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PropTech Today: MIPIM Startup Competition - meet the finalists

Greetings from Cannes, where the sun is finally shining over MIPIM. I’m sure many of you are out here, too, and I look forward to catching up with you all. 

I want to take this opportunity to highlight the Start-Up Competition which will be taking place today (March 13) on the main stage. 

Nine finalists, with three graduating from each of the semi-finals in the London, Hong-Kong, and New York, will compete for the prestigious prize. The most valuable reward for winning, though, must surely be the exposure which follows.


Aaron Block, Founding Partner of MetaProp, a US based accelerator and consultancy,  will oversee proceedings, and I’m honored to have been selected to sit on the jury, alongside Dan Hughes, Sandy Jacolow, and Joern Stobbe.

Here is a brief look at each of the nine finalists, because their selection for the final tells us a lot about what PropTech will look like over the next few years... 

Acasa - Set-up and seamlessly pay all home bills through one app

London based Acasa has a vision to ‘create a unified, frictionless and deeply integrated platform that will bring the home into the digital age’.

On the most basic level, it provides software which enables people who live together to easily split and share bill payments. 

According to its MIPIM entry pitch, acasa is ‘on a mission to make the experience of moving in, managing and moving on as delightful as it should be. From the very first property to the very last’. 

The technology behind acasa is excellent and truly innovative, and the value is easy to understand. That’s a killer combination and one which is essential for industry success. 

One of its key sales pitches is that it helps housemates avoid fall-outs and arguments; this choice to talk about the ‘why’ of its service, rather than the ‘what’, is a good lesson for all companies with a B2C slant. 

Disruptive Technologies - Smart, wireless mini-sensors for the Digital Transformation

Norwegian company Disruptive Technologies has developed a ‘truly groundbreaking yet stunningly simple end-to-end sensor solution, which has the capacity to significantly reduce cost, increase efficiency and drive innovation in the built environment’.

Its sensors are the smallest in the world, just the size of a postage stamp, and boast a 15-year battery life.  

For now, its sensors can address things such as temperature, touch and proximity, but plans for humidity and water detection are close to fruition. The possible future applications are seemingly endless. 

The sensors allow data to be collected, data which can help reduce inefficiency, predict future complications, and optimise performance. The time and money saved is a major selling point, but it’s the insight that has the judges excited about Disruptive Technologies. 

The firm was voted Norway's Tech Company of the Year 2016.

Grid Edge - A.I for energy management to stop buildings behaving badly

Birmingham-based Grid Edge wants to ‘change the way that people use energy by putting intelligent control into the hands of commercial energy consumers and creating new value on their side of the meter’. 

Its major selling point is that it enables commercial energy consumers to predict, optimise and control their energy profile, ‘unlocking their potential to become active and intelligent participants in the energy system’. 

Basically, building owners can save cash and carbon through intelligent control of their energy.

AI, machine-learning algorithms and advanced data analytics combine to reduce energy costs, cut carbon emissions and unlock the revenue-generating potential of flexible energy assets.

Grid Edge refers to what it does as ‘Savings as a Service’, and boasts to ‘create savings and revenues for customers equivalent to 10%-30% of their annual energy costs’.

Physee - Fully transparent PowerWindows convert sunlight into energy and data

From the Netherlands comes Physee, the ‘first and only’ company to provide completely transparent windows, which generate data by sensing the environment and convert sunlight into electricity, simultaneously.

Glass is being used more and more by the construction industry, you only have to look at every single building going up in London right now. 

Physee believes that ‘sustainable innovation benefits clients most when it comes without compromise’, and that simplicity ranks as one of the most important aspects of innovation, alongside aesthetics, functionality and sustainability. 

The fact that Physee sensors are on the outside of the house allows for them to pick up on things that indoor sensors cannot. Such things include natural light, outdoor temperature, air quality, and pressure. Pretty cool stuff. 

PlanRadar - Cloud-based SaaS solution for construction documentation, task and defect management

Vienna-based PlanRadar is a cloud-based SaaS solution for innovative construction documentation, task and defect management in construction and real estate projects.

Project managers, architects, technicians and facility and property managers can record tasks and defects in an efficient way. Thanks to the mobile cloud, they can do so live from the construction site, assigning all tasks, in real time, to the responsible project stakeholders.

“From our experience, 60-70% of construction companies are still not dealing with digitalisation, but...they need to do something to succeed in their competitive market,” says PlanRadar. 

“Right now there is a lot of focus on topics like financing (crowd), AR/VR and commercialisation (online brokering). But the optimization of the processes inside the companies...has much more potential.” 

Error avoidance, error detection, project defects, true transparency, and consistent communication; all in one comprehensive app. 

RealAtom - Marketplace for commercial real estate loans matching borrowers with lenders

From Arlington, Virginia, comes RealAtom, a commercial property lending marketplace. 

“The highly-fragmented commercial real estate lending market is soured by high fees, lack of transparency and process inefficiencies,” it says.

“Billions in fees were paid to financial intermediaries on the $550 billion of new loans originated in 2015. And still, a staggering 40% of commercial real estate sales fall through because borrowers are unable to secure financing due to poor information flow and slow turnaround.”

By providing a marketplace which matches borrowers with the appropriate lenders, RealAtom hopes to simplify the entire lending process. 

It has already formed partnerships with 350 lenders, including major names such as CapitolOne and Chase, processing $450 million in loan requests.

“The RealAtom goal is to bring transparency and accountability to CRE lending. While doing so, we make the user’s job easier, giving them the tools and flexibility to find the right loans and easily manage all aspects of their debt transactions on one platform.”

SnapFlat - Landlords and tenants…it's time to save and make money

SnapFlat arrives from Hong-Kong, helping people find a flat for free, and then get paid 15% of the rent when they choose to move out. 

Those looking for a flat can search and book viewings for free. SnapFlat provide its own agents to aid with the search, and, if the renter finds their next place with SnapFlat too, they will be rewarded with 15% of one month’s rent. 

For landlords, SnapFlat works to reduce costs and avoid vacancies. 

“SnapFlat is a new property agent that aims to solve tenants and landlords’ biggest problems. With SnapFlat, tenants find their home for free (no agent commission), and unlike all established property search websites, tenants browse available flats with clear pictures and descriptions,” says the startup.

WeMaintain - A Saas Marketplace connecting maintenance mechanics & property managers

French startup, WeMaintain, pairs customers and mechanics on one, simple integrated interface, packed with innovative features.

“Our mission is to transform the service experience by providing you with more transparency and reactivity,” it says. 

“Our model relies on a dedicated qualified mechanic and fair pricing.”

Property managers simply report their address and their maintenance issue online and then receive a number quotes from various service providers. 

It’s not a dissimilar business model to Uber, customers get instant, on-demand and competitively priced service, mechanics increase their opportunity for business, and WeMaintain takes a slice of the bill. 

WeMaintain highlights the following features of its service: Route dispatching, agenda scheduling, checklist completion, transparent reports sent directly to customers, tailored flexibility, and optimised safety features.

Workwell - The office app

French-based Workwell has already made real waves in the mainstream press. Its mission is to help employees feel happier and more connected at work.

It’s an open platform that centralises the access to all the services made available to employees in a building, in order to help them to be happier and more productive at work. 

“Workwell easily gives access from a single interface to services as varied as: carpooling, lighting and AC control, cafeteria menu, meeting room booking, concierge or any service that can be imagined,” it says. 

“[We] distribute services developed by ourselves, third-party service developers, and our customers, by using an SDK, allowing to easily create and integrate secure services with a unified authentication.” 

“We believe Workwell can really change the employee experience in workplaces around the world, making their days easier and helping create a sense of community in office buildings.”

They all have a short time to pitch their ideas, businesses and philosophies. Only one will win the prize but it will no doubt give many an idea that there are a dazzling array of interesting business models out there which perfectly complement the property market. 

It’s all about innovation, not disruption, and these are nine interesting businesses to learn from and work with. 

I very much look forward to hear what they are proposing.

*James Dearsley is a partner in PropTech Consult, digital transformation specialists for the real estate sector. To sign up to James’ Sunday PropTech Review, click here


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