By miscommunicating its scale and availability, proptech is doing the property industry a disservice. The root of this problem is found in its approach to data.
Data is the most important byproduct of industry endeavour. It has the power to bring property and proptech closer together, eventually leading to everything once again being known simply as “property”.
However, proptech data has failed to be suitably comprehensive, accurate or actionable. This is a disaster in the making.
The first problem we see with proptech data is that there are too many differing, often conflicting, datasets, all of which provide incomplete information. For professionals, this means they are being ill informed by data sets that have vital information missing. And, despite being incomplete, many providers still claim that the data they provide is infallible – a viewpoint that only serves to agitate the industry further when inevitably proven wrong.
Proptech data is misinforming the property industry by being inaccurate and vague
The most basic example of this is the number of proptech companies found worldwide. When preparing for the Unissu launch, multiple external data providers suggested that there were around 2,000 proptech companies globally. Yet when we started conducting our own research, we learned the real number is more than 7,000.
Proptech data providers that are missing such vital information are forcing the property industry to make business decisions based on an understanding of too few companies. This is a massive risk. Serious amounts of capital are at stake and it is madness that decisions are being made on incomplete information about something so fundamental.
As well as being incomplete, proptech data is also misinforming the property industry by being inaccurate and vague. A good example of this inaccuracy is the inclusion of WeWork (and other co-working providers) when calculating total global proptech investment. I firmly believe that WeWork is not a technology company and therefore cannot be classed as a proptech company. To compound matters, inclusion of WeWork data skews any analysis due to the sheer size and enormity of everything associated with the business.
If proptech data providers do not have a reliable methodology to properly classify what is and is not proptech, the property industry is being forced to make important decisions based on incorrect information.
Proptech must get better at creating opportunities for the property industry to draw actionable insights from the data provided. Those writing about it owe their readers a duty of care to interrogate the data on which their writing relies. It is no good to simply state that one particular source has been recommended by someone – critical thought must be applied.
It is beyond debate that the property industry is going through a digital transformation. The success of that process depends on good decision-making about the role of technology. We all owe it to each other to do better.
Eddie Holmes is chief executive and co-founder of Unissu