Name me a “tech”.
Chances are you will come up with something that is trending. The media has become a little obsessed with things like FinTech, MedTech and most recently RegTech.
But coming up fast on the rails is one start-up vertical that has been bubbling under for a few years and threatening to become part of our everyday lives – PropTech.
For those who haven’t figured it out yet, PropTech stands for property technology and broadly encompasses everything from property websites and smart-contracts, through to smart-home technology and property crowdfunding.
It’s very much like any other big daily use industry that was ripe for disruption, with one key difference. This model doesn’t see the huge property companies being directly disrupted.
Instead – in the majority of cases – you will witness the large incumbent working closely with those feisty start-ups to create mutually beneficial win-wins.
For the big players, the barriers to entry for disruption is too large and the benefits of collaboration too tempting to want to try and monopolise and destroy the innovators.
Indeed, the more progressive companies are branching out in multiple directions at once.
Take Thai based developer Sansiri for example. They are very active in the technology field, apart from the usual smart-home lighting solutions.
For their end-to-end sales business, they use an owner app in which purchasers can manage their properties (and investment properties) from their phones.
On the more media-friendly end of the scale, they just announced a robot called San:Dee, which will deliver mail and parcels within one of their developments. And at the sharp end of the scale, they also have a fund for investing into Proptech companies.
But it’s not just at the top of the developer end of things where disruption is happening.
While real-estate agents are far from being a thing of the past due to their deep networks, in Europe and the US, there are plenty of players trying to change the model.
UK based HouseSimple is trying to create a pure online based agency, by charging a flat fee, using digital-marketing to attract leads and arranging viewings online.
Could that self-serve model work in Southeast Asia, which has such a heavy reliance on agents and their networks to do almost all of the work for you? It is a tough sell in a time-poor region.
Elsewhere, there is huge growth in things like visitor and tenant management software and in tools to help sell real estate (like interactive 3D modelling software start-up Floored).
There isn’t a dominant player in Asia right now, but with so much growth and so many super-condos being built, the market is there for the taking if someone comes up with the right solution.
By the right solution, I mean incorporating things like pre-registering visitors, booking your BBQ pit and getting access to the building and surrounding facilities using an app. The likes of Singapore based Butler Tech Group have started on the right track, but we’ll see if they can get traction.
But by far and away the most interesting PropTech start-up is Common.
Evoking memories of communal living, and if you squint a bit, Kampung life. Think of the co-working space concept, but for the residential area or a constantly active AirBnB aimed at the digital nomad types.
The idea being you live in a very community oriented space (each person gets a private room), but you can move to another property in another city at just 24 hours notice.
Each space comes with wifi, cleaning, laundry service and a very active community that you are encouraged (or expected) to take part in.
Just taking a look at this snapshot of the industry, shows the reach, the potential and the innovation taking place in the vertical. Mark my words, this time next year, people will be talking about PropTech in the same breathless manner as FinTech.