CRE Midwest

Elmspring Accelerator's Gillespie on technology: 'Sometimes it’s almost too easy to learn something new'


Bob Gillespie, executive director at Elmspring Accelerator, knows his software—he began his career writing software for a consulting company upon graduating college. He's also very familiar with technology and how its changing the way things are getting done. According to Gillespie, technology is changing everything, everywhere.

Bob Gillespie, executive director at Elmspring Accelerator, knows his software—after all, he began his career writing software for a consulting company just after graduating college. He's also very familiar with technology and how its changing the way things are getting done. According to Gillespie, technology is changing everything, everywhere.

He will be discussing this and more of his tech expertise at Illinois Real Estate Journal's Technology conference March 8. In the meantime, Gillespie filled us in on what he does during his free time, his former stand-up comedy career, and more thoughts on the future of technology.

Illinois Real Estate Journal: Can you give me a breakdown of your role as executive director at Elmspring Accelerator?

Bob Gillespie: As executive director at The Elmspring Accelerator, my primary responsibility is to find great ideas and great companies, put them through a 12 week curriculum that challenges their assumptions, breaks down the business, helps them understand not only their product, but the BUSINESS.  Typically entrepreneurs are great at telling you what their product is, but aren’t great at telling you how it will succeed as a business.  Our program needs to source great concepts and great early stage companies, and introduce them to a framework in which they can grow quickly.  Accelerators have the word “accelerate” in them for a reason.  We want to get you from point A to points B, C and Z faster.

IREJ: What will you be talking about at IREJ's technology conference?

Gillespie: Technology and CRE aren’t really talked about often in the same sentence.  That’s changing and we are trying to be on the forefront as an agent for that change.  We will talk about some of the trends we are seeing, along with discussing some real life examples of companies and ideas that are changing CRE by applying technology.

IREJ: Do you see any challenges for the future of CRE and technology?  

Gillespie: It can’t be a future problem.  It has to be a current problem.  It’s happening, and it’s happening now.  It’s become a commonplace saying now, but it’s so true of technology.  “It’s not the big fish that eats the small fish. It’s the fast fish that eats the slow fish.”  If you aren’t familiar with technology, that’s OK, but you would be best served to expand your knowledge and learn.  The best companies are always looking at new ideas.  You don’t even have to do it yourself, you can acquire great solutions by partnering and investing.  Support innovation and startups.  The really big companies should be setting up corporate venture funds to invest in great ideas.  There is no excuse to not embrace technology and advancement and change.

IREJ: What is something you’ve learned just from working in this industry?

Gillespie: Technology is changing everything, everywhere.  The best ideas aren’t all coming from Silicon Valley anymore. They are coming from Chicago, NY, Dubai, Istanbul, Morocco.  Real Estate is a truly global industry.  Ideas are coming from everywhere.

IREJ: How are you using technology these days in CRE?

Gillespie: I see a flood of new ideas and we source them from all over.  Conferences, events, universities, referrals from our alumni.  The exciting thing about Chicago is how much the entrepreneurial landscape has changed in such a short period of time.  For social media I tend to follow what I think are the great thinkers in entrepreneurship on Twitter.  There is just so much information easily available now, it’s almost cheating to be able to just look something up.  Sometimes it’s almost too easy to learn something new.