So, Property Week has announced its Property Awards shortlist for 2017. Looking at the entries for PropTech Company of the Year, I'm surprised to see who has, and hasn’t been recognised.
There are eight companies on the shortlist, so, before we get into it, let me just give you a quick blurb for each of them:
CompStak - HQ: New York
CompStak is the American giant of Big Data for commercial property. They claim to be ‘the world's first comprehensive database of commercial lease deal information...(where) brokers exchange the comps they have at hand, for the specific comps they need.
Hubble - HQ: London
Hubble advertise themselves as ‘a marketplace to find your company a home and for people to monetize their extra space and showcase it to other companies.’
LendInvest - HQ: London
LendInvest is ‘the UK’s leading online platform for property lending and investing... (who) help people and institutions to invest in loans that are secured against property to property professionals.’
Matterport - HQ: California
Matterport is ‘an immersive media technology company that is shaking up the 3D / VR world.’ They have built the ‘first end-to-end system for creating, modifying, distributing, and navigating immersive 3D and VR versions of real-world spaces on web and mobile devices.
VTS - HQ: New York
VTS is ‘the world's leading asset management and leasing platform built to provide real-time portfolio analytics to the top landlords and brokerage firms in the world. They allow ‘brokers and landlords to manage deal activity, identify trends and quantify portfolio performance from their desktop or mobile device.’
WiredScore - HQ: New York
WiredScore ‘champions cutting-edge technology in commercial real estate by providing the only standard for rating the infrastructure, connectivity and technological capacity of commercial buildings.’
Yardi Systems Limited - HQ: California
Yardi is ‘dedicated to the design, development, and support of real estate investment management and property management software…(offering) full business solutions for every real estate market.’
YOPA - HQ: London
YOPA are ‘making the process of selling your home affordable, simple and transparent by (giving) sellers the expertise of a dedicated Local YOPA Agent to guide them through their sale, combined with the convenience and cost-saving efficiency of an online service.’
The first thing I should say is, I’m am all up for awards. They’re an important tool for celebrating innovation and highlighting the people and companies who are leading the success of our industry.
Awards are also useful for marketing and I believe they should be seen as an opportunity to shine a light on great companies who are on their way up, if not yet household names.
However, there are elements of this Property Week shortlist that have surprised me, and not necessarily in a good way. Let me explain…
Firstly, it surprises me that there is not stronger representation for the residential sector. Only YOPA and, in some respects, LendInvest are working within the resi market with the rest all being commercial facing.
I appreciate that disruption to the residential sector has been happening, in earnest, for a much longer time than commercial, which has resulted in a lot of companies trying to fill that gap in the past 18 months, but even so, one would have thought a 50-50 split would have been more representative of this year’s PropTech progress.
My second question is, given that this is a UK property award, why are there so few companies here whose origins are in the UK?
Two of the US companies, VTS and Matterport, have indeed made recent acquisitions, Hightower and Virtual Walkthrough respectively, which have brought them into the UK market. But still, it might be seen as a shame not to have more UK companies up for consideration.
After last year’s referendum and the ensuing panic around keeping businesses in the UK, would it not have been a good move, as well as an act of faith and solidarity, to use these awards as an opportunity to celebrate our homegrown talent?
Instead we are left with a list dominated by America. Britain’s failure to support its technology entrepreneurs has been widely publicised in the past year. It has been blamed for the UK’s inability to produce ‘unicorns’ and world changing organisations like Google, Facebook and Airbnb. With these awards, are we, once again, seeing our own creatives being overlooked?
Thirdly and, for now, finally, it seems unusual that most of the companies listed are already well established and well-known.
Why aren’t we celebrating the small startups who, from the ground level, are providing the real, essential disruption that our industry needs?
We all know how slow and reportedly archaic the traditional real estate firms can be, and without having their hands forced by ballsy, plucky startups, it’s possible they would never have innovated at the rate we have seen.
The pressure applied by smaller companies is the driving force of industry innovation and yet, in this list, none of them are represented? Instead we are offered the PropTech giants of Matterport and LendInvest. Is the old-school property industry demonstrating a slight lack of imagination?
I am, by no means, trying to be inflammatory in my commentary; there is a difference between honest analysis and stirring; but, unless awards like these actively encourage and reward emerging UK companies, I can’t help but worry that they are missing an important opportunity to showcase the world-beating work that’s being done in this country.