This month we take the briefest of moments to reflect on and celebrate our 5th anniversary of our start-up endeavour: our journey to bring the benefits of Dashflow into the Capital Markets space of global Commercial Real Estate. We want to express our gratitude to all those inside and out of the team who help make this B2B company a reality each day. We all wake up with good ideas in the morning, but the cliche is true: it’s only the hard yards of team execution that deliver company results.
The Illusion of Predictability
Investopedia reckons that the failure rate of start-ups after Year 1 is 90%. The odds of surviving are eye-wateringly low. It is a privilege to be on this journey with each year that passes. When you add the fact that successful founders average 45 years of age (compared to headline grabbing lists about ’30-under-30` from Forbes and bright unicorns like Theranos), it’s best to focus on the task at hand rather than stats that can form an Everest of threats in your mind.
And there are times to be grateful for being in a start-up instead of a mature corporate. While cash flow predictability is off the charts when starting from scratch, the perception of risk can negatively spread across all start-up issues. But when you take a step back, you realise countless peers, colleagues and friends in established organisations churn over roles within 12 to 36 months. Their families grow, job changes come and go, and some make overnight moves into the latest hot sector. While this feels ‘normal’ and people do not associate the above to similar HR start-up risks, it remains the case that ‘mature’ corporate life brings just as much change to just as many people.
Joining a start-up undoubtedly means a lot of things will be uncertain on paper and in the mind. However, it’s worth examining the many positives. To name a few:
• you will learn more and faster.
• you have more control over the colleagues you choose to spend hours of your life with.
• you can help ensure that you limit the bureaucratic documentation that comes with your company/entity.
• your relevant professional network can grow many times more in mere months.
• of necessity, your transferable skills develop rapidly in an entrepreneurial environment – e.g. communication, collaboration, compromise, negotiation, persuasion, self-discipline, team spirit, leadership.
It’s not a coincidence that Sandhurst graduates has some of these transferrable skills and many move into (and are welcomed) into the finance industry when they finish their military careers. In many instances, it can be easier for managers to teach new recruits an existing business model & routine rather than retraining numerate staff to give them those skills in a pressurised commercial environment.
Riding the wave
When introducing a completely new tool to the technology sector you have to be riding the wave. It is part of the parcel of success: work + preparation + some luck. Today, as we look back at this half a decade, attitudes have changed beyond recognition. Professionals recognise that in an increasingly competitive world with faster Apple chips in everyone’s pockets, the speed, competence and rigour with which advisors and Fund Managers can respond to clients and LPs is paramount for surviving and thriving in the market place.
Not only are attitudes changing but the regulatory framework is also changing. A few days short of our anniversary this month, the RICS Investment Valuation Review was published. It represents a revolution in property standards, requiring surveyors globally to adopt the Discounted Cash Flow (‘DCF’) as the primary valuation methodology. When we started this conversation, we were outside the tent. Did users wish to improve their analytical standards? But in 2022 we are most definitely inside the tent as the RICS focuses on the essential ingredient of *trust* in investment valuation reporting. Those who do not improve their analytical standards will soon find themselves in a dwindling minority.
At the very beginning, we saw only occasionally glimpses of the wave that we were hoping to ride. There were some memorable examples of leadership in those early days. In 2018, Savills CEO Mark Ridley made a powerful appeal to the property industry via his talk at a RREF event (Reading Real Estate Foundation) in the City of London:
“Above all you need to be financially aware. We [the property industry] can no longer blag. We have to be accurate at what we do.”Mark Ridley, CEO Savills PLC
Pounding the street and valuing each open door
In 5 years we’ve seen a sea change in our property sector. As late as 2018 it was still quite a challenge to find senior leaders who took an interest in Proptech or the more American term: CRETech. Each time a door opened, we were grateful for the opportunity of a new conversation, new stories and new lessons to share, experiences that take time to accumulate.
It was rare, especially in pre-Zoom days, to find industry leaders who were prepared to spend the time to explore new tech ideas. It is the most successful who seem to approach them with an open mind and engage with those outside their usual professional and social circles in which they are most comfortable. We’re only human after all. Malcolm Gladwell writes convincingly about the shortcuts, conveniences, familiar habits and prejudices that help us survive and thrive as a species.
Open-minded professionals are accustomed to encountering new ideas outside their experience and area of expertise which they are able to interrogate and debate without prejudice.
Our company has benefitted from a vast range of experience from across the real estate industry: Chad Pike at Blackstone, the RICS Chairman Simon Prichard from Gerald Eve, Gary Garrabrant from Jaguar Growth Partners, Nic Fox at Europa Capital, Andy Martin at Strutt & Parker, Steve Williamson at CBRE Finance, Robert Gilchrist and Edmund Craston from Rockspring now Patrizia AG, James Ritblat’s Delancey and the indomitable Lesley Davidson – to name just a few.
We thank them all and we look forward to the next five years.