Who says we're not venture capitalists? Traditionally, conventional real estate companies are hesitant to invest in high-tech start-ups, but over the past year that trend seems to have reversed. Notable examples are San Francisco-based AMB Property Corp.'s investment in Internet grocer Webvan; last year's creation of Broadband Office Inc. by eight of the largest developers/owners in the world; New York-based Insignia Financial Group's Internet initiatives; and Palo Alto, Calif.-based Marcus & Millichap's various high-tech investments.
Now, title insurer First American Financial Corp. has invested in Internet start-up RE3W. Sure it is only $1 million - a pittance in the real estate and VC world - but Santa Clara, Calif.-based First American's investment points to the bigger picture of real estate firms placing bets on high-tech start-ups.
First American also is following the trend of investing in tech companies that have a potential upside that reaches beyond return on investment. A transaction-based Website that is still in development, RE3W will use First American's back-end systems to provide users with access to property data, credit information and mortgage origination and escrow services. RE3W founder and veteran real estate broker Richard Frost expects to unveil RE3W this fall. The site's URL is www.-RE3W.com and wwwRealEstateWorldWideWeb.com.
Frost is currently negotiating with additional investors to finalize a $5 million round of funding to finalize development of RE3W.com.
Broadband battles: who's going where Broadband telecommunications companies' race to wire the biggest portfolios heats up with each passing week. Over the past month, Washington, D.C.-based eLink Communications may have bagged the largest trophy portfolio, but other companies also got their share of the pie.
* Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) has picked eLink as its preferred provider of broadband communications services for JLL's 400 million sq. ft. management portfolio. During the next 12 months, JLL plans to enhance communications services within its U.S. portfolio in 20 markets. Simultaneously, JLL will review with eLink broadband opportunities in Europe and Asia. JLL's worldwide portfolio totals 700 million sq. ft.
* Boston-based Boston Properties has signed license agreements with Bellevue, Wash.-based Advanced Radio Telecom Corp. (ART) and Vienna, Va.-based Teligent Inc. to provide telephone, data and Internet services to tenants in Boston Properties' buildings. ART and Teligent will have the right to offer broadband communications services to tenants in Boston Properties' buildings on the East and West Coast. Teligent's offerings would include local, long-distance, high-speed data and dedicated Internet service over digital local networks for 91 Boston Properties' buildings. ART will offer its wireless Internet services to Boston Properties' tenants in 116 buildings.
Boston Properties has signed similar agreements with Allied Riser Communications, Cypress Communications, WinStar and others.
* Arlington, Va.-based Charles E. Smith Commercial Realty has chosen Tampa, Fla.-based Intermedia Communications to provide bundled high-speed Internet, data and voice services to tenants in 17 million sq. ft. in 68 buildings that Charles E. Smith owns, leases and manages.
* Atlanta-based Cypress Communications has landed three new clients: Pope & Land Enterprises Inc. and Taylor & Mathis Inc., both of Atlanta, and Houston-based Boxer Property. Cypress will provide bundled broadband services to more than 10 million sq. ft. of commercial office space.
Captive? No, Captivated on the elevator Westford, Mass.-based Captivate Network Inc. will provide Internet-based programming in the elevators of buildings held by 11 of the nation's largest office owners. The firms - New York-based Blackstone Real Estate Advisors; Boston Properties; Equity Office Properties Trust and Prime Realty Group, both of Chicago; Melville, N.Y.-based Reckson Associates Realty Corp.; Toronto-based TrizecHahn Office Properties; Wien & Malkin LLP, Jack Resnick & Sons, both of New York; San Francisco-based Shorenstein Co.; Ft. Worth, Texas-based Crescent Real Estate Equities Co.; and Saddle Brook, N.J.-based Vornado Realty Trust - collectively control more than 300 million sq. ft. of Class-A space in the United States. In addition to selecting Captivate Network, several of the companies have invested $28 million in the Internet start-up.
In the first year of the 10-plus year agreement, Captivate will install screens and provide customized media feeds in New York, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. In 2001, Captivate will install in Denver; Miami; Seattle; Austin, Texas; and several other cities. Captivate is slated to be installed in buildings such as 1350 Avenue of the Americas in New York, the Sears Tower and John Hancock Bulding in Chicago, The Embarcadero Center in San Francisco, Prudential Center in Boston, TwoPlaza in Los Angeles, 191 Peachtree in Atlanta and Market Square in Washington, D.C.
Captivate's silent, high-resolution flat-panel screens displayand information on the top of the screens and advertising on the bottom. The company's programming partners include The New York Times, Reuters, Boston.com, Boston Herald, Chicago Tribune, Tribune Media Services, CitySearch, AccuWeather, SmarTraveler and TrafficStation. Captivate's programming departments select material from content providers, and create 10-second screens. Captivate's wireless Internet network also allows building managers to communicate building specific announcements to tenants.