Q&A with Michael Beckerman, CEO of CREtech and Ben Liao, Managing Director of the Colliers Proptech Accelerator powered by Techstars
I have had the pleasure of knowing Ben Liao, Managing Director at Techstars, for several years. He is someone that I am proud to call a friend, colleague and who is truly an inspiration to me personally. His passion for changing an entire industry along with his extraordinary work ethic serves to inspire me daily in my role leading CREtech.com. He has been a tireless supporter of our company and I am incredibly appreciative of all he has done for us but also, for so many.
I often get asked where I get my own insights on the the state of CRETech. Honestly, it’s from people like Ben. I will often pick up the phone, reach out and pick his brain for the trends and insights shaping our industry on the ground. He gets this sector, as well as anyone.
And so, when Ben tells me that CREtech needs to go to Toronto, I listen. And I act! And when he tells me that Colliers and Techstars will help support an event, the only logical answer is, “Hell, yes”!
I am so proud to be collaborating on our upcoming Sold Out Proptech Innovation Day with Ben, Colliers and Techstars on Dec 5th at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre for our first appearance in Canada. I am incredibly excited for this milestone event.
I caught up with Ben recently to find out what’s new and to chat about the event.
Hope you enjoy and that we see you in Toronto on December 5th!
Michael Beckerman: What do you hope to accomplish with the Colliers Proptech Accelerator powered by Techstars and CREtech collaborative event in Toronto?
Ben Liao: This year, we will celebrate a milestone achievement for our entrepreneurs while the industry sets its eyes on Toronto for the beginning of something truly special. We are bringing together the world’s most influential leaders in commercial real estate, proptech and venture capital who are developing groundbreaking solutions around the world. Collectively, Colliers, Techstars, CREtech and Informa will bring 30,000 real estate and technology professionals this December to the city of Toronto, one of the fastest growing proptech hubs in the world.
Thousands of proptech startups have emerged around the world in recent years. Although technology will play an increasingly important role in the industry, there is still a need to understand exactly how it will have an impact. The challenge amidst this recent surge is that most real estate organizations still haven’t figured out the range of strategies that they could (or should) be considering in order to assess the market and take advantage of tech innovations for their real estate assets and improve their bottom line.
Proptech is growing at an accelerated rate by most measures however, much more can be done to put a spotlight on the growing intersection of real estate and technology to encourage new entrepreneurs to build solutions for the future of the real estate industry. A blue ocean of opportunity exists that many have yet to pursue with the largest asset class in the world. What they both need is guidance to bridge the gap between product and aligning solutions against unmet needs in the market.
The CREtech organization has been a beacon for many entrepreneurs from many walks of life who are all entering the sector hoping to find a path forward.
Highly engaged purpose built communities, such as the CREtech community, are very hard to create yet they are absolutely necessary for innovation. Having built the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed with over 10,000 mentors in 150 countries, we know this first hand at Techstars
I could not think of a better mission-driven leader in the sector to work with than the team at CREtech along with your leadership in this sector. I’m fortunate to call you a friend and I am here to help build the global proptech community #GiveFirst
However, no entrepreneurial ecosystem evolves without a clear vision and a lot of effort from the right individuals. To those who want to help shape the future of the real estate industry, I encourage the CREtech community to join us this December 4-5th.
M: What is the state of PropTech in Toronto?
B: Toronto is on the right path to becoming a global proptech hub. The city has all the necessary ingredients to achieve this. Many of the largest global real estate firms are headquartered in Toronto so a substantial center of global real estate influence is located in this city. There is no shortage of brilliant minds and ambition in Toronto with many firms pushing the boundary of solutions around mobility, infrastructure and urbantech, such as Sidewalk Labs. Lastly, innovation is generally led by entrepreneurs and Toronto has quickly become one of the fastest growing tech hubs in the world.
M: The city has become one of the fastest growing tech hubs in the world. What do you attribute the growth of tech as a thriving ecosystem in Toronto to?
B: Canada is having a moment and Toronto is at the center of this growth. First and foremost, we celebrate diversity and inclusion. This has become such an important point, especially in recent years. It’s one of the key reasons Techstars is proud to be a designated entity for Canada’s Start-up Visa Program, a movement that encourages immigrant founders to build their businesses in Canada.
These founders are supported by venture capital that recently hit a record high in the first half of 2019. As Canada becomes tech's next frontier, investors from US-based VC firms are also traveling north to Canada more than ever, with Canadian startups attracting a record amount of US investment in recent years. According to Pitchbook, since 2012, more US investors have invested in Canadian companies than Canadian VCs themselves - about 43.1% of Canadian VC deals this past year have US-based investor participation.
The future continues to look bright with new tech jobs as both the private and public sector inject resources and capital to incubate new talent in areas such as AI. It should be no surprise that Toronto just beat the Bay Area as the fastest-growing tech-jobs market.
M: How are things at Colliers & Techstars? What is the latest with your Accelerator and what are you most excited about?
B: Many believe we have reached a tipping point in Proptech. I was personally witness to hundreds of applications to our program from each region around the world this year representing an unprecedented 50+ countries. I talked to hundreds of entrepreneurs, many of whom, had great teams and brilliant ideas. I wish we could do more but we only have the capacity to invest in a select few of those founders and support them through our program. My experience each year consistently leaves me feeling more bullish than the last and that excites me as I look forward to 2020 and beyond.
More immediately, we have been fortunate to invest in and work with 10 amazing companies and they are sprinting through our intense global program at the moment. Here’s a glimpse at how they’re feeling as they come out of our recent Mentor Sessions just weeks ago in this 2min VIDEO RECAP. I can’t wait for them to reveal all their recent success on the global stage this December 4th at Demo Day.
M: Tell us about your Demo Day?
B: 10 proptech startups. 150+ mentors. 13 weeks. 1 Demo Day.
Our founders are exposed to over 150 dedicated mentors worldwide who are here to help them succeed during our 3 month program. It’s super intense with emotional highs, lows and ultimately, Demo Day is the culmination of those 3 months of hard work. In addition to celebrating a milestone achievement, Demo Day is a powerful platform which gives our founders a voice to articulate their vision for the future of the industry. This is held on a global stage in front of a live curated audience of over a thousand in attendance and thousands who join via. livestream.
Here’s a quick 3min VIDEO RECAP of Demo Day last year. This year, we’re anticipating a significant increase in the live audience attendance. We’ll host Demo Day at the John Bassett Theatre on December 4th. Those who register through our invite will also have complimentary access to our collaborative event with CREtech on December 5th and also the The Buildings Show at the Metro Toronto Convention Center. There is also the opportunity to separately register for The Real Estate Forum. Collectively, we will bring 30,000 real estate and technology industry professionals to the city of Toronto. As a proud Canadian, I am excited for Toronto, Canada and consider this a great start to the beginning of something truly special.