The time has come for full PropTech/property integration and only those who open themselves to the globe will be part of it.
I’m a screamer, a sentence I never thought I’d write publically, but which PropTech generation do you belong to? There are a few to choose from…
There are those who got involved before they even knew what they were involved with. They’re the originators of this movement, having paved the way for others to follow.
Since that handful of people started asking questions around property and technology, three more generations of ‘PropTechers’ have followed. More importantly, a fourth generation is about to establish itself, a generation which will work to fully intertwine PropTech and property so that, finally, they truly become one single entity.
All of your hard work up until now, educating yourselves and experimenting with technology, has been leading to this moment; this is what it’s all been about.
The question is, are you going to be part of it? Because, regardless of which generation you currently belong to, it’s time now to join the new one.
Are you a gurgler?
Gurglers are the forefathers of the PropTech movement; involved before the term ‘PropTech’ even existed.
They were, essentially, having these conversations internally with themselves, occasionally bending the ear of colleagues and friends who, by and large, dismissed it as abstract theory, some kind of attempt at digital philosophy.
Everything was based around ‘what if...?’, a question which only fascinates a certain sort of person.
I’m calling them gurglers because they were attempting to communicate something that they didn’t yet have the words for, they were gurgling. Importantly, gurglers were rarely making the same kind of sounds or utterances - they all had their own theories, their own idea of where technology could most impact property.
This obstacle of understanding meant that their parents, the property oligarchy, couldn’t understand them and had little interest in trying to.
Examples of gurglers:
- Magnus Svantegard - Stronghold
- Andrew Waller - Remit Consulting
- Harry Hill - Rightmove
- Andy Florence - CoStar
Are you a screamer?
It didn’t take long for the gurglers to start garnering a bit of attention from a few influential people. The few sentences they were eventually able to string together alerted their parents to the imminent arrival of profound industry transformation.
Large sections of it remained abstract and theoretical, yet some of the earliest PropTech companies were starting to become hugely valuable. There’s nothing more certain to get industry attention than a big pile of money. Inevitably, people started noticing.
Tech adoption remained sluggish, but a generation of passionate evangelists, screamers, started nattering and blogging about this vital and exciting new movement. They were still lone voices, somewhat isolated from the crowd, but their constant, tenacious screaming about the vast possibilities that arise with technology became incredibly difficult to ignore.
Soon, some of those conversations which were initiated by the gurglers began occurring in bigger offices on higher floors.
The screamers created the term PropTech. ReTech was the version that caught on in the US market (more on this later), but regardless of dual terminology, the movement gathered speed.
There are still markets around the world who remain in the screamer phase. PropTech adoption is such that not all countries are created equal and digital transformation lags five or 10 years behind.
Are you a playgrounder?
Some of the screamers screamed louder than others and some screamers just had more influential people to scream at.
The best screamers focussed on top-quality writing, producing articles and papers in which they proffered their version of the truth. Soon, these same people started popping up at property conferences and panel debates around the world.
These screamers began to create little hubs across the playground, finding like-minded souls and bunkering down under the climbing frame to talk strategy.
These playgrounders started gathering, curating and presenting all of the information they could possibly find. Some did it for the money, others simply for the love of it.
Eventually, small hubs began appearing all over the playground, we had the US hub, the European hub, the Asian hub.
Some of these hubs were having the same conversations and working with the same predicted timelines, but the largest hubs remained independent and inward looking, confident that everything they required in order to make this movement happen could be found internally. In some cases and at this present time, the internal focus is okay but is this ensuring a promising future for such a global challenge?
We are very much in this period today, with some nations well on their way to full PropTech/property integration and others that are just starting to scream.
Examples of playgrounders:
- UK PropTech Association headed up by Sammy Pahal
- Holland PropTech Initiative headed up by Wouter Truffino
- Leo Lo - Asian PropTech Initiative
- Latin American PropTech by Andrea Rodriguez Valdez- starting to motor
- Csanad Csuros - CEE Property Forum event organiser
These are all great people doing superb jobs on a community by community basis. There are many more where that came from too. There are other conference organisers, blogging sites, large corporate consultancy businesses. They all have their network, their community, their audience. However, they decisions and path they take next are the critical ones.
Stunted growth, or are you a university of lifer?
So, the playground is full of vibrant conversation, buzzing with activity, but a new concern is starting to arise. Whilst all of the hubs get along well enough, they’re not yet making moves to really pool their knowledge. This is concerning because it’s the only way for total PropTech/property integration.
Here’s the situation: buildings and cities around the world are suffering from the same problems, presenting with the same symptoms. Despite this, many people think that the most suitable solutions are going to be found locally and so the hub is only looking internally, reluctant to walk across the playground and talk to another hub, see if they’ve got any good ideas that might help.
This is a huge problem. A huge problem. I can’t overstate that enough. We cannot continue to operate in our own geographical and industry silos alone.
Each of our hubs - the US, Europe, Asia, South America, etc - needs to cross the playground (the global property industry) and initiate a global-facing, collaborative establishment, like the university of life. The result of this exercise will be a shared, global outlook that will work to benefit each hub individually and the improve the state of the playground as a whole.
The big question is, how? How does the playground become a more mature version of itself? How does each hub within it best prepare its community for the long-term future? How can each hub member help themselves, and everyone else, to close the gap between PropTech and property until we can all just talk about ‘property’ and nothing else?
The first step towards an answer is for each hub to simply share all of its inside information and industry knowledge, creating one reliable source of global property and PropTech data.
Another big question is, what is the risk of failing to take part in a new global community, failing to enrol in the university of life?
Well, individual members of each hub have to make their own choice. Eventually, the hub itself, the UK market for instance, will organically make the global move and those who don’t participate will soon be squabbling with their fellow community members, eventually losing their influence within the hub. Their reluctance will be seen as arrogant and others will start to believe they are trying to control the hub’s future from a minority stance.
As a friend of mind and fellow parent, once told me, if you love them, let them go. We have to do the same with each of our PropTech industries. For any PropTech or property company to only be part of their own geographical hub is to reside to being left behind the global movement towards full industry integration. Once that opportunity is missed, it’ll be near impossible to get it back.
*James Dearsley is a leading PropTech influencer and commentator. You can follow him on Twitter here.