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Filling The Knowledge Gap: TenantSee Gives Tenants Data, Insight For Leasing Decisions

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PropTech continues to change how commercial real estate services are handled, and new advancements are a key focus of large brokerage firms that are seeking an edge in the space.

One of those approaches is TenantSee, powered by Cushman & Wakefield, which provides data and expert insight to help guide tenants in leasing decisions.

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Greg Fogg and former electrical engineer and project manager Samantha Low co-founded TenantSee. The company won a 2018 #RETAS award for Tech-Enhanced Brokerage from CREtech.

Fogg, an executive managing director with Cushman & Wakefield who has spent 30 years in the industry, will be among the panelists at Bisnow's San Francisco CRE Tech Summit on May 9.

Bisnow caught up with Fogg to talk a bit about TenantSee and the future of PropTech.

Bisnow: What is your elevator pitch for what TenantSee offers?

Fogg: TenantSee offers tenants one place to see and manage all data related to their leased real estate. It combines a team of subject matter experts with sophisticated technology to make tenants smarter, complete projects faster and achieve better outcomes.

Bisnow: What was the unmet need you saw that TenantSee helps fill?

Fogg: The need is for a tenant real estate product that bridges the knowledge gap that exists between tenants and landlords — a product that gives tenants all the essential data to make better decisions. Historically, tenants transact at a knowledge deficit. Landlords come to the negotiating table understanding how proposed economics fit their budget, they understand design, they understand construction costs and they have a better understanding of the legal clauses that comprise a lease. This knowledge deficit is solvable, but traditional brokerage models have failed to do so because they were not designed to provide full-scope advisory. And as brokerages evolved to include additional critical services, they have generally created siloed offerings that fail to properly organize the services to deliver timely guidance and maximize impact on value.

Cushman & Wakefield Executive Managing Director and TenantSee co-founder Greg Fogg
Cushman & Wakefield Executive Managing Director and TenantSee co-founder Greg Fogg

Bisnow: Are we seeing more demand from tenants to have actionable data when seeking office space?

Fogg: Yes. Modern consumer behavior has shifted as technology makes data readily available. Why should commercial real estate be any different? Consumers expect service providers to organize and analyze data in a manner that matters to them — that will enable them to make better decisions. Commercial real estate brokerage used to be characterized by brokerage firms trading access to proprietary data for fees. Increasingly, tenants are demanding transparent provision of data. The value they seek from service providers is in how to interpret the data to create optimal outcomes.

Bisnow: One aspect you emphasize is having subject matter experts. Why is that human element important when offering new tech tools?

Fogg: I recently wrote an article for Forbes on this subject. Leasing office space is a complex undertaking that requires knowledge of design, construction, project management, FF&E, legal matters and markets. Most companies have limited expertise in all facets of the process. I'm not saying we won't one day get to a place in which we have AI-based tech that can do a lot of what the experts do today — we may. But in its current state, real estate technology offerings cannot adequately address the full knowledge spectrum. That's why we bring together subject matter experts at the beginning of a project and marry their input with technology. The technology makes the entire process smarter, faster and better. But it's the marriage of the two (experts and tech) that make TenantSee special.

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Bisnow: Any features or aspects you've added since starting TenantSee that are in response to tenant demand? Anything you didn't initially anticipate as a demand?

Fogg: We underestimated the value of TenantSee as an analytics resource to help drive insights across large portfolios of leased space. Customers having multiple offices across broad geographies are looking for tools to help understand their real estate spend. Frankly, we did not appreciate how lacking mid-cap companies are in terms of useful, scalable resources that provide critical perspective, allowing them to slice and dice data across the portfolio.

Bisnow: What do you see as the biggest trends that will affect the next stages for PropTech in CRE?

Fogg: The holy grail of the built environment is translation from cost to [return on investment] in terms of productivity. We are seeing this shift across the entire landscape. For example, companies no longer seek to buy the cheapest insurance plan. Instead, they are trying to figure out how different plans impact the health and wellness of their employees positively such that they can realize gains in productivity. Same for office space. It used to be viewed as an expense that must be mitigated. Today it's more common for companies to want to understand how a given office environment will impact employees, in particular productivity. The race is on to create a feedback loop between the user and the office environment — it is data-rich and those who offer the best mechanisms for harnessing and interpreting this data will win.

Bisnow: Any challenges or concerns on the horizon that will need to be addressed?

Fogg: We're in the early days of tech's impact on the CRE sector. I'm constantly surprised at how many in our industry are resistant to change. I suspect the pace of change will accelerate and some may be left behind. If you look at the top three real estate service firms in the world, JLL, CBRE and Cushman & Wakefield, all of them have technology initiatives among their top priorities. And all three have the scale and resources to innovate. But what of the rest of the industry? How will it adapt? I think there will be some choppy waters over the next decade as technology fundamentally changes the sector.

Hear more from Fogg and other CRE tech experts at Bisnow's San Francisco CRE Tech Summit on May 9 at Hotel Nikko.