Ep. 37 Antony Slumbers
Antony is a globally recognized speaker, advisor and writer on proptech and space-as-a-service. A serial entrepreneur, he has founded and exited several proptech software companies and now consults real estate boards on their transformation, technology and innovation strategies. He writes an influential blog at antonyslumbers.com and is a prolific Tweeter (@antonyslumbers)
Chris Rising (00:00:02): Welcome to The Real Market with Chris Rising, the only podcast that brings the Real Estate Conference Panel to your headphones. You'll hear from superstars from every realm of commercial real estate, the biggest brokers, the most well-known architects, the largest investors, and the most visionary developers. Learn what they do, how they do it, and what drives their success. We'll discuss the latest trends across regional markets, capital flows, both national and global. And we'll explore technology's role in shaping all of it. We'll take a clear eyed look at where we've been, where we are now, and what's to come. Real conversations, real experts, real insights. This is The Real Market.
Chris Rising (00:00:50): Welcome to The Real Market with Chris Rising. I am really excited today to have Antony Slumbers on the podcast. Antony is someone who has been doing software development and has been a technology strategist since 1995. And he's really the only person I know who has done all of that around commercial real estate. We have an engaging conversation. We try to answer questions about, will the office come back after this horrible pandemic? What's the future of things? How is real estate going to look? What's the role that technology's going to play? And Antony and I have just a great conversation, so I know you're going to enjoy it.
Chris Rising (00:01:29): And I have to start the podcast by just saying, we are living in some extraordinary times, and they are as scary as I can ever, ever imagine. But they're also going to lead to a lot of opportunity. So, I don't want it lost in the background that we sit here in early April of 2020 with a world that is on fire quite literally, and people are scared. And it's okay to be scared. And I hope what will come out of this conversation is just a little bit of where the world's going, so in terms of technology and real estate and the challenges we're going to face. So, Antony, thank you for being on this podcast. It's a real honor for me. I've really enjoyed reading all of your things that you do and the stuff that you do with Dror. And for our audience, antonyslumbers.com, that's where you want to go, and we'll point you there. But Antony, welcome to The Real Market with Chris Rising.
Antony Slumbers (00:02:22): Hey, it's an absolute pleasure to be here. And actually, if I can just follow up quickly on what you just said there, I think during our conversation today, we have to think about things in two stages. There is clearly, as you say, the world is on fire. It's all going to hell in a handcart at the moment. And there's lots of things that apply to what one needs to do over the next few months, which do not preclude from the fact that there is a market after that. So, some of the things that I'm going to talk about might sound a little too optimistic as of today. But I think there is this split between the immediate fire that we're in and what happens once we deal with it, because we always do deal with it sooner or later.
Chris Rising (00:03:13): As we say to our team and people we talk to today is, this too shall pass. April will become May, and May will become June and we will get through this. But I do think every generation has kind of a demarking point that kind of says what things have passed from one generation to the next. And one of the things that I am seeing in the last three weeks is that anybody who thought the world could operate under a baby boomer mentality of, "I don't need to digitize. What are you talking about that people aren't in the office at 8:00? I want to have close meetings. I want to have a really showy space that's really only dedicated to the senior management." I mean, if there's any more pronounced statement about what's happened, it's that that thinking is just over. Do you agree with me?
Antony Slumbers (00:04:14): Totally. We're definitely in the end of ... We're in the Carlota Perez thing about disruption that you have this great period of investment and nothing really seems to change that much. And then you have a crash, and then you have the implementation of all this technology and stuff. So, if you think back to the last 20 years, there's been the most extraordinary technological developments, which many people are really not quite aware of just how fast things have been going.
Antony Slumbers (00:04:46): So, just as an example of this, if you take the number of transistors on a computer chip, there were 100,000 in 1980. 100 million in 2000. 10 billion by 2016. And then, in the middle of last year, there was a new chip came out that actually had 1.2 trillion transistors on it. So, this world of exponential technology, it has got to the point where it's almost in many ways in real estate gone under the radar because real estate obviously always rides its boom. And none of this is a criticism of the way many people have operated over the last year because they've sort of optimized their buildings for the way things work. And then, of course, it's the turkey routine, isn't it? The turkey things everything's getting great for 350 days a year, and then boom. That's it. And it all changes. So, absolutely, definitely, I think we are going to move over the next few years to probably ... And this definitely sounds really surprising and maybe a bit panglossian at the moment, a fantastic period of innovation, because when the world is on fire, that's when innovation happens.
Antony Slumbers (00:06:09): If you look at the 1920s, the 1920s were pretty much a great decade. The roaring 20s, flappers, everyone was having great fun. In terms of innovation, practically nothing happened in the 20s. The 30s were a horrible decade, absolutely horrible decade. But they were awash with innovation. And it's an extraordinary thing of the needs must, everyone needs to reset, recalibrate. And then humans are really good at innovation. When they really need to do it, they really do it. Chris Rising (00:06:47): Well, let me ask you this-
Antony Slumbers (00:06:47): So, hang in there.
Chris Rising (00:06:47): Yeah, all right. Let me ask you this, first of all, here's a statement: I think it's very sad that the globe is learning the concept of exponential growth over the plague and not over the tech industry that's been doing this for 20, 30, 40 years. I mean, Moore's Law is exactly that. And I think you're right, that landlords were acting much like department stores. Office landlords and residential landlords were acting much like department stores, which was, "We'll give people what the majority want. The majority hasn't changed much, and we can be slow."
Chris Rising (00:07:26): But I think in this whole work from home, which I really do want to get into some detail about all the other risks that people seem not wanting to talk about, but also all the benefits of it at this point. But let's start with this, how can we introduce you a little bit to our audience? Can you give a little bit of your background? And one of the things, I have three ... I'm going to include you in this, three burgeoning friendships that have come via Twitter. And I think that is one of the greatest things in the world. Elie Finegold was the first, and then Dror, and then you. And I just think it speaks volumes about the world. But tell my audience, which are mainly ... It's a heavy millennial and Gen Z audience with my loyal Gen Xers there too. Trying to introduce the audience more to those boomers who think that they want to be a part of it all. But tell everybody a little bit about yourself.
Antony Slumbers (00:08:21): Okay, well long story short because I'm older than most, younger than some, but older than most and been around for quite a long time. I actually launched the first ever commercial real estate website in the UK. And that was back in January, 1995, believe it or not. And that was before even Netscape, which was the browser which everyone started using right at the beginning, that wasn't even at version one then. That was version 0.9.
Antony Slumbers (00:08:54): And then, essentially, for 20 years or so, I ran a software company developing only online web based software for commercial real estate companies. So, for many years, I did the websites of a couple of the leading brokers over in the UK. But I also, in 2001, I entered into a joint venture with what was then the largest real estate company in the UK to do a software product, which was a combination of a suite of property management tools and what people now call tenant engagement platforms. So, lots of talk about tenant engagement platforms, they've actually been around a long time. We launched that in 2001 and it had offers and local deals and building and all that sort of stuff.
Antony Slumbers (00:09:51): And then, I also ran a number of real estate research sites. So, we had a site for a long time, which monitored all the prime office building from planning to first lettings across the UK and some of Europe. We used to do one for business parts. So, really, I've always been within the commercial real estate sector, but always on the tech side. So, for 20 odd years, as I say, I was running various tech companies. I had, I think ... I never can quite remember whether I had four or five companies. I remember selling two of them. One of them sort of went by the by and two got shut down. But I did manage to sell two of them, so that was good.
Antony Slumbers (00:10:34): And then, that really went on until about 2015. And just before that, I'd started writing my blog. And I got more and more interested in what's the next big thing going on? So, I started concentrating more on my blog, which then turned into doing a lot more speaking. And the whole speaking side of what I do has grown a lot, which is something of a bug in the current situation. My business model is 100% stymied by the current situation.
Antony Slumbers (00:11:07): But essentially, if you ignore right at the moment, I spend about half my time working with the boards of investors, developers, and property management companies essentially talking about the impact of technology on real estate. So, if you like, I'm something of a translator because I'm one of those relatively rare people who know quite a lot about real estate and quite a lot about technology. So, I do a lot of sort of translation to sort of C-suite types about what's coming, what matters, what doesn't matter. And I spend about half my time doing that.
Antony Slumbers (00:11:43): And then, up until a few weeks ago, the rest of my time, I spent talking primarily around Europe over in the US, I think three or four times last year, and India. And so, that's what I do now. But there's a slight wildcard in me that's actually ... Because I really started, not exactly before the internet, but before the World Wide Web really got going, that I actually ...
Chris Rising (00:12:15): You right there?
Antony Slumbers (00:12:21): I actually ... Yeah, sorry, Siri started. I actually did my degree in history and the history of art and work for an art dealer for many years. So, I have a rather strange crossover brain where I love tech and I love art as well, which is interesting in the times we're going into now, I think.
Chris Rising (00:12:45): It is. So, let me ... Some of the podcasts that have been most popular have been with a bunch of capitalists and especially around prop deck. You have not, to my knowledge, functioned as a venture capitalist making bets in prop deck, have you?
Antony Slumbers (00:13:03): No. No.
Chris Rising (00:13:04): Have you stayed more to the academic side?
Antony Slumbers (00:13:10): Yes, more on the product side. Product is really my thing. That's what I'm interested in. I'm interested in end users, how we can improve the build environment for end users and products. The finance side and the VC side, less so. I'm more likely to work ... I mean, I'm on a couple of advisory boards. So, I'm on the advisory board of Equiem, which is probably the biggest tenant engagement platform now.
Chris Rising (00:13:40): Yes, we're-
Antony Slumbers (00:13:40): But on the VC side-
Chris Rising (00:13:43): Let's talk quickly about Equiem because I was pleased to see that two new board members had been just added, Richard Salsman who I know well. And I was on the phone yesterday with Bill Buchanan. And-
Antony Slumbers (00:13:55): Awesome. Yeah.
Chris Rising (00:13:56): And we're very excited. We are using Equiem in two of our projects and would like to do it more.
Antony Slumbers (00:14:02): Brilliant.
Chris Rising (00:14:03): Yeah, so we'll talk about Equiem and that. But let's start with the big ... I mean, the biggest question I'm getting right now from my capital, it's amazing. We were really making headway and raising capital around what I call impact strategies, which is really three strategies all put together with technology. So, if you look at a diagram, it would be technology that links it all together. And then, really focused on carbon reduction, health and wellness, and engagement, social engagement. And that was how we do value add real estate.
Chris Rising (00:14:38): And up until three weeks ago, we were going full speed ahead. Things were a little bit on pause to see where the world would go. But what I'm absolutely amazed at is how over the last couple of weeks, I've gotten a lot of inbound inquiries and challenges that office is dead. It's absolutely dead. No one's ever going to go back to an office. And it started with We Work, which I tried to remind people, that's office by the way, for people who were wanting to go to an office. And we're going to live in this world. It's going to be just like Ernest Cline's novel Ready Player Go. We're going to live in the Oasis eventually and live in our little homes and never engage. And that's just the way it's going to go because this has been such a wonderful experience the last three weeks for people.
Chris Rising (00:15:28): I obviously have some very strong feelings about it that I want to go into. I think, number one, that we were just hit. I mean, nobody's focus ... Because we're in a pandemic, nobody's talking about the security risks that are unbelievably huge right now. Nobody's talking about the quality of life. And nobody's talking about the reality of collaboration and the things that Steve Jobs and others talked about.
Chris Rising (00:15:50): But if somebody said to you, Anthony, "Give me all the reasons why the office is dead." Would you play that game? Would you go along with them? How would you answer it?
Antony Slumbers (00:16:03): I would answer it in the sense of they are right, but also profoundly wrong. They are right in the sense of the traditional office, in the sense of somewhere that we all schlep across town to go and sit, sit nine hours a day in front of it and sitting at our desk tippy tapping away at our computer. That is absolutely dead. What isn't dead is ... I don't think people really understand quite how dramatically work itself is going to change over the next few years.
Antony Slumbers (00:16:42): Lots of people focus on the way we work. They talk about the way we work is going to change. Actually, that's not the important point. The important point is the work we do. Simply put, the work we do is going to completely change over the next few years. And that is actually going to be the savior of the office. Let me explain that.
Antony Slumbers (00:17:06): In 2017, McKinsey wrote a report where they wrote that 49% of the tasks that people are paid to do around the world, that are paid to do around the world could be automated by currently demonstrated technology. So, technology that was available in 2017 could do 49% of the tasks people do on a day to day basis. Now, lots of people mix up and get all excited about, it means all the jobs are going to go. It's not the jobs. You mustn't think of this thing in terms of the machines are going to take all our jobs. Well, they're not going to take all our jobs. What they're going to do is they're going to take some of the tasks we do, and they're going to give us new tasks to do.
Antony Slumbers (00:17:51): So, if you think about it, in terms of ... That was 2017. So, move three years on from that, there's a doubling in the power of computers, at least over the last three years. But if you think about it, what is actually going to happen is that any task that you do, that one does that is structured, repeatable, or predictable is going to go away. You are not going to be doing any task that is structured, repeatable, or predictable in the future because frankly, machines are better at doing structured, repeatable, predictable than humans are. So, that is probably half the tasks we do at the moment.
Antony Slumbers (00:18:34): Those tasks are Elvis has left the building. Now, what that means though is, in that case, well what are we humans going to do? So, if the machines are going to do lots of the stuff that we do at the moment, what are we going to do? Well, we have to become, in the same way as you have exponential technology, we have to become exponentially human. So, we have to play to all our human strengths. So, humans are good at design, imagination, abstract and critical thinking, imagination, intuition, empathy, judgment. That's what humans are good at. And machines are not good at that, or broadly speaking, they are not good at that. And they're certainly not going to get great at that for a considerable amount of time.
Antony Slumbers (00:19:21): So, humans have got to concentrate on what the machines are not good at. So, they've got to concentrate on that design, judgment, empathy, understanding consumer needs, understanding how people want to be treated, understanding people's wants, needs, and desires. Now the interesting thing there, if you think of all those types of tasks, what type of space do they need to catalyze, to make the most of those tasks? And that's where the office is going to actually come in. I do not need to go to an office, and people will not need to go to an office in the future to do structured, repeatable, predictable work, because they won't be doing it. They don't need to go there to do focused work, because I can do focused work anywhere.
Antony Slumbers (00:20:13): What they need to go to an office for is they need to go to spaces and places that catalyze human skills. They need to go into places that really help people be the best people that they can be, that aid imagination, that aid judgment, that aid critical thinking, or places where people can collaborate, communicate, mull over ideas, bounce thoughts and feelings off each other, create new products, refine new products, etc., etc.
Antony Slumbers (00:20:48): So, mostly, you cannot do that at home. You cannot do ... You can do what we're doing now at home, no problem. And I have worked mainly remotely for 20 odd years, but always in an office one to two days a week, because as an example, when I used to run ... There was a company called Vicinity was the property management and tenant engagement platform. I had a team of developers in India. I had a designer 40 miles from me, and I'm about 30 miles outside of London. And then, the main management team were in the center of London.
Antony Slumbers (00:21:33): Now, we would meet half a day to a day religiously every week. And it was a three line whip, everybody had to be there. And we'd go through everything and we'd take our time and we'd do all the thinking about what we were going to do. And then people essentially would disperse and work in the teams and in the locations that best suited them. But we always came back to do the human stuff.
Antony Slumbers (00:21:59): Now, that was 10 years ago. Today, it is much more critical. And there's no surprise, if you look at the rise of the We Works and the Industrious and over here, The Office Group, and people like that, the reason they have been so ... Forget whether they've been financially successful, but there's no denying they have certainly attracted a lot of customers. They haven't had too many problems attracting customers. And it's a lot to do with the aesthetic and the use of space and spaces that are more conducive to creative work or knowledge work or collaborative work.
Antony Slumbers (00:22:42): So, I think the great paradox of all this is that technology has made the end of the office. Technology has removed the need for the office as somewhere to go and do work as such, because I don't need to do all my work in that type of place. You used to have to go to the office because that's where your computers were, that's where your colleagues were, that's where your files were, that was wherever ... We obviously don't need that now. But as I say, paradoxically, what we do need are these spaces that catalyze our human skills, places that are designed based around the task, the job to be done.
Antony Slumbers (00:23:24): You know, Clayton Christensen's thing about the job to be done, the actual understanding of what it is that these people are trying to do. And-
Chris Rising (00:23:33): Well, that was Steve Job's point, right? Steve Jobs about Pixar when they built that, and Apple and why it's a circular ... It was exactly what you are saying right now, the purpose of what an office was for an Apple or for a Pixar.
Antony Slumbers (00:23:50): Yeah. Exactly. It's an imaginarium. It's somewhere you can go with your peers and be enabled by the environment to do your best work. So, I always think about Churchill. The famous Churchill quotation of, "First of all we shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us." Now, that was in 1942 after the bombing of the houses of Parliament in London, why they should be rebuilt in the style they were before. But I don't think that has ever been so true as now, because if we're honest, we all have spaces that we really love. There's place we really love to go.
Antony Slumbers (00:24:40): Everyone can think, "I wish I could work there," or, "I love working there," or, "I really like being there," or, "I'm happy if I'm there," or, "I hate that place. That place makes me miserable. That place saps all my energy. This place gives me lots of energy." And I think the winners in real estate are going to be the people that accept that the nature of work itself is changing, and the form factor of the office needs to change with it to be able to satisfy the very specific wants, needs, and desires of their customers.
Chris Rising (00:25:20): So, let's peel this back because there's a couple of things in here that you said that I think are just really on point. But I want to get to them. This makes sure how American I am when I say this right now. But as I told you, Antony, my lovely and beautiful wife is British and from [Surrey and Esha 00:25:35] and went to Claremont and lived in London for 10 years before she moved out here. So, she sometimes teases me when I sound too American. But there is a movie of somewhat repute that I use as an example all the time. And it's the movie with Dolly Parton called Nine To Five. Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton.
Chris Rising (00:25:58): And the story is, the middle aged woman gets divorced. She goes to work at a company. And you have to watch this because you can see what offices were built for in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Huge areas for typists and the executive all male were off somewhere. And that is most of the office product ... Not most, but it is a large percentage of the office product was built for that way you work. There was a very small percentage that is built the way Apple just built their spaceship or the way people are building Net Zero buildings today.
Chris Rising (00:26:34): And so, one can very quickly see why going to a 70s, 80s, 90s era building was depressing in and of itself if it didn't mean anything and also meeting of the needs of the way people are working today. And when I started as a young lawyer in the early 90s, I think I had a computer on my desk that was really just a digital typewriter. We had Word processing. I mean, they still had ash trays. And I look back now. But these are the buildings that people are still leasing in Los Angeles and New York and Chicago. So, those are in real trouble and they have to be reimagined.
Chris Rising (00:27:15): So, everything you just said just really hits home. The one thing you didn't say, which about the way people have developed, is the security aspect. And I think we are just turning a blind eye right now to this work from home. It's coming out now how the patches of Zoom has these issues, and those are all really not your computer issues. It's really issues around home WiFi that are totally unsecure. And nobody's really focused yet on why Apple insists that everything gets done at Apple, because there are hackers around the world trying to hit Apple and Google. And so, the security piece of what you have to do with technology I think is going to be very determinative, because the work that gets done is going to be very, very important intellectual property and you can't have that get stolen, because I'm working on my home WiFi that the cable company put in, because that's how they do it.
Chris Rising (00:28:10): Hackers don't drive down streets right now, haven't been driving down streets at 2:00 in the afternoon to try to hack homes because nobody was there to work there. Well, now that everybody's there to work there, you know what they're going to be doing is driving down the streets doing a direct access attack through your home WiFi, get right into your computer, and then have total access to your company's data. And offices are going to be important to prevent that, in my opinion. I don't know how you look at it.
Antony Slumbers (00:28:37): You clearly make a very good point. But I think you actually inadvertently make another point about the problem with remote working. And that is that remote working in reality doesn't work unless your company is set up for it.
Chris Rising (00:28:56): Yes.
Antony Slumbers (00:28:56): Whether your processes, your organization, your mindset, your culture is set up for it. And security is an absolute starter point at that. Now, what you're saying about the security is 100% true. But it is a known problem and it is actually a solved problem. The essential, without getting too nerdy about it, the essential difference is that we're going to move security to the endpoint, rather than a big wall around everything.
Chris Rising (00:29:30): I agree.
Antony Slumbers (00:29:30): The way-
Chris Rising (00:29:31): I agree, but we haven't done it yet. And I agree that there are things like Box that are encrypted and you can be safe there. But most companies right now have a server somewhere that someone's accessing from a WiFi point in their home. And that is totally vulnerable.
Antony Slumbers (00:29:47): No, it's completely dangerous. But as I say, it's in ... Well, I'll give you an example, it's quite funny. My son is currently doing a machine learning masters at UCL in London. And his girlfriend just started working for a big fashion company. And when we all got sent home two weeks ago, it was total chaos in her company because it was impossible for anyone to work outside the four walls of their building, literally impossible. No one could work. So, everyone got sent home and essentially the company stopped.
Antony Slumbers (00:30:27): Now, since then, they have managed probably a workaround. But essentially, that is the point. They're completely set up, if you like, in an old way. I mean, my son just said, "I don't understand this, dad. How does this happen? This is just ridiculous." And I said, "You wait until you hit the workplace, Ollie, you'll be surprised actually how many companies are like that." Now, if you have a company like that, it simply will not work working remotely.
Antony Slumbers (00:31:03): The point about all of this is that companies need to evolve where remote and the office are friend, not foe. It's not a binary question. Everyone tries to frame it as a binary question in the same way people try to frame open plan offices as a binary. They just say, "Open plan offices are evil." Well, an open plan office which is nothing but open plan is evil, but that's just a badly designed office. But remote and the office are there to solve different problems and should be thought of as friends, not foe. But you have to set up your company, not least of all your management structure.
Antony Slumbers (00:31:50): And it's interesting if you go around the world and you look at the degrees of management by presenteeism. The different countries are much stricter on, if I can't see you, you're not working. And other companies are completely not like that. The interesting thing about working remotely is the whole way of management actually changes because the only way to manage is by output because I can't see Chris. I don't know what you're doing all day. And I'm not going to stick a camera in your house. But I know what you told me you were going to do, and I know when you told me you were going to do it by.
Antony Slumbers (00:32:30): So, you're absolutely right on the security. If I could say the flip side of this though in terms of offices, and again where the winners within real estate are going to win. So, first off, and again, this is the point I mentioned right at the beginning of this. This is not necessarily advice for the next couple of months. I understand when the world's on fire, you can ignore a lot of this until things get settled. But once we're past this, you're going to need spaces that enable people to be as productive as they can be.
Antony Slumbers (00:33:08): But you're also going to need spaces that have the technology they need. So, we will start throwing in 5G networks all over the place. We will have a lot more data about our buildings, which will help us run them much better in terms of understanding how the building works, how they use, and who's using it. That in turn is a massive security problem. But again, it's where real estate has to become more than just real estate.
Antony Slumbers (00:33:36): I have a phrase that I use, which is that the real estate business is no longer about real estate. Now, it always has an asterisk after it because I always use the caveat that of course it's about real estate. It's about everything. You need to know everything you know about real estate now. But that is necessarily not sufficient because in the future, you're going to need to know about data and IOT networks and workplace design and hospitality and HR and all these whole new sort of service wrapper because my aim as a real estate person should not be to rent you office space, because no company actually wants an office. What a company wants is a productive workforce.
Antony Slumbers (00:34:19): So, how can I as a real estate person in my buildings set them up that I can say to you, "This building is going to make you more productive than if you go in that building down there?" And it's the same price.
Chris Rising (00:34:35): Yeah, and I would add, it'll not only make you more productive, it's going to be a healthy, safe place to be. And I think what's been ... I mean, the irony of some things out in the world today just blows me away. You can go into a market today and pick out a sandwich. And on that sandwich, it'll say how many calories are in there and sugar and all that other kind of stuff. You walk into an office building or an apartment building, there's nothing that says, "Hey, this is what the quality of the water was. This is the last time things were wiped down. This is the last ..." And I think that's going to be demanded. I mean, I think you're going to walk into a building and there's going to be a digital scoreboard of sorts, just because it's going to take us a long time to come back from the fear of this plague and future pandemics. And so, anyway, I think it shows it's not just how productive, it's how safe my workers are going to be.
Antony Slumbers (00:35:27): No, no, but that is absolutely true. And that's the way we all have to think about the future, because these were trends that were happening anyway. All this stuff was building up, people were starting to pay more attention to sustainability and health and wellbeing and all that. What is happening now is turbo charging us. My friend Dror Poleg says we've actually skipped five years. This is like fast forward us five years. And so, part of the brand of your office is going to be the environmental conditions that you provide me.
Antony Slumbers (00:36:04): So, if I come into one of your buildings, I know you're air quality is going to be really good, the noise is going to be set right, the temperature's going to be right, the lighting's going to be right. I know you're going to clean the place religiously. I know you're going to wipe everything down. I know you're going to do air filtration, everything to look after me. And that's part of the reason I'm coming to you because if I'm going to go into that building over there and they can't show me that they're going to do that, well they might be killing me.
Antony Slumbers (00:36:37): I know this is ridiculously exaggerated thing to do, but it might not be. Buildings can ... You know, unhealthy buildings are unhealthy. And we're sort of realizing that this stuff matters. So, it's all part of the brand. But it's the great differentiator. This is the upside to things. So, the right sort of office is going to provide me with a space and maybe tools that I can't get at home anyway.
Antony Slumbers (00:37:08): So, for instance, maybe we want to do a podcast with five people. That's going to be really difficult to do from here. I want a podcast room. So, I want to go into my building and I want to rent a podcast room for an hour, or I want to be doing more video because video is more and more used as a marketing tool. But that's where I go. So, it all becomes part of the health and wellbeing and sustainability has gone to the top of the heap, because I think what's happening now is actually a big flag to what's going to happen a bit further down the line when we hit climate change problems. We're going to have the same, "Oh my god," moment. And big things are going to have to change. But just going back to-
Chris Rising (00:37:51): Well-
Antony Slumbers (00:37:51): Sorry.
Chris Rising (00:37:57): Just to hit you on that, our focus has been three things, carbon reduction in everything we buy, trying to get to net zero, health and wellness, and social. Before we move a little bit more into the social, I do want to zero in a little bit because you were talking ... There were a lot of themes of space as a service in what you just said. And we agree, I think, conceptually on it. And I just was, for my own personal reasons having met Adam Newman over the years, was really anti We Work. But we were talking about space as a service concepts.
Chris Rising (00:38:24): One of the things that I don't think people understand about work from home, if I am truly going to set up my CFO to work from home, that would be like setting up a satellite office for a bank branch, because you know what she does? She approves money wire transfers. She has all the books on all the company, everything we do. She ... We'll just all be on video. I'm going to have to make an investment in her home to securitize it the same way a bank would be. And I just don't think people get that.
Chris Rising (00:39:01): I mean, if you're writing blog posts like you and I do a lot, I mean, yeah, if somebody hacks us, it's inconvenient. But if you're in charge of distributing money or there's a lot of personal information or you're a healthcare company, what about the fact that ... I mean, just the irony of the fact that some of these hedge funds now who are telling me, "Well, I think office is dead." I'm like, "You're the most regulated business in the world. What do you mean it's dead?" Are you going to ... Because the reality is, to make it all work from home, you're going to have to have every employee's home be a remote office. So, you're bringing in fast WiFi, you're bringing in all this stuff. And guess what? They could quit the next day and leave, and you've just upgraded their home so they can watch Netflix faster.
Chris Rising (00:39:41): So, I think people just are ... And it's okay, I know we're scared right now and work from home. We have to do it to save everybody. And we're just hoping nobody gets hacked too much. But there's a whole group of evil people out there who are setting up and just licking their chops for the idea that the CFO's going to work from her home WiFi, transfer a million dollars. I mean, it's unbelievable to me.
Antony Slumbers (00:40:03): There absolutely is. But I have a feeling that when I think about remote, I'm not necessarily thinking about at home. So, I'm thinking remote from HQ. So, as an example, you see I live 35 miles south of London. And there's a fast train out if I go into town, or there's a slow train quite near me, which is quite comfortable. It takes 50 minutes. So, it takes me an hour and a half to get to see someone in London. And then an hour and a half back. So, that's three hours. Now, there's got to be a good reason for me to go three hours.
Antony Slumbers (00:40:43): Now, I'm very lucky. I happen to have a fantastic, really fantastic office at the end of my garden. And in my last house, I had a fantastic office in my loft in my attic. Most people of course, do not have that. What I think is much more likely is, and this maybe is a UK thing, I don't know. But we have a big problem with our High Streets because everyone goes on about the High Street is dying because there's too much retail. There's too much retail in the UK. And America has three times as much retail as we do. So, there's massively too much retail.
Antony Slumbers (00:41:26): But there's no reason why a lot of that retail cannot be converted into localized office. Now, at the Lendlease, you know the big Australian massive global company, but Australian. They sent me something a couple of days ago, Paul Bailey who sort of deals with a lot of their digital stuff, really smart. But he sent me something that they started last year. I think they call it Local by Lendlease or local something. And what they've done for their customers, they have built little offices in strategic locations where their customers, employees work. So, in Sydney, they have one particular area in Sydney, which is, if you like Lendlease town, big, beautiful, top of the market office blocks. And they obviously know where people come in from.
Antony Slumbers (00:42:28): So, they have built a series of drop in places much closer to where people live. And they're not run as coworking, they're run as places where you can go to, to do focus work, or frankly just to chill. And there is the thing of, if you have young kids in the house, it's very hard to work. People do need to get away from each other. And so, what they've done is they've said, "Let's take the mountain to Mohammed." And I think you will get a lot of that. So, I often think if you think of an office traditionally and you had say 300 staff, you'd lease a building that you could fit 300 people in and away you go. And everyone would go to the same place.
Antony Slumbers (00:43:16): But nowadays, you're more likely to let somewhere that maybe 150 people go to all the time. And then, some flex space and meeting type space, people work in third places, home, or somewhere else. And I think, again, from a real estate company's point of view, you need to start thinking in terms of how can I insert myself in my customer's complete needs? So, I want to let them this 100,000 square feet. But I know they need all these other things as well. So, is there some way? Is there some sort of ecosystem or network of partners I can develop where part of my offering is boom, "Have my building, and you want 40,000 hours a week in flex space? Well, we've got a special deal with XYZ. You want local places where your people ... We'll sort it all out for you."
Antony Slumbers (00:44:13): So, trying to think of the end user as the customer and then owning the relationship with that person. So, I think that's probably more likely exactly because of what you're saying about the security aspect. So, when you start getting serious and putting senior people, as you say, moving money around. Why did you rob the bank? Well, that's where the money is.
Chris Rising (00:44:43): Exactly right. That's a great quote. So, what you're talking about what Lendlease is doing is something that the old equity office and now the new EQ under the terrific leadership of Lisa Picard is talking more about too. So, they started with, if you lease a space in Los Angeles, we can use the same lease to go to Chicago. And it was all about signing big leases with national law firms and such. But I think exactly what you just said is ... I think when the polls are all taken on this work from home, the number one thing people are going to say is that, "I liked it because I didn't have to commute." And I think that companies over and over again are going to say, "Okay, I think the traditional business hours are over. There are tasks that truly can be done at home." And there are also tasks that can be done by groups where people live. And that's where the question is really, does coworking do it? I don't think so.
Chris Rising (00:45:38): I think it'll be landlords who take workout deals with their lenders. And I think this is a huge opportunity for all of us on our loans going forward when we buy things to say, "Look, I'm going to take a floor to make that kind of coworking, but for identified, not anybody off the street," because I do think there's going to be a lot of concern about health and wellness and those kind of things. But for landlords that come in and say, "Hey, look, I'll buy 200 hours of this for my people. And they can work here two days a week. And three days a week, we're all going to come together from 10:00 to 2:00," and do the kind of meetings you discussed.
Chris Rising (00:46:15): So, I've heard Lisa talk about things like that. I think that's absolutely where things will go. But, now I'm going to say this big but. You started this by saying that working from home is very different than working in an office. The skillsets are different, how you operate in a day is different. And I really want to dive into that. Yesterday, I did a webinar for a few hundred people. It was How Do You Manage People Who Work From Home? And what I tried to explain to people is, if you take the mentality that I can manage people like I do when I see them for eight hours a day and run into them, you're going to fail and you've probably already failed.
Chris Rising (00:47:03): I have a lot of thoughts about it. But you've been doing this remote working. And I like to call it mobile remote, just like you do, for a long time. What are the basics for you? I have to assume, number one, you've digitized everything for a long time, so you're not carrying paper to and fro. I have to imagine that you have ... While you use email for the outside world, you must have other things because email's not trackable. You must have some project stuff. Give me your basics on how one can successfully work mobily?
Antony Slumbers (00:47:33): I actually built a whole online working system for my own company. And we had project management in it and contact management and image management and all these sorts of things. The essential point is ... The first point is you have to have a company where you trust each other. If there is no trust within the company and the employees and their managers, it ain't going to work. You have to start from a position of trust. And then, I actually really love the three things that Daniel Pink wrote about in his book Drive about what motivates people. And he says, there's a fantastic TED Talk, Daniel Pink, What Motivates People? That he did quite a few years ago.
Antony Slumbers (00:48:36): But he bought it down to three things, purpose, autonomy, and mastery. So, these are three things that if you are a remote company or distributed company, which is the fairer point, you need first of all ... This works when you have a company that has a purpose that people buy into. They're buying into your culture, your ethos. They like your company, they like your products. You do need to be that sort of company, I think.
Antony Slumbers (00:49:07): And then autonomy, you have to take a process of, you've got to trust people to do things as they want to do them. And mastery is giving them the tools to do it. So, everyone ... it always amazes me the awful technology so many companies give their employees, you know? Crappy, cheap laptops and bad connectivity. You have to have great connectivity, great equipment, all the best software and all that. But this stuff is cheap now. You don't need to go out and spend tens of thousands of pounds or dollars on this stuff. It's all on demand.
Antony Slumbers (00:49:52): You also need to work in smallish groups, which is probably true anyway. As Jeff Bezos always says this thing about, "I don't want any group that I can't feed with two pizzas." And they need to be multifunctional teams. So, you break down silos and this team has all the components it needs, all the intellectual capital, experience, and domain knowledge it needs to do what it is being tasked with doing. You need to be very, very clear on outputs. And you need to communicate really, really well. It's really important to communicate. You can't just bark instructions at people with email. You have to explain things. You have to be clear. And you have to communicate a lot.
Antony Slumbers (00:50:46): And those are really the starting points. There's actually a terrific podcast with Matt Mullenweg, who is the founder of Automattic who are the company behind WordPress, who are responsible for 36% of all the websites in the world are built on WordPress. There's 1,200 employees in 75 countries and is 100% remote and always has been 100% remote. Now, they are a very particular type of company. And it's no surprise that they're a software company.
Antony Slumbers (00:51:29): But if you listen to someone like him, it is really interesting how he talks about the importance of communication, clarity, trust, purpose, autonomy, mastery. That's how you're set up. And all the measurement is on output. "This is what we're going to do. Do you agree?" "Yes, I am going to deliver this in X." And then, if you don't, you haven't done what you said you were going to do. And then you have to explain it. But in some ways, it slows you down. But in some ways, it speeds you up. It slows you down in the sense of there's a lot of things you can just jam everyone in a room and you can make a decision in an hour.
Antony Slumbers (00:52:18): But in a distributed company, you actually give voices to some of the people who are less noisy in meetings. So, it tends to be, people like me talk too much. And you have people like me or you have the HIPOs, you know? The highest paid people, and the extroverts, and they dominate meetings. And then you have all the introverts, who are 50% of the population who don't say too much or they're the females who are always more reticent amongst noisy men or people who just like to think about things a lot more.
Antony Slumbers (00:52:51): So, sometimes it slows you down. But you probably end up with better decision making. But again, this is the non-binary thing of distributed and the office. You do your stuff, you communicate in your small teams, and then you get your team together. Then you get your team together, and you concentrate on the outputs. Define the outputs together and then go off and do it and then come back and define them some more and refine them as a group, and then go. And then, really you have a lot of clarity. The whole notion that it's lonely and you don't talk to anyone, you do. A company that uses this sort of technology well talks to each other all the time, they never stop.
Chris Rising (00:53:43): Yes. You know, we find ... First of all, I don't know if you've read the book Traction by Gino Wickman, but it's the entrepreneur's operating system. And it's a book that we use as the structure of ... It's really the operating system for our company. And in that book, one of the things they talk about is you have a 10-year vision, a three-year plan, you have a one-year plan. And then you break that down into quarterly plans and you break that into the weekly. And we're very focused on process. And process is always being refined. But our project management system we use Asana. We're a Google kind of backbone company.
Chris Rising (00:54:21): And what we find is, as wonderful as that is, and we follow these process, right next to that page of Asana being opened is our Google Hangouts. And people literally have the video camera going if they're working on a team and constantly communicating. We've chosen not to use Slack. I think Slack is a wonderful product, especially for people who are programmers and coders. For us, it was just one more channel of noise. But what we find is, is that our accountants ... And I hope we get to the day when AI can run accounting the way ... And you don't need people. But I'll tell you, it's not even close to there. And our people need to communicate and understand why this invoice came in, what was paid, why was it paid? How do we manage cash? And so, I've really been impressed with my team's ability to use Google Hangouts video along with our project management, and then our weekly meetings. And it's all worked.
Chris Rising (00:55:22): I'll tell you the interesting thing is, under this process you have to rate every meeting. And you want everything to be a 10. And if it's not a 10, you have to say why. And we consistently get 10s when we're face to face.
Antony Slumbers (00:55:34): So Ray Dalio thing?
Chris Rising (00:55:35): Yeah, it's very similar to Ray. But we consistently got 10s in the last year in the office. Now most people say, "Hey, I think this was a great meeting, but I'm going to give it a nine because I'd rather be in the room with you." So, I think that's different. This has been such a great conversation. And I wanted to zero in on a couple things that I think are going to be harsh realities. And I'd love to get your thought on it.
Chris Rising (00:56:02): I have been amazed about how many small ... I had no idea how many small businesses were so ill-prepared for this. I have always, and it's maybe just because of the world I live, and I think of a small business as a small tech firm, bunch of millennials, maybe a Gen Xer there. They can throw their feet up, their computer is their office and everything works great. And I was like, "Well, people will have no problem." But the reality is, most small businesses, and I'm not talking retail. I'm talking lawyers, accountants, consultants, graphic artists, those kind of people who have been running small businesses for a long time where they hadn't digitized anything. They didn't really understand, "Well, we'll just email," and that kind of stuff.
Chris Rising (00:56:49): I am of the opinion that we are going to have a massive reeducation of people from about 50 to 65 who are still going to work. And that's going to cause a lot of social disruption. But if they don't do it, I just don't know how they'll be able to be productive, lead productive working lives. What's your view on that?
Antony Slumbers (00:57:11): I think what tends to happen in different industries at different times is you come to a moment where you suddenly find your competition is not 10% better than you, it's 10X better than you. You suddenly find someone can do things which are way, way better than you. So, you're then not fighting the same game that maybe you could win because you've got a strong relationship or you can change the monetary terms a little bit. You're so far out, you're going to lose.
Antony Slumbers (00:57:51): And I think that's what's going to happen within real estate, that ... Again, I'm saying this from a position ... I'm not blaming anyone like this because real estate is full of a lot of very wealthy people and they've got very wealthy people doing what in many ways you think, "Well, that's incredibly Luddite," but it's worked. It's worked for the market they've been in.
Antony Slumbers (00:58:14): But we haven't had anything but good times for 10 years, have we? So, everyone has just been coasting along optimizing their businesses more and more, so they've got no talent. Nassim Nicholas Taleb talks about anti-fragile. They have no robustness. They can't deal with anything but perfection. The whole stock markets have been priced for perfection. And this has blown it all up. And suddenly, you're going to need to pivot very quickly. And I do think, as I say, there's this shortish period at the moment, hopefully shortish, when it's fire fighting and it's protecting all sides.
Antony Slumbers (00:59:06): But what we've been talking about earlier is going to come to pass once we move through this. Now, how are you going to deliver that unless you're a fully digitized company that has engaged employees who have purpose, who have autonomy, who have mastery, who know why you are doing what you're doing. And I was very struck reading your website. It's very, very clear what your company stands for. You can't miss it. And I can't see how, if you work for your company, you've got to buy into that. Otherwise, why work for you? And you must employ people who do buy into that. And you're essentially a digitized company.
Chris Rising (00:59:53): Yes.
Antony Slumbers (00:59:53): You're still absolutely and quintessentially a real estate company. But to be 10X better than someone without a great purpose who thinks of real estate as four walls and dollars per square foot and what's the cap rate? And that's the end of it, it's going to be really, really difficult when the market gets tougher and you really have to compete for occupiers and sell them on something better.
Chris Rising (01:00:24): You know, you just hit on something that is driving me nuts right now, which is, as you can imagine, every private equity firm in the world is saying, "We've got a price reduction. Things are 20-30% less. Let's go buy these with just less and we'll just sell them for more." And I keep trying to tell people, it's not going to be that simple because everything may be worth 20-30% less now. But when people go back to work, you're going to have buildings that are not worth less 20%, they're obsolete because people are just going to use everything they can to get out because this building doesn't provide what it wants. And there are going to be buildings that are worth 100% more because they saw this early.
Chris Rising (01:01:05): But right now, it's this vulture mentality and let's just go buy a bunch of stuff. And I said, "But if you're not going to execute, if you're not going to do the things on a value add play that we talk about." And you know, impact is alpha is what we believe. And impact to us, I've said it before, but it's the backbone of technology, but it's efficient buildings so that the carbon footprint is reduced, it's health and wellness in buildings and it's social community. If you do those things, we will track people because people still will want to have the office.
Chris Rising (01:01:36): And we've talked so much about this. But you know, because I tend to do more on office, we haven't really talked about hotel and we haven't talked about residential, multi-family. I'll leave industrial for another conversation. I think industrial is in a whole new world that we're going to be very positive. But the innovation I think that's going to happen in logistics over the next four or five years out of this is going to be unbelievable. But let's just talk about the hotel industry is dead.
Chris Rising (01:02:05): I mean, if people have 2% occupancy, it's because they have frontline workers staying there. So, hotels are going to have to come back from the dead. And for the first time, multi-family literally has people who cannot pay rent. And we're going to have to try to solve that. But where do you think technology and prop tech plays with hotel and multi-family going forward?
Antony Slumbers (01:02:39): I think the hotel situation is very, very interesting. And just to start off with, I have never had anything to do with hotels. So, I'm largely talking through a hunch, rather than experience here. Clearly they have a massive problem at the moment. But it's quite interesting. If you do a thought experiment of ... And again, I did this with Dror Poleg. He says, "Who's going to be worth more in five years, Airbnb or Marriott? And who do you think is better positioned for a post-COVID world, Marriott or Airbnb?"
Antony Slumbers (01:03:18): Now, in one way ... I mean, they're both hit in exactly the same way at the moment. But going back to what we were talking about earlier in terms of brand and values and what you stand for and what I can expect from you, I might be able to go into a hotel brand knowing that that room has been cleaned to perfection. There are, I know they look after their air quality, I know they look after their environmental conditions. I know I am not going to get anything in this building.
Antony Slumbers (01:03:48): I'm going to go into an Airbnb apartment, I have no idea. I literally have no idea. I don't know if it's clean or dirty. We don't know yet how much people will psychologically start thinking like that. So, I'm so glad I'm not in the hotel world at the moment. It must be a nightmare. I don't know what you do. I honestly do not ... You can't do anything, can you? You just have no customers at the moment. But I am still a believer ... A lot of people think and say, "Well, this is all going to mean we're going to travel a lot less, so hotels won't be so busy," etc. etc.
Antony Slumbers (01:04:31): I don't think that's true. I think we will cut down a lot on local travel. And in the US, local travel probably means a short flight. But maybe carry on a lot more with longer travel. So, if I'm speaking from a European perspective, I and other people, I think, will certainly look to reduce their commuting time and do less travel in that sort of way. But are we going to stop traveling, going over to Paris or Berlin or Madrid or wherever? I don't think so. People like travel. It broadens the mind and it's good for you.
Chris Rising (01:05:12): Yep.
Antony Slumbers (01:05:13): And it's a good thing for society for people to get out of where they are, you know?
Chris Rising (01:05:18): Yeah, I agree.
Antony Slumbers (01:05:18): The more varied positions. So, hotels, I would suspect my instinct would be if I could buy a great hotel building now, I probably would. If I was longterm money and there was an opportunity to buy a fabulous building in a great location in a great city and I'm not bothered about what's going to happen over the next two years, I don't know, it's got to be attractive, doesn't it?
Antony Slumbers (01:05:49): So, in terms of technology, there's lots of technology that can be employed into hotel buildings to look after environmental conditions and obviously sustainability. There's loads and loads of things if we are actually going to take that stuff seriously. And really, the same applies with multi-family. There's whole layers of services that we can apply into multi-family. I always think about these things in terms of a customer journey interacting with your company. So, for a customer to do business with you, how painful is that? And broadly, across the real estate industry, it's pretty painful to deal with real estate companies, mostly. There's a lot of them that is just, why is it so hard to do this? I just want to buy your product.
Chris Rising (01:06:45): Yeah, I know. I'll tell you, coming out of the great recession, I worked at a public REIT. And I literally felt like they had brought in an insurance company to train everybody because it was basically, "Say no three times until they go away."
Antony Slumbers (01:06:58): I know.
Chris Rising (01:06:58): "My office is a little hot, could you turn it down?" "No." "Oh." You know? That's now since changed. But-
Antony Slumbers (01:07:13): I suppose there is-
Chris Rising (01:07:14): This has been wonderful, but what is-
Antony Slumbers (01:07:14): Sorry, I was-
Chris Rising (01:07:14): No, go ahead.
Antony Slumbers (01:07:14): I was just going to say-
Chris Rising (01:07:14): No, finish your-
Antony Slumbers (01:07:14): There is of course a proviso with all this. And it's the caveat I always put to the things I talk about. I do not know whether everything we've been talking about the last hour or so relates beyond ... I don't know, the top 40% of the market. So, the better cities, the better buildings, the more sophisticated companies, etc. etc. I do not know, and I'm hands up, I have not a lot of experience in dealing anything apart from basically central London, which is big-
Chris Rising (01:07:51): Yeah, I do think some of the things where we would go back and forth about coworking and space as a service, it's really prominent ... When you're talking about the city that has the highest rent, maybe Hong Kong is there, how you use space has been a really big issue. It'll be interesting to see if the larger cities that have had the highest rent, but also the longest commutes and density, if people say, "You know, working suburban isn't all that bad." We'll see what happens there.
Chris Rising (01:08:20): But here's what I want to go is you and Dror are doing something pretty exciting. And I want my audience to know about it. I am going to sign up for it, or have, I think. But talk about what you and Dror have planned for all of us interested in prop tech and real estate.
Antony Slumbers (01:08:37): Yeah, Dror and I are in a way ... Actually, a friend of mine over here described Dror as my intellectual doppelganger who just happens to be in New York. He said to me, "I saw your intellectual doppelganger the other day." Dror and I have been very ... I mean, Dror has a different background, he knows an awful lot more about the money side and the investment side and the finance side of all of this than I do. But we have similar mindsets in terms of thinking about the impact of technology on real estate.
Antony Slumbers (01:09:11): And we have put together, jointly we've developed something which we call the Real Innovation Academy. And what we are trying to do with that is we're going to be providing online courses, which will explain technology to real estate people, and real estate to technology people. So, we're going to develop a set of modules around different asset classes. So, the first one we're doing is office, which is going to start in May. There's eight modules in that where we're going to go into what is the impact of technology on real estate? A lot of the stuff we talked about here is from deep diving into the meta trends that really matter. And as I say, it's a crossover thing. So, there's going to be real estate people on it and there's going to be technology people on it. And we're trying to merge the two.
Antony Slumbers (01:10:10): And then, thereafter, the idea is to create new modules dealing with other asset classes. So, that is, funny enough, we were working on this quite a few months ago. And it just coincided that it was ready to go just as all this kicked off. But if people would like to go to therealinnovationacademy.com, you can find all the details of our first course, as I say, which deals with office, what the modules are, and hopefully we will see some of you there.
Chris Rising (01:10:41): Well, we are going to make sure it's on the podcast so people will have it. We will use our social media platforms. Can you tell everybody what is ... If they want to find you on social media, what's the best place?
Antony Slumbers (01:10:55): Best place for me is Antony Slumbers on Twitter. You'll find I tweet a lot. Antony Slumbers on Twitter. And my website is antonyslumbers.com. And everything about me is there. My blog is there and everything. But you can get me through the website antonyslumbers.com or hit me on Twitter.
Chris Rising (01:11:14): Thanks, Antony. Wow, we got to have you back soon. That was quite a conversation and I really enjoyed it. And please don't forget to subscribe to The Real Market with Chris Rising. You can do that on any of the podcast platforms, including Apple. Really appreciate everyone listening. I really appreciate the loyal following we've started to develop. Thanks so much.