Cornell’s Real Estate Conference Wrap up: Innovating in a Traditional Industry

This represents the fourth article in summary series of the 2016 Cornell NYC Real Estate Conference.

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The 34th Annual Cornell Real Estate Conference provided insights on many different topics, highlighted by panelists with senior executive positions at large companies such as CBRE, Savills Studley, and Ivanhoé Cambridge. But there was one panel dedicated to individuals who had led start-ups, hoping to target commercial real estate industries ripe for disruption. Andrew Benioff, MBA 04’ and Managing Partner of The Llenrock Group, led a captivating panel of entrepreneurs leading several companies that achieve success by focusing on different aspects of commercial and hospitality real estate, including leasing, construction, investment, and sales.

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Andrew Benioff: Managing Partner The Llenrock Group

One common trait among many individuals in real estate is, at least temporarily, an entrepreneurial mindset in the long term. Many of the panelists who sat for the “Agents of Change in Commercial Real Estate” panel came from extremely polished real estate backgrounds. Rama Chanani, founder of Stay Wanderful, worked at Tishman Speyer and Greystar, and holds a Harvard MBA. Yet she founded Stay Wanderful in 2015 in hopes of helping hoteliers win their customers back. When she spoke of her company, she passionately brought up her upbringing in a hotel environment and was confident in her company’s future.

Riggs Kubiak, a fellow panelist who founded Honest Buildings, came from Tishman Speyer in an acquisitions role. Speaking calmly, he brought about the frustrations he experienced from real estate being one of the last paper based industries, as he founded Honest Buildings to help push real estate into a more electronic data industry.

While all the panelists are hoping to shape the real estate industry, not all the panelists had a real estate background prior to founding disruptive companies. David Eisenberg, a panelist who founded Floored, Inc., came from a Bain & Co. background but has been an entrepreneur his whole life. Yet he had a deep understanding of the industry, as he consistently kept up with the technical talking points brought forth in the panel discussions.

Brandon Weber, founder of Hightower, studied software engineering at Carnegie Mellon and began his career in software product developments. Yet he managed to leverage his knowledge of leasing software, as well as his entrepreneurial mindset and passion, into creating a software company that works with industry leaders such as Altus Group and Yahoo! Finance.

For the attendees seated within the 34th Annual Cornell Real Estate conference, this panel provided an insight into the minds of the individuals helping shape the disruption of real estate. The success of the creatively thinking panel proves that, whether one starts off in a top real estate firm, or comes from a non-real estate background, one can achieve success in innovating the real estate industry.

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