The commercial real estate industry may not have been the quickest sector of the economy to align itself with technological advances, but — in New York especially — the tide has already begun to turn.
At least two new technolgy firms aimed specifically at the real estate sector have taken advantage of incubator programs to launch their business.
Splacer, an online platform for people looking to instantly list, discover, and book short-term spaces to create unique event experiences, worked with The Junction, an incubator located in Tel Aviv.
“We’re coming from the field of architecture so when we started Splacer, our incubator was a tremendous help for us,” said Adi Biran, co-founder and CEO of the company. “It really gave us the first tools in this new space.”
The incubator gave Biran and her co-founder, Lihi Gerstner, the ability to network with colleagues who were also looking to launch their own ventures, as well as a space to meet and begin forming a company before independent space could feasibly be acquired.
“Technology is fundamental,” said Biran of her venture. “Technology is providing tools to both sides of our market space. We have sellers that are space providers. We give them two weeks to become micro-entrepreneurs with their own space.”
Those seeking event-sized space can now enter in specific criteria and find an opening that meets their needs after a few clicks. “It’s really a tool of scalability,” Biran said.
Jonathan Wasserstrum, co-founder and CEO of commercial listing service, TheSquareFoot, believes technology will invariably play a bigger role in the commercial real estate secotr.
However, he said, “I don’t think we’ll ever be displacing the JLL and CBRE’s of the world.”
That’s not necessarily a knock on the future of commercial tech startups though.
TheSquareFoot, which got its start at the ERA Accelerator incubator in New York, brings the services of a Trulia or a Zillow to those looking for leasable commercial space.
“We just focus on leasing for now,” he said. “There are other startups out there that are going after the traditional parts of the business.”
While “bridging online listings with traditional brokerage services,” the company currently employs 16 people and is in its 4th year of existence.
“Before groups like us, there really was no place to look at online listings. If you wanted to look at space for you and 20 people in Flatiron, you Googled it and came up with a bunch of garbage,” said Wasserstrum while describing the inspiration for the company.
The company’s core client base is comprised of small and mid-sized companies and startups that need to house anywhere from 15 to 150 people.These moderately sized-companies require the services of a broker, but also enjoy the ability to shop for spaces online before dedicating time to actually visiting a potential office space.
While well-passed the incubator stage, Wasserstrum stressed the importance of outside help for growing companies. After the company’s series C round, TheSquareFoot received funding from three major venture capital firms, including Primary Venture Partners, RRE Partners and Triangle Peak Partners.
At its current size, Wasserstrum doesn’t expect to be courting Forbes 500 companies and believes that’s why the JLLs of the world likely don’t need to look over their shoulder at more tech-friendly companies just yet.
Companies of larger size will likely not be surfing the internet looking for potential office space.
That said, Wasserstrum hasn’t ruled it out for the future and agrees with Biran that tech focused companies enjoy increased scalability due to the nature of the field.