Real estate gold rush: it isn’t always the miner who gets the gold

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October 4, 2017

By: Andy Poppink, Managing Director, JLL

This writing is based on a keynote presentation I delivered at the DisruptCRE / JLL Live event held in San Francisco on September 14th.

  “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”  — Henry Ford

That’s the point of innovation, isn’t it? We often really don’t know what we want or need until someone like a Ford or a Gates or a Jobs shows us. We’re quite happy to accept something that works a little faster, has more storage, or perhaps is a bit smaller or less cumbersome. When real innovation comes along, it’s a “wow” moment.  At that point, when realization dawns, we have true change.

Collision and convergence

Innovation tends to happen through either collision or convergence, or sometimes a combination of both.

Collision is the process of “creative destruction” where similar solutions meet and one replaces or absorbs another. Think robots, which are being strategically used to replace humans in functions as different as manufacturing operations, warehousing and logistics and even as receptionists in hotels and businesses. (Our JLL office  in Sydney, Australia, now has a robotic receptionist named JiLL.)

Convergence is the intentional development and adoption of new, adjacent technologies. At JLL, convergence has resulted in tech-focused acquisitions of companies such as Corrigo in the property management business and BRG in occupancy planning and technology consulting.

At JLL we are preparing ourselves for more convergence and collision opportunities in the real estate sector and we’ve set our course around four fundamental pillars: buy, build, innovate, improve. Earlier this year we launched JLL Spark, a venture to identify disruptive opportunities for collision in the real estate sector. We are partnering with respected research institutions like the MIT Real Estate Innovation Lab to develop solutions to complex real estate challenges and we are investing in leading edge technologies. Most of all, we are listening to our professionals because we realize that the next big idea might very well come from one of them.

“The value of all gold mined worldwide throughout history is estimated to be around $8 trillion…..the total global value of commercial real estate today is more than $220 trillion.”

Finally, it’s important to remember that it isn’t always the miner who gets the gold. During the California Gold Rush (1848-1857) upwards of 300,000 people flocked to Northern California but very few people actually found gold. What did happen was that the influx of people created the basis for what, in 1850, would become the State of California. Population growth in California tripled during the gold rush years. With population came commerce and innovation. Great brands we recognize today, like Levi Strauss & Co., were formed. Miners needed jeans, whether they found gold or not.

Today, California is in the midst of a second Gold Rush. This time, technology is the gold, and the rewards in commercial real estate are far higher than most miners saw in 1849. The value of all gold mined worldwide throughout history is estimated to be around $8 trillion (at today’s valuation). The total global value of commercial real estate today is more than $220 trillion, thus the current rush to commercial real estate technology gold.

About me

From early stage start-ups receiving their initial funding to global corporations like Apple and Yahoo!, I help companies form and implement their real estate objectives, ranging from local site acquisitions to managing worldwide portfolios. I also lead Silicon Valley operations and JLL’s Tenant Representation business in the Western U.S.

You can contact me directly by phone at (650) 480-2204 or via email at

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