Last month I made the long-haul flight (in cattle class) over to the States to attend the Inman conference. For those of you who don’t know, Inman has two major conferences a year. One in January in New York and one in August that was, up until this year, held in San Francisco. This year they ramped it up and headed to the conference capital of the world, Las Vegas.
The West Coast conference has traditionally been a more tech focused affair and industry suppliers along with about 5,000 brokers and agents from across the world descend to talk all things real estate and tech.
I headed over there with my business partner John Hellaby to introduce our online offer management platform, Market Buy, to the Americans and to gauge its potential place in one of the most exciting and lucrative real estate markets on the planet.
We weren’t the only ones! US real estate is crammed at the moment with Aussies at various stages of North American implementation, giving credence to the popular notion that we are a nation of innovators and forward-thinkers.
There are well-established players like Box Brownie, who enjoy an enviable and well-deserved reputation in the US market as key tech providers; companies like HomePrezzo and Rita who are making inroads into the market over the last 18 months; and wide-eyed newbies like Market Buy. All of these companies are aiming for the same prize: a healthy slice of the huge and lucrative US real estate market.
Apart from the sheer size of the market, one of the reasons so many Aussies head to the States is simply because they embrace innovation more readily. A part of that is our heavily regulated and, if you ask me, over-the-top government intervention in our day-to-day business lives. We have rules for everything and, in many cases, it stifles creative thinking and leaves many would-be founders little desire to navigate the complexities of dealing with highly-bureaucratic public servants who often seem more interested in ensuring that no one makes any waves.
The US is a completely different kettle of fish. They thrive on new ideas and they tend not to look for reasons something might not work. Instead, they look for ways to make things work and, as a whole, their enthusiasm and appetite for risk is bigger than what we find in Australia.
This Inman conference was my second after attending New York five years ago and I came away from this one with exactly the same feelings I did last time: optimism, rejuvenation and a sense of excitement about what was on the horizon. My last visit to New York gave me the inspiration to tread the path I now do, and this time in Las Vegas I am once again convinced that the things I saw and the people I talked too will irrevocably change the whole direction of my life.
Australians by nature thrive in this environment and we are highly-regarded by the Americans for our sense of humour, our wit, and our willingness to take risks. It’s a pity our government doesn’t recognise this and back the many, many Australians who are willing to have a go and risk everything they have for an ideal and a dream. It’s unfortunate that we have to travel to the other side of the world to find an environment that is conducive to the entrepreneurial streak that runs through so many of us here at home.
I watched many Australians strut their stuff in places like Start Up Alley, to the Main Trade Show floor to the hallways, conference venues, restaurants and lobbies of the event, and if nothing else, the sheer excitement of these people is fabulously contagious.
I met a buyer’s agent from Sydney by the name of Luke, and while he had nothing to sell or promote while in Las Vegas, his excitement and wonder at being at the event is something I will remember for a long time. He was at every party, at every dinner, and even early in the morning he was sitting near the front of the room sucking in as much information and inspiration as he could from all the panels and speakers across a huge variety of subjects.
The lesson I take from my forays over to these conferences is twofold. The first that Australians lead the world in ideas, innovative practices and industry changing technology – disproportionally to our meagre population. And secondly, our government, with all its rules, regulations and nanny state mentality, doesn’t really reflect the true nature of what we, as Australians, stand for. Having said that, true to our nature, Australians find a way to overcome these obstacles, and despite the fact the it is harder to get a start-up going here, it’s not impossible. If you persevere and fight the hard fight, then amazing things can happen.
If you ever get the chance, take a trip to the US and see for yourself what so many Aussies have already discovered – that America is truly a land of amazing opportunities and that we, on our huge Island with our tiny population, are but a mere drop in the ocean of global real estate.
It’s a big world out there and there are some amazing people doing some amazing things. Your life will be better for throwing yourself in the midst of the maelstrom that is North American real estate – even if only for a week at one of these events.