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A Recap of the RE: Tech Hacker Challenge

07/09/2014

Held at the WeWork Charging Bull, the RE: Tech Hacker Challenge was the first competition of its kind, showcasing a collection of some of the most intriguing developments in real estate technology currently emerging in the industry. The Challenge touted the efforts of submissions that best promoted new ways for customer (B2C) or professionals (B2B) to be able to engage and enhance the experience in one of the following areas in commercial and/or residential real estate: Leasing, Brokerage, Property Management, Investment Sales, Appraisal/Valuation and Development/Design/Architecture. The News Funnel had boots on the ground at the RE: Tech Hacker Challenge (also known as the RE: Tech Challenge), deployed with the intent of delivering a detailed account of this fascinating competition on FunnelCast.

There was a sense of tension in the air (healthy tension, of course). The room was packed and the stakes were high. The Grand Prize: $20,000 and a booth to demo at the 3-day Urban Land Institute (ULI) Fall National Conference in New York City, which draws over 30,000 real estate owners, brokers and Venture Capital investors.

The judges represented a blend of the who’s who in the real estate, business and tech worlds, including: Jared Kushner of Kushner & Co., James Nelson of Massey Knakal, Alexander Pease of Union Square Ventures, RETech founder Ash Zandieh, Chase Mattison of Salesforce.com, WeWork Labs co-founder Jesse Middleton and Dmytro Pokhylko, Director at the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

The evening’s events began with a speech by Kushner, in which he bemoaned that “a lot of building owners are stuck in the Stone Age, out of touch with ways to stay in touch with their tenants and maximize operational efficiency….people are running billion dollar buildings in a really inefficient way.” He later went to say that technology in real estate “can be absolutely huge, but we are in the early stages of it." With Kushner setting the scene for the new real estate up-and-comers, the finalists got their chance to present their creations. Some of the notable finalists that really stood out from the pack were TheSquareFoot, Agorafy and vrban.

TheSquareFoot merges an online listings service with a brokerage team that helps assist in the transaction, as well as with other things like moving, etc. They work directly with landlords to get the listing data, so you know that it’s 100 percent accurate. They also provide photos, video, floor plans, a “walk score” for walkability and a “quiet score,” where they utilize New York City open data to calculate how noisy a particular area is. Overall, theSquareFoot streamlines the entire commercial real estate leasing process.

Agorafy prides itself in being the largest and most accurate New York City listings database on the Internet, providing both commercial and residential listings. Users can search for a listing based off of street name, square footage, neighborhood, or within a specific price range. Users also have the option to save their searches to receive notifications if any activity is happening with the listing. The listings are independently and continually verified by Agorgay to ensure that they remain accurate. If someone is interested in a property, they can reach out directly to the broker, who is also completely verified.

vrban is an extremely creative 2D and 3D mapping service that allows its users to explore and make modifications to virtual models of urban landscapes, so that the planners for building projects can take into account the entire surrounding area when drafting their plans for the development. All of the data is entirely sharable, so collaborating on a project is easy. The coolest feature about vraban, we must say, is its compatibility with Occulus Rift

Despite how impressive the above finalists were, they ended up proving no match for Kisi, who took down the Grand Prize. Kisi is one of those apps that just simplifies your life, one of those ideas that you just wish you had thought of yourself. Kisi is a cloud-based program that allows users to swipe a locked door open with just their smartphone, thus replacing the need for a key or security pass, which are items that can be easy to lose.

Overall, every one of the finalists at the RE: Tech Challenge deserved their spot. It was definitely a landmark night for the appreciation of the field of real estate technology!

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