One of the keynote speakers at PropTech Lab’s Conference on Real Estate Technology and Innovation’s keynote speakers and PATRIZIA’s Head of Technology and Innovation Gregory Pitl, started his talk by stating that disruptive innovations tend to hit us like an overwhelming wave. He then asked the audience: “Are you watching or surfing?” At Workero, we believe we are surfing, or at the least, we have bought our surfboard. This is why we think it important to participate in events like this one.
Our newly refurbished European District location, with its creative interior design which balances modern with retro chic, was the perfect place to host an innovative event like this. The coworking space with its recognisable Workero design (think yellow and W’s printed all over the carpet) on the ground floor allowed the attendees to get comfortable and network with others whilst enjoying a cold glass of cava or a delicious canapé.
"Are you surfing the wave of innovation, or are you just watching?"
This informality and familiarity extended into the spacious and bright conference room and was apparent in the Q&A-style talks as well. Although all keynote speakers are prominent and highly respected within their fields, the host of the event, ProptechLab’s founder Idris Goossens, introduced them by telling the audience a bit more about every speaker.
“First we will hear from the German 'champion of chess’, another of the speakers is an avid football fan. We will also hear from a man who dreams of owning his own basketball field and finally, a man who spends all of his free time trekking around the globe.” When attending a conference, which on the surface seems very formal and professional, it can be nice to break the ice and get to know the person behind the title.
PATRIZIA’s Gregory continued his talk by giving some background to his company, which is active in almost every tech and innovation centre in Europe, with people on the ground to personally manage portfolios. He highlighted why, even though it is now a billion dollar company, PATRIZIA is the perfect partner for startups and scaleups: “We have always kept our entrepreneurial DNA, because we’ve had the same CEO since the start. This means he understands how it is to start a company, which is good when helping out startups and scaleups.”
Next, Spaceflow’s co-founder Jan Jilek explained how his company has innovated in the industry by creating an ecosystem to connect buildings and neighbourhoods and to enable better lives within these buildings by making them more collaborative. His direction is clear: “We want to be the Spotify of buildings and real estate market.” Spaceflow has developed a platform that enables this connectivity, and although it is successful today, he admitted it was not easy to start out.
He highlighted: “Once you understand how to, and you have made the right contacts, it is quite easy. Once property managers and developers understand that organisations like ours can help them and their clients increase business and revenue, they are often more open to collaborate.” He also highlighted that tenants’ expectations have changed, and gave advice to real estate managers and developers about how they can compete in this changing market. He concluded by saying: “Our dream at Spaceflow is to establish a network that allows people to commute between offices and residential buildings, and to always be a local.”
The next speaker, Jean-Marc Duyckaerts, Founder of Nirli, focuses more on creating these buildings, or rather creating virtualised buildings through VR systems. The newly founded company - it was launched in July 2017 - provides virtualised and immersive maquettes of buildings, allowing users to connect and contribute on the same project during every phase of the construction.
He put it to the audience: “Through this system, you can use a VR headset and you can really walk into the building, and see what every space will look like in real life. Imagine being within a building that doesn’t exist yet.”
When asked how more traditional customers, who may not be ready for this VR technology, react, he said: “As a company, you can decide to be the leader or you can say: 'I will follow the crowd later on', and whatever you choose will change the way you interact, not only with this system, but with all technological innovation.”
Benjamin Delaux, President at HabX, started his talk with a rather controversial statement for a real estate event: “I’m sorry for saying this here, but the real estate industry is known to be the least digitalised industry, some even say it is the least adapted, after fishing and hunting.”
He explained that the demand for personalisation of homes and residential housing is high: 53% of people looking for a new home say personalisation is one of the most important aspects when it comes to deciding what to buy or rent. Through leveraging data to constantly improve its system, HabX has developed a platform which is intuitive and easy to use in real time.
“As a company, you can decide to be the leader or you can say: 'I will follow the crowd later on'.”
This gathered data allows them to give clients up to 16 options when it comes to designing their living space without slowing down the construction process. He finished his talk by asking the attendees to what extent on-demand real estate will be possible. He added that, even though most developers often design open kitchens at first, clients almost always opt for a close kitchen design instead.
Concluding the conference, Philippe Meire, founder of MARCH, is perhaps the most disruptive in this industry. His firm works proactively and uses technology, including artificial intelligence, to help owners and developers find the right location for their company.
Using this data, they are also able to explain to companies why these conclusions are correct, and why they are tailored to a certain customer. He rightfully pointed out that this system assumes these companies want to move from their current office space, which is not always a guarantee.
This last point also refers back to the first statement made by Gregory, and highlights something all speakers mentioned in their talks: a lot of people involved in this industry are still rather apprehensive about innovation and digitalisation. Organising events like this in our workspaces, can help companies target a wider audience, and hopefully, inform other businesses about the benefits of this innovation.
To find out more about the innovative work that is being done by PropTechLab, click here.
Photography by Lauren Walker and Quentin Bruno.