Working WITH Brokers…Not Against Them…
One of the really cool parts of running a series of sites devoted to news aggregation, connectivity and, events for the CRE startup world, is that I literally get sent dozens of really cool startup updates every week. And sometimes they are so interesting, I like to write about them. And that’s exactly what happened when I got a press release from David Nevin, Co-Founder of VoidStacker.
What really caught my eye in the PR was this particular line…"VoidStacker, Inc. has announced the release of it's big data web application to help brokers analyze the local retail/office market around a property and help fill vacancies faster.”.
I have been writing on my blog for a while that the most successful CRE startups will be the ones that help brokers generate more deals! Sites that HELP brokers! Anyone who thinks they will REPLACE brokers is nuts (in my humble opinion). Sure, there will be a market for smaller tenants that need short term space and there will be a great industry to emerge (already has) where the LiquidSpace, WeWork, Knotel and others will thrive. But in this blog, the emphasis is on helping brokers do more deals faster and smarter!
So I reached out to David to learn more about what he is up to, where he came from and his future plans for VoidStaker.
Michael: What's your background?
David: I've spent the last 26 years in the software business, I started in Computer Aided Design (CAD), hit telecom/mobile and cloud around the middle, and most recently it's been Internet of Things (IoT). I've been a CRE owner & asset manager for the last 5 years, part-time, primarily retail strip malls/office buildings in TX, CA and NV.
M: When did you get the idea for VoidStacker?
D: A couple years ago we had a new tenant in one of our properties in Surprise AZ, it was a sports bar concept. Using Google Maps, we knew there were several other brew pubs and bars in the area, but the tenant thought they had a unique enough concept to be successful. After a year they changed the concept to a biker bar as there was too much competition from other brew pubs, then struggled for another 2 years before going out of business. All the while the other tenants complained the biker bar was hurting their business. We had to go after the liquor license to recoup the last few months of rent and pay for improvements to make the space usable again. Now using Void Stacker we can see there are 15 bars/brew pubs within 3 miles, the area is fully saturated, it was a costly mistake due to incomplete data. Google Maps only lists retailers if a business decides to publish their location, and we tried some other tools, but they mostly only had top chains with 1M or so retailers, there's over 5M retail/office businesses in the US alone. We built the app, originally for our own use, so we didn't make that costly mistake again.
M: How did you go about building the site?
D: It starts with the data, we went out and licensed data from multiple sources, white/yellow page data from phone book companies, USPS delivery addresses, and new connection data from utility companies, among others. We store the data in an Elasticsearch database and host it in Google Cloud. We added Google Maps addresses and drive distances & time so a potential tenant knows how close their competition is. When we saw how much data there was, we added a search tool, similar to Google's, so you can quickly find a category or retailer. Then we added reporting so we could receive status updates via email on prospective tenants. After using the app for our properties, a couple brokers asked to use it for other clients, so we upgraded the cloud infrastructure, ran scalability testing, improved the UI and added tooltips to make it easier to learn.
M: How does the site work?
D: You can use any browser on a PC, or tablet in the field, to access the Void Stacker service(it works on a phone, but there's a lot of data, so it's not optimal on smaller screens) . A broker or owner can enter the address of their property or vacancy, and specify a radius area they want to analyze. The User can see just major Chains, or ALL retail/office businesses broken into 20 categories. Once a User has determined categories that are underrepresented or chosen categories the owner/landlord wants to focus on, a larger trade area is specified to pull from that are "in market". This includes contact name and phone number to contact retailers, and a Note fields to update status and email to others.
M: Who is your ideal target audience?
D: The service is built primarily for CRE brokers and owners, but anyone who wants to analyze the local retail/office market can use it. As the retail market recovers, brokers are getting busier and busier, the more efficient they can be in analyzing the local market and communicating updates, the more time they have to focus on filling vacancies. We can save a leasing broker 3-5 hours per week in data analysis & communication. The internet is a great disintermediator, more and more it will connect tenants and owners directly, I would like my brokers to be local experts on what types of tenants will be most successful in our properties, and manage the pipeline of potential tenants through to LOI.
M: What's next for your site?
D: Our goal is to aggregate disparate data and make it easily accessible for people in CRE. We see brokers becoming more trusted advisors to the CRE sale/leasing process, we'd like to put content at their fingertips to provide the best service they can to owners/landlords or tenants. We'd like to be the broker's go to tool for retail/office analytics whether they are in the office or on tenant tours. We've had requests additional demographic data such as trade centers, daytime or tourist population data, or up-to-date traffic counts on all local roads. We're not looking to replicate what's available already, but innovate and augment what's currently available to enable better decision making. Users will drive what's next, we'd love to hear from people who have feedback on what we are doing by trying the service at https://app.voidstacker.com/voidstacker/#/signup and then sharing their feedback with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks David. If I were a broker or owner, I would absolutely check out what David and his team have built at VoidStacker.com.
David has over 20 years of Software Sales & Business Development experience in numerous disciplines including Energy Management, Machine Learning/Predictive Analytics, Security, Cloud Dev Ops, Mapping, Mobile/Telecom and Computer-aided Design. David has been investing in CRE for over 10 years(prefers retail) and is driven to bring his software experience to help drive innovation and efficiency for brokers/developers/landlords in retail transactions like filling vacancies faster.