The Wharton Real Estate Investment Group (WREI) put on a sold-out event featuring the leaders of Technology Companies That Are Changing the Face of Real Estate. Held in Manhattan on February 5, 2015, the panel was moderated by Nick Petkoff, WG’02, President of Better Brokers, LLC. The audience-centric setup gave maximum time to the panelists to introduce themselves, discuss how their firms bring technology to the real estate sector, and enjoy plenty of interaction with the 60 or so real estate professionals in the audience.
Richard Sarkis expressed confidence in the confluence of technology and real estate, having just received $13 million in Series B funding for his Manhattan-based company, Reonomy. I asked him to expand on some of his comments, and his experience at the event.
Richard, you mentioned that the main competitor to your service, is the actual hours required to pull together the data from primary sources, cleanse it, validate it and piece it together, and that large companies put millions of staff hours toward that exercise. Alternatively, you spoke about Reonomy as almost a black box. It collects the input of raw unedited, unvalidated data on commercial real estate, and then applies Reonomy’s proprietary data science, engineering and product-centric tools — and out comes simple, easy to use, relevant data for, say, an investor or
bank loan officer. How is that possible?
Reonomy is a technology company at its core. We have a world-class team of data engineers, data scientists and developers that helped us structure and validate the data, as you point out. But, frankly, that is just a starting point. It’s not the data itself that truly matters, but more so, what you do with it. Our job is to present the data in such a way that it is most useful to our end users as part of their day-to-day workflow. That means taking an incredibly complex and sophisticated back-end data engine and coupling it with a simple and elegant front end that drives the end users toward insight and action.
How have WCNY events like this, and being a Wharton alumnus, helped you along the way?
The events and the Wharton alumni network have been great resources at every stage of building and scaling Reonomy. From getting access to folks to validate early ideas during prelaunch, to introductions to large potential clients as we grow, Wharton has been an invaluable “calling card” for me.
Geoff Lewis of Honest Buildings also shared his experience of the event.
I loved the WREI event. Many of our customers actually happen to have graduated from the school, so it was great to be in a room full of smart, forward-thinking folks who understand how technology can make their businesses more efficient. The panel also did a nice job of pulling together interesting real estate tech companies that are having a real impact on the way the business operates.
Nick, you’ve organized a number of these real estate events for the Club. I like how you facilitate efficiently and stay in the background. Can you talk about why you’re involved, and what you do professionally?
I am involved because I love real estate and investing. The impetus for the Club was to get a like-minded group of people to think about, discuss and invest in commercial real estate in New York City, the most exciting and dynamic market in the world. Professionally, I have been in real estate in New York City since 2005 and worked at Massey Knakal (now Cushman and Wakefield) for nine years as a sales broker. In 2014, I launched my own brokerage company, Better Brokers, LLC, focusing on New York City retail and mixed-use properties.
What events has WREI held over the past 12 months?
We try to do three or four events a year. On January 29, 2015, we hosted a panel with Robert Gray, Jody Kriss and Evan Denner on Real Estate Outlook and Opportunities. That event was moderated by our Chair, Celina Kuoch, WG’98, Managing Partner of Nexus Hill Capital.
On June 2014, we held Crowdfunding in Real Estate: A Night With Crowdnetic, Realty Mogul and Fundrise, also moderated by Celina Kuoch.