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A New Startup Is Trying To Democratize Site Selection Through Data

WASHINGTON DC 05.08.2017

MONTGOMERY COUNTY STATE OF THE MARKET

Featuring an Interview of Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson

Arne Sorenson -- Marriott International
Mike Gill -- The State of Maryland
Barry Glassman -- Glassman Wealth Services

Mike Wertheim was strolling around downtown Berkeley, CA, one day when he spotted a vacant storefront. It led the software developer, who works for LinkedIn, to wonder: “Can data be used to compute the ideal business to go in there?” 

ZoneSavvy founder Mike Wertheim

This marked the genesis of ZoneSavvy, a just-launched website that gives small businesses the same capabilities as larger companies when it comes to bird-dogging retail locations.

ZoneSavvy has every neighborhood in the US classified based on a range of characteristics and demographics, like population density, median age and average income, alongside existing businesses in the area. The system then compares the neighborhood in question with similar ones, determining the optimum number of businesses the area can support and the types of shops similar locations have but this particular one may lack. 

Downtown Berkeley

In doing so, ZoneSavvy — which works on both desktops and mobile devices — can then recommend where each type of business is most likely to thrive, Wertheim said, noting he’s targeting CRE brokers and downtown business improvement groups with the technology.

For landlords or owners with properties to lease or sell, ZoneSavvy can determine the types of businesses that would be most in-demand in that location.

Before this, Wertheim said, small and midsized businesses had no automated way of analyzing and scouting ideal neighborhoods. Now they do.

The ZoneSavvy website

Why would a business need ZoneSavvy when Google or Yelp can easily show the location of competing businesses within a given area? The difference, Wertheim explained, is the sheer breadth of ZoneSavvy’s reach.

“The algorithm is doing computations on every neighborhood within a 500-mile radius,” he said, so there’s a richer sample size from which to glean info. If someone attempted to replicate that process manually, it could take “days or weeks."

ZoneSavvy provides smaller players with a location-discovery system that is similar to the proprietary systems used by Fortune 500 firms, but at a more accessible price point, Wertheim added.

Cushman & Wakefield broker Philip Traikos

Cushman & Wakefield retail broker Philip Traikos sees value in the data-driven insights a system like ZoneSavvy offers.

“It provides real empirical data, which tells a neighborhood’s story better than your gut feel or opinion about a particular site,” he said.

Retailers can delve deeply into neighborhood comparisons, and make more informed decisions based on who their target customers are. But Traikos isn’t worried about losing his job to tech like ZoneSavvy.

“I don’t think it’s the Uber of real estate agents,” he said. “You still need someone to extrapolate and interpret that information.”