By Naib Mian
Having raised almost $22 million since its founding two years ago, Hightower has integrated itself into the commercial real estate market. The end-to-end leasing management platform focused on reporting, tracking and analytics is used in 350 cities and hosts 3,000 commercial assets.
“Commercial real estate is poised and ready for a significant disruption from tech,” said Brandon Weber, Hightower’s founder and CEO, but the market still lags behind others in terms of technology. “This is the first out of the first inning in terms of disruption and transformation,” he said. “We’re just at the cusp of what tech in commercial real estate will do.”
We’ve been watching it grow and giving feedback basically from its inception
Weber brings experience in both technology and real estate brokerage. After working on Microsoft Corp.’s Excel development team and at online real estate database Zillow, he transitioned to commercial real estate more than seven years ago when he became a broker at CBRE Group, Inc. in Seattle.
Although Hightower is now based in New York, it has roots in the Pacific Northwest city. It was there that Weber met Greg Inglin, a senior vice president at commercial real estate firm Colliers International, both a competitor and a peer. Inglin said Weber reached out to him, asking questions about how they ran their businesses, and Inglin’s team was one of the first to beta test Hightower. “We’ve been watching it grow and giving feedback basically from its inception,” he said.
For Inglin, Hightower has saved him time through making his work mobile and his communication with clients and teammates more efficient. “It was an antiquated system,” he said, describing how he used to track leasing prospects on Excel spreadsheets and update them by hand. “Instead of having eight reports for eight different clients, there’s one place where I keep it all,” he said.
This was a large part of the motivation behind Hightower. Weber saw how underserved the commercial real estate industry was by technology and wanted to work towards closing that gap.
“People are still using 30-year-old tech solutions,” he said. “It’s a very paradoxical industry. It’s deeply data-driven, collaborative [and] mobile, but completely lacking mobile technology.”
Weber’s goal with Hightower is to help property owners, brokers and managers put their business in their pocket and provide data in a way that’s analyzable.
This ability to interact with data is something Inglin said wasn’t even on the playing field three years ago. “It’s opened up a whole world of analytics that is just starting to be tapped,” he said.
This is the area in which Inglin thinks technology can make the most impact. It’s difficult to analyze market data on leasing because not all transaction information is accessible unless the company involved is publicly traded.
“Being able to pull in credible market-wide data [and] look ahead—that’s lacking most. Not just seeing what’s available but supply and demand data on leasing,” Inglin added.
As Hightower expands to major markets, with assets on the platform growing just below 20 percent month-over-month, Weber hopes to increase collaboration. They have worked closely with Floored 3D, a space visualization tool, and Weber wants to see more of that. “These technologies can and should interact,” he said. “We’ll be announcing big product integrations soon.”