In January, John Gilbert, Rodin managementThe company’s chief technology officer and chief operating officer retired after 30 years.
It’s not over, though. Gilbert, one of the tech pioneers in real estate, is still the CEO of the proptech company created by Rudin Metadata. Her powers include an AI-powered building operating system Nantum OSwho created it.
Gilbert spoke in late April about his early lessons from the late Jack Rodin. The importance and evolution of the innovation teamAlso known as CBRS) for real estate owners; carbon reduction and climate change; and what Nikola Tesla, Robert Metcalfe and Steve Jobs, they all mean the modern technological world.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Trade Controller: What made you retire from running Rudin and become CEO of Metadata?
John Gilbert: I was always the CEO. But I think the story is meaningful here. Thirty years ago, I was in Jack Rodin’s office with Lou Rodin and Bill [Rudin] And they were making me an offer to become the first general manager of operations. We agreed on everything and I said to Jack—maybe naively, perhaps stupidly—”Hey, do contracts work here?” Jack kind of stopped. He was a larger than life person. He had that glint in his eyes, and he reached out his hand, and said, “Yes, that’s our contract. You shake hands with me, we have a contract.”
I was feeling very silly in that moment, or I wasn’t silly but embarrassed. He would shake my hand and it was one of those handshakes that the other person wouldn’t leave. And he said, “John, that’s what will happen. You will come to work for us. We will teach you our culture. We will teach you how to run our business. And then, one day, far into the future, you will help pass the company from this generation to the next.”
This is what literally happened. Michael Rudin and Samantha Rudin run the company. We’ve been planning this for the past three or four years and building a team for them. This was their team. This was the time Jack Rodin expected. The good news is that I had another thing to do, which I really love and am excited about, which is grow metadata and push Nantum, our operating system, to market.
What do your daily duties look like in the metadata?
It’s working with the team, obviously, to direct myself to where I can bring value. I really like the guidance. As the founder of the company and the inventor of the product, I am very excited about the possibilities of what this product can do in terms of saving the earth, reducing carbon and bringing buildings into the 21st century in terms of understanding data and synthesizing it to make it useful.
We are now in a significant growth mode. We are hiring a lot of new people. So she’s interviewing those people who work with the product team, in terms of making sure the product is the best it can be and working with the customer success team to make sure that once the deal is finally signed, we implement it, install it and integrate with the systems that need to integrate with it. As efficiently and professionally as possible. It’s pretty much what I did with Rodin from the COO’s point of view, which is to get a big picture.
Many American companies are complaining about not being able to find talent to hire. Do you find this to be the case or are you fulfilling your needs created by the request?
On the talent side of things, we’re unique in that we’re on the cusp of real estate and technology. So we attract creative engineers, sales people, successful clients, people who ultimately understand that climate change is real. We are able to attract some amazing people because of what we do and what our mission is.
Secondly, in relation to the market itself, in relation to demand, several weeks ago, Securities and Exchange Commission They came out with draft carbon reporting requirements, meaning that every publicly traded company in the US would have to come up with a very complex set of carbon accounting and carbon reporting rules. Since Nantum acts as an operating system for the built environment, we collect every bit of data that the building generates. A big part of that is how much electricity is being generated, the source of that electricity, and then, ultimately, what is this carbon factor of that electricity consumption.
Everyone says, “Well, how do you get carbon at zero?” For us, the first thing you need to do is use less electricity. Nantum plays this role in a big way. The second thing you need to do is find more energy. How do we buy renewable electricity and carbon-free renewable energy sources? The third stop for stool is proof of this. We’ll knock on the Securities and Exchange Commission on our door. New York City will knock on our door from Local Law .97. I bought these renewable electrons. Prove That.
In the end, Nantum is the crux of it. That’s why we chose JPMorgan Chase in a very competitive process. We’ve encountered some industry giants. The Nantum was developed and evolved from the engine room, not from two smart engineers from MIT or Caltech sitting in their bedroom or garage. This was literally an organic tool that came out of the 15 million square foot engine rooms.
Last year, the Federal Communications Commission granted exclusive commercial real estate innovation squadAlso known as CBRS, which can provide great value to the industry. What’s new in that?
When you really look at the real estate ecosystem, buildings have always had a heart – the engine room and boiler room. Now they have a mind with Nantum. Final Frontier: The Central Nervous System. And CBRS is that central nervous system because it’s a ubiquitous wireless network that’s been given to landlords—150MHz of wireless spectrum, which is huge. The FCC basically said to landlords, “Listen, we, the FCC, want to speed up the deployment of 5G, and we’re thinking that by giving landlords a license to control CBRS spectrum within your buildings, we’re going to speed that up.”
Is this real? The short answer is yes. I think it starts at the top of the food chain. You have Amazon doing what you do [at HQ2]. Literally, JBG bought SMITH CBRS PAL . License For Amazon HQ2 headquarters in National Landing, Virginia, outside of Washington DC, this is a huge opportunity, huge and really exciting stuff.
[Editor’s Note: Private Access License (PAL) is the second tier on the CBRS spectrum designated for private commercial use. The PAL tier benefits from protection against interference from the lower GAA tier, as well as guarantees access to portions of the spectrum based on individual counties.]
Can you talk more about the effect of CBRS and PAL on real estate?
The CBRS spectrum is subdivided into a private license, which goes to property owners for the roof and four walls of the building owned by the property owner. As a property owner, I can license this to someone else. I can use it myself. It is a currency in a very simplistic sense. PAL . licenseIt was literally auctioned off by the Federal Communications Commission. So it was bought by Verizons of the world, T-Mobile’s, and now Sprint’s. T Mobile and AT&T will eventually be able to offer improved 5G services outdoors.
What Amazon and their partner wanted to do and did is not just have the internal license, because it was given to them, but they spent five million dollars to create the external license so that they would control the entire 5G ecosystem throughout HQ2. Really exciting stuff.
How has COVID affected CBRS accreditation?
I think COVID is slower, because everyone focused on indoor air quality and they’re pWill people ever come back. Now people are coming back, so we can get back to what we were focused on. This is a great opportunity for landlords to enhance the experience of the tenants who live and work in their buildings. sThe property owners are basically saying, “Okay, wait a minute, let’s really understand if the occupancy rhythms are going to be. Going back to pre-COVID or is it something new and different? How do we react to that and how do we feed that?”
Are there other tech innovations you’re looking at or on the horizon?
CBRS feeds. Once again, we return to the concept of the need for a central nervous system. we need tHat because, eventually, the sensors will capture the data. Everyone says data is the new oil, and landlords own it. The data may be the new oil, but the crude data is crude oil. It’s sticky, useless, and messy. So what landlords realize is that they need that foundational layer of software that can get, organize, synthesize, clean and eventually express data in a way that landlords and renters can find and monetize. It’s something that landlords as well as renters, especially in terms of carbon, are beginning to understand how valuable that is.
Can this broad spectrum of CBRS solve business problems such as virtual conference calls?
Wchicken [Rudin Management] We did 55 Broad Street in Manhattan in the mid-’90s, we had a tenant, and their motto was that they had two models: one that there was no such thing as too much bandwidth. And secondly, if you’re not on the cutting edge, you’re taking up too much space. So this big tube concept solves a lot of issues, including bandwidth issues, why the camera doesn’t work, and audio issues.
In terms of how much bandwidth can be pushed through a CBRS network, that solves a whole host of problems. The big question realtors ask is, “What will become of our lobbyists?” Are they just transit or should we pump them as much bandwidth as possible because they’ve become almost amenity-like areas, places where I can have a meeting? Yet if I am pumping as much bandwidth as possible into my lobbies, boom. This solves a whole host of issues.
What is driving the technological development in metadata? Is it all about carbon reduction, or other things as well?
allThe body thinks the E in the ESG stands for energy. no. It means the environment. So the carbon is huge. This is more on the energy side. But what about water? What about indoor air quality? What about the pH of cooling towers, because if the pH of cooling towers gets out of hand, that’s how Legionnaires’ disease spreads? There are a whole host of environmental issues that property owners have to monitor in real time.
That’s what Nantum is all about. It was created to be able to provide real-time feedback and create real-time feedback loops. So things that are broken can be fixed or stopped instantly. This is how you create value. So is carbon our #1e engine at this point? definitely. Yeah. This is largely driven by regulatory requirements because it is not a good idea to have it, it is a must. We need to report our carbon data and give it to our tenants, eventually, so they can report it.
Do you see proptech startups gaining more momentum in the CRE industry, or is adoption still slow?
I saw a headline this morning that he was there $4 billion in venture capital investment into proptech in the first quarter of 2022. More than 30 percent more than last year and 41 percent more than in the fourth quarter. So there is clearly a lot of money being spent.
What technology can you imagine, but not yet see, that you think will materialize in the built world?
an important question. I wrote an opinion piece over 12 years ago titled “Mr. Tesla Meets Mr. Metcalf.” It was basically how Nikola Tesla, the innovator of AC, and Robert Metcalf, who created the Ethernet connection, suddenly saw these two worlds come together in a way that could influence him. Connecting to machines and devices that use electricity for operation. This has been achieved greatly.
The only thing I would add, and it’s not really about the technology, is that it’s really about the use case. This is the best, I think, said Steve Jobs: It’s about how smart, creative humans can use this technology to make the world a better place. This is what Nantum is all about in terms of offering a product that is constantly transforming, evolving and becoming more efficient. That’s why we keep pushing the envelope.
Philip Russo can be reached in [email protected].