Collaboration is Innovation: Moving PropTech Forward

James Dearsley
James Dearsley
Founder, The Digital Marketing Bureau

Now that PropTech is moving out of infancy and into adolescence, there’s a feeling of hope that our consciously guarded ecosystem might start opening up. When it does, the potential benefits are immeasurable.

When the idea for a new business first forms in the brain, as those separate strands of abstract theory intertwine to form a tangible, actionable whole, there is an immediate rush of exhilaration.

Images begin forming in the mind. Images of you in the city centre offices of your thriving, energetic business; you’re Zuckerberg, you’re Musk, you’ve left the competition eating dust and the innovation of your work is inspiring a generation of entrepreneurs and programmers.

Today, this fantasy has proven to be a reality for so many entrepreneurs, the belief that ‘next it could be me’ has never been stronger. Time and time again we’ve seen young entrepreneurs identify flaws in an industry before going on to nimbly disrupt them with technological solutions. The side effect of this is, invariably, immense monetary wealth.

However, I can’t help but feel that the idea of disruption is slowly sliding away; much of the work here is complete. Instead, isn’t it time we shift our focus to collaboration?

Aim higher

When PropTech first began, there was a sense of secrecy among the various companies working in the industry. Because the concept was still being formed, the extent of what could be done with it was unknown. When an industry is in its infancy, there is an immediate dash to be first to market with your unique idea. Everyone else is competition; if they see your ideas they might steal them; if they learn what you’re doing then they could pivot their own idea and beat you to it.

But now, PropTech is maturing and the idea of secretive disruption looks as if it’s about to give way to something different:

“...it’s time for a new approach.” 

That’s Babek Ismayil, founder and CEO of OneDome.

“I passionately believe that new entrants to this industry, above almost all others, should see themselves not as disruptors, trying to bring down the existing network, but as collaborators, with a positive message, looking to help and facilitate the current estate agency model, creating a better industry for both existing players and consumers.”

For me, the thing that resonates most here is the idea of a ‘positive message’. Within those two words we learn everything we need to know about collaboration.

If we approach things with a sense of positivity, mixed up in there with the inevitable jitters and self-awareness that come with starting a business, we are far more likely to remember that we are doing what we do in order to improve the world in some way. Collaboration can remind us of this and bring back that childlike excitement of working together and building something good which is often lost somewhere between the 15th investment rejection and 20th meeting with your financial advisor. On your own, entrepreneurship is a mightily heavy albatross.

Plainly, and somewhat obviously, collaboration brings people together. It not only heightens potential innovation but also acts to galvanise the sense of community. When we stop seeing competitors and start seeing colleagues, we can begin to better serve the property industry with multiple solutions working together to form one holistic whole.

More than companies being in brokerage or lending, software or VR, Big Data or IoT, they will simply be in Property. Might it even be time to stop thinking of it as ‘PropTech’ altogether and admit that we should just be calling it ‘property’?

As Head of Innovation at Eurolink, Matthew Dreyer, said:

“If you’re not taking your commitment to the future and technology seriously, you’re simply overseeing the slow demise of your business toward irrelevancy... it should be clear that investing in technology should be at the forefront of your business agenda.”

Technology is now so much The Norm, that adding the suffix of ‘Tech’ to everything already seems outdated.

Outside the family

Property is bigger than PropTech, and in order for the property industry to reach its full potential, collaboration needs to stretch further.

Take, for example, FinTech. I have written before about the importance of a seamless symbiosis between these two industries if PropTech has any hope of moving forward confidently. Collaboration between Finance and Property is so tight knit that some FinTech companies, such as LendInvest, are often listed first as PropTech.

We all know that property is more than bricks and mortar. It is finance, it is architecture, it is town planning, it is law and order, work and play. So, in my opinion, there is a tickle of arrogance that goes into remaining shut off from those around you for fear of them learning too much about how you do what you do. 99% of the time, your service or product can only ever benefit from a fresh pair of eyes, another brain with expertise in the areas that you’ve only read the Wikipedia page for.

There is a famous anecdote about Alfred Hitchcock. When discussing the direction of the music with the film’s composer, Bernard Herrmann, Hitchcock had very few notes, but he was adamant about one thing: he wanted no music whatsoever over the infamous shower scene. None. Never. Unnegotiable. When Herrmann came back to him a few weeks later, guess what he’d done...he’d written a piece of music for the shower scene.

Hitchcock watched the scene with the music and knew instantly, without a doubt, that his unwavering belief that the scene would work best in the absence of music, was wrong. The result of this collaboration is cinematic and cultural history. No other piece of music conjures the sense of horror and fear like that one.

A better way

It was the search for a ‘better way’ that started the whole PropTech movement. Just because extraordinary progress has been made, we can’t afford to stop this constant searching. And because, at the end of the day, we’re all working towards the same goal, by collaborating with each other and with the outside world, we can surely find our ‘better way’ much faster than we could on our own.

To sign up to James’ Sunday PropTech Review, click here.

James Dearsley
James Dearsley
James Dearsley is Founder of TDMB, a marketing firm focussing on the Now and Next, and Co-Founder of Digital Transformation Consultancy Firm PropTech Consult.
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