1.MENTOR: Start to mentor a budding entrepreneur. Most universities have startup incubator programs/classes. As an industry professional, you probably know at least one person who quit his/her jobs to create the next big company. If not, ask your peers. Seek out those entrepreneurs and offer to help with strategy, fundraising and networking help – FOR FREE.
2.ATTEND EVENTS: It’s not 2014 anymore! Most major cities now have PropTech meetups, mixers, discussion groups and (in)formal events. As of 2018, the major real estate events are even morphing into innovation-centric gatherings. Important global events include Inman Connect, NYC Real Estate Tech Week, MIPIM PropTech NYC and Europe, Disrupt CRE, Future: PropTech, CRE//Tech, My advice is to buy tickets early, as prices usually go up close to show time.
3.SPONSOR AN ACCELERATOR: A number of reputable PropTech acceleration programs exist in major cities like New York, Chicago, Toronto, and London. Find the managing director of these programs and introduce yourself! Then, ask what it takes to become a corporate partner or sponsor. Benefits may include access to programming and events, big brand exposure, and some startup deal flow.
4.INVEST: Go ahead, make a few angel investments on your own, join an angel group, or get into a top venture fund. You can even browse deals on angelist. The buy-in is sometimes smaller than you think. Frequently, good, young companies will take as little as $25,000 from a high impact real estate guru like you! At first, stick with concepts that you can understand. Expand your reach over time as you gain confidence. Just make sure that someone who knows what they’re doing in the early stage space is helping with diligence and legal before you sign any docs or wire money. Also, you should refuse to sign NDAs!
5.VOLUNTEER AT WORK: Take the innovation lead inside your organization. Be the squeaky wheel. Join one of the tech working groups that now exist in many top real estate companies. If none exist at your shop (scary thought), ask your CEO and CIO tough questions about the future of your business and how your company might respond.
6.TEST, TEST, TEST: Now the fun…yes, you can be an early adopter. Pilot some tech in your day-to-day business. Most of the time, all you need is a computer and/or smartphone. Simple google searches may even identify technology-based solutions to your common work-related problems. If you’re not trying new things you might as well start packing the office.
7.READ, READ; LISTEN, LISTEN; WATCH, WATCH: You have to know and follow the big bloggers, podcasters and newsletter publishers in our space: Duke, James, Travis, Phil, Emily, Matt, Ash, and Mike. Also, you can sign up for the newsletters from smart industry VCs like Bricks and Mortar, Corigin, MetaProp, FifthWall, and Concrete. You should definitely read the “Tech 101” books like The Lean Startup, Hackers and Painters, etc. You can even watch short online pitches and act like your favorite Shark Tank celebrity.
8.SUPPORT AN ASSOCIATION: Did you know that you can volunteer to drive innovation within your favorite industry association? Yes, many are building tech councils and interest groups… REBNY, CoreNet, ULI, RICS, RealPac, etc. We support many with research, events, content, speakers and have recently run into some really smart people poking around PropTech.
9.TAKE THE PLUNGE: Develop your own idea. Think you’re an entrepreneur? Do you have what it takes? Quit your job. Get your idea down on paper. Hustle to find a technical co-founder. Get an MVP developed and solicit feedback from other smart practitioners. Come talk to early-stage investors. You can do this. Check out examples from winners like NickDon, Michael, and Clelia for inspiration.