Tal Kerret is the President of Silverstein Properties, a real estate development and management firm based in New York City. Silverstein Properties owns and operates 40MM square feet of office space and residential properties including the World Trade Center, which they bought just six weeks prior to 9/11. Tal shares his unique perspective of what it's been like to rebuild One World Trade and help rejuvenate downtown New York City.
Before joining the family business of Silverstein Properties, Tal was a successful entrepreneur who was a part of the dot com boom in the early days of the internet. He used that experience and passion to start SilverTech Ventures, an accelerator, incubator, and venture capital firm. Tal tells us about SilverTech’s mission and a uniquely positioned company for the COVID era they’ve incubated called Dojo. By using their proprietary technology, Dojo allows companies to actually quantify the risk of contagion in their office space. It takes into account the airflow, the size of the space and other variables to give business owners a clear understanding of the risk in each room of an office.
How do you think the future of office space will look in this new COVID shaped era?
Mark Peter Davis: Tal, great to have you on thank you for coming. Uh, why don't we start at the top?
Will you tell us a little bit about Silverstein properties?
Tal Kerret: Thank you, Mark. Um, Silverstein properties is a real estate [00:02:00] company, um, that is, uh, focusing on obviously everything that you can imagine real estate is, but, uh, we also focus a lot about technology. We are known mostly for our large projects, even though we do much more.
We are known for the world trade center that we acquired. It was actually on my birthday in, uh, 2001, six weeks, July 24th, six weeks prior to, uh, to nine 11, uh, thinking that everything is great and we know what to do with the buildings and how to improve and fill them even with more tenants and better tenants and take the buildings to the next level.
Uh, and then, uh, nine 11 showed up and surprised all of us in shock us as a family and as a company. Um, I feel very fortunate that my family members are with us. My wife that morning, uh, was trying [00:03:00] to take a car to the office. And, uh, this was back then when my father-in-law said, you should try the train, you should try different ways to come to the office.
Um, well, how about trying a driver? You can work from the car while you get there. I left didn't love the idea, but said, I'll try it. Wow. And, um, at the time we lived in Scarsdale, um, with our two daughters, then, uh, later we had our son, but, uh, in Scarsdale, the community can imagine, you have to get to the train station, get on the train, come to grand central.
And after we acquire the buildings, the twin towers, we moved our offices down to the world trade center to the 80th floor on the North tower. And. My wife waited for the driver and he could not find the house for over 40 minutes. He was driving in surplus, no cell service. If you live in Scottsdale, those who do live in Scottsdale, you probably know the cell service is terrible.
Uh, they didn't have ways or any Google maps on the phone. [00:04:00] So he kept on driving out of area to call back and say, I couldn't find you a street. This was a tiny street there in Scottsdale. Um, and my wife explained again, and he'd go through the street next door. At the end. She said, that's not working for me.
She got it, the car. And she drove to the office and, um, she was 20 minutes late on the West side highway when the first plane hit and everything then stopped. Um, my father-in-law had another, uh, lucky day where every morning we would meet with tenants at the top of the world, shaded the restaurant windows of the world.
I used to go for drinks there
Mark Peter Davis: when I was younger. No, and
Tal Kerret: it was a great restaurant, even on Wikipedia. It says that, uh, the year before it was the most successful restaurant in the world in terms of revenue. And it was a great restaurant grade's views. And every morning Larry would put his jacket on and go to meet the deaf, another tenant.
One of the tenants in the building to ask them, how are you doing? Is it enjoyable? What can we do [00:05:00] better for you with the hopes that's his life. He always focuses on the tenants to listen to them and then say, okay, let me do what you're asking me to do to improve things, to change things. You need me to add things to the building, go for your team.
And that morning as he's getting dressed. And my mother-in-law said to him, what are you doing? He said, I'm going to meet a tenant at the building. I believe it was Morgan Stanley. And she said, no, you're not. You're coming with me to the dermatologist. And he has a fair skin. Uh, and every few months he has to go to be checked and, um, and taken care with his skin conditions.
Uh, and he said, no, cancel, the dermatologist is said, I'm not canceling. We canceled lots, not canceling again. You're coming with me. And he did what he promised, uh, what he taught me to do many, many years ago, which he said, um, the number one rule in your life. And it was very intense, listening to him, uh, is to learn the words yesteryear.
So eventually he said [00:06:00] saved his life. And he said, yes, the year canceled the meeting and went to the doctor. Uh, and the rest is history. Uh, we lost employees here. We lost four employees and we lost a lot of friends and tenants and people that we were very close with and we made a decision and a commitment to rebuild the world trade center.
Um, and we are now. When we look out the window and I'm sitting here looking at the buildings, um, we have built the entire place back. We are missing one more tower that we are working on. Um, what cost us to buy 3.2 billion 3.25 is costing us over 20 billion to rebuild. And that's, that's a project we are known for.
Uh, but we do a lot more. We own buildings, uh, across New York and in other cities, uh, Philadelphia LA, we built the largest four seasons. Uh, Which is in Disney, the Disney park. Um, we have a nice partnership with the four seasons where we have also downtown. We built [00:07:00] and we are building another one, uh, internationally and other hotel and residences.
Uh, and we liked it. Do things that change communities that impact the area, not just yet another building. That's less interesting for us. It's more can we make. A difference. Can we bring a community together and create some sort of an increase in place of people that would love to work, live, and play and enjoy themselves, and really have a different way of life.
Um, and we're trying to do that also internationally, as well as in New York. So sort of a
Mark Peter Davis: benevolent real estate mission.
Tal Kerret: That's our mission.
Mark Peter Davis: Um, so can we rewind to the nine 11 better? The story you just told about. The near miss for your family
Tal Kerret: is shocking. And the
Mark Peter Davis: whole situation we all know for, uh, millions of people was a heart-wrenching situation.
Uh, we don't need to recount that here, um, how it would happen [00:08:00] after what happens in the aftermath of a tragedy of owning a building like that, owning a property, the chaos of rebuilding. What, what does that look like for people on the inside? So I think we all, we, a lot of us know the story of the politics and everything else happening around the world, geopolitical politics, but I don't think many can imagine what you guys were going through.
Um, you have made a major investment in property. Catastrophe happens. People's lives are lost.
Tal Kerret: How do you recover? No, I'm, I'm trying to reflect and look back in time. And when you live through it, it's a decision you make because we had many, many exit points that we were offered many, many times to get out and make a big profit insurance companies that did not want to pay, uh, that were battling us.
We were in court with them for a long period of time for over six years. [00:09:00] Um, and they were saying things behind closed doors that they would not say in public. Uh, and when we should discuss it here, but 22 insurance companies, uh, over a hundred lawyers on the other side, uh, one group of lawyers representing us to battle that and say, we have the rights and the need for the city of New York for the United States and for the world to rebuild the world trade center.
And you owe us some amount of money that would be needed. It's not even enough to build it, but we need that capital to build a lot of that capital by the way, went to the port authority to build underground, but it's a constant, it was a constant, it still is a battle. There are 19 government organizations we are dealing with on a weekly basis.
Uh, some of them are more functioning than others, uh, but you can imagine what it is to deal with government organizations. They. They don't care about the economics. They don't understand necessarily, or at least they don't behave as if they understand [00:10:00] what it means for the lives of the people involved, because time does not impact them the same as it is facts, uh, the business community.
Okay. Our job was to bring it back, to create a place you want to be in. When people said you will not see anybody coming to downtown, New York, New York, nobody would want to be here. And we've made a decision. Larry made a big decision to say, I'm going to give the rest of my life and I'm going to rebuild this.
You didn't need this. He doesn't change his lifestyle, but he decided he's not going to leave a hole in the ground. And then we went and interviewed the families and spent a lot of time with a big part of the families. Almost every family that was willing to talk. Uh, the lost loved ones. And we actually have employees here.
We said, you have a room, you have a place to work. If you lost a loved one. And we have people working here till today that are in marketing department, in the development and construction that are working in our firm and they lost a sibling. They lost a parent, uh, and [00:11:00] they said, we're going to rebuild this.
We're not going to leave a hole in the ground. And we have a mission. We have a mission, we have a vision we're going to rebuild it stronger, better. So it won't. Ever come down again. Now I come from a place that, uh, terrorism is not acceptable. There was a miss supposed to put fear in you and is coming as a way to fight, um, some progress.
On the other side, it's in many cases, terrorism is coming from place that, uh, someone has a different opinion and doesn't accept your opinion in life and they decide to do something negative. We should never give up on those. Otherwise there will be a hole in the ground, out the window. Downtown New York would have been a disaster.
Same with the country. I came from the terrorist attack and people say, we will never give up. So for us, it was a mission, a life mission. In that period of time, it wasn't easy. It was a pain, it was scary. It was concerning. It was how do you communicate this with your kids that are young? My, [00:12:00] my two daughters within, uh, 12 and nine, um, They don't understand it.
And you have to very carefully explain it. How do you explain it to kids? It's not easy. Um, and then we had to pay for a hole in the ground. Wrong ground meant that when we don't have the insurance money for a period of six years, it was about $11 million a month when there were no tenants paying at that time.
So we can go over that story, uh, over and over. And I can look at it in my mind, but I think it's our obligation. I don't think it's about anything else, other than doing the right thing. It's not about the money we could have cashed out long time ago. Um, but then we would have been maybe financially doing well, but the city would not do well.
The community would not do well downtown would not do great. Um, and I think that would have been the wrong thing to do.
Mark Peter Davis: So this became your family's more or less life mission. This wasn't a financial [00:13:00] decision.
Tal Kerret: Not at all. It was not a financial decision. It was a life mission. And he still is. And I think we are proud of where we are.
We still think there is a long way to go, always to increase the community, to build, uh, the last tower and to get the right tenants because the buildings are always as good as the tenants in them. Um, but I think it's shown and he's doing the right, the right thing. It's shown that resilience and grit and not giving up is always important.
And if you do the right thing at the end of the day, you have a beautiful community that is built. The downtown is amazing. Now we moved to live downtown because of it. I just, we decided to move our family here because of all of this.
Mark Peter Davis: And a lot of new York's technology scene has moved down there because of the work you've done.
And I think rightfully so, they would be very proud of. And now you had mentioned a couple of times through there that you're from another country, for those who don't know you're from Israel, uh, w what brought you to the States? How did you make that transition?
[00:14:00] Tal Kerret: Um, taking us back in time lane. Um, so going back, um, I wasn't born a real estate person, as you can imagine.
I was born in, uh, in Israel. Can't get rid of the accent. And I always saw my parents working so many hours, including weekends, and my mother was working till 8:00 PM. Uh, and I made a decision very at the very young age that I don't want my life, my kids, my family, even though I was young too, to be with the same type of life.
And, um, I did the best I could at the time I started working, um, while I was at school at the age of 14 and, um, That led to the future of my, uh, my business decisions. But I working at 14 made my first, uh, college real estate decision by buying an apartment, uh, uh, across the street from my parents' home.
So [00:15:00] didn't go far, but I bought that at the age of 17 and, uh, and then went to the army, like many people do. I served for six and a half years. Uh, was flying some airplanes and, um, became an officer over in the army. And when I came out, uh, went to the university, decided to study as fast as I humanly could took eight, nine classes a semester, finish it as fast as possible and had already an ideal for startup a company.
I wanted to start with, uh, two other friends of mine. Co-founders where we started that. Um, Uh, that the company with the idea of e-commerce at the time, it wasn't a big 1997. Uh, and we said we were going to build a platform for a lot of companies to run their own e-commerce, uh, business. Uh, I had even the fortune of meeting one of the people that today's a legend, uh, and having a nice [00:16:00] debate with them back in, uh, 97 98.
Uh, in Menlo park and, uh, looking back in time, um, he, he actually knew what he was talking about. I didn't know it. Then he was talking about selling books. Uh, Abel's bought into the meeting by John Doerr. His name is Jeff Bezos and we had a nice dialogue,
Mark Peter Davis: uh,
Tal Kerret: and we built the platform that would help power other other sites.
We ended up selling the company and start a new company in the. Think the games, business and the casual games business. Now as a CEO of the, my first company, um, I knew that the market is here. It's not in Israel, a country at the time with a six and a half million people that there's not enough, uh, commerce.
And there won't be enough commerce there anytime soon. And, um, I moved to the United States and sort of where's the best place to be. Is it New York, Chicago, Atlanta, all [00:17:00] the cities are great. Uh, spent a month in every city that, uh, no five cities and pick New York at the end for different reasons, uh, to be the hub, the center for my life at the time.
And that's how it brought me here again, as a, as an immigrant with hopes with, uh, ideas, uh, with grand ideas. And then it started to grow, uh, with the second company, which, uh, became at the time the largest. Uh, distributor and PA platform and, uh, service for cancel games. Uh, we were powering sites like, uh, MSN of Microsoft and Yahoo and, uh, even, uh, AOL and electronic arts Pogo site that download and purchases of games are there.
We're down to our platform. The company grew and grew. Um, we had 11 yeah, offices around the world, 750 employees. Uh, and it was, um, I would say both [00:18:00] life-changing, uh, dramatic at times. It's very scary. Cause you wake up in the morning and you say, what is going on here? How, how do we have this? And what's going to surprise us next.
Cause there were a lot of surprises showing up and dealing both with consumers and with large organizations, uh, the internet at the time that was growing and growing. Uh, and, uh, every year I would have a conversation with Larry and my father-in-law would say, you know, it's, it's nice what you're doing there with, with those types of games.
Not sure I understand all these games, but we need you in the car. In the family business, you should join the family business. And I kept on saying, but I want to build a billion dollar company. And he said, I understand. And every year he would, uh, spend time with me again. And then one day he says, look, um, I'm 78.
Um, I'll be 80 soon and I need you in the family business. So let's figure this [00:19:00] out. And he took me in, uh, in the ride and showed me buildings. And he said, you see this building a billion dollar in this building $2 billion. And once you see those things,
Mark Peter Davis: there's your billion dollar company.
Tal Kerret: Yeah. So he said, we need you here and understood that, uh, that message went very well in that car ride.
And, uh, I made that decision. I gave a year notice, uh, to my board, to the investors, uh, spend time there. And they, they, uh, paid me well, uh, sold my share and came to the Foundry business back then. So that's about a decade ago, uh, where I joined the company. And, uh, it didn't start as, as the president of the company, but as a senior vice president that is learning, moved from being a chairman of a company, a founder.
To become a senior vice president because I knew I had to learn a lot and then grew through the ranks and, uh, reached the position of being the president here.
Mark Peter Davis: That's a rags to riches story, uh, both on your own. Right. [00:20:00] And then obviously the family you married into, right. That's a must have been challenging in a lot of respects.
I think when people hear that they're probably, um, focusing on the money and I'm sure the money was part of it for you. But what I also hear when I hear it, it's a lot of responsibility, right? Uh, the transition from getting a company of 750 folks with offices all over the world. That sounds like a lot of responsibility.
And I think the responsibility of joining the family business probably is Herculean. How has that changed things for you? Is life more stressful, running a giant conglomerate that you know, your family depends on. And a lot of other families depend on how has it changed things?
Tal Kerret: Um, I think we all grow, uh, we all learn and, um, I'm everybody says those things, but, uh, I really feel that the team around me is, [00:21:00] is making me so much better.
Um, I thought we hired great people in my previous company, in a company called Oberon, or I play in the games world in the tech world, everything was moving very fast. Um, everything was new all the time here. Things are very methodical. Um, there's a lot of, uh, complexity and a lot of complications. And if you don't get the, the gravity of what we do and the companies we deal with.
Um, that many of them, we have a lot of tenants that are substantial companies and you see it all of a sudden we'd smart, smart people, CEOs of these companies. Um, we have thousands of tenants, but if I'm looking at the top, uh, we have 245 of the top 1000 companies as tenants. So all of a sudden, when you can sit with the, with the top of these companies or my wife and I had a conversation the other day with the CEO of Moody's, I didn't dream about sitting in.
And the conversation with the [00:22:00] CEO of companies. Like it can downgrade a country, actually,
Mark Peter Davis: it's a lot of power.
Tal Kerret: Uh, yeah. And they're sitting in this building actually be underneath, uh, this office in this building or sitting with the companies like Uber or Spotify and really having the real dialogues. Uh, it has a lot of responsibility behind it.
And, uh, you need to take that with the right attitude and understand what it means. And, uh, you grow a lot, you mature a lot and you shouldn't get confused. I shouldn't get confused with where I am and, uh, thanks to Larry. Thanks to my wife. She's incredible in these, uh, in this aspect, in every other aspect, she's my, always my boss off everything.
We call it the BOE, um, because she's amazing. And she sits behind me on behind this wall. That's where she is. That's her office. Um, so we are together all the time and we can spend time digesting and analyzing and learning. And [00:23:00] the difficulty of running a startup is one, uh, the difficulty of running, uh, and being in a business like this, a family business that is run as a startup, but on a big scale and is constantly moving in, shaping and adjusting is very impressive.
It's to deal with big problems on large scale. Uh, in between our projects and the development projects we have about depends on when, which day you will wake up, but something that could be between 10 and 15,000 people working on the projects. And we have operations in China, in different countries.
That's every one of these people is alive, is a person that cares about something. Every one of our tenants is a great tenant, but he's a lot of responsibility as well. So I think it's, um, It's changed. It changed me a lot. Um, and I, I hope that for the better I
Mark Peter Davis: live in the startup community, right. And a lot of the people who have become big names, running companies, we all know most of them didn't come from anything, or they came [00:24:00] from normal lives and now have this tremendous responsibility.
What advice do you have for people who are on their way up? And there's a moment when they get to a perch where things are different for them. Maybe it's a little bit more lonely. Right. Maybe it's a little bit more complicated. What have you learned personally that you think would be good wisdom for those people and when they kind of ascend to that level, which many people are seeking, but it's not entirely a blessing, not always a blessing.
Tal Kerret: Um, I think the number one thing I've learned is that you must have an anchor and remain humble. We we all going to get to the same place at the end. Unfortunately, COVID note COVID, uh, life is finite and we'll all get to the end and then we'll wake up. If you have the opportunity and you know, it's coming and you are [00:25:00] a week before and you ask yourself, did I do everything I wanted to do?
Did I do the right thing? Did I spend time with my family? Because nobody's going to count the number of zeros you have in the bank account. It's ego only. Once you reach a certain level, it doesn't change what you eat. It doesn't change what you drive. It doesn't change anything. And if you learn it fast enough, you'll have a better life.
So if you have a partner in life, a spouse that is, uh, someone who is your soulmate, you, you have made it doesn't matter what you, what you've done financially. And if you don't, you have a terrible life moving forward. And the biggest lesson is that the investment, the number one investment that people forget is in their spouse and finding the right person.
And it doesn't matter what your preferences are, but find a soulmate, someone you can share and work with and understand you because there are moments that you are alone. There are moments that someone doesn't understand, investors, partners, tendon, someone [00:26:00] would not understand, and you have to take and make the tough decisions and take the right direction.
And it's not going to be the ideal direction for everyone. You're going to have a lot of unhappy people in that process. And if you don't have someone that anchors you and says, you'll find we are doing the right thing, or you're, you're totally wrong. Someone who can look at you in the face that this is really wrong.
And I have, I'm having those conversations all the time. Um, I remember the times where my daughters were younger and I was wrong all the time. I woke up in the morning. I was wrong before I even had my coffee. Um, but we timed that improved actually. Uh, they said, they say that that he became a wiser or they became older.
Um, but if you really focus on that relationship on the family, on your kids, on your spouse, you will have a good life. And right. And again, everybody has their own rights. Uh, I think, I think the right thing is to say, if I were on the other side, Larry always tells me if you were on the other side, what would you [00:27:00] expect someone to do?
If you are the other side of this data, when we're looking at, we had many cases like this, where negotiations, and then we get to a certain situation and then something disrupts everything, and someone else comes and wants to take the place of that tenant. We actually have that example in another building.
And you say, if you were in their shoes, would you feel that you were done wrong? If you do, that's not something we can do, period. It doesn't matter what financial implications it has. It does not matter. Uh, and I think that's a way to live because I don't want to regret one day at the end of a life, which will come to regret that I did things the wrong way.
Mark Peter Davis: talk a lot about the strength of your core relationships. Did this social mobility you experienced in your business success, um, over on, and all the ventures before and where you are now, did you lose relationships? Uh, are there relationships you can look back on where. They [00:28:00] just couldn't endure your transition, friends, family.
Tal Kerret: Uh, not with family, family. I think, um, the relationships are great. I, I, um, there, there always regrets and I, I like to live my life with less regrets if I can. Obviously I live in the United States, which is far from where my. Uh, parents are, and my brother is, um, and I'm saying my parents, I lost, uh, my mother about a year ago.
Um, and we didn't have enough time. And that was a surprise to all of us. It was not expected. So in retrospect, if I had more time and I knew, and that it's coming, I would have done things differently in terms of spending more time there. All the time with her find the business would have taken. It's fine.
If I needed more time there, you never know. And when it's needed, you cannot go back and change time. [00:29:00] Um, I don't think that I can pinpoint friends that I lost in the process. Um, but I had less time with some friends because I moved into a high pressure. I was before in a high pressure environment that they could integrate those types of friendships easier than in a, in an environment like this with a tremendous amount of responsibility, uh, and also responsibility for family at the same time.
So you have to balance it and sometimes you don't have enough time for some close friends. So to your point, um, I don't know if there is an ideal world. I don't know. Um, but, uh, I hope I'm doing the best. I can looking at everything in, uh, in the mirror and saying, what would I change at the moment, other than, uh, spending more time with my mother and father, um, which is it's not easy.
Uh, at the moment you cannot go back and change. So I'm trying to be on the phone with my father and doing COVID. I couldn't even fly to see him. So [00:30:00] Israel with a quarantine and lockdown. So we hope to see him soon. Can
Mark Peter Davis: you tell me a little bit about SilverTech ventures, a lighter note? Uh, just give me an overview of what that is.
Tal Kerret: Uh, SilverTech ventures is a platform. Some would call it an accelerator and a fund that helps startups grow and become successful. The entire mission of the platform is to spend time with the companies it's not a 12 week program or a 14 week program. That's preparing you for a presentation. It's a life together.
And the companies come and sit with us and spend a lot of time with us. We have a team of people who are experts in. Product management, raising capital, taking the company to the next stage and helping some entrepreneurs don't know when they need the help, but they have all the resources available for them, giving them the platform to do that.
And they sit with other people from the same community or the CEOs together in the same area. They have a lot of space here that they can [00:31:00] spend time with their team and they constantly come and spend time with us to help them with introductions and taking them to the right places. I'm trying to reflect it happened.
Um, because part of it is luck, real luck bumping up into the right people. Um, and a big part of it is passion. And I always had the passion of, uh, looking at other entrepreneurs and kind of being at all with what they are doing. And saying, this is amazing. And I, I, how can I help? How can I help to make it a success?
Even when I had my previous companies, I always spend time with other entrepreneurs and said, what can I do? Is there anything I can do to help? And one day I bumped into a gentleman called Charlie Fetterman that was leaving the building while I came in, gave him a hug. I don't know why. Uh, and he accepted, this was pre COVID.
We could hug people and, uh, I knew him as a, as a mentor, as a smart person in the, in the tech world who [00:32:00] had, um, Mo M and A's than anybody will facilitate it more Mondays than anybody in the country. Uh, he ran the largest investment banking firm in high-tech in the nineties that bid at 24% of all the high-tech MNAs and many of the IPO's and, um, doing that, he had the end game in mind.
He saw the end game. And the moment I saw him, he, he was such a sweet personality and he was smiling at me and I said, uh, what are you doing? And he said, I'm retiring. So you'll retire. And he was in his fifties. I said, that makes no sense. Come, come with me. And I took him to see Larry, Larry Silverstein.
And Larry asked him the same question. How old are you? And he said, you're not retiring, targets him in office. He's not retiring. That's how it started. And then we said, okay, if we want to help startups, let's do it in bigger scale. We have the capacity and we added a few more people, uh, including Larry wagon, Bergen and guy.
So that's how it started bringing the right people in place. [00:33:00] Uh, and it's kind of tied into something I love. I love to see, uh, innovation and entrepreneurship and inspiration coming from entrepreneurs. And many of them don't succeed because they don't have the right ingredients. They have the passion to have a good idea.
But they cannot accelerate fast enough. They can not get to the escape velocity fast enough. They cannot meet investors fast enough. They don't know which investors to meet. If you could distill it to the 10 investors, they have to talk to rather than a hundred. And then they don't even talk to the right investors if you could take them to the right clients.
So if I can pick up the phone and call, which we did all the time, we do it obviously in a smart, selective way to our tenants and say, Hey, you should speak to this company. Um, because I think they are good for you. And they would listen because we hope they listen. If they don't listen to the landlord, I don't know who they listened to, but, uh, maybe that introduction opened the door and then they can get to the right deal and it can propel the company.
Then they will not [00:34:00] get to where they are getting. And we are seeing those companies really blossoming and growing. I look at it as something exciting. It's making me happy every day when I can do that. So I spend time in the evenings weekends. And whenever they call me on the phone, as
Mark Peter Davis: you, as a tech guy who went into real estate and you're keeping a foot in tech, you're helping the New York ecosystem.
You're helping people build companies, but you're doing this for fun. Right? Let's talk about more or less. We're doing this for
Tal Kerret: fun. Yeah. But all the money that comes from this eventually will go to charity. It's not like I'm looking at how can I make more money from this, but I'm enjoying it. It's real fun.
And it's hard to explain why is it fun? But. Think of the fund you have with your family and your kids. I look at them. I don't want to look and put myself in a position of a parent, but I look at them. I will be so proud when they will succeed. I will be so disappointed. And I tell it to a lot of these founders, if they become arrogant in that process.
And some of them are [00:35:00] saying, they look at me, okay. There is a point there because many people get through that. And then they, they feel, Oh, it's been only because of me. And they, the arrogance starts to shine out of them. And I hope it never does out of any of the entrepreneurs, we help because if it does, then we did something wrong.
We pick the wrong people, but we didn't help them understand that the success is because of so many ingredients and people around them and the investors they picked and the market and help that they got from the other people, not just them, that they are, you know, what's company was in the search space.
Google. There were not the first which company in the space where they, what number in this space do you know? No,
Mark Peter Davis: I don't.
Tal Kerret: Google was the 18th search engine. Wow. The 18th, not the second, not the third, not the first 18th.
Mark Peter Davis: That's amazing.
Tal Kerret: If Facebook, there were not the first, there were the ninth or 10th.
Depends on what you count. [00:36:00] So it's not about being the first it's about getting to the right place, the fastest and having the best infrastructure around you, the best support system behind you. And I hope we are providing this to a lot of the companies. Again, it's not as to say it, you should ask the CEOs and the intrepreneurs and ask them what do they think?
Because I don't know if they believed that you should vouch for yourself.
Mark Peter Davis: What types of companies are a fit for? SilverTech
Tal Kerret: it's a great question. I would look at it as a, from the other side. Focus on the personalities of the people. So we have companies from the FinTech world, the cyber world, the PropTech world, um, and some of them are just, uh, in the even life science world, um, where they understand technology, but they're all heavily invested in technology.
Uh, and, and as a platform. So most of these companies are platform companies, but there is no only one segment that we feel that we can help. Uh, it's a lot of it has to do with the personalities of the founders, right? [00:37:00] Uh,
Mark Peter Davis: well, you're sitting at this interesting hybrid. You've got this tech background, you're doing SilverTech ventures.
You you've got, uh, you know, you're knee deep in the real estate world. Where do those converge, what, what changes do you see coming to real estate from technology that you think are going to be noteworthy and sustainable?
Tal Kerret: Um, this is a decades worth of a question. Um, real estate is one of the slowest, uh, sectors to adopt because it's a slow moving sector and a, it will adapt technology eventually.
Fast-forward from now, if it's 10 years, 20 years or 30 years, there'll be a lot more technology that moves and changes and shapes. Some of it will be disruptive. Some of it won't but changes the real estate space. Um, Our vision, our hope. And we look at our companies, how can we remain at the front end at the cutting and bleeding edge of technology and how can we help other developers feel [00:38:00] comfortable with it because developers feel comfortable with what they did before.
And the movement is important. The pace is important for the startup for a startup likes to close deals, iterate, change, and close deals. Change the product again. Iterate sign another deal and move in the real estate world. Every deal, it takes a long time from beginning to end. Every project takes a long, long time, and the developers are concerned of implementing something where the project will take five years.
And maybe by the time you monetize it, they'll sell it. It's 10 years. If you use the technology and the startup is not there, what do you do? How do you feel comfortable that, that startup on disappear on you three years down the road, and then you have to change everything from scratch. Um, so there is a big difference and that's a main reason that a lot of the PropTech companies did not take off yet.
Even if they have a great idea, it's very hard to implement unless it's direct to consumer, unless it's completely outside of the real estate, but just dealing with a platform that you will find examples. Like Zillow's, let's [00:39:00] create a place for people to search for value of homes, but that's not touching real estate that's outside and it's disruptive.
Uh, and we are looking for opportunities to help companies disrupt also from within if they can, how can we bring them into the platform into the world? Because it's totally required and necessary. Real estate needs to evolve, needs to move forward. Um, and I don't see it staying where it is forever. It has to move, it has to advance.
Mark Peter Davis: So I'd be remiss not to ask you a question about your perspective as a landlord. There's probably a lot of founders who are going to listen to this, this conversation who want to know if there's anything they should be thinking about in negotiating leases coming out of COVID. Is there strategies or ways to think about managing real estate from the entrepreneur's perspective that you would say are some insider tips?
You probably negotiate against yourself, but I'm still gonna ask you.
Tal Kerret: Yeah, it's [00:40:00] okay. Um, I think most important thing is to treat the landlord as if, if you were the landlord, what would you need? What would you expect? Understand the landlord? Well, so many times, and I was making the same mistake when I was an entrepreneur and started, uh, let's say the last company.
Uh, that I started that. I said, okay, um, we just raised money. We need the half a floor and let's get the best deal where you go to the landlord. They look at you and they, okay. How much money do you really have? How long will it sustain you or 18 months? Because that's when you raise money for usually about 18 months, I cannot sign with you at least for 18 months, go and find a sublease, enjoy to buy, and you keep on coming back and say, I don't want to move my company every 18 months.
I think I know what I need. Figure out exactly what you think you need and then try and have a dialogue with the landlord where you want to really be. And if it's the right location for your team, figure out a dialogue that says, I [00:41:00] know I need a space for 50 people, but it may grow to a hundred. So can you have some flexibility in the building or what is my flexibility in moving?
Do you have space that is already built? Yes. It's not ideal. And don't ask for too many things that cost a lot of money. Because the one meeting that you asked you think you are successful, then the landlord goes back, speaks to the team and he said, wait, wait, we're going to invest. How much, what are, what are the financials they have?
What is the credit? And then it blows up again and I've been there. I lost several deals like that. Thinking I'm smart, being an entrepreneur of how I'm negotiating, not knowing what the other side feels, what do they go through on their end? They have responsibilities and investors and. It's not because you are, you're nice and you speak fast or, you know, something, you will get the deal.
You really have to focus on. If you were on the other side, would you sign a deal like that? What is the wisest deals feel for everyone? And then it will work. Now in this economy today, there is an advantage for those who are looking to get space, especially [00:42:00] if it's already made, you can get a good deal because there is enough space on the market in specific cities.
I don't think anybody's looking for an office in rural America, but people are looking for offices and in urban environments where some companies don't know what they're going to do, how much space they need, and it's confusing. So find someone that understands and can advise you, um, many people saying, wait, did I, before that, I wanted to put people in like, uh, like we work used to say in 70 square feet per person, that doesn't work with six feet apart.
That doesn't work when COVID will kind of get an extent. Most employees are saying, you know, I get it six feet bubble and distance. So I'm not too close to people. And I want to work part from home in part from the office. Cause I want to be close to you as my founder and CEO, but I don't want to see you everyday.
This is now normal. Let's be on zoom for all of that. You really need to have knowledge data. Uh, if you will go, uh, we also do all of our tenants, this platform, we are paying for it. So it's costing us seven [00:43:00] figures. Uh, for dojo, but we can offer it to any startup, uh, that is, uh, working with you. Cause I like, like them to succeed here, uh, to analyze what are their actual needs first, what are their needs what's best.
And then they can see even which building is the best for them, which location is giving the highest proximity for all the employees, which distance in the floor. How many people work from home? How many days, which days. It does it all for them based on the data and their analysis,
Mark Peter Davis: we can link to that in the show notes.
Do you, do you think office environments are going to return to normal after the vaccine is propagated and you know, fast forward a couple of years, or has the behavior, is there been a fundamental shift that's going to be more durable?
Tal Kerret: My instinct is that there will be a shift and it's an instinct. I don't know.
I don't have a crystal ball. Um, my understanding is that there are certain companies that are going to come back to what they were before. We already start to [00:44:00] see that, uh, if it's the law firms or accounting firms or different firms, that it works for them, that certain positions that can work from home and people that after they've been at home, the habit of staying at home and it's comfortable, um, and to have a comfortable enough home that their kids are not jumping.
All over them for them. It's okay to work from home. When we look at that, we think that there will be a change of how companies are designing themselves and working in space. But I don't think that there will be everybody worked from home then, or everybody worked from the offices before. It's all going to come back tomorrow with a push of a button.
It's somewhere in between. I think it's closer to the environment of offices and part-time work from home. And some employees in your company will come five days a week and some will come three days a week. It's much more difficult from all the analysis we've seen of the data. Um, it's much more difficult to hire new employees, young [00:45:00] people and give them the same opportunity to connect themselves with other people when they work from home.
So we have a company here sitting at three world trade. I won't name them. Uh, but they hired 500 people in the third quarter of this year. And they hired 500 people end of last year. And w we did a comparison between the graphs of connectivity of the people and how many times they communicate and how successful those young hires are.
And we find that there is a huge drop between today to what the 500 people before. So they didn't lose their ability to hire good people. It's just much harder to connect people, uh, between departments.
Mark Peter Davis: And you're saying that's because the remote connected tissue is, is less than
Tal Kerret: efficient, small meetings.
And I don't think that's productive, but, um, Within the departments, people do communicate, but the conversations that happened between departments happens much less. So it becomes much more [00:46:00] siloed. The company becomes more siloed, especially with the new hires people from the past. I've had connectivity, connections in the company, and they were talking to 50 different people before they still have those connections and they can email them.
But if you are a new hire and all you see is your boss on zoom. You're not going to reach out to other departments. Hey, how are you? I just wanted to say hello, and maybe we'll have a cup of coffee over zoom. That doesn't happen. But before you saw people going for lunch, he said, Hey, Jesse, do you want to go out to lunch together?
Or I'm going out in the same direction? And you started to build relationships and we are all social animals. We want to be most of us in touch with other people. Uh, so those types of connections. Uh, this didn't materialize in the new hires, and I think people will have to focus on it. It really, it depends on the company, but most companies will see that as a deficit and we'll try and figure out what to do about it.
To your question again, I don't think it would be for many people a hundred percent back. In an office, but [00:47:00] maybe three days a week, two days a week, pick your days, according to your team and your schedule. Uh, and other days you can save on the commute time and work from home, but now you already have the fabric being built.
And that helps because otherwise the company will need a lot more space with the distance requirement, right?
Mark Peter Davis: Although in Syria, at some point, you know, God-willing vaccines, everything else happening. We're not worried at some point, maybe in the future, we're not worried about disease.
Tal Kerret: Sure.
Mark Peter Davis: And I'm wondering if even in that environment, if people have the behavioral change, Tal, I wanted to thank you for being so generous with your time and candor today.
I know some of these topics are pretty heartfelt and emotional, uh, and I'm grateful for you sharing with us. Thank you for being
Tal Kerret: on. Thank you, Mark. I appreciate it. And, uh, hope to see you in person soon. Take care, take care.
Mark Peter Davis: I hope you enjoyed that conversation. A very special thanks [00:48:00] to tall for sharing some pretty heavy aspects of his journey.
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