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Propmodo’s Top Built Environment Technology Stories of 2018

The changing of the calendar year is often a time of introspection (Usually, “Why can’t I remember to write the current year on checks?”). So, we decided to take a look back at our best performing posts of 2018 to get a sense of what were the most important stories in your eyes. It is important to remember that this is not an exact representation of popularity: articles that come out on Wednesday and Thursday tend to do better than the other days, putting the name of a big company in the title always gives a bit of a bump (the Google Alerts effect?) and posts published early in the year have had more time to collect reads. Still, it is nice to know get a bit of a feedback loop when selecting what to cover for next years editorial.

And the winners are:

#1 PropTech Startups Demonstrate That Real Estate in 2018 Will Not Be Business as Usual

MetaProp’s accelerator program hosted its demo day at Blackstone headquarters:

Tyler Henritze, the head of real estate acquisition in the US for Blackstone, was the keynote speaker at the New York event. Although he emphasized Blackstone, who recently invested in PropTech firms such as VTS, has no intention to deviate from its core real estate operations, the world’s largest real estate private equity firm “will be open to invest [in PropTech firms] when the opportunity brings strategic relevance to our global business and make us a better and smarter real estate owners and asset managers.” A key culture Mr. Henritze is cultivating at Blackstone is to “raise collective awareness in the emerging trends in our (real estate) industry” among the employees. He also encouraged more community connectivity. “Initiatives like hosting tonight’s event is a sign of Blackstone connecting with the PropTech community, with MetaProp, with entrepreneurs, and with the people that at the forefront of the space.”

#2 Compass’s Disruptive Play: Paying Brokers What They Are Worth

Our take on how the rise of the brokerage firm Compass has as much to do with their more favorable fee structures than their SoftBank money (even though the two are inextricably tied):

Much like a good broker, Compass seems willing to attack the process of selling an opportunity from any possible angle. They offer tempting propositions like a 25% pay increase or even 100% commissions for the first year. They have a seamless tech backend and a tech company culture complete with a showpiece headquarters. They will go as far as to have the CEO personally call brokers to help persuade them to make the move. Granted, these moves have not been without pushback, just last week Modern Spaces filed an agent-poaching suit against the steamrolling Compass.

#3 World’s Biggest Digital Map Company Just Released a Product for Mapping Inside Buildings

Esri is one of the biggest private tech firms in the world and one of the most important technology companies that you have never heard of. They announced their new indoor mapping product at their annual user conference in San Diego:

It isn’t only those that control large parcels of land who are interested in this new technology. One of the presentations was about how Apple is eager to integrate the data into their Indoor Mapping Data Format. One application is for their maps app to go beyond taking the user to an address and instead be able to direct them to the door of their destination, even if it is on the fifth floor of a building in a large industrial complex. This is likely part of a larger plan by Apple to overhaul their mapping capabilities to be able to compete with Google.

#4 JLL’s New Head of Digital Products Shows That Real Estate Is Looking for Top Tech Talent

When JLL recruited top Google talent (and one of the driving forces behind Google Maps) Vinay Goel, it turned a lot of heads. It was also the impetus for us to do a recent conference call with Vinay and his colleague Ravi Mirchandaney (stay tuned for the audio to be released shortly):

“At Google we took a 70/20/10 approach to creating products. Seventy percent of your engineering resources are in your core business today. The other 20 percent is dedicated to looking at emerging possibilities coming down the pipe two or three years down the line. The remaining 10 percent is for completely blue sky innovation that might not result in anything—or it might be the next big thing.”

#5 What Happens When a Skyscraper Outlives Its Useful Life?

One of the biggest occupiers of office space in the US, JPMorgan Chase, has decided to demolish and rebuild their headquarters at 270 Park. At 707 feet tall the demolition will become the tallest buildings in the world to ever have been torn down with the exception of the Word Trade Center attacks:

Perhaps the reason why Chase would prefer to replace its headquarters rather than build an addition is the generous zoning rules now governing the area around Grand Central Station. As other submarkets attracted new office developments and major corporate relocations, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio — and Mayor Bloomberg before him — spearheaded Midtown East rezoning to spur reinvestment in the area. The rules are supposed to help keep the critical submarket around Grand Central competitive.

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Propmodo is a global multimedia effort to explore how emerging technologies affect our built environment.