An interview with George Carras, Founder and CEO of R-LABS
Recently we spoke with George Carras, Founder and CEO of R-LABS. We asked questions about the Teranet/R-LABS partnership and his thoughts on the key opportunities for innovation in the real estate space. Teranet’s investment and participation with R-LABS is leading to the launch of new companies, expanding R-LABS’ platform capabilities in delivering innovation in the real estate industry and is opening new business model opportunities for Teranet.
Can you please provide some background and context to the Teranet/R-LABS partnership?
I am a civil engineer and entrepreneur who in 1995 became aware of the need for better information in the real estate sector. My first company, RealNet Canada, became a client of Teranet’s and the relationship with Teranet began then. R-LABS was established in 2018 to transform the real estate industry through purpose driven company building. Teranet joined the partnership in 2021 expanding our abilities in delivering industry innovation through Teranet’s unique platform of technologies, tools, data and talent.
With this partnership in place, what insights did you glean about the housing market?
The housing market is critical, complicated and no single party is in charge. That is, you can’t drop this (the housing market) at the feet of any one government. The housing market operates within a policy framework that is set across multiple levels of government and has two components – the stock and the flow. The stock represents homes that physically exist that can be purchased and sold and the flow represents the development of new housing. One of the main issues in the housing market today is improving the flow of new housing into the market through the entire development process and while Governments at all levels play an important regulatory and legislative role of course, they need help in creating the much-needed innovation in the flow of housing.
How can Teranet play a role?
Teranet helped us appreciate the power of its business-to-business and business-to-government innovation in the housing market stock. Teranet has a 30-year history of delivering business-to-business and business-to-government solutions through its Land Registry Solutions and Market Insight Program. Through the R-LABS partnership, open innovation and purpose driven company building, Teranet’s unique capabilities can also be applied to the development industry and help improve the flow of housing market supply.
What happened next?
We spent a year looking at the issues. We studied a number of different workflows and realized that we needed a platform entity to effectively bring real innovation and change to this space. We worked through the R-LABS Venture Process with a dedicated Team from R-LABS and Teranet and began our first co-creation.
What did you learn?
First and foremost, we learned there are no big problems, just lots of little ones and that the housing development process varies in different markets and even within a single region. Within the GTA for example, Toronto is different than Hamilton and Hamilton is different than Oshawa. While standardizing across some areas can be productive, appreciating the need for better integration through iteration will be about evolution vs revolution.
What were some of your challenges?
As an industry, we need to think about our thinking and ultimately change our thinking because the thinking that created the problems in housing is not going to be the thinking we need to solve them. As an industry, real estate is unique. While the industry has many great entrepreneurs, it suffers from a lack of R&D and innovation. Looking for solutions in the past has been highly reliant to changes to government policies, which while solved some problems, often created new ones in other areas.
So what are those opportunities?
Working in the R-LABS Open Innovation Program, Teranet’s well-established capabilities across data and analytics, digitized workflow solutions, and managed services are helping to create new technology enabled businesses that can help solve key challenges in housing and commercial real estate.
What’s next? What’s the future for this technology, this partnership?
More problems, more partners, more solutions. The “housing crisis”, the lack of supply, the deficit, presents us with an innovation opportunity. Governments need to be involved in the kinds of regulatory and standards setting spaces that governments typically are involved in. But as mentioned previously, governments are part of the solution, not the solution themselves.
A crisis is not what defines us; what defines us is how we respond to it. While the problems in the housing market are creating a “crisis” that is on the rise locally and globally, providing solutions to those problems provides opportunities of equal magnitude. There is good evidence that Teranet and R-LABS are in the early stages of the formation of a Global Cluster of Innovation in real estate through purpose-driven company building and Metcalfe’s law (the power of a network is nodes squared) will show as our industry innovation partnerships expand, our response to the housing “Crisis” was a “Crisitunity” and in fact created an ecosystem of companies that transform the market.
The next virtual Market Insight Forum is taking place Wednesday, October 6! We’re hosting George Carras, Elgin Farewell, Carlos Grass and Tim Hudak to discuss innovation in Canada’s real estate industry.
This session is full, but make sure to watch the recording that will be shared after the session on Wednesday.