This story was originally published in Builder.
This past summer, Hive keynote speaker Clara Brenner and her partner Julie Lein closed on a a $22.5 million capital raise for their Urban Innovation Fund, which Wall Street Journal staffer Cat Zakrzewski reports focuses on "early-stage startups that address urban problems."
Brenner came to our attention, and we asked her to join us at Hive--Thursday, Nov. 29, at the JW Marriott in Austin--because one of the biggest barriers to building affordably in housing--whatever the type--is regulation, and being good at helping young companies with good ideas overcome overregulation is how Brenner and Lein have made names for themselves. Zakrzewski writes:
The tech industry is known for taking a “beg for forgiveness” approach with regulators, whether using hard-charging tactics to burst into new ride-sharing markets or leaving dockless scooters on city sidewalks.
But several large firms are now attracted to trying a more collaborative approach, which Ms. Lein and Ms. Brenner tested out through their early investments in companies such as Chariot and Neighborly at Tumml.
“They have always been comfortable with regulatory messiness,” said Molly Turner, who was the first director of public policy at Airbnb. “A lot of VC firms shy away from that.” ...
... “We’re not specifically looking for the hairiest regulatory problem and then jumping in as a result,” Ms. Brenner said. “But more often than not, the companies we care about have those hairy problems.”
Until the past year or two, it looked for all the world as though technology companies' willingness and ability play by their own rules, and often super-profitably serve unmet market needs in defiance of or even outright disdain for regulations was a success strategy. Observers and stakeholders in residential real estate suggested that success would be a kind of example builders, developers, and investors in real estate might follow to get the regulatory monkey off their backs in land use burdens and excessive local design guidance, etc., that add from 20% to 35% to rents and purchase costs.
Now as one tech juggernaut after another--starting with Airbnb and Uber, and spreading across to Facebook, Googlet, Tesla, and Amazon--get the third-degree of scrutiny, exposure, and new calls for greater regulation on their businesses and business models, it looks as if the momentary honeymoon period for the "don't-ask-for-permission, but beg-for-forgiveness" approach to business validation has ended.
Brenner, for one, is not surprised, and it's from exactly this perspective that she works with urban tech startups to future-proof themselves from a potential death-match with regulators.
She looks at the relative success real estate developers have had in navigating the tricky, risky, frustrating path of persuasion, community outreach, patience, and proof-of-concept to getting so much work done in the throes of local, regional, and national regulatory opposition and obstruction.
"There's a lot tech start up entrepreneurs and developers can learn from what real estate developers have always done well and continue to be effective in," Brenner told us recently over herb tea in one of San Francisco's pleasant little alleyways barred from vehicular traffic.
"The fact is, if tech and data companies are going to have a sustainable business model, they have to learn to balance their great competence at meeting a market need with their less-evolved ability to deal with folks who make the rules and regulations."
Brenner, in turn, believes that real estate firms--builders, architects, engineers, investors, developers, manufacturers, etc.--can benefit equally from partnerships and discovery among the Silicon Valley set, whose fanatical, winner-take-all approaches to starting with a "user story" as the basis for any value-creation model are the single rule of engagement.
"Hive is an opportunity for both sides to learn from each other," says Brenner. She's in a position to both know and to influence both the courtship and marriage of interests between the tech world and the real world of housing investment and development. She's where the smart money is and where it's going.
Join us at Hive for a unique and exclusive insight and roadmap into how builders, developers, and investors can reduce their entitlement risk, profit-killing fees, and a surfeit of expenses weighing on what consumers pay for their homes, whether it's to own them or rent them.
"Urban Innovation Fund goes beyond investing in startups building smart cities products such as transportation startups or Internet-enabled lights. The fund’s broad vision is to back companies building products to address the problems that keep mayors up at night, such as public health or education. "
What a concept--the notion that local officials, agencies, and community activists could transform from opposers to supporters and advocates! That's where innovation is more than talk, more than theory, and more than ideas. That's where innovation becomes an action plan for housing's leading investors, developers, designers, builders, manufacturers, and distributors to seize ability to build quality housing, affordable, attainable , and accessible to more working Americans.
Don't miss the opportunity. Register now.
This story was originally published in Builder.