An Open Letter to Real Estate Graduate Programs: Here’s the Real Estate Entrepreneurship Class I’d Want to Take

Oct 7, 2013 | Career

This post was inspired by a class that’s being taught at my Alma mater called Tufts.io. It’s a mentor-driven seminar taught be two Tufts seniors with the goal of equipping students to become entrepreneurs.

I love the concept of the course and it got me thinking: What should a real estate entrepreneurship class look like? I spoke with a few friends in the business and here’s what I came up with;

  • Each class should teach a different entrepreneurial skill such as creative-thinking, product development, lean start-ups, fundraising, marketing/market-fit, and building a team.
  • Each class should explore a growth area and opportunities within the real estate space and feature speakers from start-ups in that particular vertical.
  • The class should be interactive beyond the classroom through blogging and social media.

I put together a sample syllabus of the real estate entrepreneurship class I wish they taught at NYU Schack (because it’s my alma mater and in NYC), which could be applicable to any graduate real estate program.

Course Description

The real estate entrepreneurship class will explore technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation as it pertains to the real estate business. We will seek to understand opportunities in the real estate business and gain real-world skills through class discussions, case studies, guest speakers, and field trips. Each class will cover an emerging aspect of the real estate business and feature top speakers in that space. The class will tap into New York’s rich real estate start-up scene.

Class Blog/Social Media

The class blog will provide both professor and student perspectives into each class. Additionally, students will be encouraged to tweet throughout each class with a specific hashtag which will create a live-stream of class notes. These are resources and insights that people outside the class/program can benefit from. Here’s a rough semester-long class schedule.

Class Schedule:

  • The impact of the JOBS Act – Real Estate Crowdfunding
    • Speaker: Ben Miller & Dan Miller – Fundrise
  • Innovative Space Usage – Co-Working, Micro-Units, Pop-Up Retail
    • Speakers: Graham Hill – LifeEdited (micro-units)
    • Adam Nuemann and Miguel McKelvey – We Work (co-working)
    • Eric Ho – Made in the Lower East Side (pop-up retail)
  • Research & Data
    • Speakers: Michael Mandel – Compstak
    • Ben Thypin – Real Capital Analytics
  • Real Estate Investment/Syndication – Starting Your Own Investment Firm
    • Speakers: Atlas Real Estate Partners
  • Branding & Marketing
    • Speaker: Dave Eisenberg – Floored
    • Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group
  • Real Estate Modeling
    • Speaker: Bruce Kirsch – REFM
    • Josh Kahr – Kahr Real Estate
  • Search
    • Speakers: Jason Freedman and Justin Bedecarre – 42Flooors
    • Jonathan Wasserstrum – The Square Foot
    • Ori Allon – Urban Compass
  • Launching Technology Ventures
    • Speaker: Fred Wilson – Union Square Ventures
  • Sustainability/Adaptive Re-Use
    • Speaker: Jonathan Rose Companies
  • Innovative Space Use/Urban Membership
    • Speakers: Matt Blesso – 3rd Ward
    • David Belt – New Lab
    • Simon Rogers – Transfer Station
  • Final Project Judged by a panel of 4-5 real estate entrepreneurs from various disciplines – consider this a pitch to investors.

Semester Long Project

Each student will spend the semester cultivating a start-up idea. Students will present their idea to a panel of entrepreneurs at 3 stages of development throughout the semester. The students should approach their presentation like they’re pitching potential investors. The panel of investors will critique the idea and provide constructive criticism.

The hope is that students take their idea and develop a business over the course of the semester with the goal of launching the business beyond the classroom. Students will benefit from their fellow classmates input as well as a set of mentors they can go to for advice.

A Few Other Thoughts

  • I strongly believe that graduate schools should be more entrepreneurial in their scope.
  • In order for students to be accepted to the class they would be required to submit an essay stating why they’re interested in taking this class.
  • The University could even launch a small fund to invest in the top student start-up ideas. Kind of like an incubator or the Dorm Room Fund.
  • The goal of this class would be to equip students with the skills they need to become entrepreneurs, open their eyes to the opportunities in real estate, expose them to the challenges of starting and growing a company, and provide them a support group to utilize as they pursue their own entrepreneurial ventures.

I think a class like this is so important because most real estate professionals get into the business to do their own thing one day. In fact, I can think of many of my classmates who have either started their own business or are thinking about going off on their own.

That’s the class I’d want to take and who knows, maybe the class I’ll one day get to teach. What do you think?