Q: What has been your biggest challenge founding and launching Propdocs?
Steven: On the surface, CRE is doing ‘fine’ without using technology to fix inefficiencies in the way it works. This brings with it a strong resistance to change, and what some refer to as cognitive entrenchment. But the reality is that most deals are relatively small, yet the same amount of time and effort is spent on them as is spent on large deals, pointing to a massive upside if these deals could be carried out more efficiently.
To break through the cognitive entrenchment and low adoption of technology, we needed to make Propdocs as easy to use as possible. Overwhelming users with hundreds of bells and whistles they might only need now and again would not be helpful. This made building the product challenging as we had to simplify fairly complex deals of all sizes, while still considering all the use cases. While of course we are constantly improving and refining, we feel we’ve done a great job at creating a seamless user experience so far.
Q: What previous experience has been invaluable to you when founding Propdocs?
Steven: In general, the past 15 years of my life have been investing in and building startups. Most recently though, I took over and rebuilt Spacelist, the largest commercial real estate listing platform in Canada. This not only gave me direct insight into the CRE industry but helped me build relationships and gain experience first hand the pain points businesses feel when acquiring space.
Q: What message do you have for entrepreneurs in the CREtech space?
Steven: Don’t try to change the industry quickly… it won’t happen. CRE cannot and will not be disrupted in the typical sense. Plan a slow and strategic roll out to understand exactly what the problem is and where you can provide the most value. At the end of the day this industry has created more wealth than any other industry in the world… and it’ll stick with what it knows. This stands to reason because there is an overall risk averse approach to commercial real estate investments, and this attitude carries over to other things.
Instead, take the opportunity to leverage the fact that this industry is still primarily run on paper and focus on improving processes rather than trying to fix something that isn’t broken.
Q: What’s up with entrepreneurship and the startup space in Canada at the moment? It’s on fire!
Steven: As an American transplant, Canada is a very exciting space right now. For many years Canada was seen as a small market with limited talent, funding and opportunity to scale. But today it’s becoming a leader in many advanced technology industries. Startups enjoy favorable conditions and government support. Further, a focus on STEM subjects in Canadian universities is producing extremely talented graduates that go on to build amazing companies. Combine this with a high quality of life, and many US companies have realized they can ‘nearshore’ to Canada and take advantage of the US dollar and traditionally lower labor rates in Canada.
This has caused a problem though for most SMB tech companies: there is still a major shortage of tech talent.
Q: What is something counterintuitive that you have learned on your entrepreneur journey?
Steven: I spent time at a financial firm early in my career to learn about the due diligence process and evaluating businesses to invest in. It’s not logical, but when assessing a concept (of any kind) look at why it doesn’t make sense first. If you can’t come up with any critical flaws, start investigating the benefits. This is a practice of risk assessment and helps to mitigate problems that arise from focusing only on the perceived benefits.
Q: How do you measure success?
Steven: Personally, it’s when you’re able to enjoy life, family and friends. As a business, it’s truly solving a problem with a product or service that people absolutely love. An amazing product that solves a real problem will always be successful.
Q: Tell us more about your obsession with efficiency.
Steven: My personal mantra is work smarter not harder. I’m originally a mechanical engineer, so my brain is wired to find the simplest, most elegant solution to a problem, whether it’s designing a part for a race car, or a software solution to streamline a real estate deal. Time is the most valuable asset in the world, and I truly feel that whether you’re improving efficiency in your personal or work life, that you can be happier and use the time saved to spend it with family and the more important things in life.
Q: What is a fun fact about yourself?
Steven: I used to race cars and a racecar part that I designed bears my nickname: Jaffster. It’s been selling for over 15 years, and is used around the world by thousands of automotive enthusiasts.
Find out how Propdocs can make your CRE deals more efficient by requesting a demo here.