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Industry Expert: Brock Freeman
Interview featured by blocksquare.io
This interview is part of a series of conversations with leaders in blockchain for real estate, so our community can learn how blockchain is impacting real estate directly from experts worldwide.
His tech-centric finance, as well as real estate finance expertise and his shared vision on blockchain use in real estate along with his proven leadership experience, make Brock Freeman one of the top leaders in blockchain for real estate. Brock has recently been named the Seattle Regional Chair for FIBREE, an important step in the non-profit’s U.S. expansion strategy.
“FIBREE is filling an understanding gap between the real estate and blockchain technology worlds, and is well positioned to shape and lead the global conversation on blockchain’s optimal use cases for real estate; I wanted to be a part of that,” stated Freeman, “It’s about driving adoption, awareness, and change management — with blockchain impacting the future of the entire real estate industry.”
This week, our team at Blocksquare has been able to get into a conversation with Brock and discuss his views on blockchain adoption in the real estate sector.
Q: Brock, tell us a little bit about your background.
A: I’m an IT Enterprise Architect with a finance and sales background. I was a stock market analyst in Taipei, later moving back to Seattle and joining a mortgage bank as an underwriter. I then pulled a team together to build the industry’s first web-based end-to-end loan underwriting, processing, and secondary marketing platform. After a journey to the sales and marketing side for wholesale mortgage, and then a software startup in Hong Kong, I moved over to product management for corporate finance systems. Currently, I am focusing to go back to real estate technology.
Q: How did you get involved in blockchain?
A: In 2018, after several years of watching the blockchain space, it seemed that real business use cases were emerging. As someone with a finance background, I tend to see technology as useful when it can solve real business or societal issues. I attended a blockchain conference and immediately saw how blockchain could have a tremendous impact on the real estate industry.
Q: How do you see blockchain technology impacting real estate?
A: In the more immediate term, blockchain-based smart securities will solve three longstanding issues around commercial real estate syndication and investment. First, high administrative overhead for sponsors — lowering this will increase returns and allow for lower minimum buy-in, of course assuming more Reg. A+ offerings in the U.S. Second, removal of lock-up — while we won’t see a large amount of liquidity for small balance real estate funds, let along individual asset offerings, just the ability to be able to trade out of a CRE investment will entice more investors. Third, the difficulty of foreign investment to private CRE syndications — with smart contracts a sponsor can take foreign investment much easier, knowing compliance and tax withholdings are automated.
There are other blockchain use cases in Real Estate of course. However, many of them won’t see wide usage for a while, i.e. blockchain based titles, at least in the U.S., due to high barriers to any change in the current system.
Q: What are you focusing on right now?
A: First, building up the Seattle chapter of FIBREE. We had a very successful CRE focused kickoff event in January with a speaker on Blockchain 101, as well as a panel discussion with some respected figures in CRE and law. Next quarter is a plan for a university focused event, a great idea proposed by one of our panelists, Professor Simon Stevenson, Ph.D. — Chair of the Runstad Department of Real Estate at the University of Washington.
Second, while I’m advising a couple of early real estate + blockchain startups, I’m still looking for the right opportunity to jump in completely to a PropTech company.
Q: What are your thoughts on the future of blockchain?
I have to say I’m actually happy some of the hype has died down. Now we can get to work on real issues that blockchain can solve. To do that though we need far more engagement with business people to understand what issues they have that only blockchain can solve. Businesses don’t deploy tech just because it’s cool but because it solves an issue. Blockchain champions will gain a lot more credibility when they themselves ask if blockchain is really necessary for a solution.
I appreciate that one section of the FIBREE mission speaks to this: “Foster a realistic expectation pattern that allows the real estate market to discover and exploit the true potential of blockchain technology step by step.”
Q: One final thought for our community at Blocksquare?
Failing is not important, but learning from the failure and applying it to future efforts is.