Franco Faraudo has an MBA in entrepreneurship and has worked with companies on their branding and content strategy. He has worked in real estate as an agent, manager, and investor. He writes and speaks about the intersection between the physical and digital world and is a co-founder of Propmodo, the premier PropTech publication many of you are already familiar with.
Franco also hosts the Propmodo podcast, an excellent series of short interviews with industry leaders, on various technologies and their application in real estate and property management.
In this interview, we ask Franco about Propmodo and how it came to be, his views on the growth of proptech, his favorite interview, and more.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how Propmodo came to life.
I always joke that it was a side hustle that became my main gig. I was working in real estate and I started to miss the creative aspect of marketing that I had done before. I figured I would start writing, at the very least it could give me a good outlet creatively and, I hoped, would be good for my business.
I started writing more and more and eventually got published in a few places. Eventually, I was contributing regularly to a site that was then called CRE.tech. After a while, the founder asked me if I would like to be his partner as he rebranded into what is now Propmodo.
What is your mission with Propmodo?
I noticed right away that there was an obvious lack of good content about commercial real estate. Think about how much is written about the stock market.
So much good analysis gets written every day about these companies that often have very little impact on our lives, yet almost nothing, or at least nothing thought provoking, was being written about the buildings that we spend our lives in.
Once you get into commercial real estate you start to understand how giant it is. Here we had an industry that was just as big as all of the stocks in the world and there wasn’t much more than some thinly veiled press releases being published. We intend to change that.
Is there a particular interview that sticks out to you, which struck you as profound?
I really enjoy the interview part of my job. I have been able to get in front of some really interesting, smart people that probably wouldn’t give me the time of day otherwise. Some of my favorite interviews are the ones where halfway through I realize that there is a much better story than I had thought of. I remember my first interview with investor and political strategist Bradley Tusk. I wanted to talk about how the property industry could be better at interfacing with municipal governments. I ended up learning about how politicians think and how their strategies determine how our government is run. It was really great to step back from the ideology and look at politics from strictly a strategic perspective and is a conversation that I think got me much more interested in politics in a level-headed rather than reactionary way.
Three most interesting things you’ve learned this year?
First, I have learned how slowly the commercial property industry reacts to shock.
When the pandemic started and many tenants stopped paying rent, I thought we would see things spiral out of control quickly. That didn’t happen. I still think we are in for some trouble ahead but the slow nature of the way commercial real estate moves has helped everyone make adjustments and creates resiliency.
Second, I have learned how different opinions can be. Some people think offices are dead, others think we will go back to normal once we have a vaccine. Some landlords are selling properties and saving up as much cash reserve as possible, others are seeing this as a great time to invest in their properties. I don’t know who has the right approach but I like that there are so many different realities, it just goes to show how much your perception of a situation can differ based on your philosophy.
Lastly, I have learned how much landlords are willing to do for their tenants. From the outside looking in commercial real estate is really cut-throat and landlords are just looking to get as much as they can from their tenants. But when you are in the industry, especially in years like this, you realize how much of a symbiotic relationship landlords and tenants have. I have been really impressed and heartened by the collaborative way that many have been able to come together in these hard times.
Do you feel single-family, multi-family and commercial properties are embracing technology at the same pace?
At this point I see less and less of a difference between the property types. I don’t just mean the pace of tech adoption, I mean I less and less of a difference between them at all.
When we started Propmodo we wanted to focus on commercial real estate but the more we looked into it we noticed that the lines between residential and commercial were blurring. Sure, the skill sets are very different depending on which type you service. But, every sector of the property industry is connected to the others.
We try to write for a sophisticated commercial real estate audience, the people that work all day in the industry, but at the same time, we want to look at things from a holistic perspective, which sometimes means talking about different property sectors.
Everything is so interconnected that you can’t ignore any part of the property landscape if you want to try to understand what the future might look like.
Especially with COVID, there is an increased focus on air quality. What role do you feel technology plays in improving air quality?
Let me tell you, air quality is such a huge topic right now. Some of our most read pieces ever have been about it.
We found ourselves in a bit of controversy when we published an article at the outset of the pandemic called My Building Gave Me the Coronavirus. One of our writers contracted COVID-19 and wrote about her experience. At the time many people were still arguing that the virus was not spread like an aerosol, so there were some that thought we were making people afraid unnecessarily.
The hard part about writing is that you are always afraid that the things you write end up being wrong. I tell my writers that, while it is important to research as much as possible, our goal isn’t to try to always be right. Instead we want to try to get a conversation started.
Buildings affect so much of our lives that these conversations can help keep people safe, can create happier environments, and can make our world more ecologically sustainable. We accept that we might sometimes be wrong but that is the cost of trying to bring an industry around to new ideas.
What is one thing you feel every real estate management executive should know, right now, but doesn’t?
I think right now every real estate executive thinks they need to know how to code. There is so much software that is being used for every aspect of the real estate industry. But, the fact of the matter is that they don’t need to be “techies.” Instead, they need to understand the technology landscape, what is available to them and what can be done with it. That is where we hope to come in.
Real estate is a vocation that takes a lifetime of experience to get good at, just like technology. We can’t expect people to be experts in both. But, without a basic level of understanding about technology, real estate professions will never be able to achieve their potential in today’s industry.
We are big fans of Propmodo, at Motili. What is the vision for the future evolution of the publication?
We want to ask bigger questions and do more research to answer them. We have done really well with our research reports so we want to double down on what we study and how we conduct our research.
There is so much information about building technology out there that is, lets just say dubious. We want to be a trusted third party resource that real estate teams can use to outsource some of their research efforts.