The Online World's Brick-and-Mortar Man
Jotham Sederstrom Nov. 1, 2011, 11:38 a.m.
The fastest way to an emerging tech company’s heart is through its venture capitalist.
Such has been the modus operandi of Jack Petrie, a senior vice president at CresaPartners who has amassed a list of clients that reads like a veritable who’s who of Silicon Alley. He’s found these clients through contacts and clients of his in venture capital.
“I [find] that usually I can connect the dots with a lot of these companies with relationships I have with V.C. firms and people I have met through the community,” said Mr. Petrie, 50.
PulsePoint, Clearspring and Jingle Networks have all found new office space through the aid of Mr. Petrie.
Young firms like Sailthru, a behavioral email marketing service, and GramercyOne, a cloud-based software development firm, recently secured seed money from venture capitalists and tabbed Mr. Petrie to find them 15,000 square feet and 5,000 square feet of office space, respectively.
He helped Amazon expand to 60,000 square feet of space at 1350 Avenue of the Americas this year—and the online retail giant is counting on him for future growth.
He’s also done deals for venture capitalists, like 3,000 square feet for First Round Capital at 200 Park Avenue South and 7,000 square feet for Square 1 Bank at 500 Fifth Avenue.
In short, Mr. Petrie is plugged into an ever-expanding network of tech companies both large and small that have a growing need to expand their space.
He has his networking skills to thank for his client roster.
“I really spent a lot of time learning about the [tech] sector, kind of spending time in their playground attending a lot of events, learning who is who and meeting people,” said Mr. Petrie.
While sitting in CresaPartner’s oversize conference room in the company’s office at 100 Park Avenue, Mr. Petrie—a towering figure with salt-and-pepper hair and a gentle disposition—said it was that same conference room that he owed much of his current success to.
“We have the ability to open these walls and host events in our space, so we have been very active in the tech community hosting events for groups such as iBreakfast, Next NY and NY Angels,” said Mr. Petrie of the tech networking groups.
CresaPartners wouldn’t charge the groups for hosting the events. Instead, Mr. Petrie said he used the events to introduce himself to—and build enough good will with—each panelist.
“Many people have said multiple times, ‘We want to work with you because you get it,’” said Mr. Petrie, who was often the lone real estate agent at these events.
That’s not to say that every elevator pitch he has made to prospective clients has led to a guaranteed deal. “The direct connection hasn’t always been there,” said Mr. Petrie. But “building the good will has definitely led to business.”
His father was a Queens native who fled to Cleveland to work a manufacturing sales job. Mr. Petrie went east to attend the University of Pennsylvania, spent a few years running his own business selling commercial art to advertising firms, and then moved to his father’s native city to get his M.B.A. at New York University’s Stern School of Business.
Once he switched to commercial real estate, Mr. Petrie made stops at Equis and at LaSalle Partners, ending up at Staubach, where he worked for Roger Staubach, the company’s namesake and legendary Dallas Cowboy quarterback.
“He was just a great leader,” said Mr. Petrie, who grew up watching Mr. Staubach battle his beloved Cleveland Browns.
Mr. Petrie still adheres to a few “Rogerisms,” inspirational expressions that Mr. Staubach would deliver to his team of brokers, like “There is no traffic on the extra mile.”
He landed at CresaPartners in 2003. He now lives in Scarsdale with his wife, a real estate attorney, and his two children.
In 2006, Mr. Petrie noticed the venture capital firms starting to give seed money to a lot of East Coast tech firms.
“I said to myself, ‘They have a bull’s-eye on their back, and I want to get that business,’” he said.
One company that had a bull’s-eye on its back was Datran Media, a tech and marketing firm that had millions of venture capital funding headed its way.
His obsession with snagging Datran as a client eventually led to an in-person meeting.
“They had just leased expansion space in a small building on the Upper West Side, which they had to build out,” he recalled. “So I offered them project management services.”
He helped the firm, which merged with CONTEXTWEB in September to become PulsePoint, grow from 5,000 square feet in 2006 to 30,000 square feet, at 22 Cortlandt Street and 345 Hudson Street, today.
And he’s bullish on PulsePoint’s Hudson Square neighborhood. The area is still seen by some as a “value play”—especially as it has yet to develop into a 24-hour community. That, in turn, does not make it a space for every company.
But it remains a tech hub.
“It’s different. It’s not the Flatiron area, but it’s also kind of contiguous,” said Mr. Petrie.
It’s also ideal for tech firms that received their first hit of seed money and have plans to expand space toward the tail end of their leases. Which means that Mr. Petrie is negotiating shorter leases—usually three to five years, with options to expand into contiguous space—instead of the traditional 10-year lease.
Clearspring, a web company that publishes advertising software, has doubled its space in two years, going to 2,500 square feet at 584 Broadway.
And Turn Two Media, an online advertising and marketing company, is looking to expand on the 3,000 square feet it currently occupies at 33 West 33rd Street.
“I haven’t been afraid to take on the small assignments in the growth sector,” he said.
When looking at new office space, these small assignments are looking to hit head-count numbers, not square feet.
“That’s really the driver for them … trying to mesh head-count targets with the lease term and not getting burnt,” said Mr. Petrie.
With a slew of other tech tenants hitting the market—Yelp recently moved to 104 Fifth Avenue—will New York see a repeat of the pre-bubble leasing frenzy? Or is this tech tear for real? Mr. Petrie thinks it’s for real.
“These are stronger companies with faster revenue,” said Mr. Petrie. “There’s a buzz around New York.”