Jafri Journal C-Suite Chat: Thomas Lah, Founder & Chairman of Cognier Technology Group LLC

We had the pleasure of sitting down with the Founder & Chairman of Cognier Technology Group LLC. Thomas started coding at the age of nine, laying the foundation for a successful future in finical and property technology and ultimately an interest and expertise in Web 3.0. He currently is the CEO of Lilypads, Cognier’s innovative real estate investment business platform providing real estate opportunities for the individual investor. Read below to learn more about Thomas’s career path, his thoughts on the future of real estate and his take on Web 3.0.

1. Tell me about yourself and how you got to where you are today?

My family came to the U.S. in 2002 from Liberia; I was nine years old. My father got a scholarship for software engineering and it was this moment that would dictate the rest of my life. I started learning to code at nine years old in different software languages and understanding different front-end frameworks – a process that got more complicated as I got older. On the bright side, I could also better comprehend the concepts as they came. In 2006 I started a company called “GamersOnline,” where I started to develop games for HTML websites until the Appstore and Playstore launch. I would also build complex database websites for small mom-and-pop shops in my local area at a lower price than the agencies would charge them. From 2006 until I graduated high school in 2012, I was building the skills to develop what would now be known as Lilypads, some 12 years later. I closed down GamersOnline, as it became cheaper to develop websites with templates.

I had no intention of continuing GamersOnline or developing games on the Web; these skills would serve me for many years without realizing them until recently. Above all, new technology started within the gaming industry. I use the $150k proceeds from GamersOnline to start Cognier Technology Group (CTG), focusing on compliance infrastructure for the digital real estate private market. Many of the concepts for CTG grew out of the problems I was facing at GamersOnline. The seed funds allowed me to bring on complex engineers that were more skilled than me to build the technology out faster and secure further funding from friends and family. We were able to secure another set of funds from the state of the M.D. technology ventM.D., an arm that allowed us to continue development through 2018. We started to test our product out in stealth mode with clients from across the commercial real estate space, realizing this is a space that could benefit from compliance infrastructure for digital assets. Now, we are gearing up for the education factor for deeper market penetration. 

2. What does a day in life look like for you?

I start my day at the gym at 5 am, then morning meetings with c-suit executives from 8 am to 10:30 am. I am working on strategy from each meeting until lunch, around 1 pm. I am limited to 4 meetings per day per company guidelines and 20 minutes per meeting. After lunch, I mostly meet investors and enterprise clients and hunt for partnerships in other real estate verticals that could use our tools. I start to code closer to 5 pm and end my day at 10 pm.  

3. What does the future of real estate look like to you?

I believe adopting fintech (Finical Technology) and proptech (Property Technology) on the backs of Web3.0 will change how mid to small caps companies compete with larger-cap companies to even out the playing field. The adoption of these tools is happening, and the impact that fintech tools and proptech are having will continue to give confidence to owners & operators to invest more and adopt more to accomplish their own mission-critical objectives. Owners and operators can start simply by taking an easy step toward a virtual experience; virtual tours for commercial leasing purposes can quickly become your new competitive edge. This move allows customers and decision-makers to get the complete picture of office suites for lease without leaving their desks. An improved sales/leasing process is the byproduct of this proptech upgrade.

Additionally, property owners with drone footage and 3D modeling of their property exterior and interior amenities put CRE firms at the forefront of the proptech movement. Overall, virtual services are time savers and will deliver customers with higher intent to a firm’s (virtual) door. Deal flow tools tied in with investment management all play a role in changing the speed of closing and the clean data readily available to the decision maker in a transparent way – things like smart contact that allows contracts to be executed on chains and saved on a digital ledger. 

4. What is Web 3.0? What’s all the hype? 

Web 3.0 is the decentralized blockchain-based Web and is a more evolved alternative to Web3 ( See question 5 regarding how Web 3.0 and Web3 are different). Web 3.0 is more focused on acting as an active rather than a passive agent. Web 3.0 takes personalization to the next level. Real-time data integration can provide a more meaningful frame for online interactions and interests. Web 3.0 is a medium best described as “read-write-execute.” Adopting a suitable business model can help businesses provide a significantly improved customer experience and offer them rich possibilities for advertising and promotion. Web 3.0 entirely changes how people access data as they go beyond PCs and smartphones and access content anytime, anywhere, through any number of devices. Although Web 2.0 is already ubiquitous, the Internet of Things (IoT) is taking it to a new level.

5. Is Web 3.0 here to stay? How will the real estate world change with Web 3.0 on the rise?

Web 3.0 is the next significant jump in how we consume and share information online, and search engines with AI capabilities on the horizon are affecting user behavior too. In this new generation of the Web, the user’s experience will be tailored to their preferences and needs. Users can store data that can’t be censored by any entity, such as governments or corporations because it exists on their own devices. Suffice it to say that it will be the next phase of growth for businesses. It is important to note that Web 3.0 and Web3 are different. Although Web 3.0 and Web3 cannot be perceived entirely in isolation conceptually, they must not be used interchangeably. Web3 is the decentralized blockchain-based Web and is a more evolved alternative. Web 3.0, initially conceptualized by Tim Berners-Lee, consists of the linked or Semantic Web. Although the Semantic Web, artificial intelligence (AI), and natural language processing (NLP) have been recognized as the “three pillars” of Web 3.0, it is also characterized by features such as ubiquity, connectivity, 3-D graphics, and edge computing. 

Users will transform into pioneers

6. What is the most common misconception about Web 3.0 and the Metaverse?

In short, Web 3.0 is all about decentralization. By pulling further still at the fabric of the Web, the aim is to do away with centralized control and develop an ecosystem where users work collectively to democratically govern the internet’s direction. Web 3.0 will be constructed on a decentralized architecture, like the blockchain, and decisions will be made by community DAOs and other decentralized entities. User-generated content and infrastructure will also be user owned. Perhaps in Web 3.0, users will transform into pioneers. 

One of the areas where the lines blur between Web 3.0 and the Metaverse is with the blockchain. This is because many systems that support a Web 3.0 environment also support interactions in the Metaverse.  

For example, cryptocurrencies and not-fiat currencies are the standard financial instrument in the Metaverse. Existing currencies such as ETH and BTC are used as standard alongside bespoke platform tokens to buy and sell digital assets in the Metaverse.  

This is also true with Web 3.0, where digital currencies supported by blockchain technology enable users to move away from centralized financial systems and operate with financial independence. Furthermore, many Metaverse platforms are built on existing and bespoke blockchains.  

By creating a platform on the blockchain, you can integrate the various governance mechanisms that define Web 3.0. Most notably, the DAO system. This approach is identical to how a decentralized Web 3.0 will depart from centralized control mechanisms. 

7. How would you compare the metaverse to the internet? 

The Metaverse is all about a walk or a tour of the digital world or games. Basically, roaming in a virtual theme park! Metaverse is not about playing games in a virtual world. You cannot stop, reset, or pause. 

It is more like the real world with no limits for the users to experience real-time things without going to a particular place. The experience of Metaverse will be a blend of the real-time world and the internet. Metaverse has the potential to overtake the internet because of the interoperability it provides and the current internet lacks. 

Being a more interactive technology, Metaverse will minimize the limitations of interoperability that today’s Internet has. Also, the data from different providers will be easily exchanged. 

8. What is the thing you are most proud of in your career?

The ability to bootstrap Cognier Technology Group to date and see owners and operators solve their mission-critical objective on the technology I have developed.

Keep moving forward

9. If our readers were to take one thing away from this interview, what would you wish that to be?

Don’t take any of your life experiences for granted. Everything that you do now is positioning you for forwarding momentum. Keep moving forward and understand the wind will blow your way. Take the losses with the win and treat them all the same. Trust that you are sufficient enough to drive change and make an impact.  

10. What is your favorite city and why?

My favorite city is Egypt Dahab. It’s the closest to the red sea- I consider the red sea to be one of the most beautiful seas on earth. A coastal village in the middle of the eastern shore of Sinai, known as the Red Sea Riviera, offers a range of accommodations from hostels for budget travelers to luxurious full-service resorts. All of this is located right on the water, tucked between the purple mountains of Sinai’s interior and the crystal waters of the Gulf of Aqaba, with the shadowy mountains of Saudi Arabia visible across the water in the distance. Further north, the vibe is more relaxed and less developed, and a few miles out of town in either direction, you will find resorts along the coast that offer more privacy if seeking a more exclusive experience.  

Thank you to Thomas for sharing his knowledge and taking the time to answer our questions. Please visit the links below to explore Lilypads and their take on Web 3.0.

If you enjoyed this C-Suite chat, there will be more where that came from!

The statements and opinions stated in this article or post are of those individuals interview or participants of events being reported, they are not in any way endorsed by nor are they statements or opinions of Jafri Journal LLC.

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