I’ve been watching the proptech ‘scene’ develop as a proptech founder for a while now, having come over from British Land where I formerly worked, and Andrew Stone’s piece, ‘Rise of the machines’, shows how far the sector has evolved.
But it’s time we looked at the whole scene with a bit of sanity. Some, albeit far from all, proptech participants have little real understanding of the commercial property world, and there are lots of signs that the hubris has got ahead of itself - so let’s anchor back to what we know is going on.
Firstly, the funding momentum behind proptech is real and will ensure that the proliferation of start-ups continues.
The property industry is far too big and too behind on technology not to be a target of ambitious entrepreneurs and rich investors.
Within a decade we will see major changes. Automated valuations, machine-created basic leases and software-powered workflows (particularly around lettings) will be some of the first things to arrive.
There are also signs of real leadership coming from within the industry. CBRE has built a strong team looking at technology in London and has a structured process in place for acquiring technology. It is leading the space.
Agents and landlords buying technology should focus on several things: real value propositions with a genuine ROI for your business; experienced teams; a real product that you are not the guinea pig on; real customers; good data protection policies; a solid financial base and modern ‘open API’ systems that can work with other software.
Trend under way
For its part, the nascent proptech sector needs to stop looking so hard for the next thing to ‘disrupt’ and work with the industry to solve the real problems people face today. I don’t like fantastical claims of AI replacing investment professionals or a start-up becoming the next CBRE - they mostly come across like pie in the sky.
Proptech is still in its infancy. However, nearly all commercial property agents and landlords will be heavily using at least one data product and one software system in 2017, so the trend is well under way.
We need calm heads and savvy technologists who know the industry well if proptech is to cut through the hubris and reach its full potential.