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Maureen Waters is a real estate veteran who helped Cushman & Wakefield navigate the last recession. Here's how she thinks the coronavirus will play out for real-estate tech.

Maureen Waters MetaProp
  • Real estate tech venture fund MetaProp has hired Maureen Waters, formerly president of Ten-X and a senior executive at Cushman & Wakefield, as a partner.
  • Waters had originally been working on a startup of her own, but when the coronavirus crisis hit, she put that project on hold and started to work with MetaProp instead.
  • Waters began her career at an early real estate tech company, and told Business Insider that the new role has brought her career "full circle." 
  • Waters said that coronavirus has actually been an "accelerant" for a lot of real estate tech firms, and is increasing the adoption of some products. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Real-estate tech venture fund MetaProp has hired commercial real estate veteran Maureen Waters to help its portfolio businesses grow, scale and find strategic partnerships in the industry.
Waters has had a long career in commercial real estate: she spent the last three years as president of commercial real estate transaction platform Ten-X, and previously served as head of real estate and asset management for Bill Gates' investments and held executive strategy and marketing roles at Cushman & Wakefield
Waters joins MetaProp as a partner. In addition to helping with portfolio businesses' strategies, she will be working closely with MetaProp's own strategic partners and investors.
MetaProp is an early-stage investor in real estate technology companies and is currently investing its third fund, a $100 million vehicle raised last year. The company invests in a range of companies, from construction software to art selection for buildings, and has invested in companies like Airbnb-backed Zeus Living, appraisal software company Bowery Valuation, and pop-up hotel company WhyHotel.
The news comes at a crossroads for the real estate tech venture world. Last year saw a record high in investment in the sector, $31.6 billion dollars, but the coronavirus crisis has hit the sector hard. Many venture-backed real estate tech firms, especially in the flexible office and hospitality realms, have had to lay off large parts of their workforce.
Waters had first-hand experience with this change in dynamics. After leaving Ten-X, she had been working on her own startup, which automates portions of the commercial real estate transactions, with a group of other former Ten-X employees, and was working with MetaProp on potentially launching it.
With coronavirus changing market dynamics, the startup went on hold, and MetaProp asked her to join the team.

Full Circle

Waters told Business Insider that the role brings her career full circle. Waters began her career at a real estate tech startup named Space Consultants, and later Madison Advisory group, which was acquired by CBRE and became part of the brokerage's corporate services arm. The company developed software that used algorithms to project the long-term space needs of banks.
At Cushman & Wakefield, as chief strategy officer, she executed a three-year plan that doubled the company's profitability before a sale to an Italian private equity group, and then restructured the business as the Great Recession hit shortly after.
At Ten-X, she was building a platform to bring commercial real estate transactions online, mirroring previous work she had done at Cushman & Wakefield with Goldman Sachs, where the two firms attempted to build a transaction platform.  Now at MetaProp, she'll be combining all of these experiences in her new role.
"It encompasses that entire journey for me, from startup to working in the world of investing, and working through the development of strategic partnerships, and the integration of the two," Waters said.

The effects of coronavirus on real estate tech

While Waters won't be making direct investment decisions, she has been watching the ways that the coronavirus crisis has changed the real estate tech world. She said that some of the negatives effects have been obvious, with hospitality and retail companies hit hard, but that the outlook for the sector as a whole is actually quite good.
"It is accelerating some of the things that were very slow on the adoption side," Waters said. She pointed to tenant and vendor experience applications, which provide direct links between landlords, office dwellers, and amenities, as one sector that will see more widespread adoption after the crisis.
Similarly, she said that wellness and hygiene oriented businesses will see a boost in adoption, as all of these tools become essential parts of the return to office space.
In the longer term, she's interested in the ways this crisis will change the way people use space. With many families more closely connected than ever by technology like Zoom or House Party, and the possibility of a paradigm-shift for remote work, people's space needs may shift.
Waters said that we could see more multi-generational families living together, and remote work moving people from urban areas into suburban areas.
This could significantly change multifamily landlord's strategies, finding ways to develop housing for former urban dwellers used to the city's amenities. Waters isn't sure that this will happen but said that she will be watching closely to see the ways that people's use of space adapts out of this crisis.
While the current crisis may have put her own startup on pause, Waters isn't sure that startups will actually be the worst-hit businesses in the long run, as their relatively low expense structures and adaptability will be assets.
"You will see a lot of larger corporations with less flexibility and more fixed expenses get hit the hardest," Waters said.
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