Venue: Magazine Centre, North Greenwich
The New-York-based CRETech team bought out the regular London Future Proptech annual event in 2019. Not only has it been rebranded to ‘CRETech’, but it also brings a bolder sense of purpose which is led by the unequivocally inspiring Michael Beckerman. All-in-all, this inaugural format was a highly-efficient, well-organised and professional conference which seems to reflect the maturing state of the UK Proptech/CRETech scene compared to 5 years ago.
Fig 1. Main stage opening with AO Proptech founder Gregory Dewerpe
Our key takeaways:
• As in the rest of the economy and property sector, ESG is a major theme. Environmental, Social and Governance remains to be clarified by many organisations, especially in terms of their strategic thinking vis-a-vis tech adoption.
• One venture capitalist wryly noted that all technology serves ESG: if it leads to efficiency savings, companies will have more to afford the inevitable ‘green premium’ that will be paid to reach net zero targets.
• Very strong attendance from the major brokers and their Digital & Technologies teams. These included JLL, JLL Technologies, JLL Spark, CBRE, Cushman & Wakefield and Knight Frank.
• American money targeting European shores was evident this year. One of the hottest start-ups after raising $20 million on the West Coast hosted an excellent after-party at The Alchemist in Canary Wharf. It left one of the major brokerage drink events looking rather deserted by comparison!
• PGIM made a major statement via a rather low-key announcement: it plans to create an accelerator in London under the auspices of its CIO and participate in the funding of start-ups.
• The speed-dating session formats made for very compressed networking (~15mins each). This efficiency helped pack a lot in within 1.5 days compared to the 2-3 days associated to CRETech’s predecessor event in London: Future Proptech.
• The conference app was exceedingly helpful to arrange meetings. Many connections were made over 2 weeks before Day 1 of conference. Many also hope the technology will improve next year – as many lamented the loss of their in-app diaries after it repeatedly crashed.
• Panellists such as L.D. from Cherre pointed to the long journey ahead for Proptech. He alluded to the persistent woeful use of data within property firms – even to achieve the simple visualisation of existing holdings.
• Major British-based fund managers were relatively thin on the ground this year. It may have been a combination of half term holidays, and the reluctance of some to return to full in-person networking events. PGIM’s Head of Innovation and LGIM’s Head of IT were notable exceptions.
• One major accelerator was offering $100k to start-ups successfully applying to its cohort. However, one catch was that $50k would have to be paid back to the accelerator immediately for various costs. Perhaps a sign that the tech market may be on the hot side at the moment…
Fig. 2: The exhibitor stand area between Main Stage and Networking/Cafe area