The FORT Podcast: Aaron Block & Zach Aarons

Zach Aarons & Aaron Block are the Co-Founders of MetaProp VC, the most active early-stage real estate and PropTech investor globally with 125+ investments under their portfolio. On this episode, Chris talks with Aaron and Zach about their journey to becoming partners, the NYC venture capital world, the emergence of PropTech as an investable asset class, their processes for investing in companies, what early-stage founders do well when raising capital, and much more. Enjoy!

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(02:44) – Zach’s Background

(09:52) – Why do you say you weren’t capable of building and scaling a tech company?

(13:21) – Aaron’s Background

(16:48) – What ultimately led you to raise capital and start a fund?

(18:08) – How large was the first fund? What are some things looking back that you didn’t expect?

(20:48) – Did Zak Schwarzman have a VC background or institutional money experience?

(24:23) – How large was your second fund?

(24:28) – How much is being invested in PropTech globally?

(25:02) – How many deals do you see per year vs. how many you ultimately invest in?

(25:52) – Which things within deals jump out to you that immediately cause you to say ‘no’?

(29:50) – What are good founders doing well while they’re raising money?

(34:17) – Do you require founders to have a co-founder?

(36:10) – Do you care if the founder has a real estate background?

(39:42) – What would a founder say is the value given to you from MetaProp post-funding?

(41:56) –  How often do you communicate with the founders you work with?

(46:59) – What’s the difference between leading a round vs. just participating in a round?

(50:12) – What does a typical project look like for your consulting and advisory side of the business?

(51:27) – Is there a certain asset type that is getting more investment than others?

(54:02) – What kind of technology is around single-family and multi-family?

(55:35) – Is PropTech aiding in the effort to get people back into the office or the WFH situation?

(56:33) – Do you think the idea of COVID Cleaning & thermal scanning could be seen as short-sighted?

(59:55) – Do you have a crazy 5-10 year prediction?

(1:00:49) – Do you have a crazy investment that got away?

(1:03:29) – Do you have a morning routine?

(1:04:03) – If you owned a billboard on a major highway and could put whatever you wanted on there, what would it say?

(1:04:48) – How can people reach you?

Email Zach:

Book: PropTech101


Episode Summary

Both Block and Aarons, with their extensive experience and strategic leadership within PropTech, unravel a myriad of insights and perspectives, providing listeners with a detailed panorama into the multifaceted world of property and technology.

The dialogue commences with an exploration into the realms of investment and company evaluation, emphasizing the imperative of sustaining strong, yet adaptable, perspectives within investment committees. The discussion underscores the significance of flexibility and adaptability within investment decisions, ensuring that recommendations and decisions, even those heavily invested in, remain amenable to re-evaluation and adjustment in the face of compelling counterarguments. This initial segment sets the stage for a discussion that traverses through various facets of PropTech, exploring the challenges, opportunities, and strategic considerations permeating the sector.

Transitioning into the domain of PropTech, the dialogue provides a detailed exploration into the challenges and opportunities within this innovative intersection of property and technology. Block and Aarons elucidate the criticality of understanding both the technological and real estate facets to successfully navigate within PropTech, offering insights into the balanced and insightful approach required for operating and investing within this domain. The discussion underscores the strategic imperatives of ensuring a balanced and holistic approach to navigating through PropTech, ensuring that investments and operational strategies are aligned with the overarching objectives and market dynamics.

The conversation further delves into the operational dynamics and challenges of managing mixed-use environments, highlighting the strategic imperatives of ensuring tenant satisfaction and operational efficiency. The dialogue underscores the pivotal role of tenant engagement and satisfaction in ensuring the success and sustainability of mixed-use environments. Furthermore, Block and Aarons navigate through the financial dimensions of managing these environments, offering insights into the financial management strategies and structures essential for safeguarding investments and ensuring their financial health and sustainability, especially within the dynamic context of the pandemic.

As the dialogue progresses, the discussion ventures into the domains of leadership, innovation, and disruption within the real estate sector. Block and Aarons highlight the critical role of effective leadership in navigating through the complexities and challenges of the contemporary real estate landscape, underscoring the significance of leadership in ensuring organizational adaptability and success amidst the dynamic terrains of the real estate sector. Furthermore, the dialogue explores the facets of innovation and disruption within PropTech, offering insights into the technologies and ventures that are shaping and driving the evolution of the industry.

The narrative further explores the evolving paradigms and trends within PropTech, offering insights into the developmental trajectories and emerging trends shaping the sector. Block and Aarons provide a detailed exploration into the strategic, operational, and financial considerations that are shaping the future pathways of PropTech, offering listeners a comprehensive and insightful panorama into its evolutionary journey.

Transitioning towards a global perspective, the dialogue explores the varied landscapes and dynamics permeating the international PropTech scene. Insights into the disparities and commonalities across different geographical PropTech landscapes are discussed, offering listeners a detailed and global perspective on the challenges and opportunities within international PropTech markets. The discussion provides a comprehensive panorama into the global PropTech landscape, exploring the varied dynamics, challenges, and opportunities permeating different geographical markets.

In the concluding segments of the dialogue, Block and Aarons offer a forward-looking perspective into the future trajectories of PropTech, exploring the emerging trends, challenges, and opportunities within the sector. The discussion traverses through various facets of PropTech, offering listeners a comprehensive and future-oriented panorama into the sector, providing a detailed and insightful perspective into the potential future scenarios, challenges, and adaptations that might permeate the PropTech sector in the coming years.

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