Disruptor Daily: What Trends Are Shaping Blockchain In Real Estate? 7 Experts Share Their Insights [2019]

LeasePilot CTO Itzik Spitzen spoke with Disruptor Daily for a piece on the developments of blockchain-powered real estate platforms. The article was published on June 24, 2019. An excerpt is below.

While blockchain can create transparency, those applications will take time to mature because the industry is traditionally very conservative and not readily comfortable sharing their data. I expect we will see blockchain implementation on two fronts: publishing information that is already publicly available but in a trusted way which can create organization consensus, and zero-knowledge proof implementation which are taking advantage of blockchain’s trust feature without revealing any information.

Click here to read the full piece on Disruptor Daily’s site.

Law360: Commercial Real Estate Attorneys Must Embrace Tech

The following article was originally published in Law360 on Feb. 21st, 2019

Using technology from the 1990s simply isn’t going to cut it in today’s legal world. To do any job well, you need the proper tools. Why then are legal teams in the commercial real estate industry asked to use traditional word processing software that has remained relatively unchanged for a quarter century?

Commercial real estate can no longer lag behind. It’s time to adopt new legal technology that enables their teams to do their jobs better and deliver more value to their clients. Now is the time to shift away from outdated and antiquated processes and move into a digital, efficient future.

If technology can improve so many aspects of the legal process, why then are lawyers often so hesitant to embrace it?

First, there’s monetary concerns. Not the money to implement new technology, but hesitations around lost revenue because of industry-standard fee structures and billable hours. For some, there’s a fear that technology reduces billable hours and makes lawyers less profitable. However, time saving technology actually increases the value of your time by allowing you to focus on higher-level tasks, like critical thinking, problem solving and reasoning. Isn’t that the reason so many of us began practicing law in the first place?

Some hesitation to adopt technology comes because the practice of law is based on convention; on a foundation, practices and principles that were adopted decades ago. Lawyers, by nature are change-averse. Going against the status quo introduces the possibility for error; and when mistakes are made, the blame is first placed on the legal team. It’s often easier to embrace the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mantra, than to take what would be worthwhile risks.

Across virtually every other industry, we’ve adopted modern technology that make people’s jobs easier. But lawyers are stuck with outdated tools. There’s an expectation that the legal profession can work as quickly and as efficiently as others, because if one industry has great technology, then everyone must, right? But this isn’t the case. Lawyers aren’t set up for success; it creates a point of tension and an expectation gap between the legal profession and their peers in other sectors.

Ironically, the technology that lawyers do have access to often makes our jobs harder. That’s because, for the most part, the tools are developed by technologists who think about the overall business impact, rather than how the tool is utilized by the end user. Yes, the tools are there, but they aren’t the right tools for lawyers to do their jobs effectively. Instead, these “solutions” often end up being an added burden that makes lawyers’ lives harder. There’s a disconnect between what attorneys need, and what engineers and developers think they do. The industry desperately needs technology solutions that are developed with lawyers’ pain points top of mind.

Before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s define what we mean by technology. Technology is not just artificial intelligence, self-driving cars and smartphones. More broadly, technology can be defined as the tools and skills produced by people that are used to complete a task.

In this sense, a traditional paper document is also technology (albeit an antiquated one). The paper document remains a relevant and powerful technology tool because it is inherently flexible. This flexibility allows us to use documents to communicate even the most abstract information in a variety of ways, from letters to invoices. While word processing software can be a great tool to create some types of documents, the lack of an underlying logical structure that connects interdependent terms is not ideal for facilitating procedural or transactional records that are commonplace in the legal industry.

Why do these technical details matter to commercial real estate lawyers? Leases provide a great case study as to why lawyers need technological tools to help us create transactional records. Leases are filled with dependent clauses and calculations, requiring changes in numerous places throughout the often lengthy document when even minimal deal terms are changed. With traditional word processing software, the underlying ideas and business concepts in the lease are not connected to the words in the document and therefore when the deal changes, the many places in the lease that need to reflect that change must be manually updated. The process of revising a lease requires painstaking attention to detail from a seasoned lawyer who knows his or her leases inside and out. This tedious process takes the attention and brain power of legal teams.

After the lease is signed, the legal and leasing teams in a commercial real estate organization must create an abstract, the bane of the entire industry. This process of extracting key details from pages and pages of information, translating paper documents into actionable information isn’t the reason I began practicing law — and I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who did.

While tedious, the abstract is an invaluable asset used to inform other key business departments, like accounting, which can use the information to create forecasts and projections. With data-driven technology, legal teams can unlock that data much faster and easier. Instead of a person parsing information and manually breaking down data silos, software applications talk to each other, swapping key data and information that make various processes faster.

Document automation can increase efficiencies, but not all document automation is created equal. An important factor in adopting any legal technology is that the technology is built with whatever work that industry does in mind. For commercial real estate, general purpose document automation is slightly faster than Microsoft Word, but will generally require that manual, time-consuming work present in most current leasing workflows because it is not built to handle the complexity of lease drafting and negotiation, nor can it help with iterations of leases after the first draft, for instance.

This is because the automaton is not embedded in the document itself. With most current forms of automation, users are merely filling out questionnaires with loose ties, if any, to the underlying document. Without the context within the document while you fill out the document assembly fields, it can be difficult to understand. Standard form questionnaires for this type of automation also do not necessarily allow for the required customization, which leads us back to using inefficient tools like traditional word processing software to complete drafts.

To truly get the most out of technology, it’s important to seek out specialized software that utilizes what we refer to as context-aware automation, meaning that the automation appears next to or is even embedded in the document itself. While I could get into the technical details about how such software maps interconnected terms that automatically updates thanks to a built-in logical framework that monitors, tracks and reacts appropriately to changes large and small, the key here is that automation is the most beneficial when you can understand the context in which that text appears in your document. This idea of context-aware automation is useful for other types of legal work and can be applied to other types of contracts, like loan documents or equipment leasing.

This is where you might be asking yourself, “Are these automation tools going to take my job?”

These tools are not designed to make lawyers expendable, but they are designed to help enhance the work that you do each and every day. Technology isn’t your enemy; it’s your best friend. It creates efficiencies that free up time, minimizes risk and gives you the ability to spend more time thinking critically and solving challenging problems.

It may seem obvious to say that automation saves time. It can, for instance, take a 90-day leasing process and cut that down to 30 days. For lawyers, it means improving on turnaround time. Leasing is time-sensitive work and current tools make it impossible to meet both internal and external expectations. In a world where waiting a week for a draft contract is too long, technology can turn you from a perceived deal killer into a deal maker by speeding up what are currently outdated processes.

Further, technology helps to reduce the likelihood that there are mistakes in leases, reducing risk and creating what amounts to quality control standards. If we’re honest with ourselves, lawyers like to be in control. While you may feel you lose a bit of control by turning over some aspects of your work to technology, in the big picture sense, you’re gaining further control and establishing consistency, which minimizes risk. In commercial real estate, there is a lack of consistency because of how imperfect current tools are at creating leases. Forgetting to delete terms or language can have real financial and portfolio management consequences. That drives the need for a fussy, meticulous editing process done by an attorney who knows best what language is needed and where. Technology aids you in establishing standardized language and processes across the company’s portfolio, leading to more predictable and desirable business outcomes.

More importantly, utilizing the right technological tools means that lawyers can stop spending inordinate amounts of time on routine, uninspiring and banal work. It would be surprising to find a lawyer who went to law school to do tedious busy work. Lawyers go to law school to practice law. Technology can remove administrative tasks, giving you the freedom to inject your legal expertise and move the industry in which you work forward. Our brains can undertake creative, strategic work that requires critical thought, something machines cannot complete. This is the meaningful work that you should, and can, be focused on. With technology, you can deliver a valuable, better product and become the valuable service provider you want to be.

It’s not a question of if, but when, these data-driven technologies will change the practice of law as we know it. We as lawyers must begin to embrace this technology and have a seat at the table in terms of helping companies understand where our pain points lie and how technological advancement can address them. And there is no time like the present.

VentureFizz: LeasePilot Helps Anyone in Real Estate Create and Close Leases with Ease

The following article was originally published in VentureFizz on Feb. 21st, 2019

LeasePilot is offering those who are working in commercial real estate a tool to help them out with any issues involving tenants leases.

We spoke with Co-Founder and CEO, Gabriel Safar, to learn more about the company and what pain points their application is looking to solve, as he experienced them first hand as a real estate lawyer most of his career. Being a first-time founder himself, Safar also shared advice to those who are looking to start a company themselves.

Colin Barry [CB]: Prior to starting LeasePilot, you were a lawyer involved in real estate. What were some of the common problems you witnessed first-hand that led to the founding of LeasePilot?

Gabriel Safar [GS]: Most lawyers will agree there simply aren’t enough hours in a day. We’re constantly under enormous pressure to turn around lease drafts as quickly as possible. But the process of redlining documents, getting consensus on changes and then making those updates in a document is a tedious, arduous and all around inefficient process. Even once a lease is finalized, the slowdowns often continue. Attorneys are faced with turning dozens, or even hundreds, of pages of legalese into an easy-to-understand document that can be utilized and shared across teams. I felt like I was delivering a high-cost, labor-intensive, and irrelevant product. I was frustrated by these antiquated processes and wanted to alleviate the headache so many attorneys faced each and every day. The process was broken and it was nearly impossible for attorneys to do their jobs efficiently.

When I realized there wasn’t anything in the market to solve for these pain points, I knew I needed to create a solution that would allow lawyers to focus on tasks that were central to the reason they began practicing law in the first place — to think creatively, critically, and to solve important problems — not just push paper. Thus, LeasePilot was born.

CB: Now onto your startup. What function does LeasePilot serve in the real estate business?

GS: LeasePilot’s mission is simple: We get your commercial lease signed faster. Period. Within the commercial real estate (CRE) industry, it currently takes about 90 days to go from a letter of intent (i.e., accepted deal terms) to a signed lease. I firmly believe that timeframe should be 30 days or less. Doing so provides 60 days of additional rent for the owner (and 60 days more revenue for spaces like retail shopping centers), reduces transaction fees and reduces the risk that a deal falls through. As a digital platform that assembles a lease, LeasePilot makes the leasing data available to our customers in the form of an automated abstract and can even deposit lease data directly into other department’s computer systems, like invoicing or enterprise resource planning. Without LeasePilot, getting that data into the operating systems can take another 60 to 90 days, which means those landlords are flying blind with respect to meaningful obligations. Not to mention, it’s a lot of person-hours pulling that information out of a 60-page PDF and manually keying it into the various systems.

CB: How does the software work? Explain it to me as if I am someone using it for the first time.

GS: LeasePilot is a web application, which means a user will go to a website and log into the software from any device. If they want to generate a transaction — a new lease, an amendment or a letter of intent, for example — they choose the physical location of the space and enter the tenant’s name. At that point, the lease “assembles.” LeasePilot pre-loads the owner’s standard lease language into our software during the onboarding process and when they see the lease, all of the information for that building is already pre-loaded into the form. It may sound trivial, but it’s anything but. There is a wealth of information that is very specific to each asset and LeasePilot models that as an object during our implementation process, so it quickly and easily gets folded into a draft lease. For customers with a customer-relationship management system like VTS or Salesforce, the lease will be pre-populated with rent, term, reimbursements, and certain special tenant rights. Since LeasePilot is a digital platform, we can easily pull that data from the CRM and load it into the lease.

Customers then use our context-aware automation tools to continue to assemble their transaction. If at any point they want to manipulate the text of the lease in a way that hasn’t been modeled in the automation tools, they can easily do so since the automation appears with the lease and the user can go back and forth between them.

When the lease draft is complete, it is sent out to a tenant at which point standard negotiations and back-and-forth conversations are had.

Upon agreement and execution of the lease, LeasePilot will push the data to an owner’s computer system, eliminating the need to manually abstract the lease.

LeasePilot Interface

CB: Who are some of the typical clients of LeasePilot? Can you share any use cases from them?

GS: LeasePilot’s customers are commercial property owners. They range from regional real estate owners to global private owners and publicly traded REITs. We’re proud to say some of the industry’s top names have adopted LeasePilot technology, including Oxford Properties, JBG Smith, Kite Realty Group, CASTO and more.

The biggest benefit our customers see is significant time savings. While many use LeasePilot to speed up the process of going from a letter of intent to a signed lease,  others take the additional step of using the lease data we provide to automate document abstraction and to directly deposit key information about their portfolio in other systems for invoicing, property management and financial systems.

CB: Where did you come up with a name like LeasePilot?

GS: The idea is that we’re giving legal and leasing teams more control over their ability to direct transactions. Specifically, business people have traditionally had to go through lawyers to even make the most administrative changes to documentation. Because LeasePilot embedded the underlying legal logic of the lease in the automation, that allows the deal-makers to be more involved in those areas where they have more knowledge and expertise, that is the business deal.

LeasePilot Demo at a Trade Show

CB: You’ve taken the plunge to become a tech startup founder. What is some advice you can give to those who are looking to do the same?

GS: Don’t be afraid to bet on yourself. Over and over again we made decisions that “experts” discouraged. We had a vision of what we wanted to accomplish and anticipated our success, which allowed us to plan for the long term. That has paid very big dividends for us and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for our company.

Colin Barryis an Editor & Staff Writer to VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter @ColinKrash

The ONLY lease automation technology to help MRI users, presented by LeasePilot at the IUC

LeasePilot will be leading a discussion on how commercial real estate companies are “using web-based collaboration to streamline lease negotiations” at ICSC Law Conference Oct 27th in TX.

Real Estate lawyers continue to look for ways to streamline the leasing process. Lawyers spend an inordinate amount of time with outdated, manual tools like Microsoft Word and email. New technologies like Slack, Google Docs and Skype are making communication and collaboration easier.

As the leading pioneer in the lease automation space, LeasePilot will facilitate an engaging discussion of new technology options and their benefits.

Join your peers in the discussion about technology solutions that can streamline leasing, meet us at ICSC Law on Oct 27. link to event info

If you are unable to attend but would like to learn how SaaS solutions can dramatically improve your leasing process, contact LeasePilot here

LeasePilot: Changing the Way Commercial Real Estate Leases Are Drafted

LeasePilot® is a groundbreaking document automation platform specically designed to get commercial leases done in a fraction of the time it traditionally takes and at a fraction of the cost property owners are used to paying.

LeasePilot was founded in 2015 by Gabriel Safar and Jon Eskow, two commercial real estate attorneys who were frustrated by the slow and archaic process of getting lease deals done. “We felt like we were rolling a boulder up a hill only for it to roll down the other side when we got to the top,” Safar explains. “No matter how hard we worked, getting a lease done just took too long and cost too much. We knew instinctively that there had to be a better way.”

Armed with that conviction and support from family and friends, Safar and Eskow set out to do something about it. In the spring of 2015, the pair quit their law rm jobs and went about the process of designing a system from the ground up that would solve the problems their clients were facing with leasing: time and cost. “We hired an engineering rm and started designing soft- ware tools based on our experience,” Eskow recalls. “And once the engineers got involved, light bulbs started going off. We hadn’t even realized the full scope of the opportunity to make a real im- pact until we immersed ourselves in the technology.”

Today, LeasePilot has matured into a web-based document automation platform specically designed to streamline commercial leasing and reduce costs. LeasePilot uses a real estate company’s master lease forms and language options and converts them into tailored plug-and-play options. “This was really the main challenge,” according to Itzik Spitzen, LeasePilot’s CTO. “We had to build a system that respected a landlord’s highly customized lease forms and preferred language, and connected the templates and libraries to a simple and easy-to-use interface. And, we had to do it without requiring much customer time and effort.”

The early results have been astounding. “Our shopping center customers saw immediate bene ts. What used to take an attorney three hours or more is taking an administrative person only 15 minutes. Document turnaround has been reduced from five days, in some instances, to same day,” says Safar.

Despite the early success with time-savings, LeasePilot’s ambition is not to simply speed transactions along. The company aims to fundamentally change the way leasing professionals work by disrupting the traditional work ow. Safar explains, “Once a letter of intent is signed, the person who has the most knowledge about the transaction—the asset manager or leasing representative—passes the reigns over to the person who has the least information about the transaction – the attorney.” That work ow requires a massive knowledge transfer to the attorney which is very time consuming and expensive. In contrast, LeasePilot envisions a work ow where the leasing deal person has at their disposal the tools to simply and quickly “assemble a lease” largely from what is in the letter of in- tent, and doing so in a fraction of the time it used to take to download that information to the attorney. That means front-line leasing professionals will have more time to focus on renting space and solving tenant requirements, while at the same time having more control over the timing of the deal pace. So, where does that leave the lawyers? The idea is that attorneys are then freed from the routine cookie-cutter work, so they can focus on what they do best – coming up with solutions for the truly unique deal points that inevitably arise over the course of a transaction.

“Our vision bene ts all parties involved in the leasing process. Because LeasePilot streamlines the entire process, both attorneys and non-attorneys can focus on what they do best and everyone wins. That’s really the fundamental power of technology,” continues Safar.

LeasePilot has now set its sights on a new challenge: solving the problem of what happens once the lease is signed. Today, some- one has to review a lease and manually abstract it and enter that information into a property management and accounting soft- ware. Conversely, as a native digital format, LeasePilot has the full measure of the lease captured in its databases and, therefore, can export the underlying lease information to other software systems or generate automated abstracts. To make this vision a reality, LeasePilot recently signed a partnership agreement with MRI Software, a leading real estate property management and ac- counting software system. “Our deal with MRI makes it possible, for the rst time, for lease information to ow throughout a real estate organization,” says Eskow. “This will create further ef cien- cies and will ultimately eliminate costly errors that happen as data gets re-keyed multiple times into different systems.”

LeasePilot has recently raised its Series Seed funding and anticipates industry-wide release of LeasePilot 1.0 in the spring of 2017. For more information go to www.leasepilot.co.


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Chain Store Age: CASTO takes flight with LeasePilot

The following article was originally published in Chain Store Age on May 24th, 2016

Doing deals with real estate development and services firm CASTO just got easier thanks to the roll out of a new Web-based software platform called LeasePilot.

LeasePilot was developed by Gadfly Legal Technologies to streamline the lease documentation process and helps owners manage valuable lease information. CASTO is currently using LeasePilot to create the first drafts of leases.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with the CASTO team given their commitment to innovation and reputation within the real estate community,” said Jonathan Eskow, co-founder of Gadfly Legal Technologies. “Creating leases using LeasePilot delivers standalone value, and together with additional features designed to complete lease transactions faster, LeasePilot is changing the way lawyers and real estate professionals interact with leases.”

LeasePilot is Gadfly’s first product and the firm bills the software solution as the only end-to-end lease documentation and lease information management platform designed for the commercial real estate industry. LeasePilot helps owners and law firms get deals done quicker, minimize risk, and provide visibility into lease terms and documents, according to Gadfly.

“We have been focused on leveraging technology to improve the legal function at CASTO for several years. When I met Jonathan and Gabriel of Gadfly, it was clear that they have the same focus but have taken the technology to the next level,” said C.H. Waterman, VP and director of legal at CASTO. “We have already experienced a dramatic decrease in lease preparation timeframes and anticipate realizing a number of additional efficiencies as the software continues to evolve.”