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News & opinion

13 NOV 2019

Catalysing change in real estate

In an increasingly interconnected, digitalised and data-driven built environment, the opportunity for property technology (PropTech) has never been greater. However, a problem for many real estate businesses is that they are not predisposed to rapid digital innovation.

Despite the fairly slow pace of PropTech adoption, there has been a noticeable increase in engagement in recent years. This is an important and mutually beneficial step that our International Data Standards Director previously wrote about.

Today, the number of startups in Singapore alone has grown to over 4,000. An ecosystem of 100+ Singapore-based incubators, accelerators and venture builders is helping to develop and expedite the speed-to-market of enterprising solutions that will help lead industry in the future.

What is an accelerator?

Accelerators help cohorts of startups define and build their initial products, identify promising customer segments, and secure resources, including capital and employees. These programs have a limited-duration, with most lasting between three and 12 months.

They usually provide a small amount of seed capital, plus working space. They also offer networking opportunities and exposure to exclusive industry events.

Notable PropTech accelerators in Asia include: Propell Asia (JLL and Lendlease), UrbanLab (JLL, Swire and Ping An Urban Tech), and Techstars (Colliers International).

REACHing for a smarter Asia

REACH is a brand new proptech accelerator in Asia run by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). It is financially backed by their venture arm, Second Century Ventures, and has been running for several years.

It's launch into Asia has been led by Shelli Trung, Partner at REACH Australia, and a serial angel investor. Shelli is an experienced PropTech investor who has been investing in the industry for over 15 years.

Speaking at the recent APREA-RICS PropTech Innovate 2019 conference, Shelli explained why the venture capital fund has chosen to build on successes in the US by focusing on the Asia region.

"Asia has a lot of urban migration, hundreds of thousands of people are moving into fast-growing cities, which will necessitate the creation of many real estate assets," commented Shelli during her panel discussion. "The demand for mixed-use developments is high. There's real opportunity [in Asia] for startups across the whole value chain, from mortgages to service provision."

Shelli believes that accelerating mid-to-late stage startups — referred to as scaleups — will enable real estate businesses and catalyse the collaboration that is necessary to modernise traditional processes.

"It can be hard tackling real estate," admitted Shelli at the conference, "but if we can get them to work with us and the companies we invest in, that's where we can play a role in supporting the whole industry."

Feeling the benefits

REACH will soon announce the regional scaleups that have been accepted into the first-round of their accelerator. Meanwhile, other Asia-based accelerators have invested in unlocking the potential of startups and accelerating solutions into the world of real estate.

In late 2018, JLL and Lendlease unveiled the five start-ups selected for the first Singapore-based PropTech accelerator 'Propell Asia'. The startups were chosen based on the commercial viability, scalability, technical competency, and sustainability of the idea.

Propell Asia's startups

The five start-ups chosen for the Propell Asia programme were:

  • GorillaSpace: An online marketplace for flexible and long-term workspaces
  • A proptech start-up that uses AI to automate the facilities management process.
  • Logfront: An IoT-powered facilities management platform
  • Nucon: An intelligence engine specially tailored for the construction industry.
  • Talox: A Software-as-a-service (SaaS) leasing and asset management platform designed primarily for landlords and agents of commercial real estate.

Read what happened next for these startups

(Pictured: Ben Hamley, Asia-Pacific Lead: Future of Work, JLL, at PropTech Innovate 2019)

A word of caution

PropTech remains one of the hottest topics in the world. It is at the apex of two huge industries: technology and real estate, which is why it has seen unprecedented investment over the past few years, growing from US$20 million to US$12 billion.

At the APREA-RICS PropTech Innovate 2019 conference, which took place on 7 November 2019 in Singapore, we convened industry leaders and influencers to discuss why real estate businesses must innovate and the potential of such innovation for the wider industry and its stakeholders.

"Property technology has massive potential, but we must be mindful of risks and unintended consequences," said Chris Nicholl, Managing Director of Southeast Asia, Australasia, Japan, and Korea, RICS, in his opening remarks at the conference. "These all have applications in the 'real' world and will undoubtedly require the skills and experience of RICS professionals. We have an obligation to ensure that these solutions are introduced responsibly."