COVID has triggered a flurry of activity in the proptech sphere and it’s not before time, writes Scott Willson.
Whither the Australian proptech sector? A couple of years back, the answer would have been “languishing in the doldrums”. Ours is a conservative sector — given investing in property typically entails the outlay of seven- to 10-figure sums, it could hardly be otherwise — and major industry players have been slow to jump on the high-tech bandwagon historically.
What a difference COVID makes. Since the pandemic began, we’ve seen surging interest in all things proptech, here in Australia and New Zealand and further afield. It’s not hard to see why. After dealing with the first-order effects of the pandemic — maintaining business continuity via a shift to remote working — institutional investors and other industry players are much more alive to the power of technology. They’re now grappling with the second-order effects, including the question of whether they should be investing in tools and technologies that allow them to maintain a decentralised operating model over the longer term.
For some organisations, that will mean decommissioning paper-based processes and legacy solutions and replacing them with cloud platforms and programs that enable employees to access and share up-to-date information from anywhere. In many industries, this sort of high-tech infrastructure is already the unremarkable status quo. But for hidebound property companies, it may represent a great leap forward.
It is, however, one they appear ready and willing to take. We’re now observing longstanding inertia supplanted by the fear that doing nothing may result in losing ground to more nimble and tech-receptive competitors.
The emergence of an ecosystem
An untapped need inevitably leads to the emergence of new services and solutions to address it. Voila! the flourishing ecosystem of software developers who are building specialised solutions to help construction and property businesses operate more efficiently, share data and use it to identify trends and extract actionable insights.
The Proptech Association of Australia is driving the conversation and fostering a property technology marketplace that connects industry players — investors, owners, sellers, buyers, tenants and agents — with suppliers whose solutions can address emerging and longstanding pain points.
Other organisations such as Future Place are also doing valuable work in this space, providing forums for industry leaders, innovators and technologists to come together and share ideas. So are state-based networking groups like Proptech Brisbane and Proptech WA.
We’re also seeing venture capital flowing into our sector, with specialised funds like Taronga Ventures looking to pick winners, proptech developers whose products will be de facto industry standards, a year or two hence.
Following the leaders
Meanwhile, the emergence of trailblazers, power users who are willing to take the risks early adoption inevitably entails, will supercharge the uptake of new technologies across the region.
These first movers are likely to be propelled by internal champions, whether they be senior leaders who are cognisant of the transformative power of technology, or early career analysts who want access to digital tools to help them do their jobs smarter, faster and better.
Where they go, others will follow.
Also on the cards is the spin-out of proptech enterprises, from large players that opt to develop internal solutions to common industry problems.
Creating a stronger property sector together
Whether you’re an owner, investor or supplier, it’s an exciting time to be in our industry. Transformative change is afoot and working together will help us to exploit the potential and power of technology for mutual gain.
Scott Willson is the CEO of Forbury.