AIR CRE welcomes Bennett Washabaugh to the 2019 Board of Directors as Marketing Committee Co-Chair. He brings nearly a decade of commercial real estate experience to the table, and is the Co-founder and CEO of TenantBase, a Santa Monica, Calif.-headquartered, tech-enabled brokerage firm that brings tenants and landlord representatives together in a dramatically streamlined way.
Washabaugh lays out his vision for the year, as he assumes responsibility for leading AIR CRE’s technology areas. He also shared more about what his company does, and how he ended up making a critical connection with AIR CRE on a plane flight.
Washabaugh will be focused on two areas in 2019: the first is building an AIR CRE prop-tech clearinghouse that explores new and interesting technology products and services that can be integrated into the AIR CRE offerings. In addition, he’ll work to determine ways to monetize these new products and services within the AIR CRE platform.
“Over my five years launching and expanding TenantBase, we have been building a tech-enabled brokerage model that appeals to both forward-thinking members of local real estate communities, as well as the next generation of CRE brokers,” says Washabaugh. “There is an incredible opportunity for AIR CRE to appeal to this next generation through its technology initiatives, and I hope to help in any way that I can.”
He believes the CRE industry has entered a golden age in which brokers and landlords will experience incredible value from embracing new technology.
“The industry is in its infancy in realizing this value, but if you look at the residential real estate industry, you can see parallels – tech is enhancing incredible brokers to be dramatically more efficient and productive,” he says. “There are companies in the CREtech space that are doing amazing things, and when you combine these up-and-coming technologies with incredible local service from AIR CRE members, you are bound to see benefits to all stakeholders.”
The goals Washabaugh has set for AIR CRE in 2019 include making brokers more efficient through collaboration and proper resources – whether it is AIR CRE Contracts, information or leading technology tools. He is convinced all stakeholders in the industry can reap massive gains from increased deal volume, evidenced by how AIR CRE Contracts have helped the industry.
A collaborative mindset and values alignment are key components of Washabaugh’s approach, which ultimately led to him getting involved with AIR CRE. “I was so impressed with the level of discussion that took place in my first AIR CRE board event three weeks ago,” he says. “The board members in that room recognize the opportunity at hand here, and it is very powerful when you get like-minded, collaborative, and forward-thinking people together.”
He met AIR CRE’s Executive Director Tim Hayes a few years ago, following the relocation of his brokerage firm headquarters from Nashville to Southern California. “We quickly realized that AIR CRE played a critical role in the Southern California real estate industry,” points out Washabaugh. “Last year, we were on the same flight to the San Francisco CREtech event, and had the opportunity to discuss trends in the industry.”
Those initial discussions made Washabaugh realize AIR CRE’s vision for the future of the industry was similar to his own, in that they both believed the CRE industry is entering a time period where real value can be realized from technological advances.
He immediately understood AIR CRE represented an “incredibly unique” opportunity in the marketplace, since it is the only commercial real estate organization in the country with a diversity of services provided. Washabaugh points out, some CRE organizations are built to provide networking events, some provide information (data) services, and some provide education/events. AIR CRE is the only one in the nation that provides ALL of these resources and more for the industry, and it’s the only organization that provides a library of industry-standard AIR CRE Contracts.
“AIR CRE provides incredible resources to help the industry get deals done,” says Washabaugh. “AIR CRE Contracts are the perfect example — they are a proven resource for driving efficiency for getting deals done between real estate brokers throughout California, as well as a growing user base across the U.S.”
He notes, if these AIR CRE Contracts were in ALL of the markets that TenantBase currently operates in, the transaction closing process would be drastically simpler and more efficient, and would massively benefit liquidity for brokerage firms across the country.
Among the other valuable resources Washabaugh says the organization delivers include AIR CRE Research & Listings products, which are relied heavily upon by the industry to exchange information to get deals done. He points out, AIR CRE provides industry-leading events to share the latest developments in the brokerage community, and the organization also provides Dispute Resolution to ensure the industry operates with integrity and efficiency. All of these resources enhance collaboration within the community and value creation, he notes.
Prior to founding TenantBase in 2014, Washabaugh worked in the commercial real estate brokerage industry in Chicago, where he saw an incredible inefficiency in the market – helping small to mid-sized businesses find and lease office space. Washabaugh, who is originally from Ann Arbor, Mich., holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Michigan, and lives in Santa Monica with his wife, Grace, and his 2-year-old son, James.
His company has scaled rapidly, following a mid-2018 fundraise that’s helped it focus on growing its technology and brokerage teams. Washabaugh anticipates having more than 100 local brokers on board by the end of the first quarter in 2019, compared to 28 in 2018. He believes the increase in brokers, coupled with productivity gains from TenantBase’s technology improvements, will position the company to continue its strong revenue growth.
The brokerage firm recently executed a multi-market expansion with the launch of offices in Chicago, Houston, Austin and Fort Worth, Texas. That’s brought its brokerage operations to nine major U.S. cities, and Washabaugh predicts continued growth and technology initiatives for 2019.
Washabaugh says TenantBase’s tech-based process has resulted in increased deal volume, and that allows all stakeholders involved in transactions to significantly benefit from the experience and achieve dramatically increased deal liquidity. He envisions those same advances in collaboration and technology can be applied to initiatives at AIR CRE. Look for more on the creation of a prop-tech clearinghouse and other technologies being integrated into the AIR CRE platform in 2019 and beyond.