Tech companies are their own corporate species, including their unique habitats.
That’s the professional assessment of Ross Selinger, a commercial real estate veteran who’s spent 26 years fitting law, engineering, accounting and all sorts of other firms into proper spaces, primarily on Long Island. It’s also the thinking behind SEtech, a startup Selinger has focused on the specific real estate needs of technology companies.
The entrepreneur’s first startup, Jericho-based commercial real estate consultancy Selinger Enterprises, is now in its 20th year and going strong. But a quick review shows the circa-1996 startup’s portfolio is half filled with tech companies, and Selinger – a founding member of the Long Island Software & Technology Network who holds a master’s degree in industrial design from Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute – recognized an opportunity.
“Nobody is really offering real estate services specific to tech companies,” he told Innovate LI. “I felt we should brand it and market the concept.”
SEtech’s hook, Selinger noted, is in the very things that set tech companies apart from more traditional commercial enterprises – “your architects and accounting firms,” he said, which “are very stable and very traditional.”
“They want your typical spaces with offices along the windows and a work space in the center,” Selinger added. “They’re looking for a long-term lease with the lowest rate possible, with some creature comforts.”
And Selinger Enterprises has shined there, providing tenant-representation services covering site selection, lease negotiations, subleasing and real estate investments, among others.
But tech companies are a workhorse of another color, according to Selinger, who cited three distinct differences setting a completely different corporate vibe – and significantly altering their approach to physical spaces.
First, many tech companies require maximum flexibility, especially those seeking to wow the market with the next amazing doodad.
“Their growth can be explosive,” Selinger noted. “They can have that hot new product that takes off, and then boom – they can outgrow their space in months. So, they need to have an escape clause in their lease.”
More than other professional spaces – like a law office, where a more traditional environment might work just fine – tech spaces must also “reflect the brand,” according to Selinger, who referenced a recent deal he orchestrated for EC Infosystems, an international e-commerce services provider owned by Jasmine Universe founder Mohan Wanchoo.
EC Infosystems’ new space “had to look high-tech and whiz-bang,” Selinger noted, and he found the right fit inside The Omni in Mitchell Field, where Selinger negotiated a 21,000-square-foot lease.
That space also reflects the third tech-firm technicality, which involves a dilemma familiar to Long Island tech companies: attracting top talent in an environment where demand far outweighs supply.
Selinger noted terrific competition among established tech companies and “more jobs today than there are talented people out there,” giving lifestyle choices unprecedented weight in the job-selection process.
In the case of Millennials – the most populous tech-form talent pool, Selinger noted – that requires more social accouterments, even in the workplace. So forward-thinking tech companies are scrapping traditional spaces in favor of more open and fluid environments that promote a more collaborative process.
“Millennials were brought up with a very social lifestyle,” Selinger said. “They don’t want to work in offices. They want collaboration areas where they meet and discuss ideas.”
And it’s not just about social spaces, but social amenities. Selinger referenced Google – “the leading proponent of amenity-rich spaces,” he said – and the tech titan’s new London office, which features rooftop patios, a garage for bicycles, pet-friendly spaces, on-staff masseuses and a gourmet kitchen.
“The idea that people can meet at the coffee bar or in the yoga room and bond and have ideas – innovate, let’s say – this is the key to the great tech company’s success,” Selinger said. “People don’t only want to work for Google for the money. They want to work there for the lifestyle.
“I’m trying to help Long Island companies understand this.”
EC Infosystems got it, Selinger noted, including a large kitchen, pool tables and other non-traditional amenities in its new digs in The Omni. And there are other spaces like that to be had on Long Island, even though it’s a suburban setting and therefore a “soft market,” according to Selinger.
“In the tri-state area, the suburbs are still very soft, whereas New York City is hot,” he said. “The Millennials all want that urban lifestyle. They all want to live in New York City or Brooklyn or Boston, and they’re flowing into the cities and the tech companies are following them.
“But there’s enough space for tech companies on Long Island,” he added. “And there are plenty of tech companies who are here, and want to be here, and aren’t leaving.”
To reach them, the founder is orchestrating a strong social media push leading prospective clients back to the SEtech website, which went live in February. The site is loaded with case studies tracing Selinger Enterprises’ long tech-related history and a number of blog posts exploring the hi-tech world, including technology-related real estate developments in NYC, Chicago and other major cities.
Selinger also remains affiliated with LISTnet and has begun sponsoring events hosted by the Long Island Forum for Technology and other regional tech organizations, “to let the members know there’s a real estate company out there specializing in their needs.”
“Some people claim they do it, but this company is set up specifically to focus on them,” Selinger said. “That’s the game plan.”
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