Workplace Unplugged

Uber for Real Estate? How Tech is Changing The Game

Moira vandenAkker
June 17th, 2016


Have you ever heard of a time a group of senior executives sat in a board room and dreamt up their future office space, only to have their teams left out of the decision process, disappointed with the result, then unmotivated and unproductive? It’s a story we hear too often.

If you speak to William Robertson however, he’ll explain why that story is changing thanks to a new approach and new technology.

WR: The hardest thing for me to do early in my career was trying to figure out what kind of artistic vision let’s say a lawyer has for how his office should look, and simultaneously pair that with the financial strain that same managing partner has and to bridge that gap. A lot of time was spent in these frustrating meetings where they were both trying to describe what they wanted, we were trying to assign a dollar value, and it would literally take dozens and dozens of meetings in order to bridge that gap.

William is the CEO and Founder of Skyline Exchange, which is a technology that’s changing the way companies make real estate decisions. He is also the Senior Managing Director of Workplace Strategy & Asset Optimization at NGKF in Los Angeles.

WR: Skyline has shortened the process of maybe two months down to a process that now takes a week. It doesn’t complete your transaction for you, it doesn’t complete your project for you, but it basically gives you all of the early information you need to understand what you’re getting into.

And what makes Skyline most valuable? Outside the pragmatic benefits, you are provided with a full picture of your culture needs.

WR: I think the really special thing that ends up emerging from interacting with our system is the principle version of culture, a package that closely defines your culture that someone could possibly put into a document. It’s partially the aesthetics, it’s partially the technology needs, it’s large part the way people interact with their space and what they expect to do with that. […] What you get from us is a detailed perspective of what that means. It’s not just a conceptual plan.


How does it work?

WR: If the people in your company are willing to take a 15-minute visual survey, which is the real estate equivalent of ‘hot or not’ – what pictures do you like and what pictures do you not like – then another 10 minutes to do the real estate equivalent of a Myers-Briggs personality test, how do you like to work and what kind of environment suits your way of working. the more people we can get from your company to do those things, the closer we can get to finding just the right space, finding just the right architect, predicting accurate budgets, making it easier to make a commitment that you’re comfortable with.

It’s as easy as clicking ‘1’ I don’t really like it or ‘5’ I really do like it – or somewhere in between. By the time 200 people have done that and spent 20 minutes each, we know just about everything we need to know about your organization.

There are similar competing technologies on the market, but William says, unlike the others, his gets to know what his clients need before heading out to see inventory.

WR: Nobody is spending time on helping companies figure out what they really need. Our competitors are missing steps 1, 2, and 3 and they’re spending all of their money on developing steps 4, 5, and 6. You can’t really look what’s out there until you know what you’re looking for.


What’s next? The service is now in Southern California, but William and his team are rolling it out in New York and Chicago in early 2016. In terms of office trends, William sees the notion of flexible work environments only getting bigger.

WR: The promise of an Uber for real estate is clearly on the horizon.

What trends are you seeing in the world of commercial real estate?  Share your thoughts! 


Photos: Startup Stock PhotosTom Sodoge