The Year in Proptech

In isolation due to Covid, Proptech President Kylie Davis shared the following insights into the past 12 months of proptech via Zoom for the Proptech Awards 2022.

I am absolutely heartbroken that I cannot be with you all in person. However, as you can probably tell, Covid caught me. And as I’m still testing positive and coughing, I figured it was safest to stay home and not turn the awards night into a super spreader event. That’s not the kind of legacy for proptech I envisioned myself leaving for the industry. 

But I did want to say a few words because tonight is truly an auspicious night, and a major milestone for Proptech in Australia.  

Who would have thought two years ago, that we would be here tonight with more than 300 people in a room celebrating the achievements, innovation and creativity of the country’s most exciting technology sector?

We are on the cusp of a golden age of proptech in Australia – a moment in time when both internal and external forces are aligning to bring the industry into the spotlight and I wanted to highlight some of them and provide an insight into the year of proptech. 

Reading through all of the entries of the awards this year, there’s been five key trends that we’ve seen emerging in how proptechs are solving problems.  

The first is saving time. 

Quality proptech is removing the bottlenecks around owners, agents, facility managers and builders.  

We’re automating repetitive tasks, streamlining complicated and time-consuming manual processes, and across a range of solutions, proptechs are saving time for all parties by improving consistency of information and reducing the need for rework with all of its inherent delays. 

The second is Saving money:

So many proptechs save the property industry cold hard cash today because they’re able to deliver products and services at a cheaper rate that more than makes up for their cost of delivery. 

This is because they require fewer people in a team to operate, allow processes to be more consistently outsourced, and because they reduce waste or operational costs to the business. 

But these two trends of saving time and money are pretty much hygiene factors these days. All proptech needs to be able to tick these boxes.

But what we are increasingly seeing is how proptechs are delivering empowerment:

Property transactions – whether leasing or purchasing – typically involve millions of dollars, huge moving costs and major disruption. The idea that in 2022 the mentality of ‘buyer beware’ where buyers and tenants are required to carry out and fund the cost of all of their due diligence within an opaque environment is archaic. 

A growing breed of proptechs are using big data, analytics and processes to empower buyers and tenants by delivering transparency around transactions and processes, with the tools to help them make more confident decisions. This year we’ve seen a growing number of proptechs emerge that support a more level and transparent playing field across transactions and creating greater accountability all round. 

Increasingly too, we’re seeing a growing number of proptechs releasing new value from old assets. And this is the fourth trend:

In the property industry, we build, own and manage tangible assets, which has always traditionally included underutilised space and inflexible but lucrative long term, set and forget contracts. 

But we see a growing number of proptechs this year now enabling parts of our buildings that have been unproductive, or difficult to monetise, and turning them into viable options for new revenue, or resources that have real value, flexibility, or which can be turned into a premium experience both long and short term. 

And finally, the fifth trend is the accurate pricing of risk:

Property, ironically, has long been an industry of fuzzy logic. We use spreadsheets to assess the value and costs of our portfolios knowing full well that they are based on incomplete data, out of date reports and best guesses around when maintenance will be required.  

Add to that a business model where everyone along the chain tries to make their cut while squeezing suppliers or contractors and you have an ecosystem that is both burdened with risk and heavy costs and over the past few months we have seen the tragic outcomes of that. 

The rise of big data driven proptech is providing greater transparency around the real costs of materials, labour, time delays, and this is turn is allowing assets to be valued more quickly and more accurately, and having flow on effects to budgets, maintenance, forecasting and repairs. 

The undeniable benefit is a greater understanding of real risk supported by quantifiable data which is changing the dynamic of when action should be taken, or the very real cost of inaction – especially when it comes to the cost of carbon and emissions. 

And the extraordinary work that we’re seeing from people in this room is one of the reasons why I do very passionately believe that Proptech can save the Planet. 

Against all of these trends emerging from within proptech itself, we see external forces changing the dynamic with which we innovate and how quickly we are being adopted. 

Until Covid, fear was the single biggest thing that prevented the adoption of proptech. A fear of getting it wrong, making a mistake, of not getting the benefits promised. But Covid changed the equation to the point where the fear of not acting was greater than the risk of taking action. 

And I’m personally very proud of how so many proptechs leaned into better quality conversations with their clients when Covid struck and the emphasis on delivering help, support, content and value when the industry needed us most. We have entrenched our reputation as an industry that helps.  

Added to that we have legislative changes that are driving ESG adoption and a new federal government with a mandate to act more quickly to address climate change.

Most of all though, we have extraordinary hunger from investors in this space who are looking not just for the next clever innovation that could be a potential investment unicorn, but the next clever innovation that will secure the ongoing value of their existing bricks and mortar portfolios. The stakes currently are truly win, win, win.

And with more than 10 years of cloud-based innovation under our belt, we’re now seeing some of the rewards coming to fruition quite spectacularly as proptechs with deep domain expertise meet industry incumbents with new cloud-driven ecosystems and deep pockets.

The 2022 financial year has to date been significant for the number of deals done in the proptech space with multi-million dollar acquisitions – from Domain purchasing IDS and RealBase, CoreLogic buying AIRE, ActivePipe selling to Moxieworks in the US, MRI buying Box and Dice, Reapit purchasing Console and Archistar buying Snaploader just this week – just to name a few. 

It is always a challenge to sell a business. It’s always a challenge to go from being the founder whose job it is to solve every problem to being part of a bigger corporate team. But I applaud those acquiring businesses for the maturity with which they’ve approached these purchases looking to integrate specific expertise into their businesses rather than taking out the competition. 

This golden age that I mentioned is the combination of proptechs rapidly solving long-held problems in new and exciting ways, a legislative and government framework that is seeking to amplify adoption, and cash rich investors and industry incumbents hungry to invest and entrench themselves with their customers. 

Even with headwinds of higher interest rates, the likelihood of a slower property market and higher employment costs, this places us in an excellent position for the next 12 months.

Who knows. We may even get to a point where the Australian Financial Review editors finally realise proptech is ‘a thing’ and they stop obsessing about our fundraising and start covering the amazing solutions that we offer the property industry and the opportunities these offer for our built environments. 

We can hope right?!

Now just before we kick off the celebrations around those amazing solutions, there are a few people I’d like to thank. This event – more than 300 people in a room – is the result of nearly six months of work.

I’d like to thank our major sponsors Ashurst. In particular Leah Peakman, Laura Ogden and Stuart Dullard who have been the backbone of the Proptech Awards. Their belief in the association allowed us to hold our first awards last year, and their generosity this year in supporting the awards again even though we couldn’t hold it in their beautiful boardroom, has been unparalleled. 

Laura and Leah – thank you! We look forward to hosting our first Proptech Forum with you later in the year. 

To all of our sponsors: 

  • Proptrack
  • Pexa
  • Stone & Chalk
  • MRI
  • WebIT/ListOnce
  • Moonova
  • Shaype
  • TrueLayer
  • YepHome
  • Capstone
  • Evestnet/Yodlee
  • IdeaSpies
  • The Real Estate Conversation
  • Real Time Conveyancer
  • Instarent

We literally could not host awards like these without the support of our sponsors so please take the time to say hello and find out more about their businesses. There are some great integration options in there. 

And a big shout out to the Western Australians dialling in from Perth again this year. Good luck with your awards later tonight. It was fantastic to join you guys last month at the REIWA conference and it’s great to see so much incredible proptech being developed out west. 

And I’d especially like to thank the Proptech Association Board of Directors – my vice president Jennifer Harrison who coordinated our judges and sponsors, treasurer Marie-Anne Lampotang who took over the seating at the last minute and made sense out of my Covid-brain seat planning. And to Simon Hayes, AJ Chand, John Minns and Cecille Weldon. Thank you for all the time and effort you commit to the association.  To Mark Hollands who was the admin backbone of the awards. And to Isaac Coonan from Proptech Brisbane for your ongoing support and collaboration. 

I’d also like to highlight two women in the audience who are very dear to me. Kylie Dillon and Sarah Bell, can you please put up your hands or stand up and make yourselves known. These two girls are my body doubles for the evening. I am – as most of you know – a hugger. It’s probably how I got Covid. Sarah and Kylie will be hugging people indiscriminately tonight on my behalf. Please avail yourselves. 

And lastly, thank you to Peter Schravemade, who graciously stepped in to support Jen as cohost this year and who as the head of Reach, is now officially the Prince of Proptech.

Congratulations to every one of our finalists. Making it this far is a huge achievement. Have an absolutely fantastic night. I look forward to seeing you all in person again very soon. 

Over to you Jen and Pete.