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Despite dot-com failures, real estate tech sector remains optimistic

Despite the failure of numerous transaction-oriented Internet companies, the general mood of the real estate technology sector remains optimistic, if the annual real estate conference Realcomm is any indication.

Many industry survivors exhibited recently at the annual convention — this year in Las Vegas — hyping new products as technology’s "next wave."

According to Jim Young, co-producer of Realcomm, there are six technologies — powerful computing, broadband, wireless, standard platform (Internet), network appliances and Internet-based integrated systems — that have come together over the past 12 months. Now it is time to connect them, he says.

"This is the beginning of the third wave," says Young, "where we take all the disparate appliances, computers, systems and create a network to connect it all. All the fundamentals are there to re-invent business."

Tom Gimpel, chief software architect for Horsham, Pa.-based GMAC Commercial Mortgages, echoes Young’s theory. "We are seeing the beginning of convergence," he notes. "The question was, could I move data to another machine and get that data back," he continues. "The answer now is yes. We are seeing companies pass data back and forth in standardized formats and once standards are solidified it will drive technology adoption even higher."

By one account, over $2 billion in equity was lost by the failures of dot-coms and telecoms. "The shake-out has happened and the companies that were under-capitalized or were trying to reinvent the wheel are gone, acquired or merged," says Jason Greenman, vice president for business development for Alhambra, Calif.-based LoopNet Inc., an information services provider that operates the largest commercial real estate listing service online. "The companies you see today are likely to be the survivors going forward. They are enabling people in business to do what they have already done but to do it faster and smarter."

The dot-coms and telecoms that went bust had one beneficial effect, says Lee Asher, COO of Atlanta-based iTendant Inc., which focuses on Web-based, work-order management systems. "The industry is a lot further along because the dot-coms that came before us actually educated the marketplace as to what could be. There is a lot more confidence in using the Web and there is a lot less resistance to adopting new technology."

The next wave will take another decade to work through, says Young. "People are just seeing now how it all works together. People still don’t know what tools are at their disposal and are still doing things the old way. This is at least a 10-year process."

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