Features Newswire

Finding New Technology at Blueprint

Blueprint, the proptech conference held annually in Las Vegas, has seen its share of changes over the last three years. In 2021, the show seemed all about venture capital, with potential investors looking for “that next big thing,” and tossing money around to see what would stick. Last year, the show’s speakers and exhibitors seemed much more practical, focusing on real world problems, with investors seemingly much more cautious about their monies.

This year saw an even more conservative landscape for investors.

“The market and world have changed quite a bit. It’s true in real estate and in proptech,” said Mike Sroka, co-founder and CEO of Dealpath, a commercial real estate (CRE) investment platform supporting acquisitions, dispositions, development and financing. “Simply put, the cost of capital has gone up dramatically and the value of capital has gone up dramatically. We’re very fortunate that we booked our capital last year and are continuing to build out our platform.”

Prior to Dealpath, Sroka spent over a decade growing venture capital-backed software companies including Fanhood, Zynga and OneSeason after an early career at a large private equity firm. It gives him a unique insight into the minds of investors, and the differing viewpoint between the financiers and the financed.

“Capital, particularly institutional capital is global,” Sroka said. “Real estate is local and regional.”

His experience also allowed him to “see under the hood” of payment systems and find out what was missing. That was a one-stop software that can track deals from beginning to end, can organize files and historical data in a central location to ease decision-making and manage teams.

“We’re where the real world transacts the internet,” Sroka noted. “A lot of very important info is trapped in documents and in people’s heads. We allow the buy side to evaluate and execute deals by automating steps along the way.”

With headquarters in both San Francisco and New York City, Dealpath has expanded to Austin, Texas and Toronto, Canada and now supports hundreds of institutional clients. The company is focusing on machine learning to eliminate duplication of manual data entry.

“We’re proving there’s a big underserved market,” Sroka said. “We see enormous opportunity.”

At the other end of the deal, technology is also improving title insurance and closing for residential buyers, said Scott Martino, co-founder and CEO of digital title and settlement company Endpoint. For Endpoint, venture capital wasn’t a problem — the company is backed by First American Financial.

“Money isn’t free anymore,” Martino observed. “Capital is going to people who are focused on driving value solutions. First American Financial takes a long view.”

Constrained capital means fewer competitors, but it also means fewer transactions, as residential volume has declined in light of higher mortgage rates.

“You have to have a good business plan, with basic fundamental business metrics,” Martino said.

Flexibility is also important.

“When we launched in 2018, we focused on real estate agents. We wanted the purchase business because we understand the nuance of that transaction,” Martino recalled. “First American has tons of experience.”

Now, it has expanded to focus on enterprise customers, and is licensed in 38 states. The company takes a standardized approach, offering its customers a single point of contact so it can be “consistent from Washington to California to Texas.

“We take the lessons we learn from the local real estate agent and apply them to companies,” Martino said.

With its customer base proprietary closing platform established, Endpoint is now focusing on the back end, with a new release coming by year-end to make home closing easier, and remove friction for its clients’ internal closing teams, Martino said.

“You can remove the friction, letting the technology drive the process,” removing the re-entry of data and bringing transparency to the deal.

This can be done by machine learning and AI, enabling faster responses and greater accuracy.

“This makes sure we don’t miss anything,” Martino said. “A human could miss something; the machine can make sure nothing is. That’s what I’m excited about.”

The construction side also is looking to technology to improve safety and efficiency, said Danielle O’Connell, senior director of emerging technology for construction giant Skanska USA.

“Our focus is on operations management, and how to make that easier,” she said.

A particular interest was safety technology, especially robotics. But there’s a lot of need for prioritization, she said.

“We’re trying to make everyone comfortable on the job site,” O’Connell explained, adding that “Venture capitalists have invested in so many solutions. We looked at the problems we hear about consistently and focus on those.”

In the future, AI will become more of a focus. O’Connell shared that she gets ideas from Skanska staff about how AI can be used several weekly.

“And there are an overwhelming number of problems that AI can solve,” she noted. “The question is, which ones?”

But AI clearly is the way of the future.

“Some of the new innovation is in generative AI,” Sroka said. “Generative AI allows for individuals and people who are less technically savvy to engage with AI.”

Future enhancements to Dealpath will be “under the hood,” to enhance ease of use, using visualization to encourage its subscribers to be more data-driven in their decision-making.

AI, he noted, will be able to summarize documents and identify anomalies quickly. What would take a team weeks to find can be done in minutes.

“The end user doesn’t really care about the data structure. They just want it to work,” Sroka said. “Whether they’re using AI or not, they just want it to work.”