Written by: Ben Liao, Managing Director of the Colliers Proptech Accelerator Powered by Techstars
I attribute much of my own success achieved throughout my career to having surrounded myself with some of the smartest and most talented people. Some of these individuals were very uniquely skilled and it was by sharing ideas, working together, learning from each other, experimenting and failing, that we were able to solve some of the most complex problems in order to create extraordinarily successful outliers. It’s not every day you find yourself building a startup that has a trajectory of becoming a global category leader.
Most recently, at Ritual, I was fortunate to work with a world class team with remarkable achievements in expansion and hyper-growth beyond our investor’s expectations and they, at Greylock Partners and Insight Venture Partners, have seen their fair share of top-tier companies (Ritual raises $60 million for global expansion).
Upon reflecting on my time at Ritual, what I found deeply gratifying was helping solve some of the most ambiguous early-stage problems that often plague many startups and then subsequently sharing these learning lessons with new city teams or founders at other startups who were often seeing these challenges for the first time. Despite the long hours and travel involved, I found ways of getting involved with meetups or startup communities to share/learn startup lessons with others and it wasn’t long before I came across Techstars.
I’ve known the Techstars team for a while now and I initially began as a mentor for the Techstars Toronto Accelerator. Needless to say, I was highly impressed with the caliber of Techstars, their network of mentors along with the leadership team. The mission #givefirst really resonated with me and I quickly knew this would be something I wanted to spend more time on.
There’s no time like the present! When the Techstars leadership team contacted me recently about the upcoming Colliers Proptech Accelerator, it felt like the perfect opportunity to focus more of my energy, passion and time. I won’t bore you with my favourite quotes here but, if I were to describe the feeling in one word, it certainly felt serendipitous. Though my career spans over a decade working with startups and large enterprise with a focus on innovation, growth and new market entry, the last five years have been far the most exciting.
I’ve had the privilege to help several companies as an early-stage investor, mentor and board observer as well as my aforementioned role at Ritual. During this time, I was also extremely fortunate to build working relationships with leadership teams at many global commercial real estate organizations.
As remarkable as all that has been for me, I’m about to embark on my most exciting venture yet – I’m thrilled to be joining Techstars as Managing Director for the Colliers Proptech Accelerator Powered by Techstars in Toronto.
Why I’m so excited about the Colliers Proptech Accelerator
Deep Industry Global Partner Network
I am excited for the incredible opportunity to unite pioneering entrepreneurs with Colliers and Techstars. Together, we will uncover and shape enterprising solutions for the commercial real estate industry. The Colliers Proptech Accelerator Powered by Techstars will be a first-of-its-kind program with a global focus. I can think of no better way to begin this journey than partnering with the leading global real estate services company. With over 15,000 skilled professionals operating in 69 countries, we’ll have a diverse set of 80-100 mentors with broad representation across commercial real estate, leading proptech companies, angels, VCs, strategic investors and others to cover all aspects of our cohorts mentorship needs.
Our inaugural class of 10 proptech companies will have unprecedented access to industry leaders, which will help them overcome probabilistic early-stage hurdles (i.e. speculation if real estate customers will adopt emerging technologies and services) towards a more deterministic outcome. Through the Colliers leadership network and real estate introductions, we hope these will help provide the right contacts leading to commercial pilots, partnerships or contracts. As I’ve seen with Ritual, given the right context, these important connections can quickly put any startup on a path to becoming a global category leader.
Industry Timing and Techstars Global Network
Few sectors of the global economy can be characterized as “the last great bastion of the global economy that has not seen tech enabled disruption”. With a massive industry of over $220 trillion in global real estate asset value, timing is critical for startups and though some of the leading real estate players have been slow to adopt technology, we plan on moving quickly on this untapped opportunity. The proptech space has drawn the attention of venture and growth capital in very meaningful ways over the last few years. Investment in proptech startups surged to $9.8 billion in 2017, up from just $546 million in 2013. 2018 will be another record breaking year with top-tier VC’s already making bets and paying close attention.
Alongside a global network of Techstars mentors, we’ll work with you on your fundraising strategy and help you prepare to meet with potential investors, customers, partners and other key stakeholders. I’m excited to work with the broader Techstars team to pull together the most impressive list of mentors and investors proptech has seen to date!
Toronto and the Local Ecosystem
I was born and raised in Toronto though have spent nearly half of my career away from home, in both the U.S. and Europe, before recently returning home to Toronto. I’ve been fortunate to work and and live in countless cities and I can confidently say that Toronto is one of the best communities to build your company (as we did with Ritual). I’m thrilled to see Toronto emerge as one of the fastest-growing tech hubs in North America adding 22,500 tech jobs last year. Without going into too much depth here, I encourage you to read both the section on Toronto in the introduction of Colliers Proptech Accelerator (here) along with the announcement of the first Toronto Accelerator (here) which both articulate why Toronto is now one of the most important tech communities in North America and the global stage!
What we’ll work on together
If you’ve read this far, I hope you are as excited as I am!
You’ve likely sensed this by now, but I’ve made a purposeful decision throughout my career to solve and help others solve very ambitious challenges and that’s what really drives me. I have been humbled and found a deep appreciation working with others on both successes and failures.
Though I’ll be the MD of the Accelerator, more importantly, I hope to be a valuable partner for you in your upcoming journey. As I mentioned, I attribute much of my own success achieved throughout my career to having surrounded myself with some of the smartest and most talented people. I encourage you to do the same and leverage an amazing mentorship network along with a rare opportunity to help you find your own success
The entire team and I are look forward to working with with you. Applications for the Colliers Proptech Accelerator, Powered by Techstars in Toronto are open now and close May 13, 2018. Check out the Applications Toolkit and apply today!
Ben Liao is the Managing Director of the Colliers Proptech Accelerator Powered by Techstars. Previously, Ben was on the leadership team at Ritual as Head of Business Development, an early stage investor at The IAF, and a global strategy consultant at Accenture.