Gabriels Technology Solutions - Profile Michael Gabriel

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Profile – Michael Gabriel Owner, Gabriels Technology Solutions

Michael Gabriel, Owner of Gabriels Technology Solutions, is one of real estate’s most tenacious entrepreneurs and innovators. His proclivity to persevere is only exceeded by his perpetually positive disposition and engaging energy. It’s what has fueled the ability for Gabriels Technology Solutions to attract world-class brands at every turn throughout its 20-plus year history.

Today, Gabriels Technology Solutions powers the consumer real estate search experience for many of the world’s most innovative and prestigious real estate and media news websites, from Sotheby’s International Realty and Christies International Real Estate, to the New York Times and the Boston Globe’s Boston.com. Gabriels has become real estate’s leading provider of luxury real estate websites while maintaining its long-held leadership as the world leader world leader in providing real estate technology to media companies and conglomerates, with a global footprint that covers 28 countries.

But the fruition of Michael’s enviable success started with remarkably humble beginnings. He is not a product of a silver-spooned life. He grew up in Newburgh, New York,. He was raised in an Italian household with all the traditions that it brings, which he continues to embrace and share. And it's what taught Michael how to persevere at a very young age. When he would run in the street and fall, his mother didn’t come coddling to him. She would yell to him to get back up and brush off his knees, planting in Michael the seed of tenacity.

In fact, it was only weeks after graduating high school that Michael headed to where he knew opportunities, and his future, would be: a two-and-a-half hour train ride south to Manhattan. Michael saw Manhattan as his gateway to success, despite the fact that he didn’t have a college degree and only had change in his pocket.

The first door opens

Michael started his career with a real estate broker’s license selling and renting apartments in Manhattan during the late 1980’s. In the early 1990’s, he landed a job with Glenwood Management, a residential property management firm specializing in Manhattan luxury rentals. Glenwood became a real estate Mecca for Michael. It was at Glenwood that he developed relationships with highly successful business people, and that’s what would ignite his interest in starting his own business. His biggest takeaway from his mentors there: when opportunity knocks, be prepared when you open the door.

The after effects of the October 1987 stock market crash lingered, and that’s what opened a new door of opportunity of Michael. Many of his clients at Glenwood wanted to downsize to reduce their living expenses and came to him seeking help. They wanted to rent directly from a property management firm to avoid paying costly brokerage fees. Unfortunately, Glenwood’s portfolio didn’t include the kind of apartments that his clients now needed. But because Michael had built relationships with other property managers, he was able to give out a list for people to contact. The positive reactions he got from his clients were arresting: they often hugged him for his kindness.

Taking a risk

That’s what motivated Michael to create “Gabriel's Apartment Rental Guide,” the first publication to help New Yorkers find an apartment. It was essentially the Craigslist of the east coast, albeit a printed versus Internet-based one, but it also was a breakthrough in helping people find rental properties in all the boroughs.

The 500-plus-page guide listed 100 major developers in Manhattan, providing a comprehensive portfolio of buildings where apartment shoppers could rent directly from major landlords. It was packed with photos, price ranges, building specifications, and amenities, along with contact information for building representatives. There was no publication like it at the time, so Michael was confident it would be a winner. But after an exhaustive effort, he couldn’t find a single publisher in Manhattan willing to take the risk to publish his book. So he took a mighty gamble and cashed in his 401k. To create the First Edition of “Gabriel's Apartment Rental Guide,” he would have to self-publish, and that would mean everything: from teaching himself the software program, to creating the book, to doing the 3 a.m. press checks at the printer.

Finally, he printed his book, but then another door closed: he couldn’t find any bookstore that would carry his self-published book. That did not stop Michael. He simply distributed copies to Newsstands around Manhattan, sharing the split with the vendor. His copies sold fast, but when he went to collect, someone else was staffing the Newspaper stand and wasn’t aware of any monies owed to Michael.

He didn’t give up. In fact, he continued to call a woman he knew with Barnes and Noble regularly, even though the answer was always no. Until one day, Michael got a call from a press release he had issued about his apartment guide from a producer at the popular New York City morning television show, “Good Day New York.” They invited him to appear on his show. He went on the air and sold out his first edition. He then called his contact at Barnes & Noble afterwards and she ordered 5,000 copies. His Guide would become the perennial go-to publication for apartment seekers in New York for more than a decade.

One door closes, another one opens

It was this kind of fortuitous experience that defines Michael’s success. He admits that his business life largely has been defined by being at the right place at the right time. The difference, he notes, is two-fold: when a door closes, he works relentlessly to find a new door to open; and when that new door opens, Michael has always been well prepared for the new opportunity.

For example, when his apartment guide became too unwieldy to update, Michael created a computer program to update the ever-changing New York City apartment data. He also taught himself the sophisticated desktop publishing program Quark to be able to populate the updated information instantly. That idea of creating a digital solution to fix time and paper-intensive problems would eventually give birth to Gabriel’s Real Estate Exchange, or REX.

Becoming a digital innovator

In 1995, Gabriels Technologies Solutions debuted REX, which provided a conduit for landlords to provide an electronic method of updating local real estate broker’s rental listings, and offered the ability for brokers to exchange listings with one another. Gabriels digital solution was created to replace the archaic listing rooms – a room with all white walls pinned with pieces of paper with property listing information – used by real estate brokers and landlords to track inventory.

Gabriels expanded REX to include a consumer facing website, and its platform was leverage to provide listing data services for several major New York City real brokers, including prominent firms such as Halstead and Brown Harris Stevens. Being able to connect to best brands in the business, Michael notes, was largely the result of the credibility he established with “Gabriel's Apartment Rental Guide” and its companion book, popular among real estate brokers, “Gabriel's Apartment Sales Guide.”

Bonding with big brands

Michael envisioned the expansion of REX to include a marketing channel. In 1996, Gabriels partnered with America Online to launch their first Real Estate channel on Digital City New York and attracted millions of Digital City visitors to local broker postings of property listings. Soon the AOL Local Guide would include a Community Profiles section, which expanded to mapping components, demographic and other local information throughout the New York area, all powered by Gabriels. The success of Digital City New York resulted in AOL engaging Gabriels to deploy the Local Guide platform across 70 Digital City markets nationwide.

Also that year, Barbara Corcoran, then founder and CEO of The Corcoran Group (now owned by Realogy) and more recently, a “Shark” on ABC’s hit reality show Shark Tank, purchased a 5% stake in Gabriels Technology Solutions. Some 10 years later, the stock was purchased back by Gabriels, with Corcoran saying that it was one of her best investments.

Then in 1998, The RELO Organization, called The Leading Real Estate Companies of the World today, selected Gabriels to develop, power, and manage their RELO National Home Search. Nearly 20 years later, Leading RE remains a Gabriels client, with a reach that covers more than 550 firms and 128,000 associates in 60 countries, producing over one million transactions valued at $351 billion annually.

Turning a lemon into lemonade

Perhaps the greatest test of Michael’s perseverance came in 1999, with the launch of the first MLS in the history of Manhattan real estate. Gabriels created NYMLS.com and although the technology was in place, brokers baulked, and that caused the MLS to collapse. Once again though, Michael did not give up and he did not give in, he stayed ready until another door opened.

The New York Times would open that door for Michael and Gabriels. The Times had closely watched the brokers Manhattan folly, and found a way to turn what brokers thought was a lemon into lemonade for their millions of readers. The Times engaged Gabriels to develop and power their online real estate vertical. The next year in 2000, Gabriels launched The New York Times Real Estate Portal. Instantly, it was the only website in the New York area that included over 95% of the inventory in the local marketplace that became New York’s de facto MLS. Together, this partnership bloomed into the nation’s most successful and lucrative regionally focused real estate portal, reaching over 2 million monthly visitors.

Media dominance

It was the trophy partnership that Michael developed with the Times that paved the way for Gabriels to become the largest provider of real estate technology for media companies worldwide. It crushed the competition with a custom solution at a time when competitors only offered out‐of‐the‐box templates, with limited flexibility. Soon, Cox Newspapers, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps Newspapers, Freedom Newspapers, and many others became part of Gabriels. Gabriels added more vertical channels, including Automotive, Recruitment, and General Classifieds channel, eventually supporting over 500 media properties across the U.S. and Canada, representing the largest media companies in North America.

Going local and global

Michael realized that newspaper consolidation would continue and that business, and profits, would shrink. He knew Gabriels next opportunity in real estate technology would come through working with real brokerages and providing an Enterprise platform that would deliver a world-class experience for consumers.

Despite entering in a crowded field of competitors, Gabriels was ready for the next door to open. In 2010, the company launched its unique Affinity broker platform, which includes a plethora of advanced enterprise level search technology, including translation in 20 languages and price values in 40 currencies.

The next year, Michael made a successful 11th hour pitch to Realogy and won the contract for the Sotheby’s International Realty (SIR) Digital Marketing Solution. Powered by Affinity, Gabriels would provide websites for over 50% of the Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliate worldwide. Since its launch, SothebysRealty.com has generated a 400% increase in the number of leads, exceeding the grandest expectations.

Since then, Gabriels would add Christie’s International Realty to its list of premier clientele, becoming real estate’s leading provider of luxury real estate websites, with a growing global footprint. Michael would expand Gabriel’s office reach globally as well, when at two different times during recent years, he allowed two of his software developers to relocate back to their home countries in both India and Romania working remotely. What started as a temporary arrangement has led to two permanent international satellite offices staffed by more than 125 professionals.

Embracing challenges

Today, Michael lives and works in Manhattan. He and his wife are proud to be able to give their children access to educational and other opportunities that as a child, Michael never had. But Michael also wants his children to learn from the lessons he has experienced from life, so he continuously shares his stories with his children. He says he doesn’t want them to look at what he’s accomplished and assume that just being in the right place at the right time is what brings success. He tells them how hard it really was, as each door slammed shut, and that the most important thing is to be prepared for the opportunity when it comes.

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