Paul Unger 1 e1538572812998

Editor’s note: Pressing the point

One thing that came up time and again during my first day as a mentor with the latest cohort at Pi Labs, the property innovation accelerator and investor, was how much communication is integral to a startup’s chances of success. It sounds obvious but on evidence is hard to execute for today’s startup founders. These amazingly bright and often young things have to convince various audiences: investors, banks, business buyers, consumers, suppliers, regulators – more on the role of the Financial Conduct Authority in proptech another time – of the value of their proposed solution to the industry’s pains.

That takes choosing the right words from the sometimes-overwhelming collection of terms and messages a founder has acquired during their journey to accelerator stage. Often, they are so excited about the 101 features of their app they lose a grip on which is the key principle that started them off in the first place. As we all know in a typical day at work if we have too many tasks on the to-do list we become paralysed by indecision, I suspect it’s a bit like that. Too many messages to push. In some cases, the latest feature of the app was the one they wanted to talk about. But for me the feature was the way the product would be delivered, it was not the point of the product. It’s easy to forget the simple ABC of an argument we have rehearsed too many times and skip to the XYZ where the difficult thinking is occupying our mind. That bit might be important for the CTO to crunch through but not the consumer to grasp if you want them to buy. If your product is to help housemates buy their shared house together and get on the property ladder, that’s the only message that matters. Say it once, say it a thousand times. Leave the facial recognition feature of the app that helps the housemates do that to emerge later in the ‘how it works’ but only once you’ve got their attention with ‘why we exist’. Keep it simple. Stick to the founding principles.

Delivering clear visual cues for people to feel stimulated enough to buy is not easy to get right. Making it short, snappy, plain and obvious seems to be beyond too many proptech firms we come across in the sector. The good news was the Pi Labs group were aware and tackling this communication conundrum with determination, excitement at the opportunity and no shortage of support from the expert team assembled by their accelerator hosts.

Their ultimate success will depend on getting it right.

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