By Jacob Bourne
Two startup companies, Capstak and PublicAssets announced a strategic partnership earlier this month that’s poised to make information about government real estate assets nationwide more accessible to the commercial real estate industry. Capstak, headquartered in Reno, has been in formation over the past year specializing in “actionable-connectivity” to help commercial real estate professionals overcome barriers to finding the right deals, accessing capital and forming great partnerships through a burgeoning online platform. Based in Marin, PublicAssets launched a beta phase last July to develop a catalogue of assets owned by all levels of government entities in the U.S. with a combined worth of up to $4 trillion. With its Haves & Wants proprietary technology, Capstak aims to link PublicAssets’ catalogue with investors, brokers and others seeking to capitalize on these previously concealed properties.
“We essentially found Capstak as a kind of LinkedIn and Craigslist for the commercial real estate market,” offered Michael Schnabel, co-CEO and co-founder, Capstak. “Because we understand that network equals net worth we wanted to find out how we could use technology to achieve actionable-connectivity. We partner with best in class companies to bring value to the platform. The partnership allows us to put information through our Haves & Wants platform to match developers looking for specific projects. It’s a digital collaboration to explore ways to mutually benefit each other in a synergistic manner.”
Capstak got its initial start with a beta in Reno and has now launched nationwide with offices in San Francisco and New York. To date, they’ve been backed by venture capital within the commercial real estate industry and have a revenue stream from referrals made through the Haves & Wants system. Capstak received a 2017 NCET Startup of the Year recognition.
“What’s different about our companies is that both are focused on helping the commercial real estate ecosystem generate opportunity,” explained Skip Rudolph, CEO PublicAssets. “Many of the companies hatched over the past few years are listing services, which fill a need, but our model creates actionable opportunities by bringing both sides of the equation to the deal or transaction.”
Rudolph, who has 22 years of experience in digital marketing, said that although federal, state and local governments have a plethora of surplus property assets across the country – which they often dispose of to manage debt or invest in more relevant assets – there’s little transparency and currently no overarching system of inventory. For example, the Marin Municipal Water District owns about 21,000 acres of land, some of which is used for operations and the rest is open to public recreational activities. If that government entity were to put a portion of underutilized land up for sale, lease or issue an RFP for potential development, under the current system an investor or developer would likely have to seek out the information themselves or already be part of the local network to discover the opportunity.
“We’re not taking a political stance about whether governments should be selling public property,” Rudolph commented. “We are trying to provide transparency and connect stakeholders with governments and provide information about assets. Governments, because of a number of political and motivational reasons haven’t analyzed what they own. With the huge amount of government debt, plus pension obligations coming ahead, they can generate money to pay down debt by shedding what they’re not using.”
PublicAssets compiles data on what governments own, current third party leases, upcoming lease expirations and RFPs issued. The data will then be made available through Capstak to illuminate ways for stakeholders to generate capital. They now have 5.5 million records of these datasets covering holdings of over 95,000 government entities nationwide including the federal government, all 50 state governments, over 200 cities and major counties.