Isaac Coonan is the founder of Proptech BNE, and he recently published an article on why we need to take proptech down off a pedestal and start implementing. We sat down with Isaac to find out more about why the real estate industry needs to start walking the proptech talk, and how they can get started.
IC: I come from a tech / growth background, not a property background, so what I love about proptech is the potential for growth. The property industry is so ripe for evolution and growth, and I think it will see very rapid changes over the next 5 years.
The property industry is relationship-driven, and I’ve always come at technology from the viewpoint that it needs to help build and strengthen relationships. Particularly in the property industry, technology enables people to build stronger personal connections by spending less time doing the mundane, repetitive tasks that take away from where they can offer the most value. At its core, proptech is about helping the people building relationships have more time to do that.
LH: Why do you think we are not further along the journey of digital adoption within the property economy?
IC: I think there are two reasons. Firstly, we’ve had a relatively healthy economy over the past 15 years, and real estate has continued to remain a strong investment. A lot of people say, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it – which has slowed our adoption of proptech that could make the lives of real estate professionals easier. It’s also stopped consumers from really pushing for change. If people are still getting good returns and property prices are going up, they are more willing to grit their teeth and bear the uncomfortable.
Secondly, I started Proptech BNE because I think some real estate professionals fear proptech. They think that technology is about reducing the need for agents, valuers, auctioneers, etc. when this couldn’t be further from the truth. People think, why should I engage with this, if it’s going to ultimately take my job?
We need to challenge this thinking and encourage real estate professionals to consider the parts of their jobs that take away from their core value – which is building relationships – and think about how we can automate them. Scheduling your calendar, rental runs, digital marketing for listings – the things that are annoying and that take time and that can be automated, that’s what’s getting replaced by proptech.
For property professionals who loves their job, proptech is only a good thing.
LH: How do you think the property industry can move away from ‘glorifying’ proptech towards implementation?
IC: If your company is new to proptech, I wouldn’t recommend jumping in, boots and all. For a lot of companies, engaging with technology is going to require you do your due diligence so you don’t end up having a bad experience and throwing the entire concept out.
Consider the traditional way you look for business support. If you know you need to hire someone, you look at where they are needed in the company, what skills that person is going to need, and I would encourage the same concept for implementation of proptech. The companies that are becoming the most tech progressive are doing so because they know where their weaknesses are and use that information to start the process of identifying the tech solution that will help.
A great example of this is Docusign in the US. It was only when a few large brokerage firms got together and realised they were wasting 7 hours a day of people driving contracts to and from customers, an activity that didn’t actually improve the customer experience, that they realised they needed a digital solution.
LH: What can proptechs do in order to make this shift easier for the property industry?
IC: Know your customer, including their language and their pain points. We’ll often see great technology but the value isn’t articulated in a way that makes sense to the consumer. It’s also a relationship game – if you are just trying to sell and not build strategic relationships, you’re not going to see success.
LH: Who do you need on your team to help guarantee success?
IC: Proptechs that have scaled and have performed particularly well usually have someone on the team who knows the industry and how to build relationships.
LH: Why do proptechs need to shift their thinking away from signing big partnership deals towards on-the-ground adoption?
IC: Big partnership deals are important, but make sure you’re also prioritising the early adopters and building trust in the industry. By the time you’re ready to have the major contract discussion, you will have industry validation and industry support.
LH: Who’s doing a great job of this already? What are they doing differently?
IC: Box Brownie is a great example – it doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of an REI or you’re the owner of a 2 man shop, you get the same product value. That’s what really is important for tech companies to understand, the product experience can’t change based on who is paying the most.
LH: What role does Proptech BNE play in helping to transition the industry towards implementation?
IC: On the proptech side, we aim to ensure the tech companies understand the industry and the pain points they are trying to solve, while helping them to articulate this in a way that makes sense.
From an industry perspective, we are working with them to ensure they understand how to engage with emerging technology companies. Both sides of the coin are important but often they are speaking two different languages. Our job is to be the translator.
Interested in learning more about what proptech means for the property industry, Proptech BNE is hosting an event on Demystifying Proptech. Join Isaac Coonan and other industry experts to get their take here.