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Former WeWork China exec launches a ‘startup studio’ for real estate – TechCrunch

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The real estate industry has been slow to adopt technology compared to many other sectors. So when Dominic Penaloza left his job at WeWork China as the head of innovation and technology this spring, he decided to focus on proptech in Asia.

Instead of building a startup himself or investing in one, Penaloza combines both objectives by launching a “startup studio” called REinvent (“RE” short for “real estate”). The industry jargon refers to an organization that builds startups with an in-house team, hence it’s also referred to as a “startup factory” or “venture builder.” A famous example is Rocket Internet, which is credited for building Lazada in Southeast Asia and Jumia in Africa.

Penaloza, a serial entrepreneur who exited his co-working startup Naked Hub to WeWork China in 2018, now runs a team of 45 across Shanghai, Taipei and Singapore, most of whom he has worked with at WeWork and Naked Hub. The studio is organized into what the chief executive calls product “squads” consisting of the likes of product managers, designers, engineers, and artificial intelligence experts, and has the capacity to work on four projects at one time.

The founder also brought onboard heavyweight investors to help the startup studio tackle a sector with deeply entrenched players. Among REinvent’s backers are JustCo, a major co-working company in the Asia Pacific backed by some of Asia’s biggest property owners, such as the Singaporen sovereign wealth fund GIC; multi-national property developer Frasers Property; and one of Japan’s leading real estate firms Daito Trust.

REinvent has full ownership in the ventures it launches, while the three investors own equity in it. The company declined to disclose how much it has raised from its investors so far.

The financiers also importantly contribute strategic resources, Penaloza told TechCrunch in an interview. Started in May, REinvent has already launched two ventures, including one called Switch that lets individuals and enterprises book workspace and pay per minute, similar to how bike-sharing works. The difference is that Switch is a marketplace with third-party landlords like JustCo and Frasers, while bike-share companies often supply and operate the bikes themselves.

Screenshot of the Switch app

The marketplace today has a growing network of 2,500 desks at over 20 locations across Singapore, including small office booths that have sprung up across malls. It’s proposing on-demand workspace at a time when the whole world is forced by the coronavirus pandemic to rethink where to work physically.

“Real estate companies are all figuring out how to react to COVID, how to help organizations survive COVID and to prepare for the next pandemic so the impact on business would not be as big as this time,” said Penaloza.

Meanwhile, flexible work pods are an attractive proposition for mall owners, especially those in China looking for new tenants as e-commerce encroaches into offline retail.

“E-commerce was eating up the traditional retail model even before COVID. Developers in China are trying to repurpose some of their malls… There are now a lot of F&B, experiential stores, cafes, and even co-working space inside malls,” observed Penaloza.

Penaloza tested an early version of his on-demand workspace vision back at WeWork China where he made the firm’s public space available to customers without a membership, capturing professionals who use Starbucks for meetings and remote working but providing a quieter environment and better WiFi.

The other product REinvent has introduced is SixSense, software for spatial analytics and social distance detection.

“Real estate is something not many people think about, but it’s one of the biggest industries on earth,” noted Penaloza. “Proptech in Asia and China is very early-stage but it is picking up.”

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Commercial Real Estate: Navigating Opportunities And Challenges Ahead (Video) – Real Estate and Construction – Canada – Mondaq News Alerts

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Canada:

Commercial Real Estate: Navigating Opportunities And Challenges Ahead (Video)

To print this article, all you need is to be registered or login on Mondaq.com.

Uncertainties currently abound in many sectors and commercial
real estate is no exception. While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused
some level of distress in certain sectors of the commercial real
estate market, it has also opened doors for stakeholders and
presented opportunistic transactions with their own unique set of
risks and important structuring considerations, particularly in the
restructuring and insolvency space.

In this video, Graham Rawlinson and Charlene Schafer briefly
discuss what to expect in our upcoming webinar on December 3 on
commercial real estate. Some of the key topics to be explored
are:

  • preparing for bankruptcy or insolvency opportunities that may
    affect the Canadian real estate market, and what to consider when
    dealing with assets going through some type of a debtor/creditor
    process;
  • funds focused on distressed and opportunistic real estate
    assets, and whether the ongoing distress in the market will
    continue to present new opportunities; and
  • distressed opportunities south of the border and unique
    considerations affecting the U.S. commercial real estate
    market.

Play the short clip below and register for the webinar here.

self

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

POPULAR ARTICLES ON: Real Estate and Construction from Canada

Asserting Privilege In The Condominium Context

Field LLP

The issue of asserting solicitor-client privilege in the condominium context is an interesting one, especially as between the condominium corporation and the individual unit owners

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Nakisa to acquire real estate management tech firm IMNAT | RENX – Real Estate News EXchange

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IMAGE: Nakisa CEO Babak Varjavandi. (Courtesy Nakisa)

Nakisa CEO Babak Varjavandi. (Courtesy Nakisa)

Montreal-based software company Nakisa is expanding into the real estate technology market with the acquisition of IMNAT Software, a cloud-based real estate management solution.

Nakisa CEO Babak Varjavandi said IMNAT’s real estate management technology will be added to Nakisa’s lease management solutions portfolio.

“By combining the breadth of our lease accounting knowledge with their real estate expertise, we’re poised to disrupt the corporate real estate market, which is currently reliant on outdated processes and proptech legacy software,” he told RENX.

IMNAT is also Montreal-based. The start-up has about a half dozen employees and has entered the sales phase for its platform, which it markets specifically at businesses which manage their real estate.

“Our reimagined corporate real estate solution will offer customers a complete modern end-to-end solution that leverages the Nakisa cloud platform and provides full ITGC (IT general controls), GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), user management and more,” Varjavandi said. “We truly believe we can disrupt this market because I think we are much further ahead . . . of our competitors with the technology.

“At the end of the day, because of the technology that we have, we believe we can bring in all these other pillars to provide an end-to-end solution.”

He said IMNAT Software’s technology will complement and extend Nakisa’s existing lease accounting product line and address increasing demand for global corporate real estate management solutions.

The acquisition is set to close on Jan. 1, 2021.

Nakisa and IMNAT

Nakisa released the first version of its product in 2000. The company has two lines of business – one addressing human resources and the other in leasing. It will now expand to provide end-to-end lease management which will include real estate and lease accounting.

The company also has offices in Frankfurt, Singapore, Florida and Pakistan.

Varjavandi said the company name is also his mother’s name.

He said IMNAT Software, founded in 2011, has a core product, InfoSite, which is a leading edge corporate real estate management software designed to centralize and manage corporate real estate accounts.

The platform features databased reporting and dashboards, streamlines corporate lease operations and manages data for leases, taxation, payments and rent rolls.

“When we talked to our customers and looked at the market, what we found that was interesting is that the real estate software industry hasn’t really evolved,” said Varjavandi. “They’re still using very old technology and it’s very costly to implement.

“Even if they’re on the cloud, they’re really not what we call a native cloud application.

“We saw huge opportunity in that area. For us to enter that market, we had a choice of either building the whole real estate functionality, which is the operation day-to-day activity of maintaining your real estate.

“Or we had to acquire a company that already had a customer base, they already had the expertise and they could use their expertise and that’s what happened. We saw this made-in-Montreal company.”

IMNAT has some major clients

Nakisa became familiar with IMNAT because the companies share some of the same clients.

IMNAT’s customer base include large private corporations such as Dollarama, Transcontinental and Lowe’s Canada, as well as some of the largest public government institutions in Canada.

Nakisa and IMNAT will combine their technology and networks. They will also combine their company-level data to generate a more accurate financial planning repository of information for trends and projections.

Varjavandi said InfoSite will be integrated into Nakisa’s product line and branded under the Nakisa umbrella. In January, IMNAT’s team, including CEO and co-owner Alexis Dénommée-Godin and co-owner Jean-François Bechard, will join Nakisa.

“I’m extremely proud of the quality software our team has built over the years and it’s an honour to be recognized and chosen by an established lease accounting brand that serves Fortune 500 companies around the world,” said Dénommée-Godin in a statement announcing the sale.

“Joining Nakisa allows us to take our real estate expertise to the global market and fulfill a need that has a tangible impact on both businesses and people.”

Unify divergent software products

Varjavandi said Nakisa serves more than 900 enterprise customers and over one million subscribers in 24 industries. Its client base includes a number of different industries, including retail, pharmaceutical and airlines. It has users in over 120 countries and supports 18 languages.

He said the acquisition of IMNAT presents a huge opportunity for Nakisa to both better serve existing customers and attract new ones.

“We are seeing companies having multiple software and we think we can actually unify the whole leasing, both for accounting and operations side, under one umbrella,” Varjavandi said. “From our perspective, any kind of asset you have we can provide an end-to-end solution.

“On the real estate side, we have a few customers who are interested in expanding on that to things like facility management and project management. Those are areas we’re also working with them. The beauty of the customers that we have, because these are very large customers, they’re actually willing to engage with us . . .

“From a customer perspective, the whole implementation and management is already done for them because it falls on the same platform.”

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Real estate expert Benjamin Tal on the winter market, the vaccine, and the massive recovery to come – Post City

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How has the real estate market outperformed your expectations as of late? 

Yes, we have seen the mother of all V-shaped recoveries. The fact that the market recovered was not a big surprise. The speed at which it recovered was a surprise. I think that the number one fact though, of course, when people try to figure this out, will point to pent up demand and extremely low interest rates, which is true. However, there is much more to it. I think that if you look at qualification rates, at 4.79%, for variable and fixed-term rates, they are in fact higher from a qualification perspective when they were in 2008. And back then, this activity went down. In fact, this has been the most housing-market-friendly recession ever. Okay, so it’s not just about the industry. It’s about the composition of the damage in the labour market. 

Explain how the labour market activity has impacted the market.

The vast majority, almost 100%, of all jobs lost during this recession were low wage occupations. Many of them are renters and are not players in the resale market. Second, is that it means that a very large segment of households was untouched by this crisis, financially speaking, their job is there, their income is there. In fact, many of them are sitting on extremely high levels of excess cash. And the interest rates are in the basement. That’s the opportunity that they were looking for. So the asymmetrical distribution of development in the labour market is the secret behind the success of the housing market today.

The downtown condo market is that big outlier here. What do you see happening there right now? 

I think most of the most of the improvement was, of course, in the low-rise segment of the market. It makes sense because the nature of the crisis means that a lot of people want to move to detached houses. We are seeing a situation in which there is a positive correlation between the inflation rate in housing and the price of housing. The fact that detached prices are rising is a real nightmare, if you wish, for mover-uppers, because the price of the house that you want is rising faster than their own house. The gap is widening. So this is a reflection of people wanting to live in bigger houses and therefore they also move to outside the 416. 

And do you see this trend continuing for the long-term?

I  believe that that will continue to be the case for the next six months or so especially during the winter. The housing market in general, during the winter, will weaken alongside the economy as a whole as we have a second wave combined with the flu season confidence will go down. So that’s clearly something that we expect, and that will impact the housing market.  I think that the 416 condo space will feel most of the pain because of the fact that we have a lot of supply coming in and demand is slowing. Having said that, I think that as we reach the other side of this crisis, the later the second half of 2021 we’re going to see a situation in which people start realizing the rental space in downtown Toronto is a bargain and you will see demand returning In between I see some adjustment in supply and some developers that basically front load and that activity will not be there during the winter. So the net result of some reduced supply in the second half of 2021 and marginal improvements in demand, we see some improvement in this market as well. But in between, we have to go through the winter.

And do you see the exodus to the suburbs trend continuing?

That trend started way before the crisis, as we all know, this is not new. Every crisis is a trend accelerator. And this crisis is no different in the sense that it accelerated this trend. Will we continue this trend? Absolutely not. When we are on the other side of this crisis, people will rethink this approach, it will continue, but not at the current rate. So again, when you’re in a situation, you have a tendency to exaggerate the long-term implications of that situation and we are in a situation. So people look at the people fleeing from downtown as a sign of a long-term trend. That’s not the case. I think that people will go back to downtown and the trend will continue but at a much slower pace than we’re seeing now.

What is your advice in terms of navigating this volatile market? Is it better to wait it out?

Well, I think that if you are in the market for a quick investment, then you can wait. For the long term, I think that the winter will provide some good entry positions given the relatively soft nature of the market. I think that the spring will be relatively strong.

And when the vaccine rolls out the timing, what will that do in terms of the market and the economy in general?

That’s one of the reasons why I believe that the economy will be very strong in the second half of the year, especially in the summer and into October, November when the vaccine will be widely available. That’s one of the reasons why I’m so optimistic about the second half of the year, when the economy I believe will rise by four, five, six percent including some nice improvement in the housing market.

Is now actually the best time in terms of buying a condo downtown?

I think that the market is soft and will probably get softer. The next few months will be actually if you have a long term horizon, the next few months will be a good opportunity absolutely.

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