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CRE Tech NY Venture panelists - Savvy Landlords From left: Charle Kuntz, Matthew Boras, Michael Werner, Ryan Salvas, Kevin Danehy, Steve Campbell/ Photo by Betsy Kim

NEW YORK CITY—During the country’s largest gathering of CRE tech investors, the CREtech New York Venture conference, on Thursday, more than 1,000 attendees listened to panels, socialized and networked. But at the “Tech Savvy Landlords” session, owners directly said where they want to invest.

Tech companies should be ready to show a strategic business case, a value proposition that demonstrates meaningful return on an overall investment. The bottom line is landlords are looking for technology that saves money and generates revenue.

Brookfield’s global head of corporate development and EVP, Kevin Danehy said most tech companies have approached his company with solutions to save money around the margins. But their accounting and finance departments are already doing that. Brookfield wants technology that will replace traditional processes, making leasing, managing capital projects, underwriting for investment deals more efficiently performed.

“We are looking for real tangible examples where there is a commercial application for what these tools provide,” said Danehy. The tech companies need to clearly communicate their cost benefit.

Steve Campbell SVP, Prologis Ventures, said a strategic business case is needed. But he acknowledged, “That can be tough when something is evolutionary.”

Campbell said if there was one Holy Grail in technology it would figure out true property utilization. “It’s one thing to know how much of your space is leased. It’s a completely different thing to understand how much of a given space in the market is being utilized. We would love for emerging tech to help solve that,” he said.

This would help Prologis be more predictive of demand and more thoughtful about how to consistently deliver product to the market, so it is not off-cycle.

Ryan Salvas, EQ Office’s VP of real estate technology & innovation and Charlie Kuntz, innovation officer at Hines, both emphasized how implementing technology across an entire portfolio requires tremendous collaboration. This include within the company, with the tech vendor and across the industry. Being a team that can work with the landlord’s leadership is critical.

Michael Werner, real estate partner at Fried Frank, moderated the discussion. He asked how an inevitable economic downturn would affect investment in real estate technology.

Danehy responded tech companies would have to compellingly show not only the cost-benefit justification but why it is being used because technology incurs incremental new costs. Having lived through four economic cycles, he said, “We want to make sure the time, energy, resources that we’ve invested in adopting these new tools and platforms is not seen as the first line to be cut, next year as the economy starts to slow down.”

Matthew Boras, investor, RXR Realty, said they are also looking for technology that will help save money by being operationally more efficient, and that will generate new revenue streams. But he noted with a downturn, affordability becomes an issue. “Those groups that are thinking creatively or using technology to solve a real societal problem that relates back to real estate are of interest to us.”

Salvas added that EQ Office is fairly bullish on investing in technology even in a downturn. Due to the unique role of real estate and investments in the economy, tech investments could provide marketplace data, such as where people are going, where they are buying houses, which markets will be the next millennial magnet. He added these tech investments could be what helps drive companies through an economic downturn.

Betsy Kim

Betsy Kim is the bureau chief, East Coast, and New York City reporter for Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com. As a lawyer and journalist, Betsy has worked as the director of editorial and content for LexisNexis Lawyers.com, a TV/multi-media journalist for NBC and CBS affiliated TV stations in the Midwest, and an associate producer at Court TV.

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