Jim Simpson is a matchmaker.
His new website DealBoard.org helps property brokers and potential tenants be matched with office, retail, industrial and other space that meets their needs.
The demand-driven site allows brokers and companies to choose their requirements for a space. Landlords can then send them the available properties that meet their criteria.
“Solving problems with technology is what I love to do,” said Simpson, chief executive of Minneapolis-based DealBoard. Looking to the future, Simpson said, “I think ultimately you will be able to order an office space like you do an Uber.”
DealBoard, which launched in June, is the successor to Crelow, a commercial real estate services website launched by Simpson as part of a team of four in 2015.
DealBoard has rolled out in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with a partnership with the North Texas Commercial Association of Realtors and Real Estate Professionals (NTCAR). It is not yet available in the Twin Cities, but Simpson hopes DealBoard will be in use in the metro later in the year.
“We are really excited about coming to Minneapolis,” Simpson said.
About $22 million worth of deals are now posted on the NTCAR DealBoard. More than 365 different brokerage companies use the service.
A broker who is searching for a new office for a company can select the amount of desired space, the price the company wants to pay per square foot and a host of other characteristics from a list of about 75 that include being a pet-friendly building to one with a lot of natural light. For the public site, requirements are simple to follow, avoiding some of the industry jargon like “Class A” and “Class B” buildings, Simpson said. The broker then receives notifications from landlord representatives across the area with sites that meet the search specifications.
“It happens really fast,” Simpson said. “You can post a requirement on DealBoard. Notification e-mails go out and they can hear back from landlords in minutes.”
Traditionally, brokers use listing services like CoStar and the now-defunct Xceligent to find properties. They then contact the landlord tenants individually and confirm details and set up times to visit the site.
“It’s a lot of work,” Simpson said.
Verifying certain details with a landlord can take time. “It’s not uncommon for a broker to get several hundreds of e-mails a week about requirements, and it’s not organized,” Simpson said.
Due to the NTCAR deal, there is a free, public version of the site available for those in Texas, called “Go Deals,” where companies looking for square footage of 2,000 square feet or less can put in requirements directly to be matched with potential space.
A key benefit of the service is that it allows small businesses to find spaces that often would not be of interest to brokers who normally focus on larger customers that would lead to larger commissions.
The “Pro Deals” portion of the site is for use by brokers who pay a subscription to the service.
What makes the website different from Crelow is that the site now has the section for the exclusive use of professional brokers. DealBoard also expanded the professional product beyond office space to allow users to find industrial, retail and other space types as well.
Simpson said he and his partners are eager to speak to leaders at the Minnesota Commercial Association of Real Estate/Realtors (MNCAR) about the service.
However, MNCAR President Lisa Christianson remains skeptical. She said DealBoard appears to “oversimplify a very complicated process” and users should work with professional brokers to guide them through the real estate process.
Simpson said he doesn’t believe services like DealBoard will replace actual brokers.
“They would be hung out to dry without representation,” Simpson said of tenants.
A new tool on DealBoard matches companies to potential brokers through a Rep Matcher service.
Peter Fitzgerald, an experienced office broker at Cushman & Wakefield Minneapolis- St. Paul, used Crelow and tested DealBoard to provide feedback when it was under development.
“I don’t think it’s a replacement for the traditional listing services such as CoStar, but I do view it as a nice tool to help our clients communicate with requirements looking for space,” he said.
Through Max Development, Simpson has been involved in smaller-scale commercial and residential real estate development for the past two decades and has worked on about three dozen different properties.
Before his work in real estate, Simpson helped launch marketing agency Periscope in 1994 with his brother and later sold his share in 1999. The other Crelow/DealBoard team members — Patrick Hagen, Klay DeVries and Matt Christianson — all previously worked at Periscope.