So here we are on our two-week anniversary of #RESIConf (‘17) and after half a month of contemplation, what did we learn?
Well first of all we must note that the conference was a huge hit. A number of key players within the industry were present and were a vast number of RESI veterans returned for their umpteenth appearance. We had BBC Home Editor Mark Easton guide us through proceedings, open floor questions with Alok Sharma MP, Minister of State for Housing & Planning, not to mention a collection of by-gone tales from Blur legend (and renowned cheesemaker) Alex James.
This year’s theme was ‘Modern Methods of Disruption’ and Airangel attended the breakout session titled ‘How can we use proptech across the industry to educate, engage and deliver results?’. The panel raised some interesting questions, and equally thought-provoking answers, but ultimately revolved around the same topics that arose from the UKAA’s Summer Drinks Reception.
As the breakout sessions were set to begin and we were herded towards our respective think-pens we passed the other sessions which were bannered with topics such as Coastal Communities, Stamp Duty and ‘BTR at the Front and Centre of our Broken Housing Market’. Arriving at Proptech HQ though showed that we had pulled in a full crowd and everyone were keen to get proceedings underway.
James Morris-Manuel from Matterport rightfully opened by dissecting the term ‘Proptech’ arguing that tech within the property industry has been around for years exampling online real estate agent Rightmove which has been around since the turn of the millennium in 2000.
In fact following a tweet from Dan Hughes (RICS) one can trace the term ‘computerprop’ back to a 1966 article stating that ‘It doesn’t take much imagination to see how computers can and must revolutionise estate agency’.
This suggests that rather than this ‘coining’ of the word Proptech, we have merely been puppets of a rebranding scheme led by the advocates of Silicon Valley. But that is not necessarily a bad thing, as here we all are sat round the table talking about it like dinosaurs adults.
However, there was also a claim from the audience that there are not enough CTOs in Real Estate, so who we should ask is sat at this metaphorical table? Well, after a non-tech showing of hands by the audience it was surveyed that there were in fact no developers, or their representatives, present in the room. And that brings us back to the incessant chant that the tech industry has it’s messaging all wrong and that the market is saturated with ‘the latest technology’ all promising to change the face of real estate forever.
In fact, Nimbus Map’s Simon Davis made claim that many people find pain points not in proceedings leading up to deal agreements but rather in the back-end process, including areas such as gritty legal particulars. Insinuating that Proptech exists predominately in the front-end of the development, it ties in well with Bob Scarff (Callwell) saying that two years ago ‘I literally lost count of the number of people who wanted to show me their Prop Tech “idea” […] they were solutions to problems that didn’t really exist’. But that was 2 years ago and there is no metric out there to measure front vs back-end solutions and see whether the tech industry has caught up.
This brings us back to the messaging. Built-ID Founder & CEO Savannah de Savary was adamant that in order for us to move forward then we must build this relationship with the property industry and present ideas that not only resonate loudly with developers and their pain points but also clearly. It’s easy to throw the term ‘dinosaur’ around aimed at those that don’t understand but we need to learn to find middle-ground and speak the same language at the same time. Only then can these dinosaurs carve their way through the mountain of offers on the table and find those that are useful while those that don’t understand the real estate industry will fall by the wayside.
The property industry is more cautious than ever. After the 2008 global market crash, the industry is focused on mitigating risk, as pointed out by Luke Townsend, and so whether you’ve got your tech hat on or flying the flag for property & real estate it’s time to set down our pitchforks and turn our focus to the current Housing Crisis and bring these two great industries together to create effective solutions, just like we are doing at Airangel WiFi.
Luke Townsend, Founder & CEO – Zorin Finance
Savannaah de Savary, Founder and Chief Executive – Built-ID
James Morris-Manuel, EMEA Sales Director – Matterport
Simon Davis, Co-Founder – Nimbus Maps
Frederick Bristol, Chief Executive – Brickowner
Chaired by: Conrad Davies, Partner – Osborne Clarke