On Tuesday, I gave a guest lecture — via Zoom — at the University of Colorado about financing innovative real estate products. This was a great opportunity to test some of the material Antony Slumbers and I are preparing for our Future-Proof Office Course. If you are designing, building, marketing, or operating office buildings and spaces, you should check it out. We have a great group of students for the May 11th cohort and it would be great to have you with us! Pre-register now for a 25% discount.
Below are the six most interesting things I’ve seen this week at the intersection of the physical and digital worlds, followed by some bonus content.
1. Everything is Negotiable at WeWork. The coronavirus managed to kick WeWork and its investors off the news cycle, but not for long. SoftBank officially withdrew its $3 billion tender offer, leaving Adam Neumann nearly a billion dollars poorer, and many early employees poorer still. While this sounds dramatic, it mostly affects shareholders and not the company's finances. SoftBank is also threatening to withdraw a $1.1 billion loan to the company, but this is probably a tactical move to help its fellow shareholder let go of the other $3 billion. Meanwhile, WeWork is trying to use the crisis to its renegotiate leases and receive several months of rent relief.
2. The office jerk, now available online. The FBI is investigatingseveral cases of people joining and sharing offensive content on Zoom video calls that they were not invited to. Companies are scrambling to secure their calls and some schools in New York are avoiding Zoom altogether for this reason (alternatively, they can require participants to sign in with a password). It's sad to see how quickly human aggression finds its way to new channels. On the other hand, a Zoom "bombing" is still much better than a school shooting.
3. It's like your friends, but clean. Entrepreneurs are offering "virus-free" retreats for people who want to socialized while sheltering in place. In Los Angeles, pre-screened guests are invited to a "retreat" in a luxury villa, where they can "participate in open mics, fireside chats, daily yoga and parties without worry of infection". In Nevada, a whole town has been repurposed to serve an even larger group of "survivors" who want to share the lockdown with other people.
4. Men are from Microsoft, Women from Google. At a time when most of the world's knowledge workers are compelled to work from home, the conflict between family and corporate life is expanding to new fronts. Amazon rolled out a new policy requiring employees whose spouses work for an Amazon competitor to receive executive approval before they take any product prototypes home. How will Amazon's bigwigs ensure no one is disobeying it at home? Perhaps Alexa can help.
5. Hello, I love you. The Atlantic reports that a growing number of people are getting married over the phone, as technology is upending old habits. "Love" says the article, "finds a telephone way. Engagements, and even marriages, have been brought about over the wire by persons acquainted with each other only vocally... Even weddings have been telephonically conducted." If the language sounds a bit dated, it's because the article is from 1905.
6. A little more conversation. Back in 2020, those who are looking to start a family (or a fling) are also forced to change their habits. In-app conversations on Tinder increased by up to 30% in March, with users finding themselves unable to take things to the next level. It looks like there's going to be a lot of pent-up demand for certain goods and experiences once this virus is behind us.
7. Bonus Content
🗞 EG's Emily Wright wrote about how the virus is pushing real estate professionals up the learning curve of digital tools. I contributed a few quotes.
🖥 NAIOP published a summary of our Proptech Perspectives webinarfrom last week, exploring Covid-19's impact on commercial real estate and urban life.
📚 Fedor Novikov, robotic construction extraordinaire, published a review and recommendation of 5 books on Urban Technology. Rethinking Real Estate is included. Have you read it yet? If not, the Kindle version is available for rent on Amazon for $7.50. It's also available in hard copy in any of the links below. The book is even more relevant today than it was pre-corona.
That's it from me. Do you know anyone who would enjoy this newsletter? Please forward it to them!
Have a great weekend, and stay well.