MIT’s Real Disruption Panel Examined Big Data, Big RE DecisionsMay 11, 2015 - By Michael Walsh
BOSTON–Dubbed as Big Data, Big Real Estate Decisions, a group of 150 CRE professionals gathered at Bank of America’s 100 Federal Street on Thursday morning for MIT/AACRE and ULI Boston’s third installment of “Real Disruption,” a breakfast event series in production with The Real Reporter. Mainly represented by startups, the panel of tech-laden, data-driven entrepreneurs shared their digital platforms with the pitch of positively altering the real estate industry.
It was all about the database; some more deep-driven and scientifically skewed than others - yet each with its own algorithmic scheme. “We consider ourselves the match.com of retail space to brands,” amused David Cattle, founder and CEO of NewDirt, an online portal that aligns retail real estate with major retail brands - “we’re eliminating the avalanche of emails, calls, and proposals for executives,” says Cattle. A former retail broker himself, he sees his data system as more streamlined and a better connection for building owners to brands, and vice versa. “I do not believe in the browse and search system … I believe in match and connecting in real estate.” The inventory marketing platform uses complex analytics to match site characteristics to user requirements. The results are (as Cattle calls it) “like dancing with the right date;” a personal theme that repeated itself throughout the morning.
Perhaps the most drilled down (personal centric) data platform at the event came courtesy of Nela Richardson, Chief Economist of Redfin. Complementing the relatively new term “big data”, Richardson frequently referred to her position as that of a “data scientists.” “ I am a data scientist, which is another way of saying I stare at screens all day and love spreadsheets, and what we can do with the analytics is very exciting to me … a data geek.” The company touts its agents as the most acutely prepared brokers who understand a neighborhood through its depth of data and sense of community. “We know where people are going to be buying a home before they start looking … or where the next neighborhood will be the most successful based on stored geo-data and available tools; a benefit Richardson says to communities, developers and home buyers. “If we know that there are millions of boomers ready to move out of homes, yet stay in urban areas, we have the knowledge to share with a developer, who may be looking at turning an existing building with stairs (only) into a shared senior community … having this knowledge helps everyone.”
Continuing the urban theme, Alex Kapur’s Opportunity Space takes the messy, fragmented data from publicly owned, off-the-radar and less desirable land or buildings, and compiles a user-friendly database and online system that he aims to, “reach a whole new class of diverse developers - not just the real players in any given market.” Its proprietary process gathers government and public entities data and renders it as a powerful analytical and geocoded source for offerings otherwise unknown by the real estate community. “We showed a town via our site (using our maps) the dormant land and buildings that they owned and it was eye-popping when they realized just how much inventory was available.” Kapur relays, “towns don’t want to waste opportunities, and we can offer them as well as developers a new real-time system, that they say they were waiting for.”
Echoing the sentiments of the “we were waiting for this” client confirmation, WiredScore CEO Arie Barendrecht said his aha moment came when he was showing top real estate holder his platform for rating buildings connectivity. “… that was it, when I was explaining how buildings could now have an “excellence rating for their telecom connectivity, they interrupted and said, I was waiting for this … Really? he said. ” The company claims If building owners and cities & towns themselves can showcase their buildings or districts as having cutting-edge digital infrastructures, it’s a win, win. “Telecom connectivity scores allow clients to know that their building is up to modern standards. Governments and municipalities can live or die by their technology capabilities,” Barendrecht states.
Ending the day feeling more like big brother than big data, the panel began talking about utilizing infrared technologies to track habits, patterns and watching personalized analytics in a building, which one representative claims would take the cynicism out of apps and metrics - yet an audience member referred to it as “voyeuristic.”
The deep data inventory and algorithmic process continue to advance at a blazing pace. Yet all the front line entrepreneurs agreed it was the human touch that completes the business. “We continue to mine data and crunch spreadsheets, but these are just analytical tools. It is the great team agents that go out and put the data to work for the clients. confirms Redfin’s Richardson.