What’s missing in CRE Tech?

The following is a guest post from Bill MacEwen, Founder of SpaceList.ca in Vancouver, British Columbia. SpaceList is using simple design and nimble technology to create a faster and easier way for people to find and market space, with the ultimate goal of improving the way Businesses, Brokerages and Landlords share information. Stay tuned for more great things from Bill and his team!

In case you haven’t noticed, innovation is moving remarkably fast all of a sudden.  New companies are popping up and making huge impacts on otherwise stable industries.  In the last decade alone we’ve seen photography, publishingmusicmoviescoupons and travel agencies (too name a few) all dramatically transformed.  The world is moving so fast that it’s becoming tough to keep up.  And what about commercial real estate?  Is our business changing too?  You’d better believe it.

It’s not about you.

There are a crop of young startups who are  going to change this business by asking a fundamental and selfless question: How can we make people’s lives better?  This new cohort understands that everything begins with the consumer and their demand for space.  The industry exists to serve that need, by whatever means available.  What’s changed in the last few years is that there are a new set of tools available to solve consumer’s problems, and our customers expect that we will use them.  There is a huge gap in our business right now between the tools that are available to us and the tools that we are using.  Opportunistic startups see the potential to solve problems using these new tools.  The gap is so big and so glaring that we are going to see a mad rush to fill the void.  You might call this new movement CRE2.  

The technology is already here

Often disruptive innovations come along not as a result of brand new technology, but through an insightful reapplication of an existing one.  I believe that will be the case in commercial real estate.  There are some fancy wiz bang augmented reality, QR Code applications, and 3D rendering tools, and they’re neat.  They’re fun toys and they might prove useful sometimes.  But if I’m looking to find a space for my business, do they make that process dramatically better?

The problems that need to be solved are actually quite simple.  Business and the brokers representing them need accurate and complete information presented in a way that makes it easy to understand and analyze.  The revolution in this industry is going to come from people applying existing technology to solve tough problems that maybe aren’t fancy, but that can help people access better information, make better decisions, and form better relationships.  The deals are big and important and they require deep amount of trust, skill and knowledge to execute effectively.  Technology can help with that.  

The Realtor’s Dilemma

Clayton Christensen’s model for mapping disruptive technologies is a great way of looking at how things will change.  Firms who are married to their revenue models will be hampered by their inability to subvert their own profits.  CRE2 companies are not tied down in this way.  Startups, by definition, have no old models to defend.  The only legs they have to stand on are better answers to the fundamental question:  How do we make people’s lives better?  But I suppose that’s true for every firm.  Here are a few you should keep an eye on:







Stay tuned for some more insight into the problems that we need to solve in order to make the CRE world a better place.

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