The founder of Showhere and dn&co found much to celebrate in Cannes this week as in-person networking returned in force but VCs are missing an opportunity to step forward.
After two years of pandemic in which technology became indispensable to the property industry, the first March MIPIM since 2019 showed this shift to digital still has room to grow. Here are my 5 key takeaways for the proptech sector from MIPIM.
1 Networking is back but virtual is here to stay
With thousands of people spilling out of the Palais and into the bars and restaurants, this week has shown that demand for in-person networking is still alive. However, from the buzz of the chatter it was also clear that virtual is here to stay. Many were agreeing to set up video calls with each other or virtual viewings of buildings upon return to their respective countries — rather than booking flights to visit each other’s HQs. In a chat with Tanguy Quéro, of global proptech VC JLL Spark, it was faster to arrange a quick Zoom intro than to wait until we were both in the same country — “but of course we can do that too later”. As humans we crave IRL interaction — but as business people the efficiency of virtual is here to stay.
2 Look to the S in ESG for a world of new opportunities
From smart-building tech to our own platform Showhere, that helps you to sell and lease space remotely (reducing the need for business travel), proptech plays a key role in helping the built environment combat the climate crisis. But there is future opportunity in the ‘Social’ element of ESG, with one CEO saying, “we want to, but we can’t improve what we can’t measure”, and another saying they were investing more into the Social then Environmental in their ESG strategy. Tech companies ought to see how they can help.
3 Developers and investors are starting to invest in innovation R&D
While every developer and their investors will claim to be innovating, only a few seem to be setting aside significant budgets to do experimental innovation R&D. One of the few is Middlecap, with partner Tomáš Jurdák saying they now have four people in their innovation team. Experimentation and R&D are key to resilience. Expect to see more innovation departments across the industry.
4 Diversity in tech
As a woman in tech I often get asked if there’s a diversity issue in our space (and there is). So, it was unexpected and refreshing to hear various panels openly address the strategies their organisations are putting in place to tackle diversity, equity and inclusion, including LaSalle Investment Management. And while it was fab to see the wonderful Julia Arlt on the judging panel of the proptech startup competition, I heard the audience comment on the notable lack of women among the finalists. VCs could do a lot here.
5 Where were the proptech VCs?
Speaking of VCs — with all the talk and news of VCs raising huge European funds for proptech, I expected to see more of an accessible presence from them — not so much. Sure, they were on panels, awards, and there was one swanky party for investors, but little in the way of opportunity for casual conversation without the hardcore pitch deck. That’s room for improvement.