Silicon Valley Business Journal: How Digital Can We Go with Real Estate Data?

By Nathan Donato Weinstein

Michael Mandel isn’t out to make an incremental improvement to an existing paradigm. He wants to fundamentally change the way commercial real estate professionals acquire and use their primary commodity: information. His startup, CompStak, which you can learn about on page 6, aims to be the ultimate database of comparison pricing for CRE professionals and make the market more efficient and transparent. It’s not the first company to try. The 500-pound gorilla in the CRE tech space, CoStar, has experienced limited success in comps, though it dominates the listings market. Mandel, a former broker, declined to discuss CoStar when I asked him about it. But fact that CompStak is free, easy to use and creates an incentive for brokers to share information could help improve the quantity and quality of comps online. The startup is launching within weeks in Silicon Valley, but it’s seen strong adoption in New York and just graduated from local accelerator 500 Startups. Brokers at some of the biggest houses are using it, and Mandel said paying enterprise users — such as REITs and big landlords — are signing contracts to access the data. Still, a couple of things may check CompStak’s growth. It’s not hard to imagine CoStar integrating similar crowdsourcing features. And lawyers could put the kibosh on sharing lease details online, even anonymously. I think CompStak has a good chance of becoming part of a broker’s must-have toolkit. But will it replace broker meetings and phone calls? It’s hard to imagine a world where digital trumps networking in the real estate business. Google’s Street View provides invaluable information about a given area, but it too only tells just part of the story. If you’re renting a new apartment or buying a house, you still have to go out and walk the neighborhood. One thing I’ve learned covering the CRE beat, is face to face interaction mixed with solid data are key elements to getting the deals done in the commercial real estate marketplace.

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