MIPIM PROPTECH | Dan Hughes, RICS director and judge of the MIPIM Startup Competition semi-finals for New York and London, talked to David Martin about what makes an award winning proptech start-up.
The finalists chosen on Wednesday to go through to the final in Cannes in March 2018, where they will face contenders to picked in London at MIPIM UK next week, were:
- acasa, helping renters set up and manage household bills hassle-free helloacasa.com
- RealAtom, commercial real estate debt platform connecting borrowers and lenders directly realatom.com
- PlanRadar, mobile or online app for organising and assigning construction defects and collaborating with project members planradar.com
DM: What has impressed you about the entries?
DH: There was a vast amount of entries and a real range and they were all very good. The most impressive thing was the amount of thought that had gone in to them. If you look at the last year or two, the number of ideas for trying to approach different challenges in different ways is a really good thing for the sector.
Were there any specific trends in the issues trying to be solved by the entries?
Proptech covers a really wide range of topics and there were lots of different issues being looked at. We saw lots of opportunities for improving efficiencies and changing business models. There has been a huge theme of using data and data analysis to try and improve things across the residential and commercial markets.
What challenges to cracking into the property industry do tech startups face?
There are a couple of things. Firstly, there can be a tendency to not always put a robust business case together. Until people adopt it and you have customers, it is very difficult to get a proper business case together that you can then take to other clients. The other thing, and this can be a positive, is that there are so many different approaches to solving the same problem at the moment from lots of different technology companies. The problem with this is that it brings a lot of noise and people in to the property sector, so I think one of the real challenges is making your voice heard over a lot of different other companies.
What is going to make an investor choose one company over another that does a very similar thing?
That is probably a question for each individual investor to answer, as each will have a different approach and priority. What I would say is that the industry has changed over the last 5-10 years maybe, from looking for single, enterprise-level IT solutions for the whole company, to a faster moving eco-system of solutions. Very often there isn’t necessarily going to be a single answer that is right for one company or one person. In the past 12 months, investors and the big corporates have really started to engage more in the topic and experiment and think through the process.
When it comes to the final in MIPIM PropTech, what are the key ingredients the eventual winner is going to have to demonstrate?
There are a couple of things I have been looking for when I’ve been judging. One of which is looking for something truly innovative. That could be helping people do what they do today better or finding a completely new way of doing things. It also has to be something that is pragmatic and practical and can actually be implemented and used, rather than just being a nice theory.
David Martin is managing director of property specialist communications agency, 26 Letters PR and was representing PlaceTech at MIPIM PropTech in New York.