At the time of this writing, women in PropTech and CRE are a very small minority.
While there’s no one to “blame”, the fact is that this “small minority” status sometimes leads to negative and restrictive stereotyping of women as incapable in the industry.
In that light, we wanted to present some inspiring profiles and quotes from some of the women in PropTech who are stars in the industry now, to help grow networks of women in the industry to ensure that interested female talent is not unfairly shut out.
Caren Maio is the CEO and Co-Founder of Nestio, a marketing and leasing technology platform that’s transforming the apartment rental experience for multifamily professionals and, as a result, apartment hunters. Writing directly to the author of this piece, Maio said: “I got my start in the real estate technology world nearly seven years ago, when I became frustrated trying to find an apartment to rent in New York.
“I wanted to create a solution to make the process easier on renters, and I soon realized that the key to unlocking a better experience for everyone was to modernise the technology for the apartment owners and managers themselves. Quickly I realized I had identified an urgent need in the industry—the need for a tech platform that allowed owners and managers to market and manage their residential portfolios more efficiently, allowing them to save time and maximise profits. At the same time, we wanted to empower our clients to deliver an apartment hunting experience that this generation of renters has come to expect from their favorite brands—one that is seamless, enjoyable, and responsive.
“Recently, Nestio raised a round of strategic growth capital, which we are reinvesting into our product. We’re also using our capital to expand into new US markets so multifamily professionals nationwide can benefit from Nestio.
“Prior to Nestio, I lent my business expertise to corporate sales positions at powerhouse brands Nike and The Wall Street Journal. I graduated from New York University in 2007. In the past, I was named one of the 3 Female Entrepreneurs to Look Out for by Metro, as well as being selected as one of the 15 Women to Watch in Tech by Inc.com. I certainly appreciate those industry shout outs, but the truth is I’m surrounded by some of the smartest strategists, product development, and sales talent in the business, so they deserve the kudos as well.”
Jeanne Massa is the CEO of Habiteo. Launched in June 2014, the company is one of the leading and pioneering French startups in Proptech. Its mission is to develop “accelerating sales” solutions for the actors in modern, tech-driven real estate.
In an interview given in 2017, Massa said: “I am a specialist in customer relations, graduated from Political Science in 1991. As a CMO & CDO at Pizza Hut, I launched the first pizza e-commerce site of the brand. In 2011, I decided to join LaFourchette.com as a COO and a member of CODIR. I ran an office of 100 people in Barcelona, where I structured the operations that allowed the company to spend from 5 to 15 million euros of turnover.
“In 2014, I launched Habiteo in the company of Jean-Claude Szaleniec, former CEO of Bouwfounds Marignan and founder of Espaces Immobiliers at BNP Paribas, and Denis Fayolle, founder of LaFourchette, ManoMano and Adrenaline Hunter. Julien Frelat, awarded several times by Microsoft, joined us as CTO.
“Our growth is mainly due to the fact that we respond to clear needs: For promoters, we offer sales support tools that reduce time to market and marketing costs, while having interactive and digital content that makes sales more reliable. For buyers, it is the possibility to visit properties that are not yet built.”
Claudia Nagel is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of KIWI.KI GmbH, recognised as a premier global PropTech company. According to her bio at the Securityinformed website, “Claudia co-founded KIWI.KI with an objective towards creating smart digital door opening solutions. Her expertise in buisness strategy and project management has aided to the growth of KIWI.KI GmbH. Claudia received her Master’s Degree in Engineering/Industrial Management from the Technical University of Berlin in 2002.”
Her story at the KIWI website is as follows. “Berlin in November. Claudia Nagel is standing outside the door to her apartment building. It is pouring with rain. She has her baby in one hand and shopping bags in the other. She is searching her pockets: jacket, pants, handbag. She curses. The rain is pelting down. It is cold. The baby is screaming. She is desperately searching for the door key.”
“The doctor of industrial engineering wonders why there is not a more intelligent and convenient solution for opening doors. When she then spots the mailman with a huge bunch of keys, it becomes obvious to her that the metal key has clearly reached its limits in this day and age. The idea for KIWI is born.”
Poonam Mathis is the founder of Stealthforce. Her biography published on the company’s website says that she “spent over a decade in real estate private equity and development. A Harvard BA and Wharton MBA, she was previously Deputy Head of Global Real Estate Asset Management. for Partners Group ($40 bn AUM), and early in her career was the 13th Employee at The Gerson Lehrman Group (GLG), now valued at over $1 bn. She grew up walking to construction sites with her father, and loves the smell of curing concrete in the morning.”
In a November, 2016 interview for Real Estate Tech News, Mathis said of Stealthforce, “It’s all about mission. The best analogy I have is Uber; they provide rides, but are not a taxi company because their mission was to provide the world with a private driver. We facilitate talent matches, but we’re not a recruiter because our mission is the democratisation of talent access. Unlike recruiters, we do not focus on full-time placements. Our focus is everything else. Someone to
build a financial model or do an appraisal, for example. And unlike outsourcing firms like Situs or even a typical appraisal firm, we carry no overhead, so we pass no overhead on to the employer.”
In November, 2017 Cushman & Wakefield announced that Melanie Kirkwood Ruiz had joined the firm as CIO for the Americas. The published announcement said: “Kirkwood Ruiz will lead the firm’s technology strategy in the Americas, overseeing a change agenda focused on innovation, integration and optimization to support the company’s strategy regionally and globally. She will work to improve operations, enhance customer service, drive new business and ensure the Global Technology Solutions’ Share Services are used throughout the company.
“Previously, Kirkwood Ruiz served a vice president of business technology at Scientific Games and held various roles in client-facing and corporate technology leadership roles. In addition to driving the move to make IT more agile and innovation focused to enhance client services, she merged multiple billion-dollar companies into one global technology platform, and oversaw the development of enterprise applications in over 800 sites and 100 countries. Prior, she held various operations and global IT management roles at United Airlines, and at Abbott Laboratories.
“She holds an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and both a Master’s and a BS in Engineering from Cornell University.”
Kirkwood Ruiz appeared in an article about CRE at the end of May, 2018. She expressed the view that it’s important for the modern real estate industry to hire more technical business analysts, technical program managers, and people who come from outside the industry but are experienced in the tech world.
She explained, “They have to be incentivized, people who are in tech don’t think about commercial real estate. I had the same issue. You have to find people that are driven by the opportunity…[it will help that]I have a network of people that trust me.”