The Real Market With Chris Rising – Ep. 30 Elie Finegold
The Real Market With Chris Rising – Ep. 30 Elie Finegold
0:01:24 CR: Welcome to the Real Market with Chris Rising, I’m really pleased to have Elie Finegold with me today. Elie is an entrepreneur, a startup advisor, a real estate guru who’s done everything from traditional real estate to marinas and development and he’s very involved in PropTech and I’m really excited to have Elie here, welcome to the show.
0:01:44 Elie Finegold: Thank you, Chris, it’s really good to be here.
0:01:45 CR: Yeah. Well tell me a little bit or tell our audience a little bit, just what’s the five-second commercial on what you’ve done in real estate and then we can talk a little bit about what you’ve done in tech.
0:01:55 EF: Well, I think it’s probably that I’ve mindlessly wandered into a bunch of random neighborhoods in real estate. I actually started out in tech and started a couple of tech companies and the second one of those was a real estate tech company which got purchased by Insignia Financial Group, which those of you who are old enough to remember will know at one point, was one of the leading publicly traded real estate companies in the world. And so I came back, I was moved to New York and became a chief innovation officer under Andrew Farkas, the Chairman and CEO and ran their portfolio of technology investments and also looked at new and interesting and creative real estate opportunities.
0:02:34 EF: We then sold Insignia, largely in bunch of pieces but most of it what became now CBRE and he and I went off and formed Island Capital Group, which now owns C-III and then AI but that’s some other people and I became president of our largest subsidiary, which was at the time, which was just us but we grew into 1,000 people over the course of about five years, which was IGY Marinas, a Global Marina Acquisitions and Development and Operation company, that vertically integrated. And we bought and built marinas from Cabo San Lucas all up and down the Caribbean, the Palm Islands in Dubai. It was a wild, wild five years.
0:03:09 CR: You must have spent a lot of time on airplanes during that period of your life.
0:03:12 EF: You have no idea, it’s the only time I got any sleep.
0:03:15 CR: Well, you know our paths crossed at one point, when you were doing Insignia and the real estate technology because I was the right hand kind of Office of the President for John Cushman.
0:03:27 EF: Really?
0:03:28 CR: And one of my favorite stories about that time with John was attending a meeting with Julien Studley and his kind of right-hand person, Andrew Farkas, I’m sure you were in the room.
0:03:40 EF: Yep, I was.
0:03:40 CR: And John Cushman and I and the purpose was to say, can the small guys create technology to compete against… ” Really, with that time, it was the global firms that we were… So, it was Jones Lang and I remember this meeting because Julien Studley and John Cushman would get into these raging arguments about real estate deals, never really focusing on the technology and there was Andrew going, “Gentlemen, gentlemen, can we talk about the real estate?”
0:04:09 EF: That is unbelievably funny because I remember those meetings and Julien was… That’s such a wonderful man. But I actually… That probably drove Insignia to join Octane, which I then became the Chairman of. Octane was a consortium of Jones Lang LaSalle, Insignia, Trammell Crow and CBRE which functioned about as well as you would expect when you have four of the world’s biggest competitors and they’re real estate people in the same room together trying to do technology.
0:04:38 CR: Now did any of the other… I’m trying to… I don’t quite recall… I don’t think LoopNet existed. Did any of…
0:04:44 EF: LoopNet was just getting started, Dennis DeAndre was still CEO I think at that time. CoStar was beginning to spin up in a big way. There was a company called Property First, John Stanfill. But these are all sort of ghosts of Christmas past at this point.
0:05:00 CR: Well John and my father went to UCLA together and have been close friends and John kind of… They got bought by LoopNet. But I still remember, this is probably 2000-ish and there was a need, everyone understood there was a need to use technology in real estate but everybody’s mindset then was so proprietary nobody wanted to share and I think it was that mentality that led to CoStar. And we all look at the world today and I can’t… You look at the market cap of CoStar and the fact that they don’t produce any of the information, they receive it, it’s just unbelievable to me that out of those meetings, something more didn’t come of it.
0:05:40 EF: Well, we tried and it’s hard to get… At the end of the day, it’s not that hard to get the big corporate competitors together, we actually function pretty well and in fact the relationships that were formed around Octane are a lot of what led eventually to CBRE as we know it today with Trammell Crow and Insignia coming together because we all got along, we all get along with JLL as well, that’s how the ball bounced.
0:06:05 EF: The harder part really was extracting and by the way, this was true when I left CBRE just a few years ago, I assume it is still today. The hardest part was not getting the strategic competitors, the global corporations to cooperate, it was extracting the oil of information from the vast tracts of land of the brokerage operations that we had and so when I was at CBRE, I spent a lot of my time trying to figure out how do we adjust our business model and our processes in such a way that we can actually generate all of this data that we have because when you say that the brokerages have a lot of data, it’s kind of true. When you say the brokers have a lot of the data, it was totally true and that’s a big distinction.
0:06:50 EF: So yeah, there was a giant market opportunity left because, and this is something I’ve been banging the drum on for years, at the end of the day a brokerage and a service company is really a data company and that’s what allows it to become a technology company.
0:07:05 CR: That’s very true. Well, I think my impression as a consumer of services from brokerage firms is that they share information in a totally different way than the way I grew up in the business. I think the days of people thinking they could keep things on 3×5 cards and lock their office and they would have information that other people don’t, those are gone. Those days are totally gone.
0:07:25 CR: The suits and ties are pretty much gone and you’re seeing these companies operate as though technology is their business, as opposed to it being some sort of tool that they use but when you look at where you sit today, being an advisor to start-ups and still participating with PropTech in a big way, what do you see the role of technology in real estate being in 2019 going into 2020?
0:07:50 EF: I think that the role of technology in real estate is increasingly going to be to allow real estate to adapt more rapidly to the changing environment of the greater world around it. I think that what we moved from is, if we started with tools that enabled brokerages, then we moved to tools that enabled brokers, then we moved to the VTSs and the CompStaks and the Hightowers, all of whom I’ve worked with since their beginning and did a great job. But they sort of allowed us to turn what was… It’s still a people business on the transactional side but on the data side it was a people business, into a real data business and we now have some of the foundation within our industry to start building new things.
0:08:31 EF: But I think what we’re seeing now and this is most manifest in things like co-working and co-living and all of these things but I think it’s going to be increasingly connected to our supply chain, a logistics chain. Is that the way that people are living… We saw the way people working change dramatically and we sometimes forget how dramatically it’s changed. Here’s a fun fact. I’ve got my AirPod 2s here. The Apple H1 chip in one AirPod is the same power as the iPhone 4.
0:09:01 CR: It’s unbelievable.
0:09:02 EF: Isn’t that unbelievable?
0:09:03 CR: I was ready for you to say, “Oh, it was the same size as what was in the Apollo missions.”
0:09:06 EF: No.
0:09:06 CR: But no, it’s that exponential…
0:09:09 EF: The exponential growth and so one of the… I used to give a speech called, “Linear Assets in an Exponential World” which is real estate is built brick by brick we always say, right? And how do you adapt a product that is relatively fixed to a world which is changing very rapidly and I think that the answer is going to be largely through technology. I think it’s also the answer is, it’s not going to change as rapidly as the world around us but people are going to adapt to that modular change.
0:09:35 CR: I would add something else to what you just said. I think it’s got the potential to grow much more rapidly if we use open-source, if we put together all of our technology. I am always concerned who’s trying to stop that, who is trying to close the doors. Because there’s just a generation that’s out there that’s gonna demand that real estate operate in the way they want it to, and today we say it’s an iPhone, who knows what it’ll be eventually or an Android phone but nobody wants to have to have an extra card key or…
0:10:09 CR: Those are simple examples. Nobody wants to be able to get charged for office space they’re not using. I mean, that’s where it’s… The Airbnb of office spaces, if it hasn’t already hit, it’s coming really strong. So the question is, are the big developers and the big owners in real estate gonna put up gates, which I feel like they still are doing or are they gonna be more open to it? And part of that is, are we gonna all share our… Do you use open-source to do that?
0:10:37 EF: There’s two big questions here. One is the data question and one is the future of reality question. So let me start with the data question. I think that we’ve seen, at least I’ve been through several companies and I’ve been fortunate enough to be a global innovation leader for both Insignia and then for the last, since 2010, for six years, a global innovation leader at CBRE and I’ve seen us and other companies do both and sometimes closing your doors is a good strategic move. There’s times when defending the business and defending the mode of the business makes sense.
0:11:09 EF: There’s also times when you need to open up to expand and to build trade networks and I know that I’m getting all philosophical about civilization here but I think, I agree with you very much that the enabling data and technologies that are going to allow real estate owners and operators to really thrive will require compatibility. You just can’t have a bunch of different systems running around.
0:11:31 EF: And I wrote recently an article in Propmodo called Our Frictionless Future which, if anybody wants to spend a good hour thinking deeply about the future and listening to me make terrible jokes, I highly recommend. But we talk about the miracle of containerization. Containerization was developed in, I can’t remember, 1968. It became adopted as an international standard in only 1972 and those economic areas that adopted containerization, which is essentially a standard, grew 700% over the next 20 years in terms of economic trade activity, 700%.
0:12:04 EF: So standardization between anything creates… Reduces the frictional cost of moving stuff around and connecting it and doing that allows you to create whole new apps. So you’d think about, this is tiny cost of just moving stuff on and off of ships led to the global trade era as we know it today.
0:12:23 CR: Well what’s amazing in what you just said is, you look back and you go, “Of course. Why not?”
0:12:27 EF: How did nobody think of this before?
0:12:29 CR: And yet, I feel like in the technology and especially within real estate, where the PropTech is, people are still not having that aha moment. It’s, I get approached with an investment opportunity about a building software, whatever it is, emergency or building maintenance system and so often, it’s we’re gonna make sure that it’s just for you. We’re gonna make sure cause you gotta worry about terrorism, you gotta worry about this and I start going, but if we standardize a lot of this stuff, then it has the equal effect. It’s all standards so no one can really screw with it either.
0:13:01 EF: Well and also you get economies of scale not only for your business but across the business when that happens. So one of the things that I’ve seen as a strategy is companies, is large corporations or large owner operators will try to sort of take a technology or a new company and try to take it captive and what inevitably winds up happening, it’s always the same thing, which is the capital that they can pour in to support their business pales in the comparison to the capital that can be poured in to support every business and so that’s always a losing proposition. People always sort of try it and the only real, I think, in this environment, the only real sustainable competitive advantage is the ability to adapt your organization rapidly.
0:13:41 EF: If you can adapt your organization rapidly then you don’t need to take captive a technology because you know that you can deploy it faster and you can always be ahead of the curve and you’re gonna be able to do it the next time and the next time and the next time. There’s no silver bullet. There’s simply getting really good at firing the gun over and over again.
0:13:57 CR: So let me ask you, just in general, as you look at technology in real estate, do we have the chance where we suffer from the blah-ness of it all because people are trying to get it standardized and therefore it loses it’s aesthetic effect or it’s not as beautiful. Can they go hand-in-hand? I mean, Apple has shown you can do beautiful pieces of technology. What about in real estate?
0:14:24 CR: This just really sort of gets to a larger question. The first thing I would say is I just heard somebody say this a couple weeks ago, an author named Greg Lindsay who I sort of argue with all the time.
0:14:32 CR: Yeah, I watch you on Twitter go back and forth.
0:14:34 EF: Yeah we have great discussions.
0:14:35 CR: And he’s a big AOC fan I know.
0:14:37 EF: He is a big AOC fan but we don’t argue about that. I mean he and I… When I say argue, we’re good friends but he’s like, the whole world is becoming a coffee shop and when you think back to Starbucks and their third place, that was really the first manifestation of what we’re seeing now and what we thought was a third place is now actually the place. So everything, every place you go… I have a presentation that I just did the other day, where I had a picture of a woman sitting in a sort of nicely designed space with an iPad in front of her and headphones in and I asked people, what’s she doing?
0:15:09 EF: Was she watching TV, was she shopping? Was she creating an x-rated piece of art? Was she talking to her mother? Was she doing her homework? Anything, right? You could be doing anything and where was she? Cause she could stay at a hotel? Was that her living room? Was that her apartment? Was that her office? Was it a restaurant? It could have been anything and so I do think that there is, people are getting interoperable and that we can move in and out of spaces. We’re no longer, those of us are working in the information economy are no longer dependent on the physical location of the means of production, not to pull out a little bit of Marxist political economic philosophy here but the means of production always dictated where we went.
0:15:45 EF: Now we know we have been decluttered, we have come un-stuffed and we don’t need all of that stuff and that’s a profound change. So I think that the question is, is we’re watching this change happen with people and now that’s started to force real change in the way that we operate real estate. We’re watching all of the big companies, all of the big owners trying to figure out how to build more flexible options, more co-working-like options, more community options, more amenity options so that’s been forced, I think, by the change in the way that people have used real estate and I think the next big change, if you wanna look over the horizon a little bit, is the change in the way that things connect with real estate.
0:16:27 EF: I’ve talked a lot about the coming of autonomous transportation, which by the way, I gotta stop here, it’s not driverless cars. That’s like when Henry Ford said, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would’ve asked for faster horses.” When we think of autonomous vehicles and we think of driverless cars, we’re putting new technology into an old mentality. We’re talking about a lot of different things moving, a lot of different machines moving a lot of different things. So I’d like to say, think of it as autonomous robots, R2-D2, a lightsaber carrying autonomous vehicle, right?
0:16:58 EF: And I think that that helps sort of unlock your mind. Let me give you an example of what I mean and why I think that this is the next great way of a physical infrastructure change that’s gonna happen in our society.
0:17:09 EF: Right now if I ordered a pizza from five blocks away, it takes me 30 seconds to order. Takes them, let’s say 10 minutes to cook. It takes the delivery guy five minutes to get from his car into the pizza shop back into his car, three minutes to drive here to this beautiful office and then it probably takes him 10 minutes to find parking, to get through security, to get in the elevator, to get through security again, to get to the office, back down and that’s assuming that he finds the place. So right now, the big constraint on urban logistics is actually inside the buildings.
0:17:44 CR: Yes it is.
0:17:44 EF: It’s from street to suite and so I think that the next big frontier that people will start, be needing to think about and which will directly connect to your question about the building management systems because buildings are going to become delivery machines. For delivering people in and out, for delivering goods in and out and services in and out and so this street to suite revolution is, I think, going to be the next forcing function. Just like mobile workers were the last forcing function, that’s gonna be the next forcing function.
0:18:11 CR: I think and I agree with everything you’ve just said. I think it’s one of the things we spend a lot of time trying to figure out for our tenants, is most buildings will not accept the DoorDash, most buildings will not accept someone to deliver food and go up. You have to call someone down and so we go out of our way to just say, “Our security guard can accept the food.” But then their side, DoorDash’s side doesn’t let us… These are all friction points that make no sense.
0:18:36 EF: Right! And I think, 100%. It’s funny, I was in… Industrious has a space in Dallas that I was in a couple of days ago and I noticed that on their check-in at the guest register, they had three options. It was, here for tour, here to visit somebody, here to deliver something and I was like, “Yes. They get it.” But that’s because we’re not… Our buildings are not built for logistics, they’re built to house people and relatively immobile stuff and that’s gonna be a big change.
0:19:07 CR: Well, I would take it, and I don’t mean to interrupt you but I would take it back a little bit. I think these buildings were not built for anything other than for the owner of them to collect rent. It was not meant to provide a service, these were built in the ’80s and ’90s, the building we’re in here in late ’80s and it was built so that someone would come and pay a lot of money in terms of, maybe the landlord funded the TIs to build out something very specific for that particular tenant and the owner didn’t even want anything to do with it.
0:19:35 CR: And I think where we live today, that world doesn’t exist anymore. You can’t get tenants if that’s the way you’re gonna act. But yet, we still have building infrastructure we’ve built for an old way of life and so where I see these things coming is, and I think you have to start with one bargain that maybe not everybody’s been willing to make but they do it every day, which is you have to be willing to give up your privacy. You have to be willing and it can be tight but you have to be willing to say, hey… We’re doing it every day. Every tenant in here who signs and gets a key card, they’ve given up their privacy, they just don’t know how they…
0:20:11 CR: We know with that key card that you have come and gone or not come and gone. So because we do that, that could be on a phone app. Once it’s on a phone app, it can be on a watch app, it can be on anything and it’s just that bridge, that step over to do it digitally but everybody’s already given it up. You can drive into our parking garage, we know it.
0:20:28 EF: And I think you’re right with the advances in… Well first of all, forget what’s in the buildings, we’re all walking around with tiny super computers studded with sensors and most of us are walking around with five of them. Your watch, your headphones, your phone and probably your iPad, your computer, whatever it is. We’re covered in sensors and that are communicating out all the time. So while I do think you’re right, there’s a mental shift that has to take place, in the same way that one of the greatest privacy schemes in history was Google Maps saying, “Hey, use our map to find your way.” When really they were using you to map their world, great trade.
0:21:08 EF: But part of that I think was the psychology of it and I agree with you, there’s a psychological change to this which is we’re gonna have to get accustomed to the fact that in order to get all of the benefits that you get from Google, you really need to give up your privacy and buildings, I think, are going to be the physical aggregators of digital information in the new world.
0:21:24 EF: So real estate, people are asking is real estate obsolete and I think the opposite because place is becoming more important to us on an emotional level and therefore all around place becomes all these transactions, all these interactions, all of these things and so buildings are now going to have access to enormous amounts of very, very interesting data through which, just like Google did, they can actually help improve our lives. Yes, there’s some risk. There will always be risks.
0:21:50 CR: But I think all of us, especially if we remember 9-11 and all that, we all willingly will say look, I’m happy to download this app and you know exactly when I come and go, I never have to take my phone out of my pocket and then that way your security can focus on the people who don’t have the app.
0:22:05 EF: Right. I think that’s a really interesting point ’cause access control is… And I’m not an expert on this by the way but access control is a mystery to me why it’s an unsolved mystery around access control because I know there’s a lot of legacy hardware systems. I also know that there’s a lot of people trying to crack this code but one of the things I do question is, is access control the sticky point? And I don’t know the answer to this but I was just in a taxi cab where they had Curb or whatever, the app. But guess what, there was a little access code, I used a completely different app to use the same system to pay and I think you may wind up with the same thing on access control, where it’s not quite the leverage point that people think it’s going to be but I agree that ease of an access and entry and by the way, why do you even need it on your phone with computer recognition now, it should just be able to recognize your face, right? If my iPhone can handle recognizing my face and has been able to do so for two years by the way.
0:23:02 CR: Well, I think you’re right, I think what you’ll see and in the systems we’re looking in, we haven’t employed one yet that we love, is it starts with you as a tenant, you an employee, just like you have a card to go into the elevator, now you’ll download an app. Someone’s gonna come see you, you say, download this app. They’re pre-checked in, they’re… And people just say, I’ll do it ’cause it’s just easier and what do I… And I don’t care ’cause they already have my information anyway. I think it’s gonna move to the facial recognition. I think the Tom Cruise movie…
0:23:34 EF: Minority Report. I think Minority Report is really one of those extraordinary movies where somebody sat down and basically told the future in little pieces and you got distracted by this sort of magical beings that could foresee the future but the rest of the future, the real future they were projecting was the world around them.
0:23:51 CR: Yes, yep. Well, I love the… Just in that movie, what I thought was so amazing was that the people in the movie were absolutely okay with the fact when they walk into something, someone was selling them, it was pre-Google. It was pre-Google. Google, it’s exactly what happens when you go to a web page today.
0:24:09 EF: And it’s going to be what happens when you walk into a building. I’m working with a really interesting company called HEROFi/Targetable, their product is called Targetable out of San Diego, right here in Southern California. That they take all sorts of information streams that can be static and dynamic and they put them together and then they can do dynamic ad-driven advertising onto any screen. So your phone, the lobby bars or the lobby screens, the elevator screens, etcetera. So I think the physical space and the reason that I’m interested in them is because they connect deeply to location.
0:24:42 EF: What’s the weather like right here? What’s the traffic like getting out of this building? What’s my favorite team sports score? And all of those things that are really connected to a sense of place, both large and small, are going to be the way to really personalize marketing in the future and buildings are really the centers or the spokes of hubs around that.
0:25:03 EF: So right now we see all of this race towards amenities and the tenant experience apps and investment and all sorts of great companies that go all the way from these full-service, full-touch things like Convene, all the way to apps like HqO which are really more software-based and then a range of things in between. But that’s because the big idea that everybody’s chasing is, wait a second, people spend the most of their money around where they are.
0:25:32 CR: They do e-commerce but everything else, all of the experiential stuff is highly located… Is highly correlated to where they are. So let’s try to capture that because buildings are these hubs of life and so, when you said earlier that you thought it was mainly for the landlord, I would urge you just by the way, to step back and think about history and remember that without all of this, we couldn’t have built all this digital stuff.
0:25:54 CR: That’s true. That’s true.
0:25:55 EF: Because it’s obsolete, doesn’t mean it was wrong then. I think it did a lot then but it also doesn’t mean that it’s right now.
0:26:01 CR: Yeah, that’s true. Well, let’s take just a bit of a break and go back to… We’ve talked a lot about technology, we talked a little bit about your career in the marina business but how did you get into real estate and how did you… You started in technology, how do you get in technology?
0:26:16 EF: Well, I got into technology, I think I’ve always been into technology, I like toys and I had a life-changing moment when I downloaded… Saw my first image downloaded on Netscape, three days after it came out, I was still in university and I was huddled with my roommates and I was like, that’s a thing, that’s a thing right there, that’s a thing of beauty. And I was fortunate enough to go to Harvard and I remember… I always remember the day I first walked into Harvard to Widener Library, which was the world’s second largest repository of knowledge in the world.
0:26:46 CR: Behind the…
0:26:47 EF: Behind the giant building…
0:26:49 CR: The Library of Congress or something…
0:26:49 EF: Behind the Library of Congress, exactly. And I remember I was like, I am one of the… I’m so lucky to have gotten here cause I’m one of the very few people, not withstanding the fact it was all buried in stacks and books and floors and impossible to find but even that, I had access to one of the world’s greatest repository of knowledge, which now, almost every single person on Earth has access to a repository of knowledge like a thousand times that.
0:27:14 EF: So what was once sort of this holy sanctuary of the sacred, is now accessible to everybody and it’s democratized everything and so that really kind of drove me. And I got into technology by really sort of, by following that muse. I got into real state because, sort of by accident. I started this real estate tech company, I was the tech guy and then there was a real estate guy but at Insignia I started doing a development in St. Thomas. My first development…
0:27:43 CR: Just kinda fell in your lap?
0:27:47 CR: As you’re walking down through Harvard Square…
0:27:48 EF: I was the Chief Innovation Officer at Insignia and building marinas at the time and building mixed-use waterfront marinas which were actually big technology projects, infrastructure projects to support giant mega yachts. It was a new thing, it was highly technologically-driven. You had these boats that… You used to be that a big yacht was 130 feet and all of a sudden you had 350 feet Rising Sun, you had Octopus, Paul Allen’s boat at like 400 feet or 500 feet.
0:28:12 EF: And so these boats are just giant machines and you need to support them. But the site that we built this on, it was a landfill site that was jointly owned by the Dutch government and the people of the West Indies and like four different owners. It was… So it was a landfill. It was on a fault line, it was in a hurricane zone. They had seven builders. Some guy had come up with, in Puerto Rico years ago, had come up with this great idea. He was gonna build a new structural material, where he’d take steel beams, wrap them in asbestos and then dip them in concrete and then use those to build the structure.
0:28:50 CR: Steel beams…
0:28:51 EF: Wrapped in asbestos, dipped in concrete and those were, what they built the structure with. There were nine of these stupid buildings built in the world. Seven of them were on our property.
0:29:00 CR: Oh my God!
0:29:01 EF: Seven of them were on our property, it looked like ET up in there. With the hazmat suits and everything. It was the most incredibly difficult project but the thing that got me into real estate was that this project sat at the center of St. Thomas. It’s called the Yacht Haven Grande, USVI you can go down and see it today. It’s a beautiful project. But it sat at the historic center and all of these through lines of history, that ran through this project, there’d been a hotel there that had been demolished twice in hurricanes and eventually been abandoned, it was crumbling and it was the epicenter of the island and it had become a symbol to the community of their inability to thrive.
0:29:39 EF: And so it’s this enormous source of responsibility and what I’d began to realize then was how important real estate was to creating the world around us and how great developers are truly visionaries because, not because they see the future but because they understand their community and that’s when I got passionate about it and there’s the great quote from Winston Churchill, “First we shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.” And I always think about that and that when you build real estate, you’re creating something that’s gonna shape people’s lives for generations to come.
0:30:10 EF: And it’s one of the reasons I’m so excited to be in real estate technology at this moment because as the two converge, we are going to be shaping the world that our children and our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren are still living in. So this is a really exciting time to be in real estate.
0:30:23 CR: I agree with you, I think… So many things you said in the last few statements that I wanna extract a little bit but the bottom line is the passion for real estate comes from wanting to effect change right around where we are every day. I really believe that myself and also what’s affecting our life every day and I think for the first time, landlords and owners of real estate, investors in real estate are saying, we need to do more. We need to do more and it’s coming in the form of impact strategies and getting to net zero. As well as it’s coming to, we’ve got to make these spaces work for a tenant and how tenants work today.
0:31:01 EF: Well and I think that it’s because the demand question has changed a little bit. Because it used to be the question was, how do you make it work for the tenant? And the tenant was Corporation X. Now, it’s how do we make it work for the occupant? Because if it doesn’t work for the occupant, it’s not gonna work for the tenant. So it’s coming from the bottom-up and that reshaping of the question, which is why you have the phrase, Tenant Experience and that’s not talking about how does the real estate guy from Microsoft feel about it? That’s not what we’re talking about.
0:31:27 EF: We’re talking about how does the tenant, the person who’s actually living in the space and who lives most of their life coming in out of this space and the residential space and their amenity space, what’s their experience? And looking at the question from that angle, I think really reshapes our thinking and it’s interesting because it’s connected but employers are thinking the same thing. They’re thinking about the experience of their people because that’s how they attract and retain talent and that’s what people have come to expect which is, I live here and by the way, when I leave here, I still kind of live here ’cause I got my phone in my pocket.
0:32:02 CR: I’m not gonna come in to work to do something if it’s miserable to do something that I can do somewhere else. I’m gonna come into work if it makes me feel energized, if I get something out of it, if it’s a pleasant place to work. Also to get away from family every now and then is not so bad and I think that that focus on the individual is a really, really empowering change.
0:32:17 CR: I had a discussion today with a former Managing Partner of a major law firm who was saying that they are seriously considering ways almost to have a cruise director in their office. Cause how do they get their partners to come into the office and be mentors because they can do everything in their pyjamas other than the court appearance and we were talking about do we have to show first run movies?
0:32:41 CR: What do we have to do and I don’t have a good answer. I said, “I guess you could always do a WeWork but that doesn’t… Then it’s not your law firm it’s somewhere else.” But my view is it comes down to the landlord and picking real estate projects where people are engaged and they wanna be there and be a part of it.
0:32:56 EF: Well, I think that, what we’re seeing is a connected stack. You have asset, you have asset operations, you have office suite and you have office suite operations, which all of which need to work seamlessly both in the physical and the service layers, have to work seamlessly to create a really great experience and so I agree with you but I do think that… I’ve spent a year working in my pyjamas. You know what happens? You get miserable. You get absolutely miserable because your home is your office, your office is your home and your pyjamas are dirty. Nobody likes that.
0:33:29 EF: What you need to do is create a space that encourages people to get something out of it, that’s not about just consuming first run movies, ’cause you can get that on iTunes. It’s about consuming the one thing that you can’t get anywhere else, which is human interaction, that’s meaningful and in a space that’s meaningful and comfortable and invigorating and creative and all of these things. And I know that this sounds like, we’ve all heard this word so much that sounds like a bunch of BS at this point but what we’re really talking about is making people’s daily lives better and giving them more opportunities to interact with each other.
0:34:00 EF: Because I think, I always think that the greatest human invention, in history, is without a doubt the city. Because the city forced people to be together and when people are together, they start to argue and when they start to argue, they start to figure things out. Because somebody’s gotta be right and somebody’s gotta be wrong and boom you’ve answered a question, boom you’ve started a business, boom you’ve created a new way of living. And I think that what we need to think… This is why I think urbanism is seeping into the offices and seeping into our residences and seeping into our entertainment areas, everything, because we need to create city, every office a city. Every office a city.
0:34:36 CR: I think on the urbanism, I think you’re right. I think one of the things that people are… What urbanization has done for all of us is force us to interact in uncomfortable situations. When you had a farm…
0:34:49 EF: I lived in New York. It’s all uncomfortable situations.
0:34:52 CR: But when you lived on a farm and you had to worry about just the agriculture economies, kind of were with your family in that small group and you really didn’t interact much. And now we have technology that brings us so close together. What I find amazing about living and owning real estate and living in a major city, is the amount of interaction you have with people you never would have had an interaction with before and what that forces you to do and how you run properties and how you own property. It’s so radically different.
0:35:20 EF: So it’s interesting. I live in Dallas, Texas. I moved there seven years ago and I’d moved from 22nd and Broadway in New York, right across from the Flatiron Building. So this was a radical change ’cause in Texas at the time and in Dallas at the time, you went from your building to your car, from your car to your restaurant and from your car to your home. And so you never had these, you never walked past people and I think that that, I’m gonna say segregation but I don’t mean it in a racial way, I mean people just were segregated from each other all the time.
0:35:51 EF: What’s happening in Dallas over the last few years is that there’s been these centers of activity that have suddenly, suddenly popped to life and it’s interesting because one day it’s not there and then the next day, it’s just all of a sudden, there’s sort of it all comes together and boom, there’s a big bang and you can feel the energy and what’s happening is there, is that through that, not only is it just becoming a much more exciting place to live but you see people interacting more on the street, unintentionally and then all of a sudden you’re seeing that restaurants are starting not to be quite so segregated by ethnicity anymore.
0:36:21 EF: I’ve been watching this play out over the last six months, that the unintentional interactions we have when we’re forced to live with each other bleed over into the intentional choices we make about where we spend our money and our time. It’s cool.
0:36:31 CR: Well let’s take a little break here and just update me and the audience a little bit on what’s your focus right now? You talked about having been at CBRE for six years and all the things you did there. So what are you working on when I introduce you as an entrepreneur and startup advisor, what’s your day job?
0:36:50 EF: Unemployed.
0:36:53 CR: Happily or unhappily?
0:36:54 EF: Gainfully unemployed. I sort of spend my time in four areas. First, I’m a venture advisor to MetaProp, which is a fabulous venture capital firm out of New York city that really started as an incubator and accelerator and really was focused on building community and has now sort of morphed into a more mature venture capital fund. And so I work with them and with their portfolio companies on helping them all grow, as well as on finding and sort of evaluating new transactions and that’s really great because they’re a wonderful team with great values that I really share about being focused on the founders. I’ve been a founder myself and I know I survived on string cheese and Top Ramen for about a year and a half.
0:37:37 EF: So I really like what they bring to the table and it also allows me to really have a fairly expansive view of what’s going on in the industry.
0:37:45 EF: I do a lot of writing and public speaking these days, largely because I’ve got a bunch of ideas and I found that the best way to force myself to clarify them is to have to say them in front of other people or to write them down in front of other people and so I do a lot of that. I advise a number of startups and most of the startups, all of the startups I advise touch on real estate in some way and a lot of them are increasingly focused on novel uses of data or novel ways of looking at data or data that has not traditionally been thought of as real estate but I think is going to be part of the real estate decision matrix coming soon so I spend a lot of time there.
0:38:21 EF: And then lastly, I’m in the process of starting a new company, that is going to be a real estate company, not a technology company, it’s going to be a real estate company that is driven by technology in both the way it invests and the way it operates. So we’re talking about sort of a ground-up attempt to really capitalize on some of the changes in technology and also drive some of the changes into real estate.
0:38:43 CR: Well in thinking about that, what would you say is the most exciting… I don’t wanna say trend cause that’s probably bigger than what I mean but what is the most exciting thing that you see happening in real estate as it relates to technology?
0:38:57 EF: Transportation. I’m gonna keep coming back to that because I literally think that transportation, we underestimate the degree to which transportation has shaped our lives and our worlds. We live in the age of the car. Our parents lived in the age of the car, our grandparents lived in the age of the car. Their parents didn’t. They would understand a lot more what’s happening to us now than we sometimes do, which is that we have taken data and we’ve… So all the papers and everything that could be digitized has been digitized and the next frontier is moving physical things in a more efficient way, physical things being people and moving goods and that change is upon us.
0:39:36 EF: Everybody is focused on level five autonomy, which is the sort of the driver-less car that can do anything from take you to get your groceries, to drive you up a mountain, to work in snow. That’s not the thing, that’s another thing. Level four is the thing and level four is here. Level four simply means that you have vehicles that can operate autonomously in specified circumstances and the reason that that’s the thing is because you don’t need to have just one type of car. So when you… I call it multi-modal transportation and I know that I’m going off on a tangent on this transportation but…
0:40:06 EF: So multi-modal transportation means that you move a thing and this is why standardization is important, from one mode of transportation to another. Let’s take your trip to the airport or my trip from the airport, which I just did coming here today. I drag my bag into a car, take that car, that car took my bag to the airport. Then it went on a conveyor belt, then somebody put it on an airplane, then somebody put it on another conveyor belt, then I picked it up, then I put it in a car, then I came up your elevator. All of those are forms of transportation moving my bag and we’re about to see unleashed a wave of new forms of transportation that are much less constrained, much less expensive and much more efficient to operate, that are going to change the way we move around cities and the way things move around cities. And I think it’s the most important real estate story of our time.
0:40:53 EF: And so for me, everything that I do is focused on understanding that better and figuring out how to both take advantage of that and be a first mover in that from a financial point of view but also how can we shape this to be a force for good in the world. How can we use this moment of flux, this epical moment of flux in our society and in our cities to really effect change. That’s an awesome thing to be thinking about every day and I sort of drive everything that I do now around focusing on that.
0:41:23 CR: So how much of the way that you look at this transportation issue do you think is gonna be in having to force the changes in people’s… The way people think about things? What I mean is, owning your own car in most of America is a very big thing and for us to get to where we wanna get to outside of… Look, my Tesla on the 110 Freeway bumper to bumper, autopilot is the greatest thing ever.
0:41:46 EF: Yeah, but you’re still bumper to bumper.
0:41:48 CR: I’m still bumper to bumper. You’ve gotta change mentalities that have been ingrained over these last four or five generations.
0:41:54 EF: Do you have a horse?
0:41:55 CR: Do not have a horse.
0:41:57 EF: Does anybody you know have a horse?
0:41:58 CR: No and I won’t let my children have one.
0:42:03 CR: I know people who have horses but I’m just saying, yeah. There are people…
0:42:04 EF: But they use them for fun. They don’t use them for transportation. They don’t use them to drag their crap to the market every week, which is what they used to use them for. Nobody was ever like, “Oh sweet! A horse ride, I get to go on a horse ride!” That was just how you moved. That’s gonna happen. I’m actually not worried about that and even in some of… I spend time in some of the most car-dependent markets in the world. I live in one and I am watching as people, not young people, empty nesters, are starting to drop cars, coming from two down to one. Because so much of when you think about people moving you also have to think about goods moving.
0:42:37 EF: It’s not about going to the store, it’s about the store coming to you. So there you’ve lopped off half of your transportation needs and there’s all of these inter-woven things that I think are going to… And yes it’s gonna take some time and yes, it’s not gonna be an easy transition but…
0:42:49 CR: Is it gonna be exponential where it happens really quickly or is it gonna be very slow?
0:42:54 CR: I think it’s gonna happen… Here’s my theory and this also relates to my theory of autonomy which everybody has asked the same question, which is a really good question. Which is things are gonna be spread out or are they gonna be condensed? And I think it’s gonna happen really quickly in denser areas because at the end of the day, autonomous… Here’s a fun fact for you. Do you know how many… The internal combustion engine drivetrain has well over a thousand moving parts. The electric vehicle drivetrain has 18 moving parts.
0:43:24 CR: There’s a lot less stuff to break and a lot less stuff rubbing up against each other and what this means is that while autonomous vehicles are going to be heavily capital intensive, once they’re installed, they’re gonna be able to operate very efficiently. Where is the capital gonna go? Capital is gonna go where the people are and so I think where you’re gonna have density, people are gonna take advantage of putting capital and density where you get high utilization of their capital investment. That then is going to create a lifestyle that’s cheaper, faster, better, safer, which is going to draw more people into the center, which is going to draw more capital and so for a very long time, I think it’s going to happen fairly quickly but I think it’s gonna happen in the middle of cities and it’s gonna take longer in the suburbs and that may drive people out of the suburbs because it’s simply easier to live a life where you have all of these things, just like it’s easier to live in a place where you have cell phone coverage.
0:44:12 CR: Yeah, that’s a good point. That’s a very good point. So outside of transportation, as you’re looking at these young people coming to you with ideas for businesses and where is the focus that you’re seeing people spend their time? What is technology trying to solve? What’s the big question?
0:44:29 EF: I think that we’ve made a shift, which is it used to be that the real estate technology was defined as technology for real estate people. Then it became defined as technology for buildings and now I think it’s becoming defined as a combination of technology services which my partner at MetaProp, Zak Schwarzman calls full-stack solutions. I think that that’s where it’s going, where it’s really about combining all of these things into a service package that can be delivered to the end user and this gets back to our conversation about that.
0:45:02 EF: That I think is really… That’s, I think, where real estate technology has taken an interesting left turn and is kind of connecting with everything else, which is, it’s less about the real estate business itself and more about the people who are using it.
0:45:14 CR: I like that. When someone pitches you though, what’s the number one problem they say they’re gonna fix? In real estate… Around real estate.
0:45:25 EF: Well, I think there’s a lot of financial engineering that’s being driven by tech now. One of the things, again, we’ve talked about frictional costs before when you have access, ready access to data, ready access to technology and can connect that. You could do all sorts of financial engineering that you couldn’t before. So there’s a great company called Till out there. A startup that MetaProp has invested in, I’ve known the founders for a while and what they’ve done is they have done something very simple, which is they said look, for people who are living week-to-week on their paycheck, if something goes wrong, they can’t make their rent. So instead they have to go to some anonymous payday lender and take out these incredibly high risk loans. But what if there was somebody who knew them, who saw them every day and said, this is a good person who’s just had a rough week? Well, that’s called a property manager. That person sees them every day and so now you can run this credit relief for people who are really right on the edge, where this can change their lives.
0:46:24 EF: You can run it through the asset because they can say okay, the landlord is essentially gonna float the loan because they know that they’re good for their credit because the property manager sees them every day and says so. So this transfer of trust is a lot more flexible and that’s a problem that makes me really happy. I mean, the problem doesn’t make me happy, it makes me really happy that somebody is solving it. When I see people who are doing well by doing good, it’s just great. So those are some of the companies that excite me and I think that’s an example of how, we’re seeing a lot of it on the residential side already.
0:46:55 CR: Yeah, I’ve seen a couple of companies on the multi-family side that are going after trying to solve the first month’s rent security deposit…
0:47:02 EF: Yeah, you’ve got a lot of our resource there.
0:47:04 CR: The moving costs and just allowing people to amortize that over three or four months and so they are very short-term loans. Yes, there is some high interest but the whole point is to try to avoid someone having to do something bad, a bad financial decision to get a big security deposit and help people do it and I think that’s got a lot of legs to it.
0:47:25 EF: When you think about… It sort of connects, all these things are interconnected. Cause it connects to this sharing economy concept. Which is, when you have everything as a service, people don’t have to spend their capital on something that they themselves use inefficiently. So there’s the famous Rachel Botsman TED Talk about the drill, where she says that every home in America has a power drill that they’re used on average 14 minutes a year. Makes no sense. It’s incredibly inefficient use of capital and cars by the way, not to get it back to transportation, but cars…
0:47:52 CR: They are the worst.
0:47:53 EF: Total cost of ownership of a car in America is about $1,000 a month. That’s like a quarter of people’s take-home, maybe and it’s for an asset that they use, depending on how you calculate it, less than 1%-3% of the time. It’s just a terrible use of capital and so I know that I keep saying use of capital is a force for good but it’s because it frees people up to do stuff, to use it more efficiently and lead richer, fuller, better lives with the savings and not be a risk in the same ways.
0:48:22 EF: And I think that that whole reduction in friction around the sharing economy, the trust economy, all of that is a really interesting thing. It once again connects back to a sense of place because it’s your places where you are and where people know you and your building knows you. Your building knows you.
0:48:39 CR: So let me, always I like to ask people on the podcast. We talk a lot about technology and business and a lot with hard assets but how do you use technology on a day-to-day basis? Are you an email guy and that’s really how you live your life? Are you big into communication via social media? Do you use any software, any hardware that is unique? I mean, I see you have your Apple Watch on.
0:49:05 EF: I’m not quite sure how to answer the question whether I use any hardware that’s unique. But okay.
0:49:10 CR: What I meant was more like, are you an Android person versus an iPhone person? Tell us a little about how you use technology on a day-to-day basis?
0:49:16 EF: That’s an interesting question. I haven’t thought about it. I’m an Apple person. I’ve gone all in on Apple. I’ve played both sides of the line over the years but I’m all in on Apple simply because it’s just easier. Once you have all of that. Once you’re in that ecosystem, everything connects, everything’s seamless. I’m delighted by my AirPods. That’s this little thing that I was like, “What a stupid thing.” And then I was like, “Oh my God, I love this.” But behind my Apple facade, there’s just a bunch of stuff strung together because I’ve got… I’ve always tried to use the latest technology so I’ve got everything from… I’ve got six different generations of Oculus prototypes stacked up in my house. I can’t give myself to get rid of any of them.
0:50:02 EF: I’ve got all sorts of obsolete home hubs, like I need to redo my whole smart home thing. But I’m constantly tinkering and part of it is what I tinker with it for is the experience. I don’t know if you used Oculus Go?
0:50:12 CR: I have.
0:50:13 EF: Have you used it with somebody else?
0:50:15 CR: No. But I’ve seen it demonstrated at the Adventist 360 Conference.
0:50:20 EF: I’m gonna give everybody here a piece of advice. If you get a chance, I’m not sure… I’m not gonna tell you whether you should go out and spend the money on it. But if you get a chance to use Oculus Go, use it and use it socially because I had a profound technological experience, which those only come along once in a while. The iPhone was a profound technological experience and this one… I was sitting, I had my first experience. Let me tell you about my first time, Chris.
0:50:47 EF: My first time, I was… I got in the Oculus Go and I put it on and there was a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in a couple of years, who was sitting in a national park in Colorado running a generator and using his Oculus Go and we went on a journey through Scotland together and I had this sense of presence that was very different from being face-to-face because instead of just looking at each other, we’re actually experiencing the same things. We’re hearing the same noises, where one of us moved our head one way the sound would move with it. It’s a profound technological experience. So I’m sort of always looking for those things that are just gonna rock my world. I’m a little bit of a junky for them. Basically I’ve got boxes of crap upstairs. I think that’s what I’m trying to say.
0:51:29 CR: And just on on a day-to-day basis, are you… And I’m an Apple person too and every time I think I’m gonna go over to the Android side, Apple has one product, like the Apple Watch 4 for me, I just can’t go over to Android as long as I have this Apple Watch 4 because I just think it’s so wonderful. Apple still hasn’t solved the contact system. I don’t know how they run a company that big and not have a database sharing tool that’s better than what’s contacts on your phone. So I…
0:51:58 EF: I can’t even talk about that.
0:52:00 CR: Yeah, the fact that you can’t use iCloud the same way you can use Gmail, to me, frustrates the heck out of me but that gets us into more personal questions about… So in your house, do you have… I tried to do the iPod or the HomePod and I’m sorry, Alexa’s better. It’s better than Google. Do you have a smart home set up at home?
0:52:21 EF: I have a really dumb smart home.
0:52:24 EF: Cause it reflects all of my failed attempts to get just one step ahead of the tech but yeah, no, look I’ve got Sonos, I’ve got Alexa enabled so I’ve got the, what is it, the Alexa 1 that’s got the Sonos built in. I love Alexa and I don’t care if she’s listening to me. Even if she’s listening to me right now. Hey, Alexa. How are you?
0:52:42 CR: I actually… My wife goes nuts ’cause I’ll be like, “Alexa, darling.” [chuckle] and she just…
0:52:47 EF: We could do something fun here, by the way. If anybody’s listening to this on their speakers, “Alexa, what’s the weather?”
0:52:55 CR: “Hey, Google… ” That’s funny, that’s funny. So tell us a little bit about your family and a little bit about you personally.
0:53:04 EF: I’ve actually been through a really rough few years and it’s something that I’ve blogged about and written about and shared with everybody so I’ll share it with you. I’ve had to have two major things going on in my life. One is that the Caribbean, which is an area where I spent many years and became a place that was a second home to me, got devastated by a couple of hurricanes this year. The first one hit St. Thomas and one of my dearest friends in the world… There’s a restaurant in Yacht Haven in St. Thomas called The Fat Turtle which I had a cartoonist draw a picture of him and this giant turtle. Still there, so go visit it, Clovis Tobias, brother.
0:53:39 EF: But he got trapped in his home and he’s diabetic and he had to be… After four, five days his leg began to rot and he was evacuated to Puerto Rico and they had to amputate his leg and so I flew down there to be with him and 36 hours after they finished surgery, we got hit by Hurricane Maria, which was a category five. True story.
0:54:03 CR: So you were there?
0:54:04 EF: I was there, I was there.
0:54:05 CR: Unbelievable.
0:54:06 EF: Not only was I there but I was there with my best friend who I was trying to save who was in a hospital that was flooded, didn’t have power, didn’t have doctors. I was a few miles away ’cause I wasn’t allowed to stay at the hospital and it was impossible to reach him. So I went through a very, very difficult 10 days or so trying to get him off the island and you were asking about my social media usage, Facebook saved my life. It saved his life. He passed away about six or eight months later but it was after we’d gotten him recovered and he had a chance to be with his family and so it saved his life because I was on social media and I had also built in the Caribbean so I selected a hotel that I thought was going to be really resilient, even when I thought it was just a category one coming at us.
0:54:51 EF: I was able to get on Facebook and organize people from all over the world who helped get my friend off the island, get me and my friend off the island and it wound up being this extraordinary rescue operation, with an ambulance that we sort of hijacked and machetes chopping through the forest and the plane that we had to have land at dawn before the military stopped us. It was crazy and medical care set up but all of this was done through Facebook.
0:55:12 EF: If it weren’t for that, I might not be here. My friend certainly wouldn’t have had the end… The good positive end of his life that he would have. So that was a really traumatic experience. I got PTSD from it. I saw some things that I still don’t like talking about. So that’s been a difficult thing and that’s a story that I like to tell just because a lot of people who went through stuff like that reached out to me when I was having a hard time and I reached… I tried to publish it and let people know that it’s okay. Going through things like that can leave marks and it’s okay and there’s hope out there.
0:55:45 EF: So that’s something that I’m very, very passionate about, is helping people with mental health issues and/or PTSD which I think is a surprisingly common thing in our… Talk about the… Being closed in cities and all these spaces, we deal with encounters every day that we didn’t use to deal with 1,000 years ago. If we did, we were usually getting eaten by something. So that’s something that I’ve been going through.
0:56:10 EF: And then my wife has been very sick with endometriosis for the last five years and it’s, again something that I now know what I want from life. What I want for life is this, I want plenty for my family and I want the rest of it to go towards working towards these causes. So endometriosis is a surprisingly common women’s disease, that affects, they estimate 10% to 15% of women. Which if you think about it, 10% to 15% of women…
0:56:34 CR: The number’s huge.
0:56:35 EF: Yeah, it means that everybody you know in your life is being indirectly affected by it and it’s been traditionally overlooked for three reasons. One, what it is, it’s when your intrauterine cells, cells from inside the uterus, which grow like vines ’cause that’s what they’re designed to do. When they get outside, they start growing like vines on internal organs causing tremendous amounts of pain. And it’s been undiagnosed for three primary reasons. One is a medical issue, which is that these are normal cells, so there’s no test you can do. The only way to diagnose it, so far, is through surgery.
0:57:08 EF: The second reason is that it falls in a crack in the medical profession between you have OBGYNs who look at the inside of the organs and you have internal medicine doctors who look at everything else, pulmonary and heart but nobody looks at the outside of the reproductive organs and it falls through the crack.
0:57:23 EF: And then the third reason is frankly a gender reason, which is that when women complain of menstrual pain or period pain or reproductive pain, traditionally they get overlooked or they’re told to stop whining or just, this is a bad period and that’s not true for a lot of women. That’s not true for 10% to 15% of women, they’re dealing with a progressive disease that can get very bad or can be a low level but significant detractor of their quality of life. And so my wife has had six surgeries in the last year and we’ve got more coming up.
0:57:54 CR: Is it something that’s solvable? Do we have the technology, do we have the medical technology to solve?
0:58:00 EF: Yes and no. We do have the ways to solve it. It’s difficult but it’s very expensive. And we are talking about a problem that is global in scale. So yes we do have the ways to solve it but it’s still in the ‘guys in Brooklyn making pickles by themselves’ phase and you can’t produce a lot. And to really address the scale of the problem, we are gonna need a lot of scientific research and societal research and re-training of doctors and everything else. It’s a big deal and it’s something that’s finally beginning to get noticed and my wife and I are very active in supporting the community.
0:58:35 CR: And where is the best place? If someone’s listening and say I need help, where is the best place to find help?
0:58:40 EF: I would suggest, direct you to one of the endometriosis forums on the web. You can Google them, I’m forgetting the names but there are communities there that are private because a lot of people have faced ridicule over this disease before but there are communities that you can apply to join that are private where they can provide both support and access direction to the correct medical providers to help you with what you’re doing. My wife is a moderator on a couple of them, so she’s very active. It’s another one of the miracles of social media, is it sort of surfaced this disease that has gone unreported because all of a sudden women are coming together and saying, “Wait, this is happening to you too?” In a way that they never could have without the technology.
0:59:19 CR: Unbelievable.
0:59:20 EF: That’s unbelievable.
0:59:20 CR: Wow! What challenges and through all of this, you’ve still been very active in your professional life and everything else but it sounds like it’s some terrific weights to bear.
0:59:30 EF: It’s been terrific weights to bear. I’m sure many people listening to this will know this, when you go through something like that, you come out of it with a strength and a clarity and a vision of purpose. That’s really… That when it resolves it’s really good and you suddenly come out saying, “If I conquered this I can conquer anything.” I was recently raising money for this new venture I was telling you about and I was in a room with a bunch of very important people with very large checks to write and I was thinking, “What do I have to be scared of? I faced down a hurricane, I’ve watched… I’ve held my wife through surgery. These guys don’t scare me!” And that is a life-changing thing.
1:00:09 CR: Yes it is.
1:00:10 EF: When you face that down.
1:00:11 CR: It is. Well, on the note of what scares you, are you scared to make any predictions about where we’re gonna be in five years in real estate? And if you had to envision the office of the future, the office building or the multi-family building of the future, what’s our… Say 10 years out, a decade from now, we’re sitting at 2029, what’s our life experience gonna be in terms of technology, how technology has changed it?
1:00:35 EF: There’s not gonna be cars in urban centers. All that area is going to be re-purposed into either logistic centers or pedestrian centers that are going to increase our quality of life dramatically. I know I sound like a utopianist when I think about this. I don’t think, by the way, that it’s going to happen everywhere in 10 years, I think it’s gonna happen in a few places, for a select few people in 10 years. But I think that that’s where we’re headed. I think things like scooters are actually a thing, that sort of micro-mobile transportation that’s not as intrusive and as dangerous.
1:01:11 EF: Something really interesting. I got something for you, this is just interesting. Something happened for the first time a couple of weeks ago at the University of Texas, which is, the University of Texas said, we’ve got these scooters zipping around Austin at 15 miles an hour in a way that they can both manage pedestrians and manage traffic but when they come on campus, it’s all pedestrians and so we don’t want them moving at 15 miles an hour. Now they’ve geo-fenced the University of Texas and the scooters, they beam into the scooters and they got a seven mile an hour speed limit on campus. Isn’t that cool?
1:01:45 CR: That is very cool.
1:01:46 EF: Isn’t that mind blowing? So I think that we’re going to see that kind, technology like that that allows people to do what they want in a way that creates more livable environments and safer environments and more interconnected environments. That technology is approaching us and I think it’s going to create great change in our cities. It’s gonna cause some real economic disruption and pain for a period of time. I think that we should not underestimate the fact that we may have a society in great upheaval for the next several decades as a result of this change but it’s ultimately going to return the world to people and take it away from the machines.
1:02:23 CR: That’s interesting.
1:02:23 EF: By giving it to the machines.
1:02:25 CR: That’s pretty. I also, one of the things I say about the scooters ’cause I’ve ridden them, what I think is amazing about it is someone’s gonna come up with a better scooter and over and over again and the scooter is not as what’s important to me. Yes, they can be dangerous and stuff but someone’s gonna come up with this great robot that we ride in but it all started because someone said, “Hey that’s a piece of technology that could be better used with technology.”
1:02:46 EF: So interesting. Do you know what the core technology at the core of the scooters is? It’s the Segway. It’s the patents from the Segway and what’s really interesting about that is you have this 20-year-old technology, 25-year-old technology that is the poster child for the hubris of technologists and what a failed idea it was.
1:03:06 EF: Right? Failed idea. Segway. Every now and then you see tourists riding around with those stupid helmets and that’s about it, right?
1:03:13 EF: And mall cops. But what happened was that the rest of the world changed and all of a sudden that technology became relevant. What changed? Mobility, large, the ability to have GPS, to make mobile payments, to have identity protection, face… All of this stuff connected to suddenly reduce the friction of sharing that asset. And what was useless and stupid and felt stupid has suddenly become a really important thing again. One of the things that I think is interesting is that the way in which you get these sort of the archaeology of technology.
1:03:54 CR: What I find interesting and I say this a lot as I’m approaching 50, one of the things I don’t like, there’s a lot of things I like about getting old ’cause I’m still around but what I don’t like about getting old is that I have these biases because of my life experience and I still wanna apply them to today. And I say this around my kids all the time who watched, everything is off a laptop or an iPhone and now they don’t really use the iPad as much anymore and the idea that you would ever watch The Cosby Show at 8 O’clock is something they would never, ever, ever appreciate.
1:04:24 EF: For a variety of reasons now, it turns out.
1:04:25 CR: Turns out, we didn’t know that at the time. But I look at the technology today and the scooters and the people, the people who are most vocal about how much they don’t like them are people who are old, saying, “I just don’t want things to change.” And to me, this scooter phenomena is so important. I think it’s the first… I used to think it was bike lanes that could really change the way cities work in the 21st century. I now think it’s gonna be accommodating scooter-like vehicles to take back our streets away from these monstrous cars.
1:04:56 EF: By the way, I was just reminding you that some of those same old people 10 years ago were talking about those crazy millennials with their noses in their stupid phones and what are those people doing now?
1:05:04 CR: That’s true. [chuckle]
1:05:05 EF: They all got iPhones. So, change happens. Change happens and it happens to us faster than we think. But I agree with you, one of the things that I almost exercise the muscle of trying to think, trying to break my preconceptions and that’s… When somebody gives you the title of global innovation, you gotta do that, cause you’re like, “What else am I gonna do? What else is my job?” But to try to shift your perspective and try to say, “Look, if I look at it differently, if I come at this from a different angle, if I look at it from where they’re sitting, will I be able to suddenly unlock my mind?” And I literally call it that, unlocking your mind. So when you suddenly just veer out of the lane and you’re like wait, I’m driving in an open field. I’m not on the road and that’s a practiced way of thinking that I highly recommend trying for everybody because it makes life delightful amongst other things ’cause you’re always like, “That’s cool.” You’re looking around like that…
1:06:00 CR: It keeps you young. It’s funny, where you’re going through some interviews here and one of my favorite questions to people is, “What’s your favorite video game when you were 12? What is it today?” A lot of people look at me like… I’m just trying to see to these people… Are they out there, are they a part of things? But it goes to that same mentality. So last question, ’cause it has been a great conversation. What is the future of office? Will we have office in the coming years, the next 10 years? Will people literally go to an office? Are there things about having an office that you think are timeless?
1:06:32 EF: Yes. Absolutely. So we’re sitting just across the street from CBRE’s global headquarters. CBRE is a fascinating company. This will get to your point, I promise. CBRE is a culture. That’s what makes CBRE great. That’s what has made CBRE grow and thrive as a company. They’ve done all these acquisitions but it’s the culture that is able to absorb them and thrive off of it that I think is their competitive advantage. I think that’s why CBRE has grown so well. I think that that’s what people will need to come to offices for, is for culture. Because that’s gonna be the thing that ultimately we don’t do things alone. We do things collaboratively and when we do things collaboratively, we do them best when we’re together and you don’t need to do every task together but you need to do some things.
1:07:20 EF: I think I heard your podcast with Lisa Picard a couple of weeks ago where you’re saying, “I still need to come into the office and see people. I can do FaceTime. I can do video calls but if I don’t spend time together that feeling of presence.” And that’s true in our personal lives but when you take that to an organizational level, that’s the thing. So at the beginning of this conversation, we talked about your ability to continuously adapt. It’s not about capturing the new technology, it’s about being the first to adapt it and to adopt it and adapt to it and to let that technology scale. That’s culture and that can only be found when we’re working together in a place like an office. And also, sometimes you just gotta get out of your house, man.
1:08:03 CR: That’s true. You do.
1:08:03 EF: You gotta take those pyjamas off.
1:08:06 CR: That’s terrific. Well Elie, thank you so much. We could go for two hours.
1:08:10 EF: Thank you so much for having me.
1:08:11 CR: We’ll have to do a part two down the line and see how we do. But thank you so much.
1:08:14 EF: Any time. Thank you so much Chris for having me. It’s been a pleasure.
1:08:16 CR: Can you give everyone your Twitter address?
1:08:18 EF: Oh yes, it’s @ElieFinegold. Let me spell that for you @ E-L-I-E-F-I-N-E-G-O-L-D. And we have a great conversation going on Twitter amongst PopTech companies and CEOs and venture capitalists. Please come and join us and be a part of it. It’s always great to get new ideas and I’d love to hear from you.
1:08:35 CR: That’s terrific. Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate you being on the podcast.
1:08:39 EF: Thank you Chris.
1:08:40 CR: Elie, thank you so much. I think we could have had this conversation go on for several hours. So we’re gonna have to re-connect here in the future. It was a terrific podcast and thank you very much. And please don’t forget to subscribe to The Real Market with Chris Rising. You can go to my website at www.chrisrising.com and please follow me on Twitter, @ChrisRising. Thanks so much.