Proptech Association Australia President’s Report 2021
To understand what has been achieved in the first 18 months of the Proptech Association Australia, it’s helpful to look back at how – and why – we started.
Like all good proptech, the Association was born out of frustration at the status quo, a belief that something better was possible – and conversations over wine.
In roles at both New Corp and CoreLogic, I was lucky enough to be a regular attendee at both the AREC conferences on the Gold Coast and Inman in the US. As Australia’s largest real estate conference, AREC is a weirdly compelling evangelical mix of personal success formulas, performance benchmarks and rock star agents. While funded by real estate industry suppliers, tech businesses have rarely been allowed on the main stage, their role in successful property businesses relegated to the trade hall to perpetuate the myth that real estate sales success is the product of heroic personal effort on behalf of agents.
Inman by contrast is always inspiring because of its ability to bring proptech and real estate agents together and chew over shared challenges and debate (often ferociously) a future vision. That the Australian industry needed this was a discussion repeated at trade stands, in boardrooms and on barstools repeatedly.
So in 2019, with the help of dear friend Lara Scott who is a deep thinker about proptech, we decided to try an experiment. We’d host a proptech event on the Gold Coast, the Saturday before AREC. Maybe we’d get 30 or so mates along to a loosely defined ‘unconference’ before they bumped in the main event which started the following day. But before we knew it, BoxBrownie, Rockend (now MRI) and Beepo had provided sponsorship and it blew out to 90 people representing Australian proptechs which maxed out our venue.
What stands out most about that event though was the sheer excitement and delight everyone had about being together. The conversations were dynamic, overwhelmingly helpful and supportive. Deals were done, collaborations entered into, big issues around data and API standards were raised. And the question was immediately asked – when could we do it again? It was, if you like, an MVP for the association.
One of the clear outcomes of the day was the realisation that nearly every proptech was facing similar challenges. Confusion around how to approach funding, frustration at the reluctance of our potential clients to embrace innovation, the challenges of scaling. It seemed crazy that every proptech founder felt alone when our issues were all so similar. Conferences alone could not fix this but an industry body could make a difference.
So like all good founders, I built a pitch deck – Why Australia Needed a Proptech Association – and started setting up meetings to see if this thing would really fly. The first was with Dan Evans at Macquarie, the second with Marie-Anne Lampotang at Stone & Chalk. Neville Pozzi, CEO at REIWA rang me and told me he’d heard about it and was in. We filled in the paperwork for Fair Trading and it is fair to say, life then went crazy.
When the Proptech Association Australia launched back in February 2020 we could never have imagined how much the world was about to change.
Our launch event at Stone & Chalk Sydney was held just weeks before Covid hit and lockdowns disrupted lives for the first time. But while the property and real estate industries went into initial shock, proptech businesses across Australia went into action.
When faced with an option of closing down completely, or embracing the technology that would allow residential and commercial real estate to continue to be bought, sold, rented and managed, industries that had long avoided innovation with proclamations of “that’s not how we do it around here” were suddenly desperate to adapt. And the need for an independent voice to help articulate what kind of innovation is available, provide guidance on what great adoption looks like and provide a lightning rod for new innovation and better support for proptech has never been greater.
I’m hugely proud of everything the association has been able to accomplish so far, the relationships we have established and the momentum we have started thanks to the hard work and enthusiasm of our board and support of our sponsors. A summary of our activity for the past 18 months is below:
Achievements for 2021
As with all startups, everything at the Proptech Association has had to be conceived and rolled out from scratch. Much of the work achieved by the committee over our past 18 months, therefore, has been in setting up the infrastructure of the Association and ensuring we created foundations that are robust and scalable as we bring on new members.
This has included creating the website, defining memberships, setting up a database of members and potential members, bringing in sponsors and associates and establishing processes to communicate with members, connect with other industry bodies and groups, create events and establish the association’s reputation as an industry authority.
To enable this the Board who have met regularly every fortnight for the past 18 months. As a volunteer-led association, they have all worked tirelessly to build momentum for the Association, and generously lent their skills, time, resources and expertise to its successful establishment. A summary of our achievements and proper thank you is included below:
- Proptech Panels and Events
With lockdowns and border closures preventing live events for most of the past 18 months, the association, the Association developed a panel webinar format identifying a key trend we see occurring in the industry and showcasing three or four proptechs in the space. Over the past 12 months we have hosted 13 panels covering topics as broad as Proptech for Good, Sales and Marketing Proptech, Choosing a Commercial Proptech and The Disruption of Property Management and How Proptech is helping buyers. Proptech Panels average an audience or around 50 people per live session but have had audiences as large as 170 depending on the topic and have a much longer tail as the recordings are shared on the association website and the audio repackaged for the Proptech Podcast.
- Proptech Awards
The Proptech Awards were the jewel in the crown for 2021 and played a major role in the association’s move from free to paid membership. The goal of the Awards was to identify and celebrate innovation and market execution and to recognise the depth and breadth of proptech operating in the Australian market. Our judging criteria was carefully thought through to recognise the three different stages of proptech lifecycle – startup, scaleup and established suppliers and the categories designed to recognise the key areas where innovation is flourishing.
We had more than 85 entries across the six main categories, 73 finalists and announced 15 winners.
We are proud of the structure of the Awards which were designed to ensure proptechs were judged “like for like” while at the same time providing guidance for end-users to what good proptech adoption can achieve.
We could not have held the awards without the enthusiastic support of our sponsors. First among them was Ashurst whose extremely generous offer to host the awards in their boardroom made the entire event possible. A special mention to Stuart Dullard, Leah Peakman and Laura Ogden for their hard work and hospitality in ensuring the event went off so smoothly. Thanks too to Property TV who provided our livestream which allowed us to connect up to partner events in Brisbane and Perth and for proptechs in Melbourne which went into lockdown on the evening of the awards, to attend virtually.
Our thanks also to Awards sponsors, REI Super, Pexa, Macquarie, Forbury, WebIT, REIP, Domain, Pricefinder, Smidge Wines, Stone & Chalk, REIWA and of course to all of our judges whose rigorous judging made it possible.
- Key Relationships
The association has been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm with which we’ve been embraced by both the global proptech community and local organisations working in the space. We have only just started to explore the opportunities these relationships open up for our members.
Special thanks go to Isaac Coonan at Proptech Brisbane, James Dearsley at Unissu, Menno Lammers at Proptech for Good, Shelli Trung at Reach and Leon Kantor at FuturePlace.
We have established formal relationships with 10 associations around the world and look forward to expanding and deepening these connections over the next 12 months.
- The Proptech Podcast
The Proptech Association is now an official supporter of the Proptech Podcast and PTAA members receive priority for interviews. The podcast has had more than 16,200 downloads and has more than 1000 listeners every month. With its goal to discover new proptech and discuss innovation issues, it is now attracting a global audience and it gives startups the opportunity to explain and showcase their tech, while scaleup and established suppliers can discuss new products or the broader innovation landscape. More than 40 members have been featured on the show so far.
- Other events and initiatives
Our Proptech Pathways webinars are designed to provide insights into common questions proptechs have about getting started and scaling their businesses. Our first Proptech Pathways panel was hosted by AJ Chand, and looked at Investment Options for Proptechs with speakers including Adrian Bunter from Sydney Angels, Matt Vitale from Birchal, Shelli Trung from REACH and Richard Lin from Airtree. We will be repeating this format in 2022 hosting an event quarterly.
Our first Proptech Connect session focussed on commercial proptech and was a giant Zoom meeting with 24 members who all work in the commercial proptech space. For most, it was the first time they had met and the discussion was largely around understanding common issues and identifying businesses that would benefit from connecting with each other. Key discussion points included commercial data and the need for common data terms to support better innovation.
Propech Connect sessions are designed to introduce and facilitate conversations between our members. After each Connect session, we create a Slack channel for participants to continue the conversations and stay connected. Future Connect conversations will include the topics of Sales & Marketing, Big Data, CRMs, Industrial, Retail and ESG. We will use these events to identify issues and areas where the association needs to take action – and find enthusiastic volunteers!
Our Proptech Mastery session was set up at the behest of members Box+Dice, AIRE and Inspect Real Estate who identified the issue of data security in the residential real estate space and the need to build awareness of the risks of poor practice they could all see through their systems. The addition of experts from Ashurst and Aust Cyber created an engaging panel which both highlighted the dangers of poor password security and the simple steps needed to address it.
The Board and Coalition of the Willing
The Proptech Association would never have taken off without the very generous support of some key people.
I’d especially like to thank Marie-Anne Lampotang from Stone & Chalk for so enthusiastically getting behind the association in its infancy. Mal immediately ‘got’ the pitch and our scheduled half-hour introduction turned into a two-hour meeting of hearts and minds. Stone & Chalk generously hosted our launch event and provide coordination resources to make our Proptech Panels a reality. In her role as treasurer, Mal has also been the driving force in setting up and managing our finances and making Hubspot work – an impressive achievement in itself.
Thanks too go to Simon Hayes, our secretary, who has been so diligent with the minutes and compliance elements of the association that are necessitated by our not-for-profit status. That he took on all of this at the same time as starting a serious new role at PwC is a testament to his capacity for hard work – or punishment. I’m not sure which!
Huge thanks also go to Jennifer Harrison. Jen introduced herself to me after the launch event saying she’d love to get involved and thought she could be useful because “she knew a lot of people”. How true that was! As vice president, Jen has been a powerhouse promoting the association, bringing in sponsors and associates, stepping into president duties when required and managing our LinkedIn and social media and making countless connections. Her experience in fintech is invaluable at providing depth and context to what we are seeing in proptech and she has a deep knowledge of the innovation occurring across the associated insuretech and regtech spaces. She’s also an awesome panel presenter.
I’d also like to thank AJ Chand, Scott Willson and Kylie Dillon – board members who have all been extremely generous volunteering their time, ideas and networks to support and grow the association in addition to their day jobs of running rapidly scaling and successful proptechs (including a couple of fundraising rounds). All three have been on call for meetings with key stakeholders, coordinated sponsorships and hosted events and Kylie is managing our relationships in WA with REIWA, the WA ProptechHub and Pexa.
I am also grateful for our most recent board member, John Minns whose extensive background and connections in residential real estate is providing even greater depth with how we engage and help understand the proptech client perspective. His new role as NSW Property Services Commissioner demonstrates the respect with which he is held in the industry.
I’d also like to thank the fabulous Jill Escudero. Jill is my Digital Marketing Associate, based in the Philippines, but her role in the success of the Proptech Association on the ground in Australia cannot be overstated. Jill is the person everyone throws to at the association. She handles all the elements of the website, built our membership platform, has designed all our artwork, and sends out our communications. Her cheerfulness, competence and can-do attitude is a continual source of reassurance and strength.
And finally, I’d like to thank my husband, Mark Hollands. Mark, with a background in industry bodies, was the one who pointed out that the issues faced by proptech could best be addressed by an independent association. He was also the organiser of the Proptech Awards embracing the work involved in setting them up with gusto. Like everything he does in our lives, they were run like a well-oiled machine and their success is due to the military precision with which he ran the entry system setup, trophy ordering and judging.
It has been through the generous support of our sponsors and their commitment to our vision that the Proptech Association has been able to come into being. Huge thanks go to Ashurst, whose extraordinary support for our Proptech Awards allowed a brand new industry association to launch the awards program with zero financial risk.
Very special thanks too, go to our foundation sponsors – Macquarie, Stone & Chalk, REIWA, Pexa, WebIT and Forbury. The association offers the opportunity for the corporate sector to engage with the proptech community and we welcome interest from organisations that would like to have a meaningful connection with our members and have a wishlist of new events that are ready to be branded.
Plans for 2022
Like all good startups, our plans for 2022 involve rinsing and repeating our early successes while testing new ideas to expand our capacity and to continue to grow the association to its next 100 members.
We will continue with monthly Proptech Panels and add quarterly Proptech Pathways webinars for our startups. We will also expand our Proptech Connect Sessions supported by Slack channels to deepen the conversations and engagement between members.
Our awards will return in June 2022 and we will host The Proptech Forum in late August. The proptech landscape is increasingly being well serviced by events that connect tech and clients, especially in the commercial space so the Proptech Forum will be a return to our roots – a gathering of the proptech community to meet each other and learn from our shared experiences and share a drink.
We also have a wishlist of potential events including Reverse Pitches and Pitch Nights. New sponsorship and support will be thrown into these initiatives as they become available.
“Ask forgiveness, not permission” was one of the most powerful pieces of advice I have ever been given in business, which, when combined with the realisation that if you are prepared to do the work rather than just make suggestions, magic can happen. Every proptech founder knows this at their core.
The Proptech Association has been created for proptechs to support a fast emerging industry that is spinning into being before our eyes. There is so much to do – from policy work to collaborations, discussions to start, connections to make, whitepapers, industry advice and guidelines, pitch nights, introductions, events.
If you see something that needs to be done in our space, then lean in. Don’t wait for the board or expect that we need to drive everything. If you can see how the umbrella of an industry association can help support and grow a stronger proptech sector, put your hand up. We want to establish expertise based committees in 2022 that can deep dive into issues of importance and lead conversations and the more people involved, the better.
Because the more we continue on this journey, the clearer it becomes that for consumers, industry and proptechs, technology is only going to increase in importance, speed, power and human-centred focus.
A vibrant property sector demands great experiences to deliver the workplaces and client expectations of the future, and we should all be proud that so many of the innovators who will lead this are part of our Proptech Association family.