CRE technology companies are changing the commercial real estate industry, said panelists at the CRE//Tech Intersect conference last week in San Francisco.<@SM>Exhibitors show demonstrations and network at the event.<@SM>RealCrowd CEO, Adam Hooper (on right), networks with attendees.

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SAN FRANCISCO—CRE technology companies are changing the commercial real estate industry. That was the collective viewpoint of a CRE//Tech Intersect gathering of industry professionals last week in San Francisco. “Most of the companies exhibiting at the event tonight haven’t been around for more than two years, but over the last 12 months, they have collectively raised $87 million,” said moderator Tom Byrne, former CEO and president of LoopNet. “It is impressive the interest and energy that is going into the sector.”

According to Michael Mandel, CEO of CompStak, there is so much room for innovation in this industry and there are all these companies popping up to do that. “We can all innovate in our spaces and to the extent that we can find ways to work together will help everyone succeed.”

It is all about the internet of things, noted Michael Gresty, CEO of Rifiniti. Without all of those things—the phones in your pockets or temperature sensors, for example, that are producing boatloads of data—there wouldn’t be big data, he said.

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When asked more in depth about how to really make sense of all the data that is out there, Colin Yasukochi, CBRE, director of research and analysis, said that there is really the big opportunity. “We gather a tremendous amount of data and we need better ways to connect it at all different levels and make more sense out of it so we can be more efficient in serving our clients” he said.

Yasukochi continued that the CRE industry started out as a very non-transparent business, and that has completely changed. “We need to look at the data, and sell our knowledge and expertise,” he said. “Through technology, we have been able to raise our knowledge level.”

When asked what a start up could do to win the endorsement of a big firm, Jeff Thielman, CFO at Colliers, said that although he is looking for the innovation, the important step is to figure out what is the right solution for the right party at the right time. “We look for a firm to come to us and show how it is being used. We can have a great presentation, but I want to know how the users are using it, how engaged are they? How can we get it out to professionals and make sure you give back to us all of that user interaction. That is the fastest way to get your product further penetrated in our organization.”

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What is also an important point is the one on one interaction, said Mandel. “There is a misconception about tech. You don’t just turn it on and it works. We call up brokers, press, word of mouth… It is about relationships and a level of trust.”

According to Yasukochi, the thing that is propelling us forward and holding us back is tech. “It is finding the balance in our ability to adopt those great technologies and not take away from the social aspect of the business.”