The evolution of proptech


2 April 2016 – by Faisal Butt, founder, Pi Labs

Welcome to EG’s new weekly technology special, which will feature some of the biggest, newest and most respected names in technology and look at both the rise of proptech and the impact that technology is having on how and where we do business.


Over the past 18 months, Proptech has gone from being a high-minded concept to putting property on the never-ending list of industries being shaken up by emerging technologies.

Proptech is a legitimate niche sector that is attracting heavyweight investors who are seeing the potential and accelerating the growth of young and ambitious companies with capital and guidance.

Two years ago, following my seed investment in eMoov, I was greeted with confusion and raised eyebrows when I spoke about proptech. Nobody knew what I was talking about. How times have changed.

The foundation of Pi Labs has allowed my team and I to be in the unique position of having access to hundreds of young companies in the proptech space, enabling us to interact with visionaries setting out to change the future.

Pi Labs has allowed us to spot trends before they happen and in some cases co-create the venture that races to be the first to capitalise on a particular trend.

I see the enthusiasm surrounding proptech as a positive thing. The more attention the sector gets and the more success stories the sector creates, the higher the calibre of entrepreneurs entering the space, and the higher the volume of capital flow.

This cycle will inevitably accelerate the pace at which the sector gets disrupted. The talent follows the money, and vice versa, so keep your eyes peeled for dynamic young entrepreneurs with new perspectives.

All the content from this weekís magazine, including this article, is available in the new app.

The domino effect

With every major development, we see a chain reaction in which businesses make other businesses possible.

The success of the online estate agent has already led to a counter-movement of its own in which some people envision the estate agent being entirely cut out of the process by businesses like Nanoget. The success of Airbnb has also led to the foundation of Airbnb management solutions such as Pi Labs’ own AirSorted.

As innovation is happening, there is a younger lot of entrepreneurs emerging, looking to disrupt the businesses already challenging the status quo.

Don’t expect to see this chain reaction slow down anytime soon, particularly when we are talking about a multi-billion-pound industry like property.

What’s next?

There is still ample room in the proptech space for new players. There are still many manual processes which have the potential to be streamlined or disrupted.

Without giving away too much, our next group of five Pi Labs companies (to be announced next month) will reveal five new ways in which property is changing.

I envision that the mortgage process will become more streamlined in the coming years, so too conveyancing and insurance. And, as the number of companies in this space grows, I believe the manipulation and analysis of data surrounding property transactions will emerge as a particularly lucrative area.

But if I were to single out one area when it comes to the future of proptech, it would be the potential of blockchain technology to disrupt the sector.

Blockchain is the underlying technology used to power the cryptocurrency bitcoin, but its influence could reach much further. Although the concept has been around since Nick Szabo’s 1997 paper The idea of smart contracts, the coming years will see this technology revolutionise the way we transact a property deal.

Winds of change

The property industry should open its mind to new technologies.

The winds of change are brewing offshore, and gathering pace and strength the longer they brew.

For the property industry incumbents sitting on shore, my advice is to stay close to those winds and learn to harness them.

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