Thomas Bretz and Adam Freeman are long-time real estate business partners in Chicago who both acknowledge that the real estate industry has hardly been a pioneer in fostering and adopting new technology. In 2014, they set out to change all that with the creation of the first industry-focused technology accelerator.
A technology accelerator works to help independent entrepreneurs develop new ideas, providing mentorship and a small amount of capital to promising tech startups. The entrepreneurs complete a three- to four-month program before graduating to pursue broader market funding. The accelerator usually takes a small, single-digit equity position in the company.
This concept is contrast to a technology incubator, which brings in an external management team to manage an idea that was developed internally. Ideas at an incubator can develop over much longer periods of time. The incubator usually takes a much larger equity position as well.
As a tech accelerator, Elmspring invests in technology startups with innovative concepts in housing, brokerage, smart home automation, multifamily, hospitality, college housing, place- and space-making, smart office, planning, construction, and more. They especially focus on providing seed investments to early-stage companies that are low or even pre-revenue, investing $20,000 in every pre-selected companies in exchange for a six percent equity position. They play an important role in validating the idea, beta-testing and refining the sales strategy.
At the end of 2014, Elmspring announced a new partnership with Waterton Associates, marking an important development for the multifamily industry. A representative from Waterton will serve on the Elmspring Board and as an advisor to promising startups in the multifamily sector. The reality check and piloting that Waterton can provide gives the type of feedback not readily available to most start-up tech companies.
Given the company’s forward-looking focus in the industry, Elmspring’s Tom Bretz will join attendees at the 2015 NMHC OPTECH Conference & Exposition in San Diego this fall to offer feedback and advice to the four finalists in this year’s LaunchPad competition. He’ll join the expert panel of industry executives, which includes Alex Jackiw (Milhaus Management), Greg O'Berry (JVM), Lori Reeves (ForestCity) and Tom Bumpass (Greystar).
Multifamily startup companies interested in competing to win the $5,000 LaunchPad cash prize and complimentary NMHC Advisory Board membership have until September 11, 2015, to submit their applications. Startups must provide industry-specific, technology-based solutions; must have been in the business for less than five years; and have not previously been named an NMHC LaunchPad finalist, although previous applicants may reapply.