ULI Boston "Shark Tank" Competition Recap
On March 14th, Urban Land Institute (ULI) Boston’s Real Estate Tech Council presented the second annual “Shark Tank” Competition. The event featured keynote speaker Dr. Andrea Chegut, director of MIT’s Real Estate Innovation Lab, followed by five-minute pitches from three innovative prop-tech companies, all competing to be named the most investable company by the four “sharks” – Sara Cassidy of AEW, Duncan Gilkey of The Davis Companies, Minta Kay of Goodwin Procter and Chris Mayer of Suffolk Construction. The event was moderated by one of last year’s Shark Tank prop-tech participant, Dave Miller of WiredScore.
Dr. Chegut presented MIT’s findings on the effects of prop-tech start-ups’ participation in entrepreneurial accelerators. She outlined the importance of linking performance to people and places and how those connections can foster growth and investment within start-ups. Accelerator programs give start-ups access to more early-stage, experienced investors that, on average, lead to a more successful start-up compared to ones that do not participate in accelerators. Prop-tech is a relatively new sector in the venture capital industry, but it has seen rapid adoption among some of the leading investors, accelerators and industry organizations.
The three companies vying for the coveted title of winner of the annual ULI "Shark Tank" Competition were:
- Cobu: With the average multifamily property experiencing only a 50 percent resident retention rate, Cobu is designed to decrease resident churn through a welcoming digital platform for apartment residents to build a stronger sense of community with their neighbors around shared interests and passions. Founded in 2016 and headquartered in Boston, Cobu partners with leading multifamily owners to enable apartment residents to connect and build a community that best serves their needs while contributing to the betterment of their neighborhood and bringing a genuine sense of belonging to every resident while increasing resident retention and accordingly decreasing costs for multifamily owners. The application’s resident interest groups are supported by Cobu engagement leaders who pose questions and organize events to facilitate engagement. Currently focused on apartment buildings with greater than 90 units in Boston, Cobu’s service covers 3,500 units and more than 5,000 residents with a vision to create community connections in all cities, worldwide.
- Concrete Sensors: Leveraging expertise rooted in decades of job site experience and a deeply scientific approach, Concrete Sensors is changing the way construction projects are executed. The easily implanted sensors and software measure and analyze real-time temperature, humidity and strength data, helping construction projects avoid structural problems and move to the next development step with speed, confidence and efficiency. Used in the construction of over 100 buildings to date and by 5 of the nation’s top 10 general contractors, Concrete Sensors has proven that it can decrease costs by alerting project managers of timing of concrete setting to specifications, allowing managers to optimize scheduling of labor and timeline. Founded in 2013 and headquartered in Boston, Concrete Sensors has raised, a reported, $1.7 million from some of the industry’s most well-respected participants.
- Truss: A cutting-edge online marketplace, Truss is focused on helping small- and medium-sized business owners find, tour and lease space electronically. Aimed at coworking, office and retail spaces less than 10,000 square feet and industrial spaces less than 50,000 square feet, the technology-enabled platform provides 3D tours of available spaces and is supplemented by a local broker with market expertise who helps owners find the right space for the best price in record time, optimizing both the tenant’s and broker’s time. Truss is free for tenants to use and for landlords to list available spaces. Like a traditional brokerage model, Truss generates revenue through commissions paid by the landlord when a lease is signed. Truss is currently in nine markets across the United States, including Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, Miami and Boston and has raised nearly $25 million in funding.
As the sharks exited and deliberated, the audience asked questions and was electronically polled to vote for their winner. In the end, the sharks and audience both selected Concrete Sensors to be the "Shark Tank" winner. The sharks believed the prop-tech company’s ability to differentiate itself, acquire and analyze data and provide real-time measurable value to the client earned Concrete Sensors the winning spot for long-term investment and growth.