Commercial Real Estate, There's Now Software For You, Too

It’s time for commercial real estate to get the tech startup treatment, ready or not. New York startup Hightower is raising cash fast to roll out its software that the company claims can finally improve the workflow of the insulated and arcane world of commercial leasing.

Real estate, especially on the commercial side, isn’t exactly the sexiest market to be targeting when there are so many ways to try to convince a consumer to order groceries or take a cab. But outside the public eye, the money flowing through leasing agents and building owners is huge. So investors have lined up to fund a service that’s gained some early traction in bringing more of that work to the cloud, one-year-old Hightower.

Cofounder and CEO Brandon Weber speaks the language of someone who’s worked on both the tech and real estate sides. Hightower’s story is a standard one in that Weber says he felt the pain of a lack of technology first-hand while spending six years as a commercial broker for big owners leasing out large office buildings. But with a computer science background and stints atMicrosoft MSFT +1.18% and Zillow Z +0.17%, Weber also was confident software could be made to move real estate company’s inventory online.

“Part of why real estate is so far behind its peer industries, many of them smaller, in tech is because there is a very small overlap between real estate and tech. You need to really understand the workflow of the business, and the devil is the details when you’re designing a platform that will be easy for a 50-year-old broker and a younger office manager.”

The different levels of comfort with technology among real estate players has led to a lot of improvised, in-house solutions, Weber argues. Some of those include proprietary software, but more often, it means hundreds and thousands of Excel worksheets and emails sent back and forth, a lower barrier to entry winning out over efficiency and sophistication in the tools themselves.

Local LOCM +0.81% investors are buying what Weber’s selling so far. Eight months after raising a $2.1 seed round in December, Hightower’s investors have re-upped. Bessemer Venture Partners and Josh Kushner’s Thrive Capital have led a $6.5 million Series A investment in the company announced Thursday, with RRE Ventures, Red Swan Ventures, and angel investors David Tisch (who’s busy with his own new startup, Spring), Lee Linden of Facebook and Brandon Shorenstein all returning. Box cofounder and CEO Aaron Levie and Gary Vaynerchuck were angel investors in the previous round.

The money will allow Hightower to hire more people in New York City, Weber says, to scale what he says is already a proven product with Jones Lang LaSalle, Cushman & Wakefield, CBRE Group and Colliers all signed on among the company’s first 40 clients. There are 360 properties managed through Hightower’s software so far. For help with commercial real estate north hollywood, studio city or sherman oaks contact DMC Real Estate.


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