Podcast: Architecture Business Model Innovation

  1. Home
  2. Insights
  3. Podcast: Architecture Business Model Innovation
January 27, 2020

Listen to Matthew Rosenberg discuss his pathway to finding success in an architecture practice that brings value back to the traditional practice through innovative business practices, including upfront research, due diligence, high level partnership stakes, and project equity.

On this episode I’m speaking with Matthew Rosenberg, CEO and Design Director at M-Rad. At M-Rad, the business model surrounds his unique mission to revolutionize the architecture industry to resolve its inefficiencies by expanding the scope of the architect.

Matthew's an international award-winning designer whose acclamations have landed him on Forbes ‘Small Giants’ list while INC Magazine has named him one of the ‘Top 10 Designers Every Business Should Have On Their Radar.’

In less than five years he has built a client list with the likes of Amazon, Equinox, SpaceX, Ring, Blue Bottle Coffee, Virgin Hotels, and over 30 other curated partners and clients.

Podcast Transcript

Chris Arnold: A few quick notes before today's episode. If you enjoy the podcast, please rate it on iTunes or other platforms where you listen. This is a huge part of helping us grow and it's much appreciated. This podcast is produced by Authentic Form & Function. We're a design and technology studio working in the real estate space. We help developers and architects innovate their work with unique brands, websites, and digital tools. Last year, we launched Amplify, a digital real estate marketing platform that combines high touch, custom design with out-of-the-box real estate marketing technology. Find out more authenticff.com/amplify.

Chris Arnold: Finally, we want to hear from you email your feedback and ideas as well as who else we should speak with to podcast@authenticff.com.

Matthew Rosenberg: To work seven days a week, 12-hour, 16-hour days on projects that you're not really getting paid very much for is just not what I think good design should be. That was the epitome of what I thought was wrong with architecture.

Chris Arnold: On this episode, I'm speaking with Matthew Rosenberg, the CEO and design director at M-Rad. At M-Rad, the business model surrounds his unique mission to revolutionize the architecture industry to resolve its inefficiencies by expanding the scope of the architect. Matthew's an international award-winning designer whose acclamations have landed him on Forbes Small Giants list while Inc Magazine has named him one of the top 10 designers every business should have on their radar. In less than five years, he's built a client list with the likes of Amazon, Equinox, SpaceX, Ring, Blue Bottle Coffee, Virgin Hotels, and over 30 other curated partners and clients. I'm your host, Chris Arnold. Let's jump right in.

Chris Arnold: Matthew, thanks so much for joining me today.

Matthew Rosenberg: Hey, thanks so much for having me.

Chris Arnold: So as I understand it, you grew up in a small city in Canada. So I want to know two things, the name of that town, because I know Canadian towns can be tough for those that didn't grow up in Canada. What were you like as a young kid growing up?

Matthew Rosenberg: So I grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. It is very flat, very cold for many months out of the year, and then the summers get really hot. But it was an amazing place to grow up. I couldn't really imagine a better place, a safer place, a better place for community than Saskatoon. And I've been recently going back and really trying to absorb what it gave me as a child. And what I was like growing up was it was a very pudgy, short kid, which I haven't grown height much, but at least I of lost the bit of the pudge so I'm not a bowling ball anymore. I think I weigh the same now as I did when I was five years old, and I was very good at breaking bones and was a fairly adventurous child.

Chris Arnold: And so as a kid, were you jumping off of walls and riding your bike around and you're drifting around corners and stuff or were you focused on architecture as a five year old?

Matthew Rosenberg: No, you pretty much nailed on the first one. I was definitely drifting corners and doing pop wheelies on the steepest drive ways we could find in the cul-de-sac, which led me to fracturing my femur and held me up in the hospital for a couple of months when I was five years old. My parents are doctors, so I definitely got enough visits and enough presence and refused to the hospital food. And so my father would bring me a hamburger for lunch every single day, which probably helped with my obesity as a child.

Chris Arnold: So tell me a little bit about your parents then. They were both doctors, but what type of care did they provide?

Matthew Rosenberg: My dad's actually a pediatrician, my mom, an anesthesiologist. And my dad's focused in and rheumatoid arthritis. So it's definitely a niche and something that is not common in Canada or the world, for that matter. He's really interesting character, and so calm and so amazing with kids. And really, my mother and him gave us everything we needed to succeed in anything we wanted to do, they were fully supportive of everything, but it had to be something. So you can never just see what would happen, you always had to be riding cello or piano or taking wrestling or swimming, they really gave us an absolute amazing opportunity to find out what our passions and our interests were as children.

Chris Arnold: You said children, how many siblings did you have and what were they like? Are they close in age to you as well?

Matthew Rosenberg: Yeah, I have one older sister, she's a three and a half years older. She's an artist, now quite well known actually. Her name's Leah Rosenberg. She's based in San... Well, I guess we're both in California, she's based in San Francisco, but she travels the world now and it started to work for her finally, which I think we were all a little bit nervous about and it was definitely an interesting scenario to see her and I really delve deep into these artist communities and really art and architecture and design for our future and in our whole lives, coming from our parents.

Matthew Rosenberg: But that was the support they gave us. They allowed us to figure out who we wanted to be, and I think we're both figuring out stuff of who we want to be.

Chris Arnold: Well, and for my understanding, it's not like you were seven years old and you said, "I'm going to be an architect." That actually took some time. And it sounds like from what I understand, your move through high school wasn't all that bad and it wasn't too hard for you to get through the schooling part of it. You were eventually accepted into the architecture program at McGill University, but that's where the story gets pretty interesting, and that's not really where the story ends, it's really where it just begins. Is that right?

Matthew Rosenberg: Yeah, I guess the story begins there, it begins new every day for me as well. But the time in high school was great. I mean, I was capable of doing pretty well on exams and getting through high school without working too hard, although I still worked perhaps more than some of my friends, so perhaps that's the reason. But ended up in architecture school at McGill University, fresh out of high school, lasting all of one year. I probably spent too much time in the dorms and the bars of Montreal than in the classrooms, but it was different, it was tough. The architecture program is forced into taking physics and calculus and chemistry and all of the sciences.

Matthew Rosenberg: Then I really realized that wasn't very interested in, I was interested in the art and design of architecture. And nowadays, the computers and technology and algorithms and code, you're capable of designing anything without knowing physics. I'm not saying it's not amazing and critical in some aspects to have a great physics background, but it wasn't what I was truly interested in. And so I think in part it was I was in this new big city, McGill is an amazing institution that supports community creativity, parties for sure, which I did too much of, I'm sure of it, but I was good at it. Growing up in Saskatoon, you had to bear those cold winter nights and we did it by entertaining ourselves sometimes.

Matthew Rosenberg: But I ended up back in Saskatoon after that first year, they gave me the boot and then I realized I had to fix that pretty quickly and that that wasn't acceptable, not just for my parents, but it wasn't acceptable for me. And so it was a really tough, quick lesson to learn that, "All right, everything is not as easy as it been in the past. There's a whole world out here that's going to be competing for what you want, and so I better start working for it."

Chris Arnold: And from your parents' perspective, I have to imagine two doctors, they have their lives together, they have these two beautiful kids, they're proud of their family and their son gets kicked out of school. What did they think about that? And how did that impact your next steps as you were realizing, "Oh no, that was a mistake."

Matthew Rosenberg: I'm not sure I remember, I think I spoke to my parents the last time I was in Saskatoon a few months ago about it, and I think I probably have a different memory of it, but I actually remember just tearing myself apart and them realizing that I had done enough to myself that maybe they didn't need to scold me as much this time. But they were definitely nervous, and I am sure confused and probably took ownership of what happened even though it had nothing to do with them. So I ended up back at the University of Saskatchewan, I did a bachelor of fine arts and studio art and photography, which really pushed me almost the opposite direction into creating some maybe profound art or just really pushing the boundaries of how art can engage community in the city.

Matthew Rosenberg: Did a couple interesting installations, one of them where I basically gathered the class together to run the halls of the University of Saskatchewan with cans of pink paint. And it was mostly to see people's reactions, but also to get people thinking in a different way. There was a second project I did for my photography thesis where I would ask people if they wanted to come model for me. The difference was they were modeling outside in their birthday suit in the middle of winter. We had a pregnant woman, we had young, old men, women, everybody who was interested in this sort of social experiment to see why do people quote themselves, what happens when you throw something in the mix into this urban environment that really gets people thinking about their society and why the rules are the way they are.

Matthew Rosenberg: And I take lessons from that with me every day still and realize like I was a young kid trying to test the waters and see how far I could push things. But what I was pushing was society. I was pushing what we all come together to think of a normal as really just created and changes slowly over the course of time. So once you inject something that changes that culture, that society, that neighborhood, quickly, then people start looking and talking about it. But change is constant in our cities and our communities as we all know, it just doesn't happen so quickly.

Matthew Rosenberg: So I really bring that into the studio today and try to learn from that. And how do we actually, if there's massive problems like homelessness and sustainability, this just enormous amounts of trash, how do we solve these problems quickly and not wait 10, 20 years before it's too late to solve them?

Chris Arnold: So that, that's a great thinking ahead statement here about the work you're getting into today. So let's keep moving ahead with regards to after you left that university, after getting your BFA, you did start to move into more design and architecture work. Is that right? And tell the listeners what that was like. What was that pathway like?

Matthew Rosenberg: Yeah. So after I fast tracked the BFA, I ended up taking a year actually and traveling around the world to continue to find myself, but I would recommend it to anybody to take a year, take a backpack and get lost, get lost in the world, get lost in different cultures, to learn from different people and have no prescribed path. The amount that you can learn by exploring the world in different cultures is more than you will ever learn in a classroom or sitting in the studio. So I was again, parents fully supported this, perhaps it's all they knew how to do, is support and guide. They made sure I didn't fall all the way down.

Chris Arnold: No more American femurs or anything like that.

Matthew Rosenberg: No, no, no. I've definitely, since all the broken bones as a child, I think it shocked my system to not jump out of planes and do crazy hang gliding actions anymore. But after that year, I came back and I went to Dalhousie University in Halifax, did a bachelor of environmental design and architecture and learned a lot there pretty quickly and ended up going to Paris through that program to study at the Louvre, and from there actually got accepted into... Well actually, they have an interesting program there where you work for four or eight months through the program at an architecture firm somewhere.

Matthew Rosenberg: So I ended up working in San Francisco, and then learned there some, Tom Wiscombe, I believe was speaking with the CAA in San Francisco. He prompted me to come down and check out the school. So I went to check out SCI-Arc in Los Angeles, ended up applying, I think the next day. I was so excited. I didn't believe that any place like this existed. There's technology, there was the future, there were robots, there was everything you ever wanted architecture to be. And I applied, ended up moving to Paris, got in to SCI-Arc and moved from Paris to Los Angeles, then completed my Master of Architecture at SCI-Arc.

Chris Arnold: And when did you graduate at SCI-Arc?

Matthew Rosenberg: 2009.

Chris Arnold: Okay. Well, what was that transition like from... I mean, you popped around quite a bit there, so you were over in Paris, you went to San Francisco and then you landed in Southern California. Was that a time of excitement and intrigue and your life was on fire or did you feel like you were constantly juggling like balls up in the air and it was just a hectic time period?

Matthew Rosenberg: Looking back now, the perspective is quite different because of what I've been through the last five years. So back then, there's nothing to juggle really, nothing really matters as much as things matter in the present moment. Also, you start hiring people, you have employees, you have to pay people, you have to pay consultants. Things matter more when other people are a reliant on why delivering, but people weren't really reliant on me back then. It was my path. I could take a train one day and a plane the next and no one would really know. Nothing fell apart if I decided to change my mind and do something else.

Matthew Rosenberg: So it was I think an exciting time and so I got to continue exploring the world. I never imagined I would live in Los Angeles ever, but I actually came here and within a couple of weeks I fell in love with the city. And even to today, I wake up, I go to bed, I can go to the beach, I can go to the mountains, I can go to some of the best restaurants in the world, art galleries. It has absolutely everything. And there's no way I could have built the studio I built today if I didn't do it in Los Angeles. It has been an absolute incubator for M-Rad.

Chris Arnold: Let's transition into your career with that in mind. And you actually kept moving along city to city and you landed in Beijing for a year. So tell the listeners about how you found yourself in China.

Matthew Rosenberg: Yeah. Well, when you fall out of architecture school at the bottom of the market, there's not a lot of options left. So I would find piecemeal work around LA, but everybody was... Gensler just laid off 40% of their staff and everybody was released from employment. So there wasn't any single work. Since I'm Canadian, I had to either find a job who had supported me, which wasn't happening in that time or move back to Canada. And I was with now my current wife now, she had actually been laid off from LAUSD, so it was a tough position. Neither of us had employment. It was either go back to Canada or I was getting offers in China. So really, we were backed into a wall and I never even imagined I would visit China, strangely enough.

Matthew Rosenberg: Anyway, we packed our bags and picked up and moved there for a year and worked and built some amazing projects and relationships and an experience that I would never give up. But when the year came up it, I was going to try to start a business there. I did try to start one, but if we started another one, we would have been there for another few years and we decided that that wasn't the place that we wanted to grew our lives together and so we decided to move back to LA after that year.

Chris Arnold: And you decided moving back, and I think if I recall correctly, we chatted a little bit prior to the podcast and I think you were mentioning just the, I don't know even if work ethic is the right term for it, but this exhaustive working environment that you had at the firm called MAD working to exhaustion. I think you were mentioning the air quality was something that you see and you read about, but actually being there and experiencing it really took a toll on you in the end. Is that right?

Matthew Rosenberg: Yeah, I mean, you're out and taking a break, 15 minute break outside and you can barely breathe. I'm not a smoker, but I imagine it's like trying to smoke 10 cigarettes at once and just continuing to inhale and not finding any oxygen. The air was terrible, and it's really unfortunate the environment that they're living in. I know they are trying to make some moves to fix it, but it was so bad and you could just feel your lungs deteriorating, which is definitely part of it. I mean, you have to be comfortable and healthy in the environment. It's a critical factor to people's happiness.

Matthew Rosenberg: The second part is, I definitely had a great working ethic anyway, but I believe that architecture is better than that, then I don't think that operating... And listen, all architecture studios do this or used to do it. Hopefully it's becoming less and less. I'm not sure that's the truth, but it's to work seven days a week, 12-hour, 16-hour days on projects for that you're not really getting paid very much for. It was just not what I think good design should be. It was a great experience, I learned a lot, but that was the epitome of what I thought was wrong with architecture.

Matthew Rosenberg: And I lived in for a year and I didn't want to come back and continue to do that. But there's not that many offices that you could go to. And so part of the reason I started my own firm was, one, I don't work well for people. So there's not many options there. But also, you talk to people who've been in the industry for 30, 40 years and then he talked to my colleagues who just come out of a studio or are still in their masters or their bachelor's program and they all are the same kind of frustrated. They're all having multiple all nighters and doing it for why, they're not really sure. And then they come out of school and they have to work for free because these teachers won't pay them, and convince them that they should be working for free to gain experience.

Matthew Rosenberg: That's that's not a sustainable industry. And you start looking at other industries like medicine and tech and law, and there's not the same frustration. Yes, lawyers and doctors work a lot, but they're compensated. Or if you're in tech, you risk everything, but potentially there's a big payout at the end of the day. There's no payout at the end of architecture, you just work for 15 years of your life and barely make it, and that doesn't make any sense to me why our service industry that designs our cities and our spaces and changes the health and wellbeing of our minds, should be actually feeling this way about what we're doing. And so I really set out to try to change the business model of architecture.

Chris Arnold: Hey listeners, just a quick reminder that today's episode is brought to you by our firm, Authentic Form & Function. I wanted to let you know about an internal research project we recently completed where we analyzed the digital strategy of over 75 commercial real estate projects across the multiple asset and project classes. We distilled this research into an eBook called the Real Estate Website Blueprint, which you can download for free on our website at authenticff.com/blueprint.

Chris Arnold: In it, we provide several strategies and tactics you can use on your next project to better position in the market, increase project awareness and accelerate leasing. To download the eBook, be sure to visit authenticff.com/blueprint. This time between leaving China and actually officially starting your firm, there's an interesting story in there because there's this period of waiting where some kind of gorilla outreach was happening. What was that all about?

Matthew Rosenberg: Yeah. Between the yoga classes and the running, I had to wait for my working permit, so wasn't allowed to work for anybody and really just started trying to research how I was going to build the business and try to build a body of work. And so I would locate beautiful sites on my runs in the hills around running Kenyon and I would design the house on that site that I thought would be an amazing place for a house. And then what I would do is I'd go try to find the property owner, pitch them on permitting and building this house.

Matthew Rosenberg: Never happened that way, it's happened since, but in a very different scenario. But that was it, but it allowed me to have an excuse to design projects with sites, with locations, with a narrative behind them, and build a body of work in that year that I was waiting.

Chris Arnold: That's a really cool story, and that did basically lead right into, I believe it was 2013 when all the paperwork was in order and you decided to start your own firm called M-Rad. And so really quickly, let's take a tangent here and tell us about the story behind the name. What's M-Rad?

Matthew Rosenberg: M-Rad started when I was at Dalhousie, a very good friend of mine who I met, I probably on the first day, his last name was Meyer, my last name was Rosenberg. So we basically decided when we left school we were going to start a firm together. And so, M-Rad was Meyer Rosenberg Architecture and Design. He ended up going off to work for someone, so I kept the name and just happens that it kind of works with my initials as well.

Chris Arnold: And it's catchy, right?

Matthew Rosenberg: Yeah, I guess it works.

Chris Arnold: It works. I think it works. You're good there. Tell us about the first few years of M-Rad, the aim, the business plan, all of those like nitty-gritty, getting it off the ground details.

Matthew Rosenberg: Yeah. No business plan, not really any direct day. It was a floundering fish trying to figure out the way back to the sea. It was probably the most fun I've ever had, figuring it out, figuring out how to start a business, figuring out all the accounting and legal and all of these things that I can't feel like people or designers especially, shouldn't really have to deal with. The goal ultimately there was to just set up a platform where it can hand anybody who wants to start a firm, I can hand deliver them everything they need and then they can just start doing the work that they should be doing, which is design. But that process was a lot of life lessons for me and started it out of my 540 square foot apartment at mid-city, Los Angeles.

Matthew Rosenberg: And from there just found the first client, which was a pool house in Beverly Hills, 4,500 square foot pool house. And through that process, it allowed me to learn how to permit through lovely city of Los Angeles. So I learned all the permitting agencies stuff, all the fun stuff, all the code and just figured it out on my own. No one had ever taught me, I didn't work for anyone here that would have known, but it was a great way to learn. And this guy thankfully, and I try to remind him every time I see him that he really helped launch M-Rad. He doesn't really believe it because he sees what we're building now and thinks it's more, but without him, I would have never even had a chance to start.

Matthew Rosenberg: And so that was one thing. And I would hire some friends to do the drawings so that I could go try to find another client. I was always stepping up and try to find the next client or the next way to grow the company and just figured out how to hire people within that so that there was enough money to pay for them, and I didn't really bring much, we were surviving and that's all we needed to do.

Chris Arnold: One of the things that I'm really excited to dig into with you here and to learn from you is this innovative business model mind that you have, and we've talked about this a bit in the past, but I really want to start to dig into now your approach to projects and how that really differs from other more traditional architecture creative firms. Feel free to jump in wherever you think is appropriate, but I'd love to get started there.

Matthew Rosenberg: Sure. The mission and the business model has really evolved over the last few years and it's pretty solid now and it'll continue to evolve, maybe less quickly as it did few years ago, but I realized that it was going to be impossible for me to grow an architecture firm without doing something different. And a different design tactic is fine, but that doesn't really give you a lifeline, it's just a different way of design and then someone else comes in and design something differently and then they're the next best thing. So I realized that we needed to take back control of the process.

Matthew Rosenberg: We were already getting involved in pre-architecture, which was finding brokers and agents who were about to list the property or listing properties and we would do zoning analysis for them. We would tell them exactly what they could build on the site, what they could yield, what type of project, we even do a quick scheme for them to then a rendering that they could put in their sales pitch. And what that did was begin to get our name out there. Brokers and the agents just blast this stuff out, and if we were able to get ahead of the curve before any other architect even knew about it, then we were already a step ahead because they would then pitch us.

Matthew Rosenberg: They would get a referral and we would start controlling our pipeline because it was very hard for us to compete with the firm that's been around for 20, 30 years. They're always going to get the job over someone who's been around for one or two. Other than us doing it for free, which would just proliferate the problem within the business of architecture, we had to find a way to get in with those clients before anyone else knew about the project, and that was how we did it.

Chris Arnold: Did you have any secret source with regards to finding or discovering those properties before they were public?

Matthew Rosenberg: You track people who are in the industry. I spend a lot of time researching the bigger players who are much more active and as long as you could get in with them, then you would always be ahead because they would always be working on the next deal. Once something's published on real estate or architecture blog or something, those people, that's long gone, you don't stand a chance anymore. But if that person or that company keeps popping up, they're clearly active and always looking for the next thing. So if you can get in with them, develop a relationship, at some point you're going to get in their circle and you end up with an opportunity. But persistence is the absolute critical factor to all this.

Chris Arnold: And kind of you alluded to this, but it seems like once you started going and getting into that, those brokers would come back to you time and time again?

Matthew Rosenberg: Exactly. So then we don't even have to try because then they realize they're getting a free service. They're getting zoning analysis that tells them exactly what they can build that helps them sell the property anyway. So we're feeding each other, which was critical, and then you end up with this whole network and ultimately you get to start charging for those things, which wasn't really the idea, but we offer so much more service than just someone who does an analysis that if we're able to put together a visual, you can see what you can build on there.

Matthew Rosenberg: That's a massive opportunity for us. One we show our design, but two, the seller's already got this vision in their head, in front of their face of what they could do on their site. So we get them thinking about architecture and design during their purchase acquisition, which ultimately led us into this whole pre-architecture, which is researching cities, talking to neighborhoods and people living in those neighborhoods and trying to find opportunities for development and ultimately tying properties up, raising capital, putting inequity and keeping part of the equity on those deals.

Matthew Rosenberg: So by doing that, we're able to carry our lifeline through quite a bit longer if we retain equity and the property or the projects, and it gives us a bit of a safety net down the road instead of just going fee to fee, we now have partnered with these developers or these capital groups and they trust us more to actually deliver an end product because if that end product succeeds greater than they expected, we also succeed. And that was a critical factor into figuring out a way to partner with them, so the architect isn't always just spending money and designing things that are valuable.

Chris Arnold: And so this pre-architecture phase, we'll call it, is really what started first with this alternate business model. And that sounds like that caught fire after a while, the broker's kept coming to you, you were in those circles becoming more and more influential in those circles, if you will. And then talk us through that next phase of, not post-architecture, but that middle phase of where the creative, where the thinking happens, where the inspiration happens, how do you do things differently in that middle chunk?

Matthew Rosenberg: Yeah. This is the architecture studio side of it, and we're not revolutionizing the architecture part. Yes, we do all this pre-architecture so that we can design architecture and design better buildings, and all we try to do is push the boundary of designing better, so that the way things are done in the past or the way things were built, whether the way it's concrete is poured or if concrete is used at all, we really want to push and test the boundaries of material and construction and design. And we can't do that if we can afford to stay open. And so the whole point is to stay open so that we can then focus on better design.

Matthew Rosenberg: And when we're partnered with our projects, we're able to sell them on perhaps more provocative design because we believe and we can build a narrative that it is actually better. It's a better space, it's a better neighborhood, it's a better environment to live in and to move in and there's better light and air. But all of these things are hard to convince clients when they're underwriting these fields the same every single time. And so it's given us a bit of leverage in terms of being able to design really unique architecture. So it's all about leveraging pieces between the process of the business in order to design better. It all comes back to the architecture studio.

Chris Arnold: Yeah, that's great. That's great. And if you can, is there a project that you could point to that would be a good example of maybe walking us through how each of these pre and mid phase workflows have come to fruition? And then even from there, if you can, talk about some of the post-architecture work that goes into the project work that you're doing today.

Matthew Rosenberg: There's a few projects that we assembled, I can't really talk about them yet, but we are working on developing our own hotel right now. So that's going to be really pre-architecture and post all the way through to brand new marketing, sales and operations, which is extending even beyond where we planned on going. But when it comes to the hotels, the operations and the guests experience without having to hand in the operations, we feel like we lose some of the narrative and communication that we're trying to get through.

Matthew Rosenberg: So even when we're working on these multifamily projects, we like to be involved in the brand and marketing at the end and even the sales so that they understand what we've been working on and designing for them for the last three years, whereas when you hand it over to a broker, they sell it as though it's just another multifamily or apartment or condo. It's similar to this project down the road, but just sold for $6 a foot, but they don't actually communicate what went into the design and what could actually be the valuable aspect to that building, and so we like to stay involved there.

Matthew Rosenberg: Back to the post architecture, we touched on it a bit, it's really about the branding, the marketing, the full interior design, and then creating other revenue verticals. So pre-architecture creates some equity, partly a revenue vertical. Most architecture creates opportunities for interior design fees, creates opportunities for us to design and fabricate furniture, which we can design for clients, but also then take off and sell to the market. So anything that goes into the experience of a space, your smell, touch, taste, any of those things, we want to be a part of because it creates the brand of that space and it creates a better environment. At the same time, we're able to break those off and create revenue verticals.

Chris Arnold: And I'm sure that goes full circle to a comment you made earlier in the podcast when you were referring to the Genslers out there. It's not easy for a firm to just go up against Gensler if you're a smaller shop or a newer shop. And this was the way to reinvent the ecosystem, if you will, and this is the way that you found around the Genslers, is that right?

Matthew Rosenberg: Yeah, exactly. If we think of the circular economy, it's getting as close to that as possible where we're able to provide value throughout the entire process of design, architecture, real estate, interior design, living and breathing. Your whole life are part of all of it.

Chris Arnold: And so do you feel like, we didn't actually talk about this Matthew, in pre-conversations, but I'm curious now, do you feel like this new model is a win-win or do you still feel like there are areas to improve this new architectural studio model or business mind?

Matthew Rosenberg: Oh, there's tons of areas to improve. For sure. We're figuring this out as we go, but by no means have we figured it out yet. It's extremely risky because you end up investing fee and/or money into projects in order to try to gain some partnership and equity in them. And what that does is you end up doing things for costs, which we probably would have done anyway, we just wouldn't have ended up with equity, but it's risky in terms of cashflow. So we're running into that now and learning a lot of lessons in terms of ensuring you have a long enough cash flow to keep the company growing and be able to do enough that work and still grow. Those are immediate lessons, but we're for sure about to learn many more as we continue to grow the company.

Chris Arnold: And that's a great segue into learning a little bit more about what you feel like is coming next for you and the team. As we begin to wrap up, let's look ahead a little bit and tell me a little bit about what you're most excited about, maybe some challenges that are coming down the pipeline, but where is your head at right now as you look ahead to the next year, three years? And I know that you're in the moment person and I fully respect that, but let's put on our future looking caps for a second and tell us what you, what you see there.

Matthew Rosenberg: We're really looking and speaking now to partners who can fill the rest of that pipeline. So we've handled pre-architecture and post, but even before pre, there's a lot of elements that go into this, and we're looking at developers who have multiple properties that we can come in and fix this problem for them, where every project they find and they start, they have to go through the same process. And there's so many inefficiencies in that where if we can integrate our whole ecosystem in with theirs, it just becomes an extremely efficient operating system.

Matthew Rosenberg: So we're really looking to tap into clients with multiple properties doing either smaller or massive projects, but at least the quantity is there, and integrate what we're building here into what they're building. And hopefully, we can solve problems for them and they can solve problems for us.

Chris Arnold: And how does that all relate back to cities infrastructure and designing with the mindset of solving problems? That seems like such a big... When you say it out loud, it seems like such a big task at hand, but how do you start to nibble at that as the M-Rad team moving forward?

Matthew Rosenberg: In a couple of ways. The more cohesive understanding we have of a city and of the developments that are coming in, that's why we look at clients now that have 50, 70 projects going because we can see what the future city or neighborhood is going to look like and then we can start solving infrastructure problems. So if we know there's 30 projects happening in a certain area, we can start looking at transportation, we can start looking at recycling, we can start looking at all these things that go into the infrastructure of our daily lives within a city and start pinpointing what those problems are and solving them on a small level, on a neighborhood level, and testing those solutions out.

Chris Arnold: One of my favorite questions I get to ask on this podcast is, is somewhat of a personal question, but I think it provides a lot of insight and almost a follow-up opportunity for any listener. I want to know from you who else we should be paying attention to that you feel like is doing groundbreaking or inspiring work that just gets you really excited. Does anyone or any company come to mind?

Matthew Rosenberg: Yeah, I'll give a couple of answers here. I studied Bjarke Ingels and his model when I was starting my firm, and I think he's done some interesting things. Again, still had an interesting business model as well. There's a group out of Toronto right now that's doing some really interesting work called Partisans. I'm not entirely sure their business model, but the work they're doing is really beautiful and innovative, so I would look at them. And again, pushing back to Canada, so why not?

Chris Arnold: one more question for you, Matthew, before I let you go. I'm going to roll out the red carpet for you. Tell the world what you're up to and where they can find you online.

Matthew Rosenberg: Our website is m-rad.com, That's M hyphen R-A-D.com. You can find us on Instagram at MRAD.Inc. And that's about it.

Chris Arnold: Tell me about this design class really quickly before we hop off.

Matthew Rosenberg: Oh yeah, and the design class. I've also launched the design class, basically. A design class similar to what you see on the masterclasses that really breaks down a lot of the details about how it got started, how we run our business, and some background information about how you can do a zoning analysis, a yield study, and get in touch with developers and future clients to help you start your firm.

Chris Arnold: That's great info, and we're going to be sure to link to that in our show notes. Matthew, thanks again for joining me today. I really appreciate your time.

Matthew Rosenberg: Awesome. Thanks a lot for having me.

Chris Arnold: Transforming Cities is brought to you by Authentic Form & Function, the digital design and development team that just might be a perfect fit for your next urban project. If you're a new listener, you can follow along at authenticff.com/transformingcities, or you can simply subscribe through your favorite apps, including iTunes, Spotify, or Stitcher. Thanks for joining us.

Watch or listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube or your favorite podcast app! Be sure to support the show by subscribing and sharing a 5-star review if you enjoy the episode.