In our third ESG Propcast, we focus on innovation and technology with the founder of Europe’s largest proptech VC and the boss of a fast-growing software company that is playing a key role in helping housing associations improve their governance.
A/O PropTech has raised a €250m evergreen fund to invest in tech companies transforming European real estate and Greg Dewerpe, its founder, is joined by Cem Savas, who heads up one its portfolio firms, Plentific, known for disrupting asset management across the housing association sector.
Speaking to Blackstock Consulting founder Andrew Teacher, the pair outline various ways in which innovation is already enabling firms across the built environment sector to drive solutions to various ESG challenges.
As Dewerpe, A/O PropTech’s founder says: “The ecosystem of real estate technologies has been really rapidly expanding over the last 18 months. I think the pandemic has definitely accelerated this and more and more large companies are now actively seeking technology-based solutions.”
Earlier this year, A/O PropTech became the first venture capital firm to join the World Economic Forum (WEF) as a member of its Global Innovators Community. The WEF Global Innovators Community brings together the world’s most prominent corporates and scale-ups at the cutting edge of technological innovation.
Dewerpe argues that “every dollar you can save in your operation will go a long way to creating significant value for investors. It’s the first time we’ve seen an alignment. Financial and climate efficiency are both achievable at the same time.”
Plentific has made its name working with some of the UK’s biggest housing associations, providing a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution to managing repairs and resident issues. The firm is now expanding across the U.S. and Germany and looking to target other parts of the residential market - including build-to-rent, student housing and co-living.
Savas, co-founder of Plentific, explains how the fast-growing software firm thinks about ESG: “We support the E by making buildings better, the S by embracing local employment because our platform plugs in to local traders, and the G by helping these massive organisations with improved governance issues. Many residential organisations face challenges due to assets they’ve acquired being poorly constructed or badly maintained.”
He adds that data is a critical area where technology and real estate can come together to reduce emissions.
“We’re already present in most residential asset classes – from student housing to PRS. We’ll continue driving the platform’s adaptation to address different sectors, adding more services that clients need.”
“There’s a lot of thinking and money that needs to go into reducing energy consumption in existing stock and the beauty of the platform is its ability to flex with the needs of different customers.”
Plentific and Notting Hill Genesis are currently working closely together in order to improve the organisation’s governance and transparency.
Savas says that “because Notting Hill Genesis are so good at the “S”, the HA sector is in a great place to attract outside investment.” However, the HA sector typically lacks a good grip on data.
“Working with Plentific enables us to be in touch with our data,” says Elly Hoult, Notting Hill Genesis’s director of asset management.“It’s a platform that gives us total transparency on our processes. What our people see is what our residents see, and it’s a real step forward in terms of governance and transparency.”
Savas adds: “We have Snowflake as a data integration too – meaning we can collect data from different solutions for different things and combine it into a central hub so it can be analysed together – whether it’s resident behaviours, response times of contractors or staff, and many other things.”
Whether tackling E, S, or G, it’s clear that collaboration and aligning the aims of both public interest and investors is the most effective way forward.
“I got really inspired by the ability to tackle the generational transformation of this sector with a view to really making a difference,” Dewerpe adds. “Becoming a member of the World Economic Forum Innovators Community will help us educate people on the role real estate plays in global emissions.”
Listen to previous episodes in our PropCast series: