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Beyond The Bio: 16 Questions With Radical Galaxy Founder, Managing Partner Matthew Shaffer

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This series profiles men and women in commercial real estate who have profoundly transformed our neighborhoods and reshaped our cities, businesses and lifestyles. 

After a decade-long career in hedge fund management, Matthew Shaffer decided to turn the tables and launch a design firm centered around disruptive technology he would have bet on during his hedge fund days. 

Bellevue, Washington-based Radical Galaxy Studio is a commercial and residential digital architecture firm that uses technology, including virtual and augmented reality, to design properties. The firm creates architectural renderings and 360-degree videos that allow clients to take virtual tours through their properties. 

Shaffer, who serves as the firm's managing partner, has worked with industry giants, including Hyatt Hotels, JLL, Colliers International, Apollo Global Management and Lincoln Property Co. on projects across the U.S.

When he is not busy pushing the boundaries of architectural design with technology, Shaffer is focusing on efforts at home with his family and dogs.

The startup has offices in New York and Seattle. 

Radical Galaxy founder and managing partner Matthew Shaffer
Radical Galaxy founder and Managing Partner Matthew Shaffer

Bisnow: How do you describe your job to people who are not in the industry?

Shaffer: We turn 2D blueprints into 3D fully immersive visual experiences so people can walk through properties on the computer or via virtual reality before they are built.

Our real estate technology products thus can save clients time and money. In addition, it gives clients the opportunity to experience exactly what they are buying or leasing and view the different interior design packages. People usually love our in-person virtual or augmented reality demos because it’s like being in an arcade — they can walk around unbuilt spaces, peer through doorways and even move furnishings around.

Bisnow: If you weren’t in commercial real estate, what would you do?

Shaffer: Prior to founding Radical Galaxy Studio, I was a senior investment professional. If I did not start Radical Galaxy Studio, I would be sitting on the other side of the table conducting due diligence and making investments in real estate technology companies like ours.

Bisnow: What is the worst job you ever had?

Shaffer: There were no bad jobs. All my work experience has provided me with a learning experience to become the professional that I am today.

Bisnow: What was your first big deal?

Shaffer: Custom-home virtual reality walkthroughs for C-level clients. More recently we have been working on projects within the hospitality industry along with the condo and office markets.

Bisnow: What deal do you consider to be your biggest failure?

Shaffer: All our deals have gone well for us and we are very grateful that our clients have been very happy with our work and all are willing references. To me, the biggest failure [was] those deals we did not get the opportunity to work on.

Bisnow: How do you define “making it”?

Shaffer: When we are known industry-wide as the premier architectural visualization and technology firm within the real estate industry.

Bisnow: What is your biggest pet peeve?

Shaffer: People being consistently late; as they say, if you are not early, you are late. Also, when my dog ignores me for a few days after I return from a long business trip.

Bisnow: Who is your greatest mentor?

Shaffer: There have been many people I respect and learned from over the years, whether it’s how to conduct oneself in a meeting or how to keep pushing forward on a deal when the odds are stacked against you or how to be creative and think outside the box. There is not one specific person, but a group of people at various points [in] my life that I have learned from.

Radical Galaxy Studio's Matthew Shaffer with his dog, Emmy
Radical Galaxy Studio's Matthew Shaffer with his dog, Emmy

Bisnow: What is the best and worst professional advice you've ever gotten?

Shaffer: The best advice I ever received is [to] trust your gut. The worst advice I ever received is to just get a stable job and be content.

Bisnow: What is your greatest extravagance?

Shaffer: Salmon skin, salmon broth, baked salmon and salmon kibble (for my sled dog).

Bisnow: What is your favorite restaurant in the world?

Shaffer: While this does not directly answer your question, the meal I most look forward to is my mother's prime rib. I’ve had prime rib at a number of high-end restaurants and none of them compare.

Bisnow: If you could sit down with President Donald Trump, what would you say?

Shaffer: I would ask him about his thoughts on the real estate market. I would also ask him if he was interested in playing a round of golf in one of our virtual reality headsets.

Bisnow: What's the biggest risk you have ever taken?

Shaffer: Leaving the investment profession to start up Radical Galaxy Studio. We bootstrapped the company and acquired large clients based on the quality of our work. We are now expanding rapidly with plans to open a NYC office to offer personal service on the East and West Coast.

Bisnow: Whose work do you most admire?

Shaffer: Our creative team, they are able to create unique experiences in a fast and highly detailed manner.

Bisnow: What keeps you up at night?

Shaffer: That there are other firms out there trying to take market share away from us.

Bisnow: Outside of your work, what are you most passionate about?  

Shaffer: My family.