Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.– Marcus Aurelius
Year of the Rat
The Lunar New Year took place on January 25, 2020, and marked the beginning of the Year of the Rat; first of all zodiac animals in the 12-year cycle. As I come from a half Singaporean background, Chinese New Year had always been a deep-rooted tradition. My zodiac animal happens to be that of a Rat; representing Yang, and the beginning of a new day. In Chinese culture, rats were seen as a sign of wealth and surplus, a notion which I happily accept. They are clever, quick thinkers; successful, but content with living a quiet and peaceful life. Sensitive to others’ emotions, but stubborn with their opinions.
I take astrology and its association with one’s personality traits with a grain of salt, but it’s uncanny how accurate it sometimes is. It really comes down to self-awareness, one of the most important principles I carry forward into the new year. This state of awareness and understanding; the objective observation of oneself, is considered the highest form of enlightenment, and understanding your strengths and weaknesses is essential in becoming your best self.
Almost a month into 2020, it’s important to reflect on the last 10 years and set the stage for what’s to come. As I look back, I can say with absolute certainty, the best choices I have made in deciding which endeavours to pursue can be attributed to the following:
“Choose projects in such a way that even if they fail by the most objective metrics, that you develop relationships and skills that persist past that project. Succeed regardless because of accumulated skills and relationships that transcend and last much longer than the project itself.”– Tim Ferriss
A Decade in Vancouver
I moved to Vancouver in 2010, when the city was hosting the Winter Olympics; an event that put Vancouver on the map, and gave us the likes of Olympic Village, Vancouver Convention Centre, and the Richmond Oval.
Over the years, the city has grown into a bustling tech hub. In CBRE’s Scoring Tech Talent labour market analysis, Vancouver is ranked #3 in Canadian cities for its tech talent and opportunities, behind only Ottawa and Toronto. There is a correlation between talent growth patterns and real estate markets, with Toronto and Vancouver consequently having the lowest downtown office vacancy rates in North America. In Canada, 161,700 tech jobs were added from 2013 to 2018, with $558 million in Venture Capital funding that took place in Vancouver in 2019.
Vancouver is no longer the anomaly of the tech world. Uber and Lyft officially started operating on January 24th, 2020. This may inspire some to live a minimalist lifestyle, eradicating the need to own or lease a vehicle, and further outsource life through a mobile phone. Software is truly eating the world.
Real Estate 2.0
The last decade saw a proliferation of real estate apps. The once Rogers’ backed Zoocasa (later acquired); TheRedPin (shut down); and Viewpoint, the first portal in Canada to publicly display historical sales data.
The battle over who should be able to access the data, once safeguarded and locked away in silos, was put to rest once and for all on August 23, 2018, when the Competition Bureau declared a decisive victory over TREB regarding its anti-competitive practice. This was of course followed by the Canadian launch of U.S. based real estate giants, from a country where no such data hoarding exists.
Zillow, the “largest, most trusted and vibrant home-related marketplace in the world,” made its long-anticipated expansion into Canada on October 15, 2018, spearheaded by Chief Industry Officer Errol Samuelson. Zillow Group is now led by Rich Barton, one of the original founders who took over the role of CEO following Spencer Rascoff, as the company tackles new business segments. Redfin followed suit by launching its agent services in the country on February 12, 2019.
Zillow and Opendoor are ushering in a new era of technology-enabled property transactions, aptly named the iBuyer business model, with Opendoor purchasing the lion’s share of homes. Along with Zillow, the two companies comprise roughly 86% of iBuyer transactions.
Global PropTech investment hit a record high at $14 billion in the first half of 2019. IoT (Internet of Things) has evolved with new and innovative ways of connecting smart devices to the physical world. In Commercial Real Estate, buildings are integrating motion-sensors that track movement, chemical and temperature sensors, all feeding into cloud-based apps that have the ability to analyze and produce insights with the data. By being able to regulate things like air quality and lighting in real-time, this significantly reduces energy costs and optimizes the internal environment.
Airbnb is now well-established, with the short-term rental service being regulated and enforced at the municipal level. As Vancouver is facing a housing affordability crisis, it was believed that placing restrictions on eligibility by requiring a valid business license, and a home that can only be a principal residence, it would protect existing long-term rental housing and increase inventory.
In the valuation space, companies like HouseCanary are making in-roads to creating alternative valuation products. Image recognition is becoming mainstream, with the ubiquity of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, mostly built on top of scalable and cost-effective Amazon Web Services. With a quality score generated based on photos of a property, it could potentially eliminate the need for a physical inspection, using algorithms to greatly increase accuracy, reduce cost and turn around time for financial institutions.
On September 17, 2019, a new appraisal threshold for residential real estate loans was set, which brought the amount from $250,000 to $400,000. The increase effectively exempts 72% of the eligible transactions from requiring an appraisal, opening the door for a wave of new financial products, so long as they are consistent with safe and sound banking practices.
I have worked remotely since 2012 in both real estate and technology startups. The infrastructure we have at our disposal nowadays significantly reduces the cost of starting a business to a fraction of what it once was. Tools like AWS, AngelList, Slack, Basecamp, and Github enable anybody with an internet connection to build disruptive technologies, with access to talent around the globe.
The distributed work environment was pioneered by the likes of Gitlab, Basecamp, and Automattic, to name a few. Companies that also produced iconic frameworks, in Ruby on Rails and WordPress, as well as communities like WWR (We Work Remotely). Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson’s latest book, It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work, is mandatory reading for modern-day companies that wish to remain calm, yet prioritized, and empathetic towards the well-being of everyone involved in an organization by creating the ideal culture. Asynchronous communication encourages breathing room for your thoughts and places emphasis on effectiveness over productivity.
- "To imagine that we are not always in control of what we do is a frightening thought, but in fact it is the reality."
- "Recognize the biases; Confirmation, Conviction, Appearance, Group, Blame, Superiority."
- "Your defence is simple: consider your reasoning powers, your ability to think for yourself, your most precious possession."
- "The deepest principle in Human Nature is the craving to be appreciated."
- "The key is the level of desire and aggressive energy you put into each ambitious project."
- "Pretend to be completely in control and people will assume that you are.
- "With moments like this, he got us seeing our work as art."
- "You have to be ruthless if you want to build a team of A players."
- "In the first 30 years of your life, you make your habits. For the last 30 years of your life, your habits make you."
- "I saw my life as the ultimate training ground. My disadvantages had been callousing my mind all along."
- "We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training."
- "I am the sum total of the obstacles I’ve overcome."
- "If you make meaning, you’ll probably also make money."
- "Leaders cannot have a bad day. You must exude optimism everyday. They must always believe that you believe."
- "How can you tell if an entrepreneur is pitching? His lips are moving."
- "Do not yearn to be popular; be exquisite. Do not desire to be famous; be loved. Do not take pride in being expected; be palpable, unmistakable."
- "The essence of entrepreneurship is doing, not learning to do."
- Since first appearing on the Tim Ferriss show, Jocko Willink has risen in popularity for his business and military endeavours. Former Navy Seal Commander, jiu-jitsu black belt, multiple business owner, author, and all around badass, his applications of principles learned on the battlefield translated to operating a business are encapsulated in this book and on his podcast, JOCKO Podcast.
- "Shape Up is for product development teams who struggle to ship. Full of eye-opening insights, Shape Up will help you break free of "best practices" that aren’t working, think deeper about the right problems, and start shipping meaningful projects."
Wishing you a prosperous New Year,