Inside NYC's Newest (Sort Of) CRE Tech Accelerator
New York’s booming commercial real estate tech scene is about to get another boost with the unveiling of AREA, a startup accelerator focused exclusively on CRE tech.
Like other tech accelerators, AREA’s goal is to take new and up-and-coming startups to the next level, by providing them with $50k in cash and services, mentorship and support, and a communal working environment for a rigorous 12-week program. Unlike other tech accelerators, it’s one of only a handful in the world focused on commercial real estate.
AREA (A Real Estate Accelerator) is the brainchild of David Rose (above), a longtime CRE professional and serial entrepreneur who’s moved into angel investing in recent years and has written several best-selling books on the subject.
David started working on CRE tech way before it was cool—or even had a name of its own. He was one of the first to use computer-based spreadsheets for real estate pro formas in 1979, and developed the first computerized real estate sales office in 1982, followed by the first residential building online social network in 1985, and that’s just for starters.
On top of that, he’s been involved in the commercial real estate business his entire life; his father is Daniel Rose, chairman of Rose Associates (Daniel is one of AREA's mentors, along with a dozen other NY real estate execs).
All told, David’s been working at the intersection of real estate and technology for nearly 40 years, and he says he’s never been more excited about the space than he is now, hence his decision to found AREA.
“In the past few years, the real estate industry has finally begun to emerge from its cave and recognize that technology can bring major advantages to virtually every facet of the business,” he says.
As more real estate-related startups began to cross his desk as an angel investor, “it became apparent that there was both a real need for an interface between the traditional real estate industry and the new tech startups," he says.
While David’s real estate chops are unimpeachable, AREA’s day-to-day will actually be run by someone with no previous experience in the space.
John Henry, AREA’s program director, is a fellow entrepreneur who cut his teeth at MobileCity, an on-demand laundry truck service. John dropped out of BMCC, where he was studying jazz guitar, at 18 to start the service, and four years later (2014) it was acquired. By that point, he’d fallen in love with the process of entrepreneurship.
“Once MobileCity got acquired, it was apparent to me that I wasn’t particularly passionate about dry cleaning, but I was passionate about growing businesses,” he says.
His next move was to start an accelerator, Cofound Harlem, at the age of 22 in his native neighborhood. His work running that eventually brought him in contact with David who, impressed with John’s work there, asked him to consider running AREA.
“He basically said, ‘John, if you can bring the same passion you brought to Cofound Harlem to AREA, I think you’d have a tremendous impact,’” John says. “David’s one of the most successful real estate entrepreneurs out there, so I couldn’t really say no.”
John says he still gets tripped up by commercial real estate jargon sometimes, but for the most part, he sees his lack of a real estate background as an asset.
“I think in any industry, there’s a strong tendency for groupthink to occur, for people to get into that herd mentality,” he says. “I have an outsider’s perspective, so I feel like I’m able to steer people away from that and bring a set of fresh eyes to bear on what these firms will be doing at AREA.”
AREA has been around since 2014 and had one cohort of firms graduate from its program, but David has kept it all very hush-hush until now.
"Before we made a big public splash, we wanted to be sure we had all the kinks ironed out," David says.
That's why, until now, Metaprop NYC, a fellow CRE Tech accelerator, has gotten all the attention, despite being launched a year after AREA. Now that AREA's stepped into the spotlight, however, you can expect to hear more from them in the months ahead.
"We operated much like a startup in that sense," John says. "After validating the concept, the founding team doubled down on the opportunity by making key hires and publicly announcing it."
AREA's first cohort featured graduates like WhoseYourLandlord, MyHomePayge and Board Vitals. In June, the six members of its second cohort will be announced, just before they begin the program.
Right now the only participant John’s able to reveal is Space.io, a lead-managing app for residential brokers.