Trend Talk London (27)

Melanie Leech, CEO of the British Property Federation spoke of the need for more government support of proptech


What happened at Trend Talk London?

The third stop on our European Trend Talks tour brought us to Techspace Shoreditch. With the Silicon Roundabout just around the corner, PlaceTech welcomed more than 100 property and tech professionals to the thriving tech cluster of London to explore the latest trends and issues within the proptech industry.

Guests included senior professionals from CBRE, Datscha, KPMG, WiredScore, Legal & General, Yardi, Muse Developments, Pi Labs, Disruptive Technologies, Datscha, Hydrock, Essensys and Iceni Projects.

PlaceTech Trend Talk London was organised in association with Mills & Reeve, Bruntwood and Manchester Science Partnerships, OBI and Redwood Consulting.


The event also saw the release of the PlaceTech TRENDS Q3 2018 report which maps the trends and innovators transforming the sector. The report includes a closer look at property for ageing populations, how tech is transforming healthcare, space-as-a-service and an updated list of our picks for Most Valuable Players in property technology. You can download the full report here.

Watch the video below to get an insight into how delegates see the hottest trends at the moment.

See below for gallery, videos of the presentations + slides

The culture around data needs to change

Melanie Leech, CEO of the British Property Federation, spoke on removing the barriers to transformation in property. Melanie is a vocal proponent of technology in property, and the trade organisation recently published its tech manifesto.

  • Innovation is not a priority for many CEOs: “We have to make it easier for CEOs to identify a long-term agenda for change,” she said
  • Government can do more to support property as it modernises: “We need regulation that doesn’t inhibit innovation. My job is about trying to make sure the regulatory framework enables companies to thrive and flourish and be economic wealth generators, rather than a regulation that gets in their way”
  • Collaboration is key, and the mindset surrounding data needs to shift: “The culture around data has been about protecting rather than sharing and that does need to change. We need better data exchange and common data standards – a property passport perhaps”
  • There was a big focus on customers during Melanie’s presentation. She said: “Customers understand buildings better than we do. If we’re going to drive change we need to understand where we’re starting from”

The proptech plague + dinosaur extinction

Dominic Grace heads the London residential development team at Savills, which has made a series of proptech investments recently, including Yopa, VU.CITY, Workthere and iCondo. Dominic provided the audience with an agent’s overview of proptech in the UK.

  • There’s a lot of noise around proptech and solutions being dreamed up for problems that don’t exist. He added “there’s a hell of a lot of startups, buzzing around, almost like a plague of locusts looking to prey on the property sector”
  • “There are many dinosaurs in property”, he said. “There are many T-Rexes – the alpha predators, some of which are clever enough to look up at the sky and notice the speck that’s got a bit bigger, that might just be a meteorite that will wipe us out. There are though a few out there that don’t look up”
  • The residential market is going through a bit of a rough time at the moment and many feel that it’s not the time to be taking the risk on these new technologies
  • Dominic recognised the need for collaboration to happen, however “there are too many apps and systems to get onboard with. Who’s going to be the winner, to have that basic platform that everyone can play on?” Soon there will be a platform that covers every process end-to-end
  • Dominic’s advice to proptech companies looking to sell their products was “get to the value proposition very quickly when pitching to your clients and demonstrate it.”
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Dominic Grace, Savills

It’s time to start sharing

Ex-American Express director, Darryll Colthrust, was brought in by Palmer Capital, which owns and manages £900m of UK property assets, at the beginning of the year to lead on its digital transformation strategy.

  • Darryll is relatively new to property and from his point of view he has “never seen an industry where everything is so separate, and people don’t talk to each other”. He believes “it’s time to start talking about what we’re actually doing”
  • Digitisation isn’t free, but “you can do a lot with nothing”. Technologies such as Microsoft, Google Cloud, Amazon Webservice, GitHub, and Open Source Initiative show companies what could happen if they assign more budget
  • A key area that Palmer Capital has focussed on is measuring everything along the value chain, “if you don’t measure, you can’t manage,” Darryll added
  • Starting the innovation journey can’t be done by duplicating. He said ‘every company is not the same, even within my company each journey is a different one. It’s all about finding your own objective as well as learning from others.”
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Darryll Colthrust of Palmer Capital

Proptech has taken off much quicker than fintech

Chris Stephenson is a venture partner at specialist proptech fund, Concrete VC, which is backed by US investment giant Starwood Capital, Swedish developer-contractor Skanska, retail developer Hammerson, insurer Lockton and industrial specialist Segro.

  • The real estate market is “there for the taking” and proptech has taken off much quicker than fintech
  • Concrete is currently focusing on tech companies that provide solutions to do with flexibility, making data accessible to drive better decisions, mobile apps that engage people, and efficiency in construction
  • Construction productivity has only grown 1% globally compared to manufacturing’s 3.6% growth. He added that “the construction industry is inefficient, and we think that tech can solve this problem. If you’re a design or construction company, you need to engage with startups,”
  • Chris warned property companies not engaging with tech, “you’re not going to survive.”
Trend Talk London (38)

Chris Stephenson from Concrete VC

Speeding up the shortlisting process

Chris Valentine, director of Central London markets for JLL, discussed JLL’s NXT office in London which the company hopes will change the way occupiers find new office spaces.

  • The office viewing studio was created on the success of the Paris room, which within a year saw 390 occupier meetings, 200 investor meetings and 90% pitch success rate
  • A combination of tech including Virtual Reality is used to help occupiers visualise different spaces and make better informed decisions
  • JLL are wanting to move away from a traditional agency role and become an advisory firm by using tools like NXT to concentrate on high value matters
  • A common thread throughout the event Chris explained, “the key to all of this is the client comes first, it’s about experience.”
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Chris Valentine of JLL NXT Office

Chris was joined on stage by Concrete VC’s Chris Stephenson, Darryll from Palmer Capital, as well as Stuart Thompson, construction partner at law firm, Mills & Reeve, for a panel discussion.

  • Looking at the adoption of tech in construction, Stuart highlighted that tech is being used to phase smart techniques, self-healing concrete is being used in developments as well as sensors being integrated within in it to gather data
  • Concrete VC “collaborate regularly with other VCs. Because proptech is so new and we specialise in it, we have VCs come and say, what do you think? We’d like to invest with other VCs”
  • Chris also asked an interesting question to the room surrounding the topic of collaboration: “Data is the new oil. Should we stockpile or share?”. Darryll responded by saying “What I don’t want is data being mandated on us by the government”
  • From an investment point of view, Chris from JLL believes what turns them off is that they “see a lot of solutions that don’t answer problems that we’ve got or our clients have got.” He added that JLL haven’t take many off-shelf, and that was one of the reasons why JLL Spark was created. Darryll added that “if a proptech solution is solving something, the door will never be slammed.”

Robots, hospitality, emotional experiences 

For the Showcase part of the event, four representatives innovative tech firms took to the stage to explain how their products are impacting the property market.

Open Box has created robots that are here to take our jobs – run! Or perhaps, they can help remove the boring elements rather than eradicate thousands of employees. Dustin Strydom, director of Automatic Services at OpenBox, reassured the audience that their robot-as-as-service technology “isn’t intended to be a displacer, it’s intended to be an enabler.” He added: “I can’t say there’s no risk of displacement but the faster that takes, the faster we can realise those jobs need to evolve.” The company hopes that its automation software, designed specifically for the property industry, will stop the industry from doing the repetitive tasks, and in turn free up more time to use our brains for something more worthwhile.

Trend Talk London (13)

Dustin from Open Box wants to see AI enable not replace human workers

Equiem’s Adam Malik highlighted how the future of offices will be in hospitality and how the tenant portal can help property companies embrace that. Coworking giant, WeWork, has disrupted the core of commercial real estate: “If you sit in a WeWork in London, in Manchester, in New York, in San Francisco, you know you’re in a WeWork building. How many of us sit in a Landsec building, or a Hines building and know we’re in their building?” asked Adam.

Trend Talk London (16)

Adam Malik, Equiem

WeWork is a little bit like Marmite, you either love it or you hate it, but either way it cannot be ignored, and many landlords are waking up to this. “Experiences at work are more important than salary for many millennials…and there’s a new breed of landlord emerging, one that’s providing a much broader value proposition than just rent.”

Next up, was Matterport. Virtual reality is often seen as a bit of a gimmick, when in fact it can act as a powerful tool which James Morris-Manuel, Matterport, explains “enables you to feel emotionally present in a property and provides a very different experience”. Matterport believes that 3D is key, and the future of space viewing is virtual reality: “How many of us have seen a property online and then felt it was misrepresented when we went in person?”

According to predictions, virtual reality and augmented reality will be a £35bn industry by 2025. Among Matterport’s innovations, the company is currently working to allow people to place furniture in virtual rooms.

Trend Talk London (18)

James Morris-Manuel of Matterport

When asking the question of “how many of you are measuring the quality of the air people breathe in your buildings?” Richard Kennedy from Spaceti was met with one raised hand despite there being 100 people in the room. Spaceti is trying to transform the user experience in buildings through the use of IoT sensors to gather data on the environment. The startup believes that putting this data into the hands of the occupiers is powerful and will help them attract and retain talent and reduce operating costs.

Trend Talk London (19)

Richard Kennedy of Spaceti

A short panel with these proptech suppliers highlighted a few issues within the industry at the moment: the UK doesn’t seem to be as ready to try out new things as Europe and the US; it’s believed that collaboration in proptech is non-existent and that attitude is stifling growth; and the property industry is not in a state to push boundaries yet.

Trend Talk London (22)

View the slides from the presentations on our SlideShare page:

Adam Malik, Equiem

James Morris-Manuel, Matterport

Dominic Grace, Savills

Darryll Colthrust, Palmer Capital

Videos of all the presentations and discussions can be viewed on our YouTube channel

PlaceTech Trend Talk Nordics is due to be held on Tuesday 29 January in Stockholm – click here for more information and to book

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