Wigwamm founder Rayhan Rafiq Omar talks us through his proptech investment journey.
I’m about to invest in a proptech company.
I don’t have much money so, instead of taking a portfolio approach, I am putting a (relatively) large amount into one company I think will have the biggest impact. (Caveat: I am a big believer in crowdfunding, and have made several investments in people that I believe in, like the founders behind Incubus, Adzuna and Togethera).
Before making this decision, I thought carefully about who else I would want to invest in.
Those companies are detailed below. I thought it important to include how much I would invest, and why:
When I first met Fixflo founder Rajeev Nayyar, I thought he was focused on a small problem that wouldn’t make much money.
I was wrong.
After two years of starting up, 10% of UK lettings agents use Fixflo for repair reporting.
An incredible feat by some truly intelligent people. Unlike many Proptech founders, Rajeev ‘gets’ it.
And that’s what I would be investing in: Rajeev, the property lawyer turned entrepreneur, and Duncan the former CTO of Friends Reunited.
With their current growth being taken care of by a rigorous sales process led by Jon Chapman, I’d invest £1m for Rajeev and Duncan to explore bigger opportunities for both the existing client base (lettings agents) and the home-owning public (who also struggle to get stuff fixed around the home).
Why £1m? It’s the only number that would tempt them to hand over some equity in their already profitable company. It’s also the minimum needed to succeed in getting product/market fit for the next big thing.
This is, like all of these suggestions, an investment in people with the right idea.
Andy Miles built up his commercial property domain expertise as a strategy and then investment person at British Land.
His partner, Ian Parry was the founding CTO of Globrix. In case you didn’t use Globrix, the property portal was light years ahead of anything else out there (probably still would be), and was swept up by Zoopla’s aggressive consolidation of UK property portals.
And they’re both, together, taking on the task of modernising commercial real estate marketing.
Tough market, but it’s a big one that is hard for outsiders to enter, as it requires specialist domain knowledge and contacts; two attributes Ian and Andy clearly bring to the table.
Realla’s modern take on real estate CRM and publishing tools are the first pieces of property tech that I’ve actually wanted to copy. Their tech is beautiful and highly intuitive, especially on mobile.
Can they persuade large commercial real estate agents to rely on Realla? I’d back to them to with at least £500k at this early, pre-launch stage.
And it may sound crazy, especially in London, but I’d follow on with another £20m for their Series A, because this is such a large, sticky market; and I’d want to ensure they win in a space that could quickly see well-funded challengers from the US appear.
Beyond being totally in love with Jonny, I think Land Insight is one seriously cool product.
Forget how it saves months of work to research land for development.
Forget how it could democratise the information involved in land buying.
What makes this cool is how every single person in the property industry will likely have to build their products, databases and dashboards on top of Jonny and Andrew’s tech.
These guys have a big challenge ahead. So which data sets do they focus on first? And which customers do they target first?
I’d invest £200k, alongside others. But unlike the other companies, this isn’t an investment I’d go into alone. It’s just too big and important not to share the risk and reward.
This investment would be a punt on determination and talent.
CEO Nick Katz is what you want in a CEO: a guy who everyone likes, and who knows his domain (ask him about the property life-cycle – it’ll blow your mind with its simplicity).
CTO Vasanth is super talented and together with clever tech hires rose up from the ashes of Locatable to build Splittable into an undeniably awesome (and simple) app.
The Splittable app helps students and young housesharers easily split bills and track expenses. There’s strong potential for the FinTech angle, using the ‘All Squared Meter’ as a catalyst for people to spend with Splittable.
Talking about catalysts, it’s important to consider the concept of explosive growth within mobile payments. No-one else is placing themselves in the transaction flow, the way Splittable are.
Very few companies want to take the risks to build an audience. It’s hard to build the kind of loyalty that the largest internet brands have done, like Facebook and Linkedin. People live in these platforms. And they will literally have their home life finances residing on Splittable.
These are smart guys producing risky/exciting products that will capture the imagination.
If anything in property tech has a chance of ‘going viral’ these guys are the only ones taking the risks to create that tech.
And for that reason, I’d give Nick £5m to build a PropTech Foundry. This is arguably the highest risk strategy (and not one they are currently pursuing). BUT:
Most of what they’ll produce will be cool, which is valuable in of itself. I’d like to be associated with helping cool stuff be birthed.
And one or two things these guys produce are going to change that world. And few people in real estate tech are truly endeavouring to such lofty ambitions.
Comment from Nick Katz: “It is a constant battle, this scale vs monetisation piece. And we’re diving deeper into the why of it all. Ultimately, as long as we are doing things to make housesharing a better experience, we think we will be OK! But, because of the landscape that exists with investors – and because of the nature of more investors in the UK – we’ve had to explore a number of different monetisation options so we can talk about it proficiently. The pain points we’ve been uncovering in our research has been fascinating…and exist from owners with 5-10 HMOs, up to all of the ‘Great Estates’ of London and larger developers. As a ‘real estate expert’, the scale of the pain has been jaw dropping for even me.”
This is the ONLY company in the world producing true innovation around the property transaction.
When Opendoor launched with their “we’ll buy your home for market price, based off an algorithm, within 72 hours”, there were doubters.
But wow did they show there’s something in those trousers to back up the fighting talk.
Not only did Opendoor prove their concept beyond all doubt in Phoenix (apparently the 5th largest/fastest real estate market in the US), but they did it with style. Easily the most beautiful PropTech product on the market.
Then, if that wasn’t enough, they reinvented buying a home. Opendoor Homes are off-the-shelf houses, decorated to a certain standard, and available to view 24 hours a day at your leisure.
Could very well become THE ‘Amazon for property’.
I’d invest every single penny I have, and every penny I will earn, into Opendoor. But they already have silly amounts of capital.
There are other interesting/cool companies out there. These are some I would talk about in a positive light, but not invest in:
Hubble – Tushar is cool. But office space isn’t. And it’s not a market that I ‘get’.
Knocker – The ‘Refreshing’ geo-centred property app with a lemon for a logo is run by two guys who can truly knock it out of the park. Within weeks of launch, they were featured on the App Store.
An intelligent app, but maybe too intelligent for the public (who want to search and not find property).
These are nice guys playing in a not-so-nice market.
This is a maybe, because even though we know where nice guys finish, I’d love it if these guys succeeded.
Comment from Knocker Co-founder Jon: “We’re not all nice. I’m a badass, just an understated one.”
Property Partner – While I wouldn’t invest, I am a fan of Property Partner’s product and founder (Daniel). Great operator, executing what is the market leading product in the ‘Crowdlords’ space.
This is the equivalent of picking single stocks, while the mutual fund managers hoover up the real bulk of retail investor money.
Choice is empowering, but also debilitating when handing over money.
Crowdlords – I did invest in Crowdlords.com (twice), but they have a lot of catching up to do.
My saving grace is the domain is something that could become a super-brand; either with these founders or an acquirer.
Radpad – These guys, and their app, are as cool as it gets.
But they’re in the US, where paying via credit card for Radpad to send a cheque to your landlord is seen as convenient and cool. A market that dumb, that devoid of internet banking, is not one I want to play in.
Look at the politics Uber and Airbnb have to put up with. That’s what’ll face Radpad if they get to scale.
Why I’m investing in [TO BE NAMED]
Simply put, it’s the easiest way to invest in property. [TO BE NAMED] will be where everyone invests in property; without having to worry about ‘picking winners’ the way services like Property Partner encourage ‘day-trader’ types to get involved.
That’s their innovation: a brand that FINALLY speaks to people. It’s the best brand in PropTech, after Wigwamm (disclaimer: my baby. I’m obviously biased).
They might also be solving the key problem when investing in property: how do I get my money out. If they can nail the liquidity piece, in a simple push button manner, then the sky is the limit.
I WILL ANNOUNCE THE NAME OF THE START-UP JANUARY 2016…