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Buddy Shaw
Shaw & Associates, Inc.
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officespace@mindspring.com

 

Start-up plans to match office space with tenants
Sonny Lufrano Contributing Writer
December 7, 2001

Ross C. Shaw Jr. is not Jeff Bezos or Jerry Yang. He's not trying to change the entire world, just Atlanta's real estate market. Shaw is a small-business owner with firsthand knowledge of a niche market who was brave enough to launch an online venture in August, a year after e-everything went kablooey.

Talking to Shaw about his new real estate venture, OfficeSpaceAtlanta.com (which includes SubleaseAtlanta.com and ExecutiveSuitesAtlanta.com) one gets the sense Shaw doesn't know he's not supposed to be this excited about bringing an old-school business model online. After all, it's not like he's created the next mega-cool operating system or a way to download free music. Shaw's goal is much simpler. He wants to help Atlanta's tenants find affordable office space.

Go with what you know

Ross (Buddy) Shaw started his career in 1967 as a leasing manager with John Portman's Peachtree Center. During the time he worked as a leasing manager, Shaw was bombarded with questions from tenants about everything from renewing a lease to finding good real estate values in the city. In 1975, Shaw "jumped the fence" and began representing tenants instead of property owners.

"When I started doing this, no one was representing tenants," said Shaw. "Most tenants didn't know a great deal about leasing office space because it wasn't their business. I offered a connection to the world of real estate."

For the past 25 years, Shaw and a partner operated Shaw & Associates Inc., a small but profitable real estate company that was one of the first to represent tenants.

Recently, Shaw formed a relationship with BrainWorks Ventures Inc., a venture capital firm founded and chaired by highly esteemed economist Donald Ratajczak.

"We took an interest in Buddy because we think he has a tremendous understanding of Atlanta's real estate market," said Cole Walker, BrainWorks' chief operating officer. "Real estate has been very slow to adopt Internet technologies so we think there's still a lot of room for growth."

"I'm surrounded by some of the smartest people in the business," said Shaw, referring to BrainWorks. "Don Ratajczak is one of the most brilliant economists around. Then you have John Cayce, the founder and former director of the UPS Strategic Enterprise Fund, and a score of others. Having that kind of intellectual capital to draw from is a tremendous advantage."

Shaw's depth of experience has driven the development of OfficeSpaceAtlanta.com. It is an information portal where tenants come to search for available properties. Shaw charges owners between $45 and $65 per month to list available properties on his site. To date, Shaw has funded construction of the awkwardly designed Web site by himself. When the time comes to expand, Shaw knows exactly who he'll turn to for venture capital: BrainWorks Ventures.

Up and running

Lee Frison is an attorney specializing in personal injury and bankruptcy law. For years, Frison worked in Newnan, Ga., but because so many of his clients worked in the city, Frison decided it was time to relocate. The first thing Frison did was go to Yahoo.com and type in "Atlanta office space." In a matter of seconds, Frison was surfing through Buddy Shaw's OfficeSpaceAtlanta.com.

Frison sent Shaw an e-mail. Shaw immediately called Frison back and set him up in a new office at 191 Peachtree next to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The property was owned by Regus, a worldwide operator of business centers with 387 business centers around the world.

"Buddy met with me and he told me about a property available through Regus," said Frison. "Regus provides everything from immediate phone and fax service to conference rooms and secretarial service. I pay Regus a base rent of $1,300 per month. I really couldn't ask for a better situation."

For helping Regus find Frison, Regus pays Shaw a commission that runs 10 percent of the rent for the term of the agreement.

"When most people search for office space, they want to do it through a local broker," said Erin Rousey, business development manager with Regus in Atlanta. "There's just a feeling that local brokers know the market more intimately. Plus, because we're often dealing with large clients, we regularly have five or six offices available in a larger setting. If Buddy Shaw comes to us with a closed deal like he did with Mr. Frison, we're more than happy to pay his commission."

Shaw said there are approximately 8 million square feet of sublease space available in the marketplace, 5.5 million square feet of class A space and 2.5 million square feet of class B space.

In addition to the glut of sublease space, there is also a ton of furniture and office equipment on the market due to the economy's slowdown.

Pamela Silberman, vice president of CoStar Group Inc., a leading provider of information services to the commercial real estate industry, thinks Web sites like OfficeSpaceAtlanta.com that individual brokers use to attract tenants to real estate listings will soon become commonplace. The company has its own software product called CoStar Connect that is designed to help brokers and building owners market for-lease and for-sale listings on their Web sites.

"We are at the beginning of a trend where commercial real estate professionals will be using the full marketing power of the Web to attract tenants," said Silberman.

Like Jeff Bezos and Jerry Yang before him, Shaw hopes he gets there first.

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