Cushman & Wakefield recently partnered with Fifth Wall, the world’s largest venture capital firm focused on technologies for the global real estate industry. We recently sat down with Brendan Wallace, Co-Founder & Managing Partner at Fifth Wall, and Brett White, Executive Chairman & CEO, Cushman & Wakefield, to talk about their strategic partnership, how the firms complement each other and why they hope to revolutionize the industry together.
What’s the Value you See in Partnering with Cushman & Wakefield?
Brendan: At Fifth Wall, our goal is to foster collaboration between innovative technology companies for the built world and forward-looking, industry-leading organizations from all sectors of the real estate industry. Cushman & Wakefield has been an especially great partner for us because of their differentiated approach to how they handle their technology. Instead of trying to do it on their own, they are willing and open to evaluating new and disruptive technologies. From the start, Cushman & Wakefield has been “all in” when it comes to innovative technology, having invested in both our technology and retail funds – with our technology fund bringing innovation to the full spectrum of their organization and the retail fund focused on investing in emerging occupiers of retail space. It’s been a win-win relationship all around.
Why Partner with Fifth Wall?
Brett: After debating the pros and cons of building our own proprietary technologies, we ultimately decided that being able to bring our clients the best readily available technology in the market, and build platforms around that, was a far better strategy than doing it ourselves. To this end, we knew we needed partners who are best-in-class at not only examining and underwriting companies within the space, but can also be an advisor as we create new solutions for our clients.
We remain focused on partnering with organizations that can help us develop the next generation of technology solutions for our clients, our colleagues and the built environment. In addition to our strategic partnerships with MetaProp NYC, Plug and Play, Stanford University, 1871 and others, we believe we’ve found yet another great partner and advisor in Fifth Wall.
How do the Two Firms Complement each other?
Brendan: Cushman & Wakefield is the perfect complement because they’re entrepreneurial and willing to take risks. As a smart, forward-thinking organization, they understand their own limitations and know when to leverage and partner with other technology companies to enhance their clients’ businesses. They realize that without risk, there’s no reward. We have very similar mindsets when it comes to our approach to business and we’ve learned a great deal from each other through this process.
Brett: Although we do like to think of ourselves as entrepreneurial, thinking outside of the box about our business and the real estate industry doesn’t always come naturally to people who’ve grown up inside of large organizations. Our partners, including Fifth Wall, complement us by helping push the envelope to deliver innovative and disruptive technologies to our clients. And since Fifth Wall already has good relationships with many of our largest clients, they understand what our investor and occupier clients want out of PropTech.
What’s your Approach to Innovating in a Brick and Mortar Industry?
Brett: I remember in our first meetings with Fifth Wall, we asked them not to partner with firms that felt that only one firm per sub-vertical could be in the consortium. We wanted the opposite. When it comes to technology, everyone needs to get on the same page. From organizing and extracting data from long documents to utilizing robots to enabling smart technology for smart buildings, PropTech is changing the way everyone is approaching commercial real estate – for the good. The more firms in our space that we could get involved in our efforts, the better. We are trying to win first and foremost, but we’re also trying to raise the image of this industry and you can’t do that alone.
Brendan: We’re starting by changing mindsets. It’s often said that organizations don’t win by identifying the right technology first, but they can lose by adopting the wrong technology. It’s very unlikely any real estate firm is truly going to gain a differentiated long term, defensible advantage through a technology option, but they can absolutely lose by not doing anything at all or by being so myopically focused on a “do it first, do it ourselves” mentality – which is a mentality that has plagued the real estate industry.
Real estate is an industry that’s rife with competitive instincts across the whole industry, and we’ve had to overcome that. Brett and I have shared the mindset that we are trying to accelerate and enhance the whole industry to the benefit of everyone – from occupiers to landlords to investors. That kind of collegiality is revolutionary and unique.
We’ve only been around for three years, but in that time, the mindset of corporations has changed from an exclusive mindset to an inclusive, more democratic mindset. This kind of thinking is a great thing for Fifth Wall, Cushman & Wakefield and the entire industry.