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Real Estate Technology

"I was born in North Idaho": A Conversation With Riggs Kubiak

R Kubiak, N Idaho

Riggs Kubiak, CEO, and Co-Founder of Honest Buildings confesses that there isn’t much in his public persona revealing his backstory. Opening up about the experiences that shaped him, including the concepts that grew into a NYC based CRE technology company backed by the largest real estate owners in the world, Riggs joins Scott Morey, Executive Director at GPG Advisors as a guest on RE Insight’s latest podcast.

Entrepreneurship is in his DNA

He was born in North Idaho. Raised by entrepreneurs and possessing a rugged outdoorsman’s spirit, it’s not surprising that Riggs is comfortable pushing boundaries. When not training for marathons, he embraces challenges by leveraging technology, beginning with his use of the internet as an introduction to the industry he would disrupt and reimagine.

After growing up in the Pacific Northwest, a chance encounter during summer vacation prompted him to try something different. Riggs enrolled in Boston College and immediately thereafter, began his career in real estate.

Upperclassmen lived in great houses,

But freshmen “lived in these...cages.” Guessing that better options were available, he and six friends sought help and rented off-campus housing. Recognizing his leasing agent as a peer in his Finance class, the wheels began to turn, motivating him to create the side-gig that would change his life.

At 19, he earned a real estate license and grew a portfolio by assessing the local marketplace. Using the internet, he quickly became the top leasing agent in his firm.  Recognizing the inherent transience of a college town, he sought clients by advertising properties online, where many of his colleagues sat waiting for tenant traffic to find them.

Curiosity, tenacity, and fearlessness set him on the path he continues to pursue to this day.

From an owner’s perspective

A common theme for Riggs is his entrepreneurial perspective. Enticed by a role in structured finance with Ernst and Young after graduation, combining his interests in commercial real estate and investment, he worked with and developed an appreciation for the principal’s side of operations.

Working in a variety of large and small environments, Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities were another common theme, along with leveraging technology for innovation. While people often think that ideas are lightning bolts that come without warning, Riggs recognized the growth of ideas and creative notions and looking back, appreciates the diverse experiences and opportunities that brought them all together.

“It all started with an iPhone”

Riggs recognized that the internet would play an enormous role in the next iteration of CRE. With the power of so much data available at your fingertips, the potential for automation viewed from a technologist’s perspective started growing something within his imagination. Honest Buildings continues to evolve from its original concept, but it was technology that made that concept and vision possible. Riggs realized that “what you could do with a computer in your pocket” made piles of binders and months of analysis on paper to spend millions of dollars on a CRE acquisition seem obsolete.

Honest Buildings is the evolution of that perspective. In Honest Buildings, for the first time, owners have a platform and toolkit created principally for their use, consolidating operations and processes, sharing organizational intelligence, and growing asset values more reliably by delivering projects in less time and at less cost.

The Honest Buildings platform has been described as a resource the commercial real estate industry “just can’t work without.”

Continuous learning

Entrepreneurship has been defined as having the “will, courage, and sometimes the recklessness” to invent, reinvent, and to motivate those around you to buy into your vision. Part of Riggs' Honest Buildings story is that the platform is continually evolving to meet our customers’ needs. “Yesterday’s product is not today’s platform. Beyond scalability, tomorrow’s solution, what’s next, is not wholly defined."

However, because Riggs and his team have established a responsive and collaborative relationship with their partners, including the largest and most influential owners in CRE, excitement remains about what’s to come, including addressing sustainability, not just environmentally, but from a long-term capital planning perspective.

Whom does he seek out for counsel?

Dad (Mr. Kubiak)

His father, who shaped so much of his perspective, still offers wisdom upon which he regularly relies. Mentors from throughout his career, former managers, investors, and members of Honest Building’s board comprise a brain trust he routinely consults. Riggs is humbled by, and grateful for, meaningful supporters who are “incredibly helpful.”

What advice would Riggs give to his 20-year-old self?

“There is a big opportunity in real estate and technology. While much has been made of the volume of investment and growth, we’re still in the ‘dark ages.’ There continues to be so much more to do; so much possibility remains. Identify the value out there, identify the sectors of CRE that are quantifiable, then go move the needle.”


Rochelle A. Carter-Wilson

Written by Rochelle A. Carter-Wilson

Rochelle is the Content Marketing Manager for Honest Buildings. a Procore Company. She creates stories and other on-brand content to inform and engage owners and other members of the Commercial Real Estate industry.

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