Introducing the Fifth Wall Podcast
Several weeks ago, Fifth Wall decided to give a trial run to a tried-and-true concept: the podcast. We interviewed Ari Mir & Brian Thomas, co-founders of Clutter — one of our Fifth Wall portfolio companies that is leading a transformative approach to self-storage (if their $64 million Series C round earlier this month led by Sequoia Capital, Atomico, Google Ventures and Fifth Wall is any indication, we’d also suggest that their leadership has heretofore proven fruitful.)
My co-founder, Brad, and I have both spent a significant amount of time understanding and addressing the biggest challenges in the real estate space from a variety of different firms, angles, and approaches. Since creating Fifth Wall, we’ve also had the opportunity to gain a unique perspective on the best and brightest that coming technology has to offer, especially as it applies to real estate. As the largest venture capital fund focused on Built World technology and given the vast real estate portfolio of our investors / LPs (CBRE, Equity Residential, Hines, Host Hotels & Resorts, Lennar, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Macerich, Prologis, Rialto, Rudin Management), we are fortunate to be in a position where we’re having fascinating conversations daily with Built World technology entrepreneurs, industry experts, and real estate industry luminaries. In addition to our growing network, we’ve accumulated a lot of ideas and insights of our own. Through the Fifth Wall Podcast, we’re now excited to bring those ideas to you through conversations, interviews, and short-form audio blogs.
To kick us off, we’ll be posting some of our conversations with leading voices in the real estate industry. While our first guests are all closely affiliated with the work Fifth Wall is doing as either anchor investors or portfolio companies, they have both the experience and the vision to help the rest of us in this space understand what’s new, what’s next, and what’s compelling in the future of the Built World technology. In particular:
“[E-commerce] is a much more accelerated version and a much more efficient version of what the mail order catalogue business was 30 years ago. It’s a way of communicating and showing opportunities to customers in an online way, whether it be now, through the internet, or before, through a catalogue. It’s a way of acquiring customers. But the way to service that customer has been, and from what we can tell will be, in an offline brick and mortar location.”
Most headlines, bylines, and tickers suggest that shopping malls — and perhaps brick and mortar broadly — are outmoded and outmatched by e-commerce and the rise of digitally native brands. Art, however, reads tea leaves for nuance. Changes are afoot in retail, he recognizes, with tenant mixes recalibrating and with highly commoditized brands or department stores’/resellers’ stars falling. But while e-commerce is perhaps an unprecedented platform for distribution, its USP — which lacks the sensory, experiential, and intimate customer interaction of brick-and-mortar — is complementary, rather than mutually exclusive, with malls and the B&M retailers that fill them. Art also speaks with Brendan about the impact of autonomous vehicles on land use, the decline of parking, and retail density; about “following wallets” and landlord-retailer analytics; and about the rise of asset-light/no-inventory models like Tesla, b8ta, and Bonobos in malls of the future.
Episode 3: Nick Romito, Founder & CEO of VTS, a platform that has truly changed the game in the lease management space — and, in the process, has professionalized and centralized the way brokers manage pipelines and owners manage portfolios
“Every good technology in the world is built on open APIs. Except for the ones in our industry.”
As Nick likes to say, “Changing people’s behavior is hard; when they’re making a lot of money, it’s even harder.” Early interactions with VCs suggested as much: Nick was coached early in his ideation that any investor worth her or his weight wouldn’t “touch this product with a thirty-foot pole,” owed to the kind of technological inertia of incumbent products and processes among his target customer/user segments. But then VTS secured a $3.3 million early stage investment from Blackstone. Nick sits down with Brendan to talk about how his own experience as a broker has provided a distinct sales advantage; merger “dating” and natural complementarity with once-competitor Hightower; the incomparable value of “data exhaust;” and Goldman’s potential future as an engineering firm.
“I envision a future where buildings are able to generate and manage energy themselves — and potentially sell energy to other buildings. Think of a city block where every building could either sell or buy electricity from its neighbors…it becomes exciting again. It’s no longer just about that kilowatt hour.”
After a stint at Google helping the technology giant pivot towards clean technology in the way it manages plant, people, and resources, Robyn jumped to the energy industry herself before landing at Lennar, where she’s helping the homebuilder to leverage and apply its existing supply chain to make new homes smarter, more efficient, and more connected. Robyn chats with us about the 30’s-era Rural Electrification Act and the technology, business model, and public marketing campaigns that once made the U.S. an electricity innovator; she also gives timely advice to aspiring energy entrepreneurs, talks about the challenge of piecemeal statutory frameworks and regulatory roadblocks, and the critical importance of data intelligence to the future of building energy management systems.
We definitely have some exciting content ahead, but let us know what you think we should be talking about or with whom you think we should be speaking — let’s co-create this series together.
We hope you’ll join us on the journey. Onward and upward.