Heading south on Park Avenue I glance out the window and see the sign for thirty-ninth street flash by. Checking my phone for the time I am in no hurry. The meeting I have set up is a casual one. Walking talking coffee and soaking up the warm rays of SOHO.
Arriving at the corner of Broadway and Canal the driver pulls over stops and steps out to get my door. Shielding myself from the sun I check my phone again and hit navigation just to get a reference for where I am exactly. I seem to be on the south-east side of SOHO and judging by the amount of NY sightseeing buses on the road I am not the only one taking advantage of this gorgeous fall day.
I scroll thru my messages and text my arrival. A response and acknowledgement. I decide to stay put. It’s going to be hard enough to find me as it is. I text back that I am right in front of the Bank Of America branch wearing jeans a pull over and that “I have great hair.” So I should be easy to spot. Mommy’s with baby carriages block the sidewalk and do so with reckless abandon. They own it and know it.
Shadowed by beat up awnings advertising perfume and t-shirts across the street I recognise a familiar face. He looks over scanning and I catch his attention. Big smile and a wave, he walks to the corner and crosses with the light.
“Hey, how are you doing? It’s good to see you. How was the trip down?”
” I took a Uber car and the traffic did not seem that bad to me but the driver was stressing and honking so it may have been a little more than I thought. I love that service. How about you.”
” I have some friends that live in the meat-packing district where I am staying so it was a quick cab ride for me.”
” So what’s the plan? You mentioned that you wanted to meet and just generally talk about tech and commercial real estate”
” I didn’t really have anything specific in mind. Let’s go this way.” Leaning in and heading north on Broadway.”I have a place in mind where we can possibly lunch and sit.”
” So what do you think about the CRE //Tech Intersect event coming up tonight?”
” I think can be a real jump forward for commercial real estate.”
” What are you looking to get from the event?”
” I really just want to meet with people and see where this thing may head. I’m not so sure what comes next. Which is cool for me. No need to try to steer the thing. Let it go on organically and see what happens.”
” Yea, it should be great. I am looking forward to it. Hopefully it will become something that grows. Who knows? Let’s cross over here.”
I look up and we are headed west on Grand street. As we pass The International Culinary Center I think I could be getting hungry.
” So there has to be the big question that you have had in your head. What is it?”
” Well, it could be several but tell me what you don’t see happening with tech and commercial real estate. Is there something that is just so obvious that we don’t see it from our side?”
We turn onto Greene street and the traffic dies down and the shops start to look a little more like museums and less like places to actually buy something. I notice a furniture place that doesn’t have any furniture in it and a shoe store with shoes that look like they were not meant to be worn.
” Hey hang on a second let me get a picture of the famous SOHO retail experience.”
” Yea stuff for people who already have all the stuff.”
” Funny nice. Where in the hell are we going?”
” To much walking for you?”
” I am not a New Yorker. Walking is overrated. They invented cars for a reason.”
” Where are you from again?”
” A flyover city don’t worry I will manage.”
” Hang with me dude we are getting close.”
” So to answer your question generally and from the outside looking in….where do I start? When I think of the tech side the image I keep getting is a bubble. You are inside of it. It insulates you. It has shiny colors and it floats along on the wind with not a care in the world and although it is a beautiful and graceful thing it will only last so long.”
” Dude you are going deep.”
” Dude ease up.”
” Let’s turn here. There is a restaurant at Broadway and Houston if we are lucky we can get a table outside.”
” So maybe I went to far with the metaphor but without a doubt there is dissociation away from the commercial real estate tech companies and their customer base.”
” I don’t get it. We only talk to brokers all the time. We even have a special service dedicated to concierge.
” You mean customer service, right?”
” Yea, that what we call it.”
” Ok, yea I get that but is it the only a way of connection to commercial real estate because that’ s what you think you need to do or that someone at a start-up mixer told you to do?”
” Dude come on, really? We didn’t just do it because it’s like on the list of things a tech start-up does.”
” Fair enough. Is this the place?”
” Yea, this is it Dos Caminos. Let’s see if we can sit outside. I think I saw a couple of open tables.”
We sit and look thru the menu. I decide on the Dos Enchiladas.
” No I will not be having the tequila flights.”
” Dude your rep just took a hit.”
” My rep is way established. I am not worried.”
” So you were saying.”
” Well I have a question for you. Name for me the sales organisations that you know of in commercial real estate and tech.”
” I don’t get what you are asking.”
” Sales as in all they do is go out and create customers that use their product. Organisations that are sales first.”
Silence, a drink from a glass of water and a wipe with the napkin. I sit and wait.
” There has to be sales in every organisation right? So we all do it.”
” You pitch VC’s. You have meeting’s with brokerages to get them to endorse your technology to their brokers. You work the C-suite like it’s the only thing that will keep you alive. You go to their conference and sit on panels…and then leave quickly after. How about the end users? Is the concierge all that you have in place? Someone on a phone thousands of miles away. Reaching out and touching. Really?”
” I am still not seeing your point.”
” Real live deal making brokers. When was the last time you met with more than two separate individual brokers in a week? Hell how about a month or how about not at all?
” Ok, yea I am getting it now. You don’t see us on the street. I see what you are saying but we need iteration of our product not just new users all the time.”
” Well, iteration I get. What I don’t get is the lip service I get about commercial real estate customers. It’s the bubble. It’s your bubble. It’s the dissociation away from the customer, the actual user. You don’t know them you don’t relate to them and you sure as hell don’t know how to sell to them.”
” Dude, you can be harsh.”
” Uh, dude you asked. Oh and you are sitting across from one of your potential customers and……..!”
A Walk. A Conversation. Dissociation and The Bubble.
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sarabiljana/9516541288/