This November, the Mobile Doorman family attended the National Multifamily Housing Council’s Optech Virtual Conference, one of the industry’s premiere places for multifamily leaders to learn more about “what’s next” in the world of proptech. It was a highly productive week for our team with many key learnings and takeaways from the virtual conference.

Here are my top 10: 

  1. PropTech is dead, long live PropTech: When COVID hit, there was a lot of talk about the end of several PropTech players. However, after seeing the Opening Pitches, it was clear to me that not only is PropTech alive but it is well. From new contactless tech to virtual platforms to self-guided solutions, real estate is increasingly embracing tech as a catalyst to emerge from COVID.
  2. From mobile-first, data-first, AI-first to COVID-first: While mobile, data and AI were still dominant, I was struck by how these went from being ‘themes’ that companies used to lead with, to becoming a means of solving something way more important: a safe and efficient post-COVID world. I welcome this because ultimately the goal of tech is to solve a genuine problem and what better bigger problem to solve than this.
  3. We are data-rich, but information poor: We have more data today than we’ve ever had. Yet, we can’t get the insights we need. Ensuring privacy, data-first culture and data quality will help us become information-rich and data smart. I still think we are in the early days of adoption of data within multifamily and I expect a ton of innovation in this space in the months and years to come.
  4. We don’t know our customer quite well: It struck me how many Optech attendees want to deliver the best resident experience possible but felt they didn’t know their customers well enough to do that. Consider this: a CPG brand’s customer - people like you and I - spend on an average of $2-4 on a cereal and the brand knows us inside and out digitally. Our end customer - the resident - spends an average of $1000 in rent, yet we barely know her digitally. I expect proptech solutions that offer deep personalization and data-driven decision-making capabilities to start plugging the gap here.
  5. The customer doesn’t know us well either: That same customer who spends $2-4 on a cereal knows their beloved cereal brand well and has developed a relationship with that brand. Yet our end customer - the one spending $1000 on rent - doesn’t know their property brand well. The industry is clearly mindful of this dynamic and it is great to see active conversations on this topic.
  6. The focus on the people making it possible was heartening: It was great and exciting to see leaders take an empathetic approach towards their workforce as well as sharing the steps they’re taking to address key topics such as stress management, diversity, inclusion, etc. In a post-COVID world, I expect companies who take an empathetic approach towards their talent will win and this will continue to be a key focus area for the foreseeable future.
  7. Innovation is clear. ROI is murky: While there’s no shortage of innovative tech, its ROI isn’t always clear. Specifically, if I spend $X on your tech, will it deliver 2x, 20x, or in-between impact? With the abundance of tech options at their disposal, real estate owner-operators are increasingly looking to pick not just the best tech available, but the best tech that also delivers tangible business outcomes.
  8. Operational and industry challenges remain: Eviction moratoriums, rent control, and reopening protocols are just a few examples of areas that the industry is still trying to navigate. Even with a vaccine on the horizon, residents continue to face financial challenges through the uncertainty of COVID-19. This will continue to put strain on the operational and managerial challenges for owner operators.
  9. The outlook for 2021 could not be more positive: Returning to an in-person future, applying the agility acquired during COVID to a post-COVID world, and taking on complex topics (e.g., racism) are areas that energize leaders and the broader industry as we look at 2021 ahead.
  10. Innovation remains the beacon of hope: And I am not just talking about tech (prediction, occupancy sensing, ghost kitchens, etc.) which is critical, but think about OpTech itself. We just attended the largest real estate tech conference without the real estate (i.e. virtually). If that isn’t innovation, resilience, and hope, what is?

Kudos to the organizing team for pulling off this tremendous feat. Can’t wait to attend next year’s OpTech.

Did you miss us at Optech this year? 

Click here to learn more about our newest innovation launched at the show, Mobile Doorman Resident Insights, helping owners/operators create personalized experiences and increase NOI.