Arguably one of the best tech entrepreneurs, Elon Musk, once said: “Focus on signal over noise. Don’t waste time on stuff that doesn’t actually make things better.”

James Morris-Manuel

This is extremely important advice that both the proptech and property sectors should pay attention to.

There are great examples from recent history of technologies that were mostly hype and no substance, such as Google Glass and the Segway.

As proptech product developers who are trying to drive change in the property sector, our job is to deliver products that actually matter. This entails identifying a pain point and creating a tech solution that works to remove it. I have a huge bugbear about tech created for the sake of it.

The proptech world is growing quickly, so we need to start looking at how the sector can ensure it is providing tech that will actually meet the industry’s needs. Without that core focus, we run the risk of becoming a sector that is built on anticipation rather than delivery.

Discovery is key. I choose this word over collaboration because at the initial stage you are not working with property companies to deliver tech for them; you are going through a discovery process to determine which tech needs to be delivered.  

Essentially the process entails conducting research, asking questions, hiring team members who are knowledgeable of that sector and knowing your market and where its pain points are. It is at this point that you can determine the issues that need solving, and collaborate on best delivery.

GPS to success

Don’t be blinkered. The tech sector in the UK, and indeed globally, is extremely varied. We should not only look to create from within proptech but see which solutions may apply from other tech industries that we can adapt. Is there, for instance, public GPS or mapping data we can tap into or workstream tools from the aerospace industry to drive efficiency?  

Look at Citymapper. It is essentially a user interface for Transport for London’s travel data – a very simple idea that has taken off hugely and has real benefits.

At Matterport, we have worked with Google Street View, roOomy and Leica (to name a few) to enhance our product and bring a solution that our clients need. We’ve partnered with those who operate outside the property industry to bring innovation back in.

Don’t give up. The old adage of ‘if at first you don’t succeed’ couldn’t be truer. The speed of evolution of the current tech coming to market is something that the property industry hasn’t dealt with before and the types of technology being created are new.


Citymapper is a very simple tech idea that has taken off hugely

We have to understand that we don’t have all the answers and that some ideas are likely to fail or need adapting. This is not a cause for concern.

This is where partnership and collaboration become extremely important. Once you have discovered where the pain points are, you can then look to work with the property industry to determine how your tech can best find a solution.

The open lines of communication are essential, and we must not forget that technology is there to drive efficiency and transparency, but also and most importantly to help people – the customers. I think the impersonal nature of tech means that we often forget we are operating in a people business.

As proptech pushes forward, let’s not become ‘noise’; let’s produce products that actually make things better. So to the property industry I would ask: “How can we help?”

James Morris-Manuel is EMEA director at Matterport