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Tech City: Startup companies to transform property tech

PUBLISHED: 14:48 19 February 2015 | UPDATED: 16:25 18 March 2015

Juliette Morgan and Faisal Butt

Juliette Morgan and Faisal Butt

Archant

The property industry is changing rapidly and companies that do not embrace digital solutions will fall behind, according to Faisal Butt, of PiLabs.

The 37-year-old property tech entrepreneur is working with a series of partners including real estate agency Cushman & Wakefield to launch a platform for a select group of start-ups to receive Tech City office space, mentoring, funding and investors – which will go live on Monday.

PiLabs will open a fund on Seedrs which will also enable the general public to invest in the next Zoopla or AirBnB innovators.

Faisal said: “We are trying to invest in companies that are changing the property sector. There has been corporate interest where property companies have decided they have to embrace digital and not stand on the sidelines and watch it happen.

“People working in the industry know property is changing; more online estate agents are raising a lot of capital, which is sending jitters down the conventional property industry.”

Juliette Morgan, partner at Cushman & Wakefield, added: “It’s a pretty exciting time. The application process recently closed and we managed to attract some of the brightest minds in proptech from 50 countries around the world.

“Pi Labs was created to support the growing number of start-ups with potential to disrupt the property sector; it will also be immensely valuable to our clients. We look forward to co-building the next generation of companies changing our industry.”

Combining his professional background in technology with his interest in the property sector, Faisal founded PiLabs to bring the two industries together.

He said: “For the last year-and-a-half I’ve been trekking to the West End where conventional property is focused, but I’ve found that it hasn’t been hard to get conservative old school property guys to come to Shoreditch and I say: ‘guys, this is where innovation happens’.”

Faisal added that this shift was the second wave in the property tech movement, with companies like Zoopla and Rightmove having paved the way.

He said: “There have been success stories in property tech like Nest, which was acquired by Google. And based on these earlier success stories, we thought it made sense to bring together a platform.

“Business is a series of transactions and when we start asking ourselves, ‘can this step be digitised and be done better in a way that is more delightful for the people involved?’ the answer in most cases is yes.

“Property classifieds have gone online. Now it’s the rest of the transaction chain; it’s all going to go online.

“You can’t replace agents and professionals that know their area and have expertise, but I think that their roles will only be needed in the highly specialised advisory part.

“The change will not necessarily come from within. Small and nimble start-ups are popping up and as they create little dents in the sectors of incumbents they will have no choice but to change.”

The five successful companies which were selected out of more than 200 applicants will be based in the iconic Second Home building, in Hanbury Street.

Faisal said east London was a hotbed for technological creativity due to a cluster effect.

He said: “When you have enough people that share similar values – irreverence for authority and norms – and these people come together, you push boundaries.

“It would be difficult to see those innovations happening in the West End, which I call the establishment. It is very much a staid ‘let’s maintain the status quo’ type of thinking – but jump on the Central Line and you are talking to different breed of individual that wants to change the world.”

The Seedrs campaign will go live on Monday.

To find out more, visit pilabs.co.uk.

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