CRE App Review Q&A: Dominic Zabriskie
One would be hard-pressed to find someone with a more well-rounded resume than Dominic Zabriskie when it comes to both the real estate and technology sectors. Dominic has used his 10 years of experience as a commercial real estate developer, broker and investor to successfully branch out into the technology side of the business. In 2014 Dominic successfully sold two CRE tech websites he co-founded, CRE Console and The CRE App Review and now holds advisory positions at LeaseMatrix, The CRE App Review and The News Funnel.
What's the most exciting trend you are seeing currently in CRE Tech?
Dominic: The most exciting trend I now see in CRE tech is a willingness to try new technology. Before 2014, most CRE firms wouldn't even consider giving something new a try until they thought their competition was using it and might gain some type of competitive advantage.
Over the last 12 months or so, I have begun to witness to firms more frequently seeking out new technologies on their own. My opinion is that this is largely based on two factors.
First, new technology is becoming more and more affordable to try; in most cases, free trials are readily available. When I first started in the business, the firm I worked for paid $30,000 upfront to adopt REApplications office-wide. Nowadays, $30,000 is a seed round, not an onboarding fee; similar cloud-based platforms, like Apto or ClientLook are both less than $100 per month and blow away what REApplications ever dreamed of offering.
Secondly, enough senior CRE leaders have now had time to experienced the positive impact technology has had in other areas of their life and are now using more technology at work because of this. Maybe it was when they traded in their Blackberry device for their first iPhone, or maybe it was repeatedly watching what a newly hired millennial can do in a matter of minutes with the right technology which previously took hours, I am not sure. Whatever it was, these experiences have finally had a lasting impact on how they want to operate their CRE business.
How do you discover new tech products in the industry?
Dominic: Over the last 2 or 3 years, the CRE tech market has begun to mature. There are now industry-specific "deal management" systems like Hightower and TenEight. Prior to an industry-specific platform like Hightower, I usually used a general project management tools like Basecamp. The CRE industry is such a niche industry, no one will ever build a new piece of technology specifically for us which is not basically an adaptation of something else. For this reason, I would expect to see existing technology platforms and workflows be further customized to better serve the CRE industry.
Consider the Basecamp / Hightower example. 37signals launched Basecamp in 1999. 15 years later, we are just now seeing CRE industry-specific project management tools being developed and openly adopted.
For this reason, I make a concerted effort to look outside of our industry to find new technology. If you look for new technology within the industry, you will literally be 15 years behind where today's opportunity is.
What are some of your favorite commercial real estate technology products you use on a daily basis?
Dominic: Most of the technology I use isn't industry specific. The industry specific solutions I do use on a regular basis are Hightower, Rentlytics and The News Funnel. More general productivity apps I use regularly include Airtable, Acompli, Dropbox and Google Maps Engine.
Whats the one area of CRE Tech you wish you had a great product for?
Dominic: Two words: Business Intelligence. The concept is nothing new; the term was actually coined in 1865. Solutions have been offered by the likes of IBM, Microsoft and Oracle for decades, but I am just now starting to see customized solutions like Rentlytics target our industry. This opportunity will be HUGE for the group that gets it right, it is just brutal getting all the data sources into a format which is actually usable.
What advice would you give to a real estate professional that is making their first foray into the CRE tech scene?
Dominic: I've written quite a bit about this in the past, and would refer you to a prior post titled "Are you a CRE dinosaur? Here is how to find out." In this post, I outline 3 steps any real estate professional should take if they are just now making their first foray into the CRE Tech scene. The gist of it is to i) use Google Chrome as your browser ii) move to a web-based email solution, and way from the Desktop version of Outlook iii) hire a millennial and watch how they assemble and compile information more efficiently using publicly available sources. Using Chrome and a Web-based email system will prepare you for a full move to the cloud for full-fledged services like CRM (eg. Apto) and document sharing (eg. Dropbox), and young blood will keep you on top of the best way to use the newest technology.