be also interesting, Adam Hooper, to see, again, like I referenced earlier, will a company like a Salesforce or an Amazon on the hardware side perhaps or Micro… Will they come in and see opportunity here for an M&A? Will come there?
Adam Hooper (42:52):
That's interesting. Yeah.
Michael Beckerman (42:54):
But there's so many companies that are now looking at our sector because it's so big. And again, we went from these… The biggest change we've seen in our ecosystem as it relates to all sort of funding is we went from nice to have to must-have. And that's what the big change is now.
Adam Hooper (43:12):
Michael Beckerman (43:12):
There is a sense of urgency. You've got to get people into buildings safely. You've got to protect their employees. So, from access to air quality to everything, you've got to protect tenants and their employees and you've also got to be able to, as a real estate company, operate more efficiently when happier workforce is home. So, what are those tools from a crowdfunding, from an asset management, from a leasing, from…? What are those tools that I can now adopt into my portfolio really quickly? If you look at also some of the adoption, there's some really big real estate companies that were doing pilots with some of these tools and applications, and COVID comes and they like, "F the pilot. We're going to roll it out portfolio-wide."
Adam Hooper (44:04):
Michael Beckerman (44:04):
I mean, that's what's happening and that's exciting. Again, I wish it was for different reasons, but definitely seeing adoption now. It's the most important trend I'm paying attention to.
Adam Hooper (44:18):
Michael Beckerman (44:18):
It's more important for me than funding. Funding used to be the bellwether of where the industry was going and it's not anymore because it's not as reflective of the trends.
Adam Hooper (44:30):
Michael Beckerman (44:30):
What you've got to pay attention to is adoption.
Adam Hooper (44:32):
Yeah. And how are you tracking that? Just general growth within the industry as a whole? How are you…? How are you tracking or keeping [crosstalk 00:44:40]?
Michael Beckerman (44:39):
Yeah. That's a good question. I mean, we have an extraordinary leadership board. We rolled out this consulting practice this week to really drive innovation, so we built this world-class team of consultants that are available in every aspect of the business to help real estate companies adopt technology quicker and more efficiently and more effectively, whether it's product recommendations, whether it's actually building tools and applications for them or whether it's just helping them from a very holistic, strategic point of view.
Adam Hooper (45:11):
Michael Beckerman (45:12):
So… And a lot of it… We've got an extraordinary feedback loop at CREtech and so a lot of it comes from these sort of informal discussions that we have within our board of advisors, which is over 100 in total. So, that helps us a lot.
Adam Hooper (45:27):
Adam Hooper (45:27):
Yeah, and we were talking before. Given how hesitant our industry has been to adopt technology, it's progressed so quickly that it can be overwhelming, almost, for people… Again, real estate managers that are out listening to the show. It can be a bit overwhelming to try to figure out how do I catch up. What do I really need? What are the tools? What is the stack that I need to build to get myself out of a spreadsheet in Outlook, right? So, it's… Yeah. Maybe talk a little bit more about what you guys are doing on the consulting side before we wrap it up here.
Michael Beckerman (46:01):
Yeah, just simply that. I don't want to turn it into too much of an infomercial. But as I said before, one of the things that I realized… It was really the sort of pinnacle moment at our December conference where we were hanging out and sipping the good tequila. I know we did a podcast show there. Was, the crowds are enormous now at our physical conferences. The virtual conference, 27th through the 30th of July, will be unlike anything anybody's ever seen in our industry in terms of site. But what about adoption? Right?
Adam Hooper (46:37):
Michael Beckerman (46:37):
It's great that there's an extraordinary platform like RealCrowd, but how can I help Adam and Tyler actually get more customers, drive more engagement so that you're more successful, you're hiring, you're growing, you're scaling? And that's across the board, right? It's not just RealCrowd. It's the entire ecosystem. And then, we keep getting these calls from real estate owners, managers and brokers. They don't know where to start, right?
Adam Hooper (47:05):
Michael Beckerman (47:06):
They're not professional tech people. They're real estate people. They've done phenomenally well at that. They know how to buy and sell and lease and trade. But they're not tech people. So, how do we bridge this gap between the start-up community and the customers, right? And so, we said… I said… At that time in December, I was like, "I've got to push into consulting." And I was thinking about doing it, but during the pandemic, it really forced me to do it now because I felt this greater sense of demand, so we built this just world-class team of professionals that come from… Either they were former CTOs, CIOs at big real estate companies, brokerage, landlords, asset managers, or they were… They're actually independent consultants. So, we just want to help companies for whatever requirement they have. Product recommendations to building great tools and applications for companies to just advising them holistically about strategies for tech. We can tap into this network that hopefully will keep growing and growing and growing on a global basis to help give them the best possible source and solution. So, that's what that's all about.
Michael Beckerman (48:19):
And again, everybody's overwhelmed in this industry on the real estate side, so how can I help filter through all of this information and help you digest it? That's why we do our daily newsletter every day, which has about 100,000-plus people looking at it globally. Just, here's the best, most important news that you should look at, right? Here are the best tools and applications that you should be considering. And then at the conferences, here's the thought leaders that are way out in front of the industry. So, whether it's Prologis or whether it's Lisa… The extraordinary Lisa Picard at Equity Office or whether it's Brett White, CEO of Cushman & Wakefield and Adam Hooper Stanley, his CIO. We're going to put them on stage and they'll teach us and the rest of the industry, because they're the leaders.
Michael Beckerman (49:06):
So, it's less about Michael Beckerman and CREtech and what I think. That's why I do so few of these, because I don't freaking know. But I'll tell you who does know and my job is to put them on. So, let's end with this. Let me get you some of these people for the next RealCrowd podcast.
Adam Hooper (49:26):
There we go.
Michael Beckerman (49:26):
And hopefully less me, more experts. How about that?
Adam Hooper (49:30):
Perfect. And that's exactly why I'm on this side of the microphone, Michael.
Michael Beckerman (49:33):
No, I think the world of you guys. You guys are terrific. We appreciate the podcast. We appreciate all that you guys are doing to advocate for the industry, and you're doing it in a non-promotional, advertorial way. And so, it's just terrific.
Adam Hooper (49:51):
Michael Beckerman (49:51):
So, I'm happy to be supportive of you guys. Really appreciate what you're doing for the entire ecosystem.
Adam Hooper (49:56):
Michael Beckerman (49:56):
Adam Hooper (49:56):
Absolutely. So, maybe if it's not too late to sign up for the… I think we'll have this out in time for this next virtual conference coming up.
Michael Beckerman (50:03):
Adam Hooper (50:03):
How can people…? How can people learn more about that?
Michael Beckerman (50:05):
Cretech.com. C-R-E tech dot com. Just sign up. It's free. Get on board.
Adam Hooper (50:10):
Perfect. I'm going to have…
Michael Beckerman (50:12):
Get on board the CREtech love train.
Adam Hooper (50:13):
We'll have links in the show notes for all that good stuff. Michael, again, really appreciate you coming on today.
Michael Beckerman (50:18):
All right. Thanks Adam Hooper.
Adam Hooper (50:19):
Thanks so much.
Michael Beckerman (50:20):
Great talking. Tyler Stewart, thank you, man. Really enjoyed it. Best of luck, guys. Take care.
Adam Hooper (50:22):
All right. Thanks listeners. That's all we've got for today. As always, if you have any notes, comments, send us a note to firstname.lastname@example.org. And with that, we'll catch you on the next one.
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