Oftentimes, we’re asked about the effects COVID had on our team’s daily operations. Luckily, we’re happy to say that we haven’t really missed a beat. We were a distributed team from the start, by design. Regular team Zoom calls, Microsoft Teams messages, and Dropbox notifications were already in our blood. In this post, we’ll go over why the decision to have team-members across the country not only makes sense, but also plays to our advantage.
As we think about venture in the US, one area comes to mind: Silicon Valley. It’s no secret that most venture dollars in the US go to companies based in the Bay Area. It’s a natural place for us to have boots on the ground in the most active startup city in the world, San Francisco, and be in the flow of such a huge volume of venture dollars and talented entrepreneurs. That’s where Paul comes in (you can check out his impressive bio and background here). Not only is he able to meet with (at least, pre-COVID) pipeline companies as needed, but he is also able to keep his ears to the ground within the heart of the venture ecosystem. Paul brings his relationships with both funds and founders from his prior experiences, and has been able to establish and expand his new ones through the Bay Area community.
Similar to San Francisco being the center of America’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, New York is the center of America’s financial and commercial real estate ecosystems. Between the banks on Wall Street and real estate players such as Vornado Realty Trust, SL Green, Tishman Speyer, Blackstone, Related, Brookfield, RXR, and droves of others, New York’s market is a frontrunner, to say the least. As a new fund, we want to make sure we’re the most helpful investor on a company’s cap table. In order to make that promise a reality, we need to be tapped into the lender and institutional owner universes. The more we can establish relationships with the enterprises our companies are selling to and through, the better we can serve them. That’s where I come in (check out my bio here). I meet with strategic LPs and an expanded real estate and development network to share insights and discuss pain points, opportunities, etc. For instance, most recently, I met with Urban Standard Capital, an NYC based non-bank real estate lender, through an old contact I met at TMD. After taking some time to understand their pain points, I recommended a portfolio company, of which they became a customer a few weeks later. Being close to customers helps.
Another competitive advantage we leverage is our close partnership with the Laramar Group. To that end, Jeff and Kurt sit in Chicago, side by side with teams we can leverage for diligence into companies and themes. Jeff and Kurt have a first-row seat to the gaps technology can fill in status quo operations, from facilities and property management, to tenant engagement and community initiatives, to back office operations such as accounting, HR, and capital markets, and everything in between. We leverage this information in our pilot program, where we have a “safe laboratory” for pipeline and portfolio companies to test their products and services in a low-risk environment for feedback. We use this feedback to make smarter investment decisions, and iterate on go to market strategies.
Finally, speed has always been important for us. So has meeting founders in person. Having a dispersed team is invaluable in enabling us to meet most founders we’re excited about in person, quickly and efficiently, without the challenges of travel. We still will travel, of course, but we’ve found it incredibly helpful to have a distributed team that can grow a network organically across the country. PropTech is still venture, and venture is still driven by relationships. We want to continue to build more, and stronger, relationships to the benefit of our portfolio companies and the real estate industry.