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PropTech: Griddig Q&A

Cushman & Wakefield, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Bright Insights Report, Gateway

By Jack Stubbs

Commercial real estate tech is a phrase becoming more and more ubiquitous throughout real estate markets nationwide, as professionals within the industry look to more innovative and instantaneous ways to streamline and interact with their real estate transactions. Griddig is one such platform: a real-time, virtual office leasing template that allows its clients (landlords, tenants and brokers, among others) to more successfully navigate the office space leasing process on a mobile interface.

We recently spoke with Dan Mihalovich, founder and CEO of Griddig, about some of the core features of the product; how it strives to serve its clients, and how it is making a name for itself in the commercial office-leasing market, an arena increasingly impacted by other CRE tech trends.

What can you tell me about Griddig (when it was founded, how it has arrived to where it is today, etc.). In a nutshell, what does Griddig provide for its users and clients?

Griddig was founded in 2012 and the website launched in April, 2014. Griddig is a real-time, office-leasing deal-making marketplace. Its purpose is to use technology to modernize a process that hasn’t changed in fifty years, enable and embrace landlord and tenant teams to speed through deal-making and create transparency throughout the office leasing transaction.

Griddig also creates a landlord/listing broker list/search marketplace that is free, with data that is 100 percent accurate and controlled by the listers. This data leads users from inception of search through and including fully executing their Letters of Intent (LOI) right on Griddig. The original suite of tools remain onsite, including additional features such as the Find Team Members section and access to Griddig’s social channels/content.

Who are Griddig’s primary clients, and where does the platform predominantly operate?

The platform’s clients include landlords, tenants, brokers and service providers (architects, general contractors, real estate lawyers, etc.). The geographic territory for listings on the site is currently focused on San Francisco Bay Area properties. Other cities will be added in the near future. However, the newly launched LOI tool in the App/GooglePlay store is unbound geographically. Anyone can send an LOI to anyone — whether they’re a Griddig Member or not; for any office space in any building. Some of the other tools, such as the space programming tool, Calculate, is also universal to any lease transaction.

How are the objectives of the company influenced by—or a reflection of—the booming commercial real estate market? How applicable is the template within and across other commercial real estate markets?

Griddig was born out of necessity—everyone who has ever touched an office leasing deal has the scars to prove it. Whether markets are tight or sloppy, it was time to modernize our leasing process. The office leasing process is 99 percent replicable throughout the U.S., subject to idiosyncrasies, which are easily addressed on Griddig. Our plan is to address adoption within the Bay Area and continue to expand into all 54 major markets around the country.

With Griddig, people at all levels of the transaction are guided through the process, from start to finish. Can you elaborate on the mechanics of how the platform actually operates to streamline the leasing process?

Griddig makes it exceptionally quick and easy to create a listing (landlord) or search (tenant) project. Likewise, it’s easy to invite your trusted team members onto your listing/search project and immediately begin sharing critical information with one another. All of the tools are pre-populated; everyone can edit from there and save his or her work to reuse repeatedly. The LOI passes between landlord and tenant team using Griddig’s software. It’s an instantaneous distribution of business terms to all deal-influencers.

What are some of the primary tools that make the platform tick? It seems that one of the key features of a Griddig project is the client’s ability to select his or her ‘Team members.’ How does the product aim to give more control to the client?

In the office leasing world, clients are landlords or tenants — most of whom should and will be better served and informed with access to Griddig’s tools. If either landlord or tenant requires a broker or service provider, they can search our Find Team Members section for their contact information. When using our tools, everyone’s respective clients can view and edit the tools — all in tandem with their trusted team members.

Too often deals are sidetracked because the tenant’s team didn’t properly define their spatial needs. Likewise, using the pre-populated Compare tool, tenant clients can easily view their total occupancy costs across a few finalist buildings; and landlords can easily evaluate the highest net effective rent offered for a space across a few different prospective tenants. A well-informed client is a happy and successful party. And the teams that brought that level of comfort and sophistication to their clients will be rewarded with repeat business.

A core concept behind Griddig is its goal of making real estate leases more transparent. Does this element of the platform reflect an evolution or revolution of the real estate transaction process?

Moving CRE transactions to a more transparent and open platform allows for deals to happen faster and more efficiently, and that means stakeholders stay “in the loop” every step of the way. The Griddig platform allows all parties to consummate the deal quicker and without surprises. The CRE industry maintains a well-deserved reputation as being a dinosaur industry. So, yes, transparency has been in short supply in the office leasing process while virtually every other industry has evolved and benefitted by adopting collaborative, shared processes. For most companies, their office lease represents an enormous expense relative to gross revenues.

Griddig is a public marketplace, versus other domains that remain inaccessible except for paying subscribers. Building information and listings should be free and publicly viewable. Clients aren’t well served by hiding information from them.

Griddig recently released its Letter of Intent feature as a mobile app. In what ways does this represent a new chapter for the platform? How does Griddig’s software scale across different platforms?

We wanted the entire universe of office leasing deal-makers to see our LOI and start using it, rather than simply focusing on the San Francisco Bay Area. So we engineered the tool to work for anyone, anywhere, and for any building or space. Our audiences are working on deals all the time. The LOI comes together very quickly, with its cloning feature to create new LOIs; and simply clicking buttons to “Agree” on terms until they’re all agreed. One can fully execute LOIs on his or her handheld device.

There are lots of platforms participating in CRE tech: helping clients to find and lease available office space, enhancing collaboration and communication between team members and facilitating office space transactions. How does Griddig seek to differentiate itself in an era of CRE tech platforms? What makes Griddig stand out from the crowd?

At the present time, Griddig is the only deal-making software platform in the entire industry—where the parties can actually negotiate and fully execute business agreements to lease space. Searching for space is a means to an end and is available on Griddig. However, it’s our deal-making focus in particular that sets us apart. We are thrilled to see more adoption of CRE tech throughout the industry. We need a brilliant office leasing marketplace, replete with visionary participants who share our commitment to efficiency and productivity.

What are the challenges involved in ensuring that Griddig remains ahead of the curve? How will Griddig ensure that it remains competitive in a CRE tech-saturated marketplace?

Software development is never done, of course. We are constantly improving the utility of our tools and platform and will continue to launch important tools as Apps. Technology has made this obvious: deal-making no longer has to be as painful or time-consuming. All listings should be public, free and controlled by listers—not a third party. CRE tech is clearly not a saturated marketplace. We’re still at the early stages in this transformation of CRE transactions, but stakeholders are welcoming the fresh approach that keeps them in the driver seat of the deal.

What lies ahead? Does Griddig have future plans to expand beyond San Francisco and the Bay Area? Might Griddig expand into the residential real estate market in the future?

There are 54 major markets in the U.S. that are at least the size of San Francisco, and we intend to operate in all of them. At present, Griddig serves the office leasing community, however, our tools are easily adaptable to service industrial and retail leasing. We were born out of commercial office leasing experience. Could we expand into residential? Sure.