Technology has been moving pretty fast in the last few years, but has the real estate industry been keeping up? Last week, a panel hosted by BuiltWorlds took a look at that issue by highlighting some companies bringing new technologies into the world of real estate and discussing what seems to keep parts of the industry mired in old-fashioned thinking. Matt Weirich, co-founder of local startup ReaLync talked about his company's tools for live video streaming of real estate properties—like a virtual tour, but in real time—and how it can expand the market for properties beyond those who can make it to an open house. DIRTT Environmental Solutions' Sarah Putman discussed how her company's modular office furniture and finishings can be designed in a proprietary software package that reduces waste and confusion by tracking all of the hardware and materials required for a project during every step of the design process. Another local startup, PeerRealty, was represented at the panel by its co-founder Jordan Fishfield, who spoke about how crowdfunding can lower the barrier to entry for investing in real estate and bring new capital into a cash-hungry industry.
BuiltWorlds, a local collaborative network that regularly hosts events, is aiming to bridge the divide between the entrenched world of real estate and the ever-changing world of technology. By running a blog that highlights innovative uses of cutting-edge technologies in the building industry and hosting events like these, they frame themselves as the TechCrunch of the built environment. Another way to look at it might be as a techy nephew that the industry can turn to for help with keeping up with the times. The group, operating out of a converted gear factory in the West Loop, estimates that 75 people were in attendance for their Technology in Real Estate panel last week and look forward to many future events, including events next month featuring famed urban planner Peter Ellis and another involving electric carmaker Tesla.
What BuiltWorlds seems to be doing is lighting a campfire around which like-minded people can gather. Just as TechCrunch events have become as much about networking and meeting other players in the venture-capital-startup scene as whatever it might say on the event invite, BuiltWorlds events seem to be about bringing together other people in the built spaces world—from contractors to architects to media and everyone in between —aligned by common interests in the cutting edge.