Tech

TenantBase hires former Cresa CEO Jim Underhill to expand its online platform connecting tenants and landlords

  • Former Cresa CEO Jim Underhill is joining proptech startup TenantBase as executive chairman.
  • TenantBase connects tenants with office, retail, and industrial leasing opportunities.
  • Underhill will help grow the company, which expanded rapidly as warehouse leasing boomed.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Former Cresa CEO Jim Underhill is joining commercial real estate startup TenantBase as executive chairman, Insider can exclusively reveal.

TenantBase operates a marketplace for office, retail, and industrial space that spans 35 geographies from San Francisco to Birmingham, Alabama. Potential tenants can browse open listings on the website and then connect directly with landlords and their brokers to sign leases. TenantBase has raised at least $10.7 million in funding from real estate investment management firm Stonecutter Capital Management.

The news comes three months after Underhill announced he was stepping down from Cresa, the largest commercial real estate firm that represents tenants only. He spent five years at the helm of the Washington, DC-based company.

In his new role, Underhill told Insider, he will bring his tenant-representation experience to the booming property-technology sphere.

“When I first started talking to TenantBase four years ago, I could tell that it was overdue for technology to be infused into this part of the business,” said Underhill, who previously served as Americas CEO at commercial brokerage giant Cushman & Wakefield and a regional founder of The Staubach Company, another tenant-focused real-estate firm.

As executive chairman, Underhill will be assisting with strategy, finding capital, assisting with recruitment and acquisitions, and building out the company’s internal structure and organization as it rapidly expands.

Founded in 2014, TenantBase started out as a technology-enabled brokerage, but it has morphed into a platform that partners with local commercial brokers instead of trying to compete with them. TenantBase CEO and cofounder Bennett Washabaugh told Insider that the early years operating as a brokerage allowed the company to create the tools and gain the knowledge necessary to build the current business.

TENANTBASE CEO Bennett Washabaugh

Bennett Washabaugh is TenantBase’s CEO and cofounder.

TenantBase


Partnering with brokers also has allowed the company to grow rapidly during the pandemic. The expansion came easily: TenantBase only needs to ramp up its technology to launch in new areas, with no need for the time-consuming process of hiring large on-the-ground teams. Underhill said the company actually recorded increased revenue during the pandemic, a rarity in the commercial real estate industry, which on the whole suffered due to shuttered retail shops and partially full offices.

“We wouldn’t have grown 20 markets in the last five months or so if we were trying to grow our own brokerage,” Underhill said.

Washabaugh called the last year “transformative” for Tenantbase, which saw its leasing volume in the industrial sector go up 90% year-over-year due to increased warehouse demand from e-commerce companies.

The company also signed a deal with property management software company Yardi that allows landlords to browse qualified tenants searching in their area and pitch their own space for the tenants’ consideration.

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