Category: Region

Comfy
CommercialInterviewsIoTUnited States

Comfy App: Leading the Way in Workplace Comfort and Productivity

Comfy allows office workers to control their immediate room temperature via their phone, and is leading the workplace technology wave, as employers increasingly focus on the connection between environmental quality and worker productivity. In June, Comfy raised US$12m in Series B funding from leading investors including CBRE, a global real estate brokerage. President Lindsay Baker gave us a snapshot of the market leader in office thermal comfort:

How did Comfy come about and how did you get involved?

Comfy started a handful of years ago when Andrew and Steve, our CEO and CTO, were PhD students in Computer Science at UC Berkeley. They were involved in a research project around software and buildings, and created the prototype of Comfy after tinkering with systems at a building on campus. It worked pretty well, so they started navigating the idea of starting a business. That’s when I met them, we got the company off the ground around 3 years ago, and we’ve been growing ever since!

Emergence, Microsoft and CBRE are an amazing set of investors / partners – what was the capital raise process like?

We are very fortunate with our newest investors. They all share the vision for the impact we can have on people’s lives, and share in the excitement that we have at being in the right place at the right time for the market. Emergence is well known for investing in successful SaaS companies like Salesforce, Box and Yammer, and have been really helpful so far as we learn some key lessons for our upcoming growth stages. Microsoft is obviously a legend when it comes to positively impacting productivity for us in our work lives, and so they’ve been great as new partners. And finally the investment from CBRE has lent a great credibility to us, given their status in global real estate. They look at a lot of real estate technologies, so we are very happy to earn their attention. The capital raise process is a lot like building a new account or partner – it’s all about finding shared value, so it’s exciting to find it with such great organisations.

I’ve read about the investment being for further product development / expansion, could you elaborate?

We as a company are in a great place in the market. We’ve shown our unique ability to get high engagement from occupants with a CRE app that also does some pretty tricky work with systems integration, controls etc. So now we are looking to some great opportunities to use our platform and skills to eliminate other pain points that occupants have with their physical environments at work. There’s a lot to be done, but the good news is that the real estate industry is looking for ways to improve worker productivity and we have a unique ability to help do that. Stay tuned for the details 😉

Is the investment from CBRE any different given they are one of the world’s largest building managers?

As has been reported, we are currently piloting Comfy with CBRE in a set of locations. We’ve all seen press releases about startups and big companies in our space promising big future partnerships, but we’d rather make headlines once we’ve made it happen, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

Comfy looks like a tenant focused product. Is there a way to work with developers / landlords?

Comfy is a product focused on anyone who cares about how it feels to go to work every day. Typically that’s been employers who have control over their buildings, because they see the impact of employees who aren’t as productive as they can be. But all of us in real estate bear some of this responsibility, it’s just a question of monetizing that. So yes, we do now have some awesome clients who are landlords who see Comfy as a differentiator – a way to attract and retain tenants. But I’ve been in the real estate industry long enough to know that this type of thing wouldn’t have initially gotten traction with landlords because they needed to see the pull from tenants. So we went first to owner/occupiers, and now that we’ve proven our value, we are excited to be getting the attention of landlords.

Are you guys working on the Delos Well Rating in any way or seeing it influence what you do?

I’ve known the folks at Delos since they got started, and some of the work that I was doing before Comfy (along with many others) was influential to them in starting the system. The connection between health and buildings has been a long-standing pursuit, and Delos is doing great work driving this message into the marketplace and supporting some awesome research to prove this connection. I’ve not had time to work directly on the standard recently, but we are definitely supporters in their work.

In terms of integration with other platforms (Redwood Systems, Intel, Lutron, and View) – are there any more planned?

There are indeed other integrations planned, but none announced yet!

Can you tell me more about the AI and how it works?

To clarify, Comfy delivers streams of warm or cool air to building occupants at the press of a button in the app. Over time, those requests are run through machine learning algorithms to help predict and optimize the temperature for a particular zone (or area where people sit). Basically we use an equation that runs over and over again, for every HVAC zone that we support, and the output of that equation determines the maximum and minimum temperatures in that moment for that zone. So it’s dynamic over time, in other words.

User data accumulates over time, and that equation keeps running, and thus the computer can gradually migrate to settings that it ‘learns’ over time. That equation is also called an algorithm. Our algorithm takes into account a few numbers: the time of the week, the indoor temperature, and whether someone wants it to be warmer or cooler. Then it crunches all of the data points for those numbers, and cranks out its guess for what the perfect temperature is, for that room, at that time. The great part is also that if the algorithm doesn’t nail it, people have an easy way to get an immediate change as well.

As I am sitting in Singapore, what are the plans for international expansion?

We are excited to be getting interest in Comfy from across the globe. We are happy to support clients in 4 different countries today and we are considering international markets to potentially establish more of a presence proactively, but either way, the great part of what we do is that it’s very feasible to deploy and support remotely, so we’ll keep doing that for now!

What’s the vision of Comfy in 10 years?

Today, there is a big disconnect between what our bodies and minds need to be productive and what our office buildings provide. We believe that people can reconnect with buildings so that our workplaces become truly thoughtful and responsive to us. There are many facets of that re-connection, lots of work to do.

My favourite image is that someone walks into their office, maybe a location they don’t usually visit, and the building knows this person’s preferences, maybe it’s a quiet, naturally lit, cool spot, and they get a little notification that tells them that a perfect spot is available for them to sit that day, and asks if they would like to book it for the day. Then it helps them navigate there, gets their documents pulled up on the workstation, and they can settle in comfortably and seamlessly. When they need a little less light, they can easily dim the windows without hassle. When they need a nearby room for a meeting, it’s easy to book, find and set up. All of these interactions should be as easy and as masterful as making a sandwich in your kitchen, but today they are filled with frustration. Maybe not the craziest vision, but it would help a lot of people have better lives at work.

Finally, Is your office air conditioning utopia?

Ha, well, our current office is a lovely space in beautiful downtown Oakland. We do have Comfy in our space. If it’s a utopia, I’d say that’s more because we have an awesome team of people who I’m proud to work with. And of course we also keep ice cream and sweaters on hand, just in case 😉

See Comfy in action on youtube.

Proptech Oppsites
CommercialInterviewsInvestmentUnited States

Oppsites: Proptech Matchmaking service for Real Estate Developers and Cities

Cities need developers, developers need cities. Connecting the dots between government planning objectives and investment has previously been conducted via a mixed bag of personal relationships, brokers, official tours and plain old business development – until now. Oakland based Oppsites saw an opportunity to create a single platform allowing cities to promote all of their development opportunities, centralising and simplifying this process for all parties (video explanation here). COO and Co-Founder Tomas Janusas explains the background and how it works:

So what is the background behind OppSites?

After 15 years as an urban design consultant helping cities achieve their economic development goals, Ian Ross (our CEO) realised that cities needed a better way to communicate those goals with investors, developers, and brokers.

Many communities include a large number of public and privately owned properties that are underutilised, and whose redevelopment would bring new revenues to the community. Yet many cities lack the resources and professional network to market those opportunity sites to a wide audience of prospective investors. OppSites was built to connect cities and the real estate investment community to maximise successful economic development through enhanced communication between the government and real estate sectors.

Tell us about the team?

Ian Ross (CEO and Co-Founder): Since 1999, Ian has provided urban design and economic development services to cities in support of long term economic health. He received a BA in economics from the University of Rochester and an MLA from Cornell University. His experience informs his focus on economic development at the intersection of city planning and real estate investment.

Tomas Janusas (COO and Co-Founder): Tomas has a diverse background in real estate, planning, technology, and project management. OppSites grew out of Tomas’ passion for building technology solutions that catalyse urban development. Tomas is in charge of OppSites’ daily operations and product development. His lifelong appreciation for urban environments led him to the University of California School of Environmental Design (CED), where he graduated summa cum laude with a BA in Urban Studies.

What drives local government to list opportunities? Why can’t they find partners the traditional way?

When cities do planning work and create a vision for their future, they raise the economic potential in a property by increasing the development capacity. But that potential often goes unrealised because investors and developers simply do not know about it. By posting these properties on OppSites, local governments can reach a much wider audience than traditional methods such as word of mouth, city-hosted broker tours or industry conferences.

Does this replace the role of traditional brokers (CBRE, JLL etc)?

OppSites does not replace the role of traditional brokers, but rather exposes more opportunity for the industry to act on. We believe that real estate potential often goes unrealised simply because property is not listed for sale. OppSites uncovers entirely new set of real estate listings – properties that are not on the market but have underutilised potential and local government support for new development.

Does the municipality etc simply list the opportunity? Does oppsites provide any additional analysis or just act as a marketplace?

Currently OppSites provides only basic layers of information (parcel and owner’s information) and no analysis. Local government leaders can highlight opportunity sites or districts on the map and share local knowledge about an investment.

For example, the city of Oakland is using OppSites by posting some of its recently completed specific and area plans. The plans detail how land can be used in certain areas. It allows Oakland ‘to educate, market, and demonstrate the city’s efforts in terms of showing off our opportunity sites and creating interest for those sites,’ says Aliza Gallo, the city’s economic development manager.

How do the partnerships work: ICSC, ULI etc?

Public and private sector members can use OppSites technology to share or find the information about investment opportunities among their members.

  • Cities, Counties, and Economic Development Organisations can showcase publicly and privately owned properties that they want to see redeveloped, even if those sites are not listed for sale. Those sites are showcased on a web-based platform, and can be shared with local and national real estate professionals.
  • Real estate Developers, Brokers, and Investors can find underexposed development opportunities that support local economic development goals, then connect with city leaders to save time, streamline due diligence, and reduce risk.

‘We see this as a tool that will be helpful to our members both in the public sector and the private sector in promoting and finding sites,’ says Cynthia Stewart, the Washington D.C. based staff vice president of community development for ICSC, a global trade association for the retail industry. Its members include shopping center owners and developers, land use attorneys, architects, mayors, and chambers of commerce. ‘It’s a real way for small-town cities and urban cities with underserved urban markets to get those sites in front of developers. They aren’t always the obvious sites,” Stewart says.

What is your coverage like in the US? What has the expansion process been like?

OppSites has grown incredibly fast since it’s launch in September 2014. Currently, we have over 400 cities and over 3,000 real estate professionals using OppSites on any given month.

What have you learned or surprised you since launching this business?

The most surprising factor has been, and still is, the inefficiencies that exist in real estate industry and the potential it creates for commercial real estate innovators.

Could this platform expand internationally?

It could, but we have not explored the opportunity thoroughly. Currently we are working with a few Canadian cities. However, I believe OppSites has an incredible potential in the area of Foreign Direct Investment.

You had a seed round in 2014 – are you now revenue generating with no need or plans to raise further capital?

We are currently raising more capital to accelerate the growth.  

Have you seen Landinsight in the UK? How similar is it to your platform?

OppSites is a matchmaking service for cities and real estate developers rather than the property analytics tool as Landinsight seems to be.

Commercial property online agent
CommercialEuropeInterviews

Virtual Commercial: the world’s first online commercial property broker

The digital disruption facing the real estate industry has taken another step forward with the launch of what could be the world’s first commercial property online agent. Following in the footsteps of UK startups such as Purplebricks and eMoov, Virtual Commercial provides commercial property vendors with all the tools they need to sell online for as little as £300. Co-Founder and CEO, Andrew Vertes, tells us more:

Are you the world’s first online commercial agent? 

Yes, we believe Virtual Commercial is definitely the UK’s first, if not the world’s first, dedicated online commercial estate agent. We provide the tools and support of a traditional agent to allow anyone to sell or let their commercial property throughout England & Wales. All for a low, fixed cost with no commission fee charged.

Was this inspired by residential online agents?

Absolutely. Having worked in commercial property agency for many years, I had witnessed the way the internet was changing how commercial property was being marketed and searched for. At the same time, the rapid success of online residential agencies (eg. Yopa) proved that sellers are happy to take control of the process.

What type of properties do you target? Is it everything from the local grocery store to a large office building?

As this has been built from the ground up for commercial property, we are able to handle any type of commercial property or business disposal. Whether a sale or a letting and from your local high street shop through to a large multi-let office building, we can deal with every use and every type of disposal.

What do the traditional agents think of this?

As we are the first movers in this market, we believe we will be closely watched. Having met some senior individuals within the established traditional firms, the consensus is that they have been waiting for someone to make the move into this market and are surprised it has taken so long.

What is the background of you and the team?

I have worked in commercial property my whole life. I ran the commercial agency department and was a director of a successful central London property company. I then left and set up my own management and agency consultancy, then came up with this idea and realised I had to make it happen.

Andrew Vertes

Andrew Vertes, CEO and Co-Founder, Virtual Commercial

I spoke with a good friend Laurence Herzberg who had recently helped launch a property portal in the Balearic Islands to see what would be required to make this happen. He introduced me to our third co-founder Aron Maus, who also had experience with launching his own start up trading in precious metals.

What are the biggest challenges in growing the business?

We launched at the beginning of June, about the same time as Brexit. Without a doubt this has affected market confidence. We initially launched with a single sales model based on a 12 month term but we found prospective clients now have the concern of negativity surrounding commercial and the future. Understandably clients had concerns about paying for a fixed marketing term if the economy is about to plunge into a recession (although that has largely been seen to be unfounded). We have dealt with this by changing and improving our pricing options to include the following:

1. Unlimited marketing term
2. On-completion pack
3. 3 month marketing term

Do you have outside investment or are you planning to raise capital?

Yes, we were fortunate enough to raise investment for the business. I think our successful raise was really down to our team of co-founders, having a detailed business plan, financial forecasting and a working product. Because we believed in the concept we decided to self-fund the development of the platform prior to raising capital. This meant that investors could use our platform and see for themselves what we were building. We ended up getting investment from multiple investors at our target valuation. However, it was by no means easy.

What has the market response been like generally? Any surprises or as expected?

As mentioned, launching in the Brexit aftermath has been an unforeseen and surprising challenge. We initially launched with a flurry of enquiries from interested users, however, post Brexit, many previously interested parties are now questioning whether it is the right time to sell. Those users who have completed a purchase have been really positive about our website, support and the lead management process.

Do you think this is different in any way to the residential concept? (eg. vendors may see agents are more valuable for commercial assets?)

There are obviously similarities between the two but there are also significant differences and far more complications and challenges with commercial property, whether using a traditional estate agent or an on-line agent. However this is why we offer Agent Support for all our clients, should they have a question or need advice, we are here to help.

Can you give a case study of a property sold via the platform?

We have only been active a short while but one of our first clients is a critically acclaimed and award winning restaurant in a beautiful medieval town in Dunster, Somerset. The restaurant is Reeves Restaurant, the freehold sale of which includes a 40 cover restaurant, outside space and accommodation. The current owner had previously used a traditional estate agent to market the property but he found that the agent actually had very little involvement in the sale beyond listing the property on-line and interested parties preferred dealing directly with him rather than the agent. However, the agent still insisted on a traditionally large commission fee based on the sale value! As a result, he engaged Virtual Commercial to assist in the sale of his asset.

Workplace Engagement Platform
CommercialEuropeInterviews

Office App: Workplace Engagement Platform co-founder Interview

As a successful graduate of Pilabs 3rd cohort (2016), UK startup Office App represents a new wave of workplace engagement platforms. Businesses large and small are exploring opportunities to engage employees, improve productivity and maximise staff satisfaction. Book a meeting room, receive local lunch specials or check if there are parking spots for your clients all via a single, flexible mobile app. Office App co-founder Thijs van der Burgt tells us more:

Tell me a bit about the team and why you decided to start Office App?

Office App is built from the belief that an office building can and should be more exciting, efficient and above all more fun. That is why we’ve created the only fully integrated office assistant for your mobile. The team includes:

  • Thijs: 7 years experience in Product Development with a focus on User Excellence
  • Teun: 5 years Strategy Consultancy at McKinsey  with a focus on Operational Excellence

Did you know much about workplaces / office buildings beforehand?

Although I have worked in office spaces, I didn’t actually know much about the spaces themselves. I’m a product developer, my partner has over 14 years of experience in real estate, and together we developed a product that is both helpful for facility managers and occupants.

What are you hoping to get out of the PiLabs experience?

When we started the business in Amsterdam, we knew we could build a successful business in our home market, but that it is not where the big opportunities lie. The European pinnacle of office life is the City in London, so in our process of researching that market and looking for ways in, we more or less stumbled upon PiLabs. At that point we had already realised we were going to need to step up our game if we were successfully going to penetrate the UK market. PiLabs is very well positioned to do so by helping us to get in front of the right people, sharpen our product offering and secure funding.

How much traction have you got with clients?

We are very excited to announce that we have on-boarded major clients like Dell, EY and the World Trade Center. All our clients are very happy with our added value and have either applied Office App in more offices since then or recommended us to other clients.

How do you on-board local deals? (ie. from local restaurants etc)? Is that a manual process?

Yes, it is a manual process. We are able to add a mobile shop for your local dry cleaner, car wash or florist. We offer these local retailers a shop in our marketplace within 1 hour, direct payment included.

Could you expand overseas? Eg. Singapore?

Yes, definitely. We have optimised our platform to scale easily and reliably – we don’t even have to be physically present to install Office App at any office around the world!

You’ve mentioned being sensor/IoT agnostic – can you tell us about any sensors you are already working with?

With our partners we are using PIR, vibration, temperature and magnetic sensors in different buildings. Mostly for parking, desk, meeting room availability and their occupancy rates. And with other partners we use wifi or beacon sensors. It depends on the clients wishes what technology we implement and how we offer this to the employee. For example, for one client we have sensors in table tennis and foosball tables to indicate if they are available.

What are your plans for raising capital?

We are looking for £500k investment for operations, sales and product development. Our growth is limited by the bandwidth of the company, not the interest from potential clients.

Are you planning to grow the team?

Yes we are hiring new sales people and looking for an additional iOS developer to strengthen our development team.

What has been the best part of the experience overall?

A big part of my job at Office App is that I’m in charge of product. In development, we focus on user experience and iterate on results in user engagement surveys. Seeing people more engaged and happy using Office App makes me proud of what I do.

IndustryHub
EuropeInterviews

IndustryHub: Connecting Real Estate Projects and Creative Teams

Interview with IndustryHub founder Savannah de Savary:

What was the inspiration (lightbulb moment) behind IndustryHub?

There was definitely a “lightbulb moment”. I was working for a big real estate development firm in New York, sitting in a meeting about a large development site they had in Brooklyn. The CEO wanted to transform the site into an office complex that would attract the hot tech companies and grew frustrated when his development team couldn’t easily identify the architectural firms and interior designers who had a rapport with such tech companies. We needed a team who knew their design preferences and had the necessary reputation within the tech community to attract them to our site.

However, finding out who those firms were remained as time consuming as it was 30 years ago. We had to leave the meeting with his questions unanswered and call round our word-of-mouth networks until eventually we found someone who could identify a suitable candidate. It was time consuming and frustrating to say the least and was mirrored on a frequent basis when we wanted to know who was behind a specific project we admired or was regarded as up-and-coming for a specific service. I began to think how useful it would be to have a search tool that enabled us to know the answers right off the bat.

Is this full time or are you and the team still working elsewhere?

Full time and still struggling to find enough hours in the day for the pace at which we are growing – IndustryHub is a 7-day a week job!

Describe the process / challenges of putting it together.

We spent an enormous amount of time on the UI/UX design. I think in a way it helped that I approached the user interface without a tech background. The priority was simplicity of use: ensuring that the product was intuitive for people with real estate backgrounds. A key part of the process was getting feedback from our future user base as often as we could. We’re not looking to be a “disrupter” – changing both the means and methods by which developers source consultants, just the “means” by taking word-of-mouth insight online – so it was important to hear from our user-base how best we could do this for them.

A key challenge of putting it together has been making sure we create a two-sided marketplace that adds value to both sides. We simultaneously need to provide unparalleled marketing exposure for consultants, search tools for developers and collaboration tools for both. Our discovery tool enables developers to find consultants by their experience with a particular project type, client, specialism or even by their involvement with a specific project the developer admires. However, it is the data from the consultants’ profile pages that powers the developers’ discovery engine. We therefore have to ensure that the majority of top consultants are on board and showcasing their projects before we invite our waitlist of developers to begin using the platform. Deciding when we’ve reached this tipping point of enough consultants is our primary challenge.

This is both a platform for developers and consultants – which target market has responded best to the concept?

We’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that consultants across the board have responded with enthusiasm. Even the largest firms like CBRE want to have their projects visually mapped out and showcased to a wider audience of potential clients. We are in an earlier stage with the developer side because, as mentioned earlier, we have not yet invited our waitlist of developers to use the search functionality except to provide feedback. That said, we’ve noticed a lot of developers are already signing up organically and using the beta platform.

From reaching out to them, we’ve found there isn’t uniformity in what has attracted them to the platform. Some are using the platform to discover innovative new consultants such as up-and-coming interior designers and to be kept abreast of the new projects being unveiled by leading consultants. Others say they have had the same go-to consultants for decades. What they’re frustrated by is how much time they waste researching precedent and inspiration for their projects.

For these developers, the exciting part isn’t the consultant discovery tool as much as the project search tool which enables them to discover relevant inspiration for their projects. We have a wide variety of search filters that enables them to browse the most applicable images with more added every time a consultant uploads a new project. Such developers have been the driving force behind us creating the Pinterest style notebook feature which will enable them to save project ideas, browse those curated by their colleagues and create project-specific notebooks where they can collaborate with their consulting team during schematic design. We’ve found it is well worth taking the time to find out which aspects of your offering users are responding best to. For example, by doing so, we’ve discovered a lot of fund managers and developers see IndustryHub as an opportunity to showcase their own projects. Sourcing consultants, attracting investors and joint venture partners remains largely reliant on word-of-mouth referrals. Different developers therefore have different needs that can be met by IndustryHub without us expanding our focus.

Is there anything like it in the market already?

Surprisingly, there is relatively little competition currently, although if there was none it would be a worry itself! There are great sites connecting designers with furnishing and products and directories focused on specific verticals, such as listing architects or engineers. However, if you want to discover the professionals behind a specific project you admire, you still have to rely on your personal network or a laborious google search.

Having already built out this search functionality and integrated with google maps, we are pretty far ahead of any competitors that may emerge. By having professionals themselves power the content in exchange for free marketing exposure, our data is multiplying on a scale that is difficult to maintain on a platform that is manually researching or scrapping data.

What is your business development / sales approach? (are you marketing, word of mouth etc)

We extend invitations to a wide variety of consultants, from the leading structural engineers and sustainability consultants to lighting designers and landscape architects. We have a great business development team who’ve recently been reaching out to top architectural firms and interior designers in the UK and inviting them to join the platform. As we offer free marketing exposure on a scale unprecedented in the industry, the response has been unanimously positive.

In light of the firms we are working with having each completed hundreds of projects in the past few years, when they create an account, our data entry team can temporarily join to add their past projects for them. This makes creating an account a painless task for consultants, although firms with large marketing teams often enjoy creating the profiles themselves. Word-of-mouth also plays a large part. Many consultants that join don’t just add the images of a project but also who collaborated on the project with them. If these companies are already on IndustryHub, the project links through to their profile page. If not, they can automatically be invited to join. For the company being invited, the proposition isn’t just to have a profile – it is to have one that is visible to any potential client browsing the page of the consultant they’ve collaborated with. This makes for a pretty effective business development strategy.

What are you the stats?

So far we have just over 12,000 projects listed, 49,000 project images and 4,500 profile pages. Some of these were created during our beta by IndustryHub and an invitation then sent to the company in question to take ownership. However, increasingly we’ve seen companies join organically from around the globe. During the past month alone, nearly a third of the AJ 100 architects have joined.

What are your long term plans (5-10 years)?

Our initial launch city is London; however, our road map goes global. Especially in fast-growing emerging markets, developers find it extremely difficult to identify the players with local connections, experience and credibility. IndustryHub will change this.

Is the site complete or are you still rolling out new features?

We are still rolling out new features. It is similar to LinkedIn in the sense that everything you see is and will remain free with premium features available for an annual subscription cost. We will be rolling these premium features out in Q1 2017 and are pretty excited about unveiling them.

Is this also for individuals – ie. linkedin for real estate?

At the moment our focus is on B2B with the personal profiles simply having an “About Me” section and profile picture. For company profiles, there is significant peer-to-peer connectivity: you can follow company profile pages and send inter-company instant messages, reminiscent in format of Bloomberg Chat.

In time, I think we will look to develop personal profiles to enable blogging, Ted Talk style videos and the ability to follow and message individuals on the platform. The objective will be to provide a platform where members can establish themselves as thought leaders in a specific field. We are in the early stage of developing these personal profiles, so any feedback as to what you’d like to see them include is most welcome!

DREA Singapore
Asia PacificInterviewsResidential

Interview: Digital Real Estate Assistant (DREA) Singapore

Singapore’s DREA aims to radically improve the property buying process giving buyers access to market data analysis and insights previously limited to professionals, while giving agents highly targeted leads and a platform for digital marketing. A husband and wife team (seemingly the perfect combination with one an ex-banker, the other the CTO), we sat down with the later, Yuet Whey, to discover more:

What is the story behind DREA? Was it a lightbulb moment or a slow burn idea?

The idea for DREA started 3 years ago when I was looking to buy my first home in Singapore and was actively seeking information on the real estate market. I wanted a way to search for homes that would give me a minimum of 3% rental yield. However, it would require crunching through thousands of data points on Excel, a daunting task to many

Even as I shortlisted homes, I realized that there was an information gap in the market for real estate insights and more importantly, insights that could be accessed easily on-the-go. I then set about to create the first ever Digital Real Estate Assistant (hence the name DREA) that would offer any daily buyer, tenant, seller and landlord access to high quality, instant real estate information that is at the same time, easy to understand.

Tell me about the process of building the site (ie. first while working on it on the side, then to moving full time)?

When my partner and I first started designing and building DREA, we focused primarily on the consumer lens. Each time we had a house viewing or visited a show flat, we would think about what we would like to have as buyers and tenants. We then proceeded to create them. Being in the shoes of a consumer allowed us to identify gaps in the market and more importantly things that matter to the consumers. For example, the ability to search homes by drive time and the ability to get instant property insights such as supply risk and pricing around an area.

The product development process was exhilarating. We were essentially imagining possibilities, and then making them come to life. We took time to build up a truly differentiated and proprietary data set that went beyond common real estate data like prices. We also spent time talking to others and getting their inputs. More importantly, we took time to properly understand the industry to refine our business model. That is how we concluded on the need to shift away from the already commoditized market for posting online real estate classified listings.

I left Investment Banking when I knew we were ready to hit the market. Running a company is an entirely different experience from Banking. There was no one to tell me what to do. I had to learn new skills, set goals and be disciplined.

You are a husband and wife team – how does that work?

We complement each other by leveraging on each other’s strengths. It is not always easy and we recognize how critical it is to maintain clear boundaries between work and home. We constantly remind ourselves that the objective of working together is to build towards a common goal and (simple as it sounds) be happy. The focus on a long-term shared goal helps us look beyond individual moments of conflict which are unavoidable.

What are the key features your site offers in terms of market research?

  1. Location-based insights: anyone can flip out their phone anytime and instantly discover suitable units nearby, show flats nearby, prices in the area, supply risk and more.
  2. Natural Language Search: redesigning how one searches for information or homes by streamlining a wide range of search parameters into a simple and intuitive user experience. For example, try searching for price trends in District 9 or find me a 3 Bedroom for sale under $1.2m with a yield of >2.5%
  3. Price Trends and Supply Risk: ability to instantly retrieve detailed district-level price trends and triangulate it against upcoming supply in each district.
  4. Forward-looking SIBOR Rates: we offer consumers the ability to discover where SIBOR rates will be in 3 months time based on market expectations.
  5. Comparable Condos: DREA is designed to help consumers identify truly comparable condos (beyond area) in terms of tenure, age, price, drive time to your office or even walk time to MRT.

Where does your data come from?

We pull together data and content (housing, demographics, transport, interest rates) from multiple avenues including DREA’s proprietary dataset and from public sources like Urban Redevelopment Authority into a single source to enable new forms of instant analysis and insights on the property market.

What features do you offer to agents?

  1. For agents, we offer the ability to select, target and actively reach out to potential home buyers or tenants based on their housing preference. This is a 180-degree shift from the “post listings and wait for leads” business model adopted by most real estate portals.
  2. In addition to that, we offer agents a full suite of information and analysis so that they can address every client ask. In the past, an agent may need to spend hours pulling data from URA and then analysing them just to find out something as simple as future supply in a given area. Today, DREA processes all this and presents this to an agent in a matter of seconds. In a market where there are more than 20,000 agents, the ability to provide fact-based answers at the snap of a finger is a tremendous competitive advantage for agents.

How do you compare to property portals like property guru / iproperty?

We have a different business model and revenue model. For DREA, our content and information tools drive traffic. DREA is not about listings and we do not have to first build a large inventory of listings before we can attract users to our site. Users come to DREA mainly to assess whether a property is in a good location, has good amenities nearby or whether it is appropriately priced.

Similarly, DREA monetizes subscription to content services and for the purchase of detailed property insights reports. For us, listings are free and forever will be. We are currently testing other products which are unique to DREA and will be rolling them out to the market soon

What stage are you at in terms of funding / revenue / growth?

We are currently in the middle of discussions with several Series A investors and we are already revenue generating thus far.

What is the long term ambition (5-10 years)?

We envision a future where every consumer walking into a show flat or house viewing will look to DREA for information. And that they will use DREA to differentiate facts from sales-pitch, ask educated questions and use it to negotiate effectively.

On the commercial front, we see ourselves being a global player who has materially accelerated the shift in real estate advertising spend from traditional to digital. Our goal is to be a sustainable and profitable business.

What’s the hardest thing about being a startup in Singapore?

Competition for talent. We compete against MNCs, SMEs, larger tech companies and other startups for talent. With the lean business model most startups have, it has become increasingly difficult to attract the talent startups require to scale quickly and efficiently.

Proptech in India
Asia PacificCommercialInterviews

Interview: Propstack co-founder Raja Seetharaman

With a massive market, easily understood product, strong team and upcoming favourable regulatory change, Propstack looks ready to seize the commercial PropTech opportunity in India. We asked co-founder Raja Seetharaman to bring us up to speed.

Tell me about your founders and how you started?

We are three co-founders with backgrounds in Commercial real estate (CRE) (Insignia, JLL, Colliers), Banking (Deutsche Bank, Kotak), Analytics (Fractal) and residential group buying (Groffr). My personal background has been 15 plus years with Insignia (acquired by CBRE), Colliers, Ascendas (Singapore government company) and JLL as their National Director of Corporate Solutions.

We realized in early 2013 that there was no transparency in the Indian CRE market place and clients always referred to how decision making was inefficient, subjective and difficult. At the same time, we were also aware of data information sites in the US and how they could be a great enabler in some ways and disruptor in others. CRE is the largest asset class in the world and also the top two cost center for most corporates depending on the office location.

We saw this as a huge opportunity and decided to start Propstack.

What stage of growth are you at and how has the journey been?

Our journey has been very exciting. We started Propstack in June 2013, raised angel funding and covered data in Mumbai. We raised our Series A of USD$3.10m in June 2015 from Daily Mail Group (DMGI) with minority participation by Real Capital Analytics (RCA). We are now present in the top seven cities in India and cover 100% of all investible commercial buildings in the country. Our clients are funds, corporates, Developers, brokers and high-net wealths.

Did you have any previous startup experience?

Yes, two of the co-founders ran a boutique real estate advisory business while the third co-founder ran an online residential group buying firm for couple of years prior to starting Propstack.

What have been the biggest learnings in terms of starting your own business?

Personally my fear of failure was easily outweighed by my hope and expectation for success. Professionally, commercial real estate has been a slow adopter of technology. That said, it’s been an exciting journey thus far and I am loving it. We’re at a nascent stage of intersection of CRE and technology in India and it has its own unpredictability. When we find a solution to a specific problem, we are adding value to our business as well as the industry.

How have you found the challenge of hiring staff as you grow?

We’ve had hiring challenges especially for specific functions like sales and senior tech talent who can quickly grasp the CRE tech industry. As a young company, it’s important for us to not only find talent with the right skill sets but also find them at the right cost.

What is the business model?

We are a SAAS platform and our business model is subscription based.

Can you give more details on how your clients use the data – is it mainly for acquisition due diligence? Rental benchmarking?

Propstack conducts expansive, ongoing research to produce and maintain the largest and most comprehensive database of commercial real estate information in India. Our suite of online services enables clients to analyse, interpret and gain unmatched insight on commercial property values, market conditions and current availabilities.

Propstack covers the commercial real estate hubs of Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai, NCR, Hyderabad and Kolkata. Propstack’s online service provides subscribers access to a diverse range of commercial real estate information: detailed building information, analytics, client stacking, availability/vacancy, transaction details and trends – catering to all Commercial real estate research requirements.

We are proud to serve a wide variety of professionals working in corporates, funds, rating agencies, brokers, owners, developers and vendors. Propstack is relevant to anyone who has a professional interest in commercial real estate.

Who are your competitors in India or globally?

Our platform is globally scalable and some of our products are customized to India centric requirements. In the current form, we are not aware of any other company in the world that offers a similar tech platform. That said, there are a few companies that currently offer products similar to ours. Exceligent, Costar and Compstak are some of them. We offer real time data and analytics covering supply, demand and vacancies at a macro and micro level. Propsense, which is our analytical engine is one of its kind globally. Our COMPS data are abstracted sale and lease information from registered agreements with the Government of India. It’s important to note that these are registered/verified data and not crowd sourced or based on ‘hearsay’.

How similar are you to Compstak in the US?

Propstack and Compstak are neither competitors, nor similar. As mentioned on www.propstack.com, we provide all kinds of data on Indian commercial real estate which includes verified rent and sale transaction data. Some points to highlight:

  1. Propstack’s philosophy is to provide transactions based on verified sources
  2. Propstack solely focuses on office assets
  3. Propstack additionally provides real estate intelligence in terms of research and analytics to paid subscribers
  4. Access to data at Propstack is paid because of the premium nature of the data

Your data is from government registered leases – does that mean all commercial leases are registered with the government? Is that the only source of verified information?

Yes all commercial leases need to be registered with the government to make it ‘legal and valid’ and that is the only source of verified information. We are the largest repository of this information after the Government of India.

Do you have expansion plans beyond India?

Yes, we are currently beta testing data for 2 other countries in Asia Pacific. While our tech platform is scalable globally, we would like to stabilize our India operations prior to expanding overseas.

Does your data verification approach mean you can only expand to certain countries? Eg. In Singapore leases are confidential.

No, it does not limit our expansion plans. We are well aware of potential country specific challenges and have concluded that our platform and technology is scalable. I’d prefer to not get into specifics at this stage.

Do you plan to raise more capital?

Yes we are planning a Series B round in the next 6-9 months.

How would you describe the evolution of proptech in India?

India may be a notch below the US but a notch above Europe. Also, I believe that residential tech is more evolved in India than CRE Tech. While we have seen significant funding into a few residential tech companies, CRE tech has been slow to get off the ground. That said, with the imminent introduction of REITS and few other policies by the government, we expect CRE tech to catch up soon.

Propstack video overview link.

 

 

 

 

 

Asia's Pop up Platforms
Asia PacificRetail

Asia’s Pop Up Platforms: A Difficult Road Ahead

Pop up retail as a concept is here to stay and it works because it serves all parties. For consumers pop ups provide variety, for landlords they represent additional income and a point of difference, while for the pop up retailers themselves they offer a low risk, low cost platform to launch products and increase brand exposure.

From a proptech perspective, the immediate opportunity was seized in 2012 when a number of US/UK based platforms launched platforms best described as Airbnb for retail. Storefront (US) and We Are Pop Up (UK) were two of the big names in this space, raising $8.9m and $2.7m respectively. The concept was simple: find spaces willing to rent on a short term basis, whether whole shops or just a hanging rack or table, list them on a marketplace website and charge a small commission for making the introduction/executing the lease.

Asia joins the race in 2015

In mid-2015 there was nothing happening in Asia, then by the end of the year 3 almost identical platforms had launched. Popscout (HK), Spaces Genie (HK) and PopUp Angels (Singapore) were online with literally a handful of locations listed. The spaces were usually an empty gallery in a trendy part of town, but they have grown to include retail mall ‘casual leasing’ space (empty spaces usually used for events or sales).

The challenge for these platforms in Asia is that the retail scene is different from that in the West. Retail is dominated by shopping malls, whereas in cities like London and San Francisco there is a more dominant ‘high street’. Shopping malls have high rents and high set up costs (fit out design, construction, licenses etc) making quick turnaround pop ups more difficult. They are often owned by REITS which prefer a guaranteed, ongoing rental income with less concern about who the actual tenant is.

Street retail, on the other hand, is often owned by individual landlords who are more flexible and want to avoid an empty shop front. Good locations command daily foot traffic (unlike the 4th floor of an under-performing mall) making them better suited to pop ups wanting maximum exposure. There is also something more original and uniquely ‘pop up’ about unexpected spaces or street front retail.

The other challenge for these Asian platforms the pop up concept remains relatively immature here so it requires a high level of education. Running a pop up marketplace will require significant time to identify potential spaces, get access to the landlord then explain how the whole thing works. The head of leasing at Capitaland will get it, but the owner of a suburban coffee shop could take more convincing. Furthermore, companies like Storefront found that tenants typically want only the best locations with very high passing traffic. This reduces the number of potential sites.

Back in the West, both Storefront and We Are Pop Up announced they had ceased operations in early 2016. This suggests the scale needed to generate serious revenue was out of reach, even for funded pioneers in more conducive locations. This doesn’t bode well for their younger, Asian cousins. The chicken and the egg then, to scale quickly needs investment but VC backing only increases the pressure to grow more quickly.

 

Conclusion

The need remains to connect landlords with parties wanting space, but the potential to reach scale and generate significant revenue is questionable. If a platform is able to cover the whole of Asia, including China, it will become interesting. If you think about a brand owner sitting in Paris thinking, how can I test appetite for my brand in Asia? This could be the answer and there is value in that. But this raises the challenge faced by every tech startup in Asia. Acquiring the capital and resources to truly penetrate countries so different is a challenge only few have accomplished.

Blockchain in real estate
InterviewsUnited States

Ubitquity: Pioneering the blockchain in Real Estate

What does the blockchain mean and how does it relate to real estate? Blockchain is the decentralisation of data via a peer-to-peer network so that information is stored locally and authenticated between computers without the need for a central server. Information is highly encrypted and easy to search. For real estate, this has the potential to significantly reduce paperwork, fraud and documentation errors. This could lead to significant disruption and dislodgement of third party players such as escrow and title registries that exist to authenticate real estate records.

Blockchain is the technology behind Bitcoin which, while far from mainstream, has proved many doubters wrong and today is worth more than USD$450 / unit. As a virtual currency without any government or central bank legitimacy, bitcoin requires squeaky clean record keeping and audit trails in order to remain above reproach. This does not remove the risk of human error, but can confirm a record’s authenticity by verifying the time and date, contents and party making the submission (more on accuracy below).

Founded by a couple of early bitcoin miners (Bitcoin Mining? See video here), Ubitquity is one of the very few pioneers attempting to take this technology to the real estate industry. The team, based in Delaware, is currently looking to raise USD$650,00 with a pre-seed valuation of $3.3 million. We spoke to CEO Nathan Wosnack and CTO Christian Saucier:

What stage are you up to right now?

In November 2015 our fledging new start up took a laser focused approach and a full pivot as a company by building a singular SMB (Small-Medium Business) and Enterprise SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) blockchain real estate platform. From November 2015 onwards to the present time we’ve been involved in defining industry pain points and developing the code base for the Ubitquity platform. In early March of this year we celebrated the initial completion of our prototype, and have now started working with an organization adding large amounts of real estate land metadata as part of our “Test Group 1” prior to our initial alpha release of our platform for our customers. We anticipate the alpha to be available for our business customers this summer.

Who are your users? Individuals? Banks? Brokers?

We envision a layered approach to the adoption of this technology.  The early adopters are going to be parties with the most to gain from efficiency and reduced transaction costs.  Mortgage originators and title companies are natural first customer to focus on.  We also have enterprise level financial institutions interested in taking advantage of a custom, (albeit permissioned version) of our SaaS platform.

What are the key benefits to users?

The ensuing environment of real estate financing and title transfers has resulted in massive amounts of document errors and fraud, stemming from the unprecedented complexity of today’s housing industry and the historic defaults occurring during the 2008 housing crisis.

To streamline and address this costly problem going forward we’ve created a platform for recording every pertinent step of a real estate transaction, including permanent storage of key documents, through a simple / user-friendly and secure portal, which permanently records the transaction on the blockchain. Since problematic title transfer of ownership still causes innumerable financial and emotional hardships to citizens, financial institutions and municipalities, blockchain technology is not only desirable but vital for improving economic development.

Key features include: easy of use, peer-to-peer storage, secured by the blockchain (we use the Bitcoin blockchain via Colu but we’re also experimenting with permissioned blockchains for custom SaaS clients so we remain blockchain agnostic), real-world integration, increased transparency, reduced search time and reduced fraud.

Practically, how will people use it – is it only when transacting property or any other time?

When property transactions occur, having an immutable record keeping process to refer back to later will be invaluable. All documents associated with the transaction of a particular property can be linked to a Colored Coin. Public information is placed into the form fields and tied to the metadata of the token representing the property. This can and will be seen on the block explorer when referencing the specific property in question.

Here’s a real-world example. Consider the recent forest fires in northern Alberta, Canada and the subsequent evacuation of Fort McMurray. Imagine that was you. Think about how easy it would be to forget to bring critical documents, such as the deed to your house, in the rush to evacuate. Having that deed in the blockchain means the title to your house is secure. Insurance companies can get the information they need to reimburse you, and you have the peace of mind of having a verifiable backup too.

What is your ambition, big picture?

Our short term objectives are scaling up in use cases. And both getting end-users and strategic partnerships in order to resolve use cases like: errors in public record, unknown liens, illegal deeds, missing heirs, forgeries, repairs and maintenance history, major system upgrades and warranties – to name a few. We are keeping it simple by working to address real world problems based on customer pain points rather than trying to take on too much too early.

Our long-term objectives are to build out a system that will ideally have recognition and integration with county clerks, and integration / adoption by title companies within the United States and Canada. The goal is for Ubitquity to have wide-user adoption by both small and incumbent players within the mortgage industry as well.

Do you think you are too early? Does it need any government support?

We don’t believe we’re too early at all based on the feedback from enterprise financial institutions, press and investors. If you take a look at the natural evolution of the Bitcoin space and the areas in which non-financial applications of the blockchain have been used, the timing is perfect.

We are not advocating for people to skip the legally mandated step of recording title transfers in the manner prescribed by each municipality.  We are simply building a parallel platform that will quickly rival the currently existing antiquated structures in place today.  We see our system as a 21st century supplement, layering on top of – and eventually integrating with – the archaic (and centralized) one in use today. Our system will simply set a higher standard for document recording, accessibility and utility overall. The level of trusted accuracy, and ease of use, coupled with significant cost savings for parties involved will become a no brainer for all involved in the housing industry. Since the housing industry reaches every aspect of our daily lives, we are excited to be able to democratize and reduce costs associated with real estate transactions.

Do you need any other partners / institutions to support you to get off the ground

We’ve 100% bootstrapped our prototype and upcoming alpha release. In my eyes, the support we need is pilot users actively using the platform to continue the momentum. We currently have a number of companies interested in the platform and one company that is adding a significant amount of metadata to our system while helping us build features that are both required and scalable across the real estate industries, i.e. mortgage companies, title companies.

How complicated is the technology behind blockchain?

When people refer to the “blockchain”, they really mean a group of computers talking to one another while following certain rules.  That’s been done before, but Blockchain brings something new to the table: The group of computers can agree with one another without a central server. Not only can blockchain technology facilitate this consensus, but it also resists attempts to cheat it, manipulate it, or stop it. The math, algorithms, and formulas behind blockchain technology are very complex, but they have been known and used for a long time. Whenever you hear about Merkle trees, hashing functions, or public keys, these are all math-based concepts that have been around for many decades. Satoshi Nakamoto was able to bring these concepts together to create the first blockchain via Bitcoin.

How does blockchain account for human error?

Human error is inherent to humans. “To err is human; to forgive, divine” (Alexander Pope, “Essay on Criticism”). The value of an immutable record is in its continued recording of events as they occurred.

If a human does input an error, that human can easily input a correction, but a continuous record of that error and correction will remain.  This is important for multiple reasons. Firstly, the knowledge of that being the case will help make those humans more cautious in their original data input. Second, because of the ability to look back and see exactly when and who made any sort of changes to the record gives that record veracity.

So for example, if an error is corrected by the same person, same day, then we can clearly see it is simply human error being corrected. However, if we see that a different person ‘corrected’ a record in the future, possibly to benefit them in some way, it is easily traceable and would naturally discourage such actions.

Eventually, we can safely assume most ‘corrections’ will simply be that. Human error corrections.  There are many errors that occur now and there are ways to legally remedy those errors. In fact, there is even error and omission insurance required by title professionals and real estate agents specifically for harm caused due to human or malicious error.

But those ‘mistakes’, whether malicious or not, are much harder to source back to the original creator. At Ubitquity we envision a whole new profession evolving to fill this need.  A blockchain data entry clerk, trained in a standardized format to follow best practices and ensure proper record keeping. We also envision a future where our platform is so user friendly and streamlined that virtually anyone can create and/or add to their existing record and have that ‘asset’ not only exist on the blockchain, but be an ever-evolving repository of ‘added value’ to the real world property.

1280-singapore-smart-city
Asia Pacific

Proptech in Asia: an emerging story

Real estate technology in the Asia-Pacific, like the region itself, is fragmented and features countries at different stages of development. China and India are the whales, with massive populations making sure that any consumer facing platforms are highly valued by investors. Australia is the most sophisticated in terms of breadth and depth of business types. While South East Asia has massive potential, although often requires multi-country coverage to reach scale making it a highly challenging proposition.

Based in Singapore, Disrupt Property has a particular interest in this part of the world and predicts there is a lot to come over the next 5-10 years. So far the biggest successes have been copies of existing models, but it won’t be too long before some more innovative platforms emerge.

China and India: Whales in the bathtub

China and India are mind-blowing prospects when it comes to disruption in the property industry. With 1.4 and 1.2 billion people respectively, the potential scale of any consumer facing businesses dwarfs the US and UK which are enjoying so much activity in this space.

This fact is well known to investors. According to CB Insights, of the top 10 funded proptech companies globally (2011-2015), the top 2 were Chinese (Fangdd and Aiwujiwu), while no. 7 was India’s housing.com. The first US entrant on the list was redfin.com at no. 4 which raised roughly half of Fangdd. This speaks to the potential of these markets. VC funding doesn’t mean value has materialised, rather it is representative of their bet that it will.

India has got some interesting ‘copycat’ startups. NoBroker is the pin up fixed fee online agent. Livspace looks a lot like Houzz. While Propstak looks similar to Comptask, although its very strong founding team points out significant differences in the way they collect data. Whether they are direct copies or not we’re not sure, but it matters little. US proptech companies have so much ground to cover in their own country, that taking on India is unlikely to be in the 5 year plan. In that case, Indian entrepreneurs are bound to take the initiative and get a jump start.

Australia: 23 million people obsessed with property

The Australian dream is to own your own home. Previous Australian generations grew up in a house with a front and back yard, and held the assumption they would own their own one day. As the population grew and density swelled in major cities, apartment living has partially replaced that dream, but the obsession with property has done nothing but deepen.

This has extended to startups and Australia has a population size large enough to support them, plus a UK based legal and business system meaning that what can be done there can typically be replicated down under. As a result, most of the business models seen in the UK already exist in Australia. Online agents, agent comparison, crowd funding, P2P funding and 3D visualisation.

VC funding has so far been modest. Openagent.com.au has raised almost $7m while ratemyagent.com.au has raised $5m. Beyond that, the main game remains the big search portals domain.com.au and realestate.com.au.

Australia is in the midst of a fintech craze with even the national government introducing measures to stimulate startsups in the area. Given this, we expect to see significant progress of companies providing new ways to fund real estate transactions which would likely be readily welcomed by locals facing some of the highest home prices on the planet.

South East Asia: Singapore and beyond

Singapore is fast becoming the regional HQ for tech startups. Branded the Smart Nation by its own government, Singapore has all the factors conducive to starting a business. Great regulatory system, English language, low tax, super fast set up procedures and a highly educated workforce. Singaporeans also like their tech and love their mobiles. Every month sees another startup incubator, or innovation lab launched as well as a continuous stream of tech conferences and events.

Having said that, Singapore’s achillies heel as a startup location is its small population size (5.3m). Businesses needing scale may well test bed the concept in Singapore, but need to expand to its much larger neighbours such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines in order to do so.

Two good examples of this are propertyguru (Singapore based) and iproperty (Malaysia based), direct competitors in the property search market. In 2015, Australia’s realestate.com.au purchased iProperty group valuing it at A750m while earlier in the year, propertyguru raised $129 in private equity to help it further expand and maintain its leadership position over its Kuala Lumpur based rival. Both companies operate throughout the region allowing them to gain sufficient scale.

Singapore, like Australia, has quickly developed a greater breadth of proptech companies over the last 12 months. Unsurprisingly, they replicate existing models from the US/UK suggesting there are enough enterprising Singaporeans wanting to do an Alibaba (ie. Recreate Amazon in Asia). In another big sign of progress, Capitaland (Singapore’s leading property developer) announced in May 2016 that had set up a S$15m startup fund.

As for countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand etc, so far we have witnessed a range of property search portals launched but have yet to see any breadth of product types giving the impression they remain very undeveloped markets. Of course, there will be a few dozen startups bubbling away in each country we have yet to hear of so this can and will change quickly.