As strategic investors, we at Nine Four take adding value to each and every one of our portfolio companies very seriously. In order to fulfill our promise of meaningfully moving the needle for startups, it’s important for us to keep a close network of traditional real estate stakeholders who can be partners, advisors, and customers of these companies. To that end and to help keep our pulse on the market, we’ve cultivated relationships with real estate lenders, general contractors, suppliers, owners, operators, developers, brokerages, insurers, and more. These LPs and broader connections (or “Partners”) trust us to filter the noise and recommend the best-in-class technologies to help increase their operational efficiencies, thereby increasing NOI (net operating income).
Oftentimes, our Partners will ask us “if you were us, what technologies would you use?” This is a pretty open-ended question that’s difficult to answer without more information. It really depends on who we’re speaking to, what their process looks like and what their appetite and ability is to adopt technology. So, what I like to do is turn the mic back over to them. For example, let’s say I’m speaking to an owner/operator. I’ll ask questions like: How many properties are in your portfolio? What asset classes? Do you manage properties in house or hire third party managers? Do you develop properties ground up? If so, are you vertically integrated or do you hire third party contractors? What technologies, if any, do you use to date? And the list goes on.
We believe PropTech refers to technology companies that impact the people, processes, and ecosystems that interact with the built world. From deal management to search & discovery to development & construction, through operation & management, sales & marketing, all the transactional elements in between, and including the industries that sell to/through real estate (i.e. finance, insurance, maintenance, etc).
Because technology can be integrated to augment almost any part of the process, when asked an open-ended question like the one above and after better understanding the context and needs of the person I’m speaking to, I like to give an example of one company (of many!) effecting change in each part of the value chain for illustrative purposes. Otherwise, it could get overwhelming pretty quickly. This way, I can gauge the interest level in each company one by one, take notes, and adjust my recommendations accordingly.
Let’s continue with the owner/operator example from above. After collecting some information, I’ve learned that I’m speaking to a mid-sized owner who develops multifamily apartments ground up and manages the properties through third parties. For this Partner, I may start with the following examples:
Deal management: Dealpath – Dealpath is a cloud-based deal management platform. Dealpath helps owner/operators generate optimal returns by streamlining deal pipeline evaluation and execution. With Dealpath’s platform, customers are able to increase their productivity, evaluate more deals, minimize errors in underwriting and due diligence, better collaborate, and ultimately make better investment decisions.
Search and discovery: Reonomy is an AI-powered data platform, akin to Bloomberg terminal, for the commercial real estate industry. Reonomy equips real estate professionals and organizations with comprehensive market studies, and allows them to discover opportunities, and streamline their research processes.
Development and construction: OpenSpace – OpenSpace is a computer vision company for construction sites akin to a “Google Street View” for projects. The OpenSpace platform enables virtual inspections, bid walks, safety checks and sub coordination. It stitches together, tags, uploads, folders and saves images to create an immutable system of record over the asset development lifecycle. This helps developers tie quality and timing of work to specific contractors, insurers reduce claims and price risk better, and lenders supplement human inspectors for more streamlined construction loan distributions.
Operation and management: SmartRent – SmartRent is a smart access management platform that connects, monitors and optimizes myriad IoT devices for single and multifamily properties. It enables real estate operators to monitor and protect assets, save money, and create ancillary revenue, and enables tenants to control access and energy usage to create a more delightful experience. Benefits include community access control, self-guided tours, lower broker fees, asset protection and monitoring, increased operational efficiencies, energy efficiency and savings, real time activity notifications, and additional ancillary revenue and NOI creation.
Sales & marketing: Funnel – Funnel is a marketing and leasing management platform for multi-family residential landlords. Funnel’s customer relationship management system (CRM) allows leasing staff to efficiently track and manage prospective tenants and its online leasing tool helps save time by enabling a digital lease execution process, thereby eliminating paper documents. Its software includes application submission and evaluation, income verification, e-signing, and more.
- Finance: Built Technologies – Built Technologies provides construction loan automation software to lenders. It digitizes the draw process by moving legacy workflow (pen, paper, excel, etc) into the cloud enabling real time performance reporting for lenders and greater productivity and increased transparency for developers. It also offers lienwaiver management software to manage waivers and payments.
- Insurance: Steadily – Steadily is a digitally native direct landlord insurance company for SMB landowners that typically own properties with less than 50 units. It operates as an independent agency now but plans to transition to an MGA and eventually a carrier over time. It offers faster (5 mins vs days) and cheaper (by at least 20% in most cases) policy quotes through an end-to-end digital experience.
- Maintenance: Sightplan – Sightplan is a work order management tool to help operators gain visibility into and increase the efficiency of its maintenance technicians. Sightplan equips property managers with a task management system that allows them to assign and escalate work orders based on rules specific to each property. It’s mobile-first platform enables technicians to schedule and complete tasks with the click of a few buttons, enabling faster unit turnover and ultimately, happier tenants.
Remember, these recommendations may differ for you.
In short, if you’re a real estate stakeholder looking to integrate technology into your current process, we’d love to help! We’ll start by asking you questions about your company, talk through some PropTech examples and where they could potentially plug in, gauge your interest levels to find the ones that might be the best fit, and eventually, make introductions and set up demos. Reach out to get started!