Tony Lesicka has worked in almost every aspect of real estate appraisal and valuation over a near two-decade career.
In that time, he noticed how the many parties involved couldn't solve a lingering problem.
"The market was not able to figure out how to solve the problem of collecting and sharing one of the most impactful data points to everyone in the market, and that was the lease data," he said.
As Lesicka explains, the loan repayment source for commercial real estate is information on leases in place at buildings. The investment return for buying real estate is the money coming from the leases. In appraisals, the primary basis for valuation are the leases in place.
"No one could figure out a good way to capture it and bring it into the public marketplace," he said.
The appraisal and valuation journeyman is embarking on a new venture, one that could solve that problem.
Lesicka is the founder and CEO of Coverlease, a Stillwater-based company behind a web app that serves as both a data extraction and aggregation service to gather leasing and other market data in the commercial office, industrial and retail sectors.
Data produced through the platform is also sold via a business-to-consumer model, capturing data and providing insights for landlords and tenants.
Coverlease is emerging from stealth mode with $1 million in fresh capital from investors, including Great North Ventures, which led the round, and Washington, D.C.-based Rise of the Rest, Lesicka said. Funding will go toward customer-led research and development, sales and marketing and customer engagement.
Coverlease is launching in partnership with Naples, Fla.,-based Valbridge Property Advisors, one of the top three commercial real estate appraisal and advisory services firms in the U.S.
One component of the web app gives users concierge data-extraction services, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning models to extract data from the users' very own sources, along with their private database on the platform. Users can drag and drop files into the web app, and the extracted data is then stored in each user's private database, or sent via API, or application programming interface, to other systems of the user's choosing.
The second component of the platform is a shared system of aggregated analytics. Users can receive this data in either report, dashboard format or an API.
With this data, appraisers, developers, banks, attorneys, investors and other professionals involved in real estate could avoid spending hours digging for leasing information. The total addressable market Coverlease operates is between $3 billion and $5 billion, Lesicka said.
"To this day, you have people letting this data slip through their fingers," he said. "If they could capture it, they would actually be able to make fully informed decisions."
Lesicka began his career in residential real estate appraisal and moved into the commercial side. He then worked as an in-house appraiser and in asset management for Minneapolis-based CSM Corp., and switched into working for a capital markets company that provided funding, mostly to multifamily developments. His career continued with Central Bank, where he helped local banks build valuation departments.
In 2013, he started his own valuation firm in St. Paul called Insight Realty Advisors. He grew the company to 12 full-time employees before selling his interest in the company to his former partners in 2019.
While the lack of leasing data was noticeable to Lesicka at various points in his career, the concept for Coverlease came while studying data science at the University of St. Thomas as part of a software project.
"I thought, 'I'm going to give this a shot,'" he said.
By the time the class was over, he was at the "I'm doing this" stage.
Both the data extraction and shared system component of Coverlease are available to users in the Twin Cities, and in major markets in Texas, Florida and California. The company will later expand throughout the rest of the country, Lesicka said. The data extraction component already has a nationwide presence, thanks to strong pre-launch customers, he said.