If I were to design a real estate technology startup CEO in a lab, he (or she!) would resemble Brandon Weber. He has a perfect pedigree: Bachelors in both Information Systems and Human-Computer Interaction from Carnegie Mellon, program manager of Excel at Microsoft, program manager at Zillow, and VP at CBRE. He is handsome and tall, but not distractingly so. He gets along with everyone that I have talked to about him and personally responded to all my emails.
Even still, it wasn’t his professional background or his personal traits that stood out to me most when researching him, it was his Twitter feed. If you don’t follow him on Twitter, you should. His tweets tend to fall into three categories: info about his asset management platform Hightower (the leasing and asset management platform he co-founded), great articles about CRE and technology, and information about his personal interests.
Brandon’s Twitter presence does what most social media marketers dream about, it creates a mutually beneficial relationship between content creator and audience. I get the benefit of discovering articles about real estate, architecture, technology and start-up culture (all things that I am into). He gets the benefit of being able to tell Hightower’s story and create a personal connection to him as a brand.
I would argue that more than anything, Brandon knows how to create mutually beneficial relationships. His company, Hightower, has gotten adoption from some of the biggest names in real estate. This is because of Hightower’s ability to track almost every part of the leasing process, on any device, in real time. Brokerages and landlords use Hightower for everything from automating time-consuming tasks to conducting portfolio wide analysis. The platform is full of benefits that most users have no problem paying a nominal monthly fee to use.
The problem that Hightower ran into, and I am using problem in the most positive way, is that their customers came to rely on these features so much, they felt that they needed it for their assets outside of North America.“The catalyst for our international expansion was the pull from our customer base. As we started to win institutional owners it quickly became apparent that their expectation was that Hightower is a global leasing platform for them,” said Brandon.
Much like I have come to expect interesting, timely content from Brandon’s Twitter feed, his customers expected Hightower to be a global tool. When clients the size of JLL and Beacon Capital expect something, and are willing to pay for it, it is in a company’s best interest to oblige.
So, Brandon started doing some research. “We went on a fact finding mission in London in Q4 , to really understand if the European market was ready. We took almost 30 meetings in 5 days in Amsterdam, London and Paris. And the result was amazing.”
It soon became clear how the processes in Europe were making Hightower even more beneficial for its stateside partners looking to expand globally. “There is an inherent teaming aspect that is conducive to getting a lot of value out of Hightower. We help aggregate all the data and communication which is a key factor in workflow collaboration,” Brandon told me. Properties in Europe often have multiple teams working together on different aspects of the leasing process.
Hightower’s developers then spent months listening to their European partners and tailoring the platform accordingly. They internationalized the product (meaning customers in other countries can set their preferred currency and language), and developed features that allowed teams to choose which information they choose to share with their leasing team. New options were also needed so the platform could account for different lease terms found in Europe including expense stops and break clauses.
The thing that is unique about how we are approaching Europe is that we are going to have a full stack office. That will be everything from sale to customer support to account management.
Once they felt like they had a service that was ready for its new life overseas, they dove into the London market headfirst. “We have doubled down on Europe and are hiring across the board. The thing that is unique about how we are approaching Europe is that we are going to have a full stack office. That will be everything from sale to customer support to account management,” said Brandon. Creating a whole new division for their European operations seems like a lot of overhead, but Brandon thinks it is the right way to prove his commitment and offer his European clients the service they deserve. His advice for others looking to take their products to new locals: “Don’t go into any market unless you are really prepared to invest in that market. By that I don’t mean just put a sales guy on the ground and hope he can sell.”
Hightower is committed to London, but they don’t want to stop there. Brandon has his eyes on the rest of Europe, as well as Australia and Asia Pacific. No doubt he will use the lessons that he has learned from his first move into London when building his platform to be a truly global asset leasing solution. No matter where he decides to take the company in the future, I know I will be informed, as well as entertained, by @brandongweber on Twitter.