Aug 27, 2020
The Global PropTech Spotlight is an initiative that highlights the most influential PropTech Associations and thought leaders from around the world. Read about how some of the most recognized PropTech organizations were started, some of their biggest success stories, the most cutting edge technologies in their region, and more.
“It is our greatest hope that our passion will reach your community and we will be able to bring some of our insights and perspectives to you.” — Shun Sakurai
WHY DID YOU START DIGITAL BASE CAPITAL AND PROPTECH JAPAN AND WHAT IS YOUR ULTIMATE MISSION?
Digital Base Capital's mission is to "build the industry". To achieve this, our goal is to nurture the next-generation leaders who can lead the industry. We strongly believe that the transformation of infrastructures, such as real estate, finance, and construction will bring society to the next level.
I started my career in the financial industry and gained experience at a consulting firm. Throughout my career, I worked at the intersection of both innovative and more traditional companies, so it was natural for me to launch PropTech Japan and Digital Base Capital.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INVOLVED IN PROPTECH AND INNOVATION?
When I was working at the consulting firm, my clients were mainly from the real estate and financial industries. Throughout that period, I got involved with many innovative projects. At the same time, I served in government, published books, and launched this community.
IDENTIFY TWO PROPTECH STARTUPS IN YOUR REGION WITH CUTTING EDGE INNOVATIONS.
GA technologies is the preeminent PropTech firm leading the digital transformation of real estate in Japan. GA provides the platform for buying and selling housing properties for investment and went public in 2018.
estie is a CRE tech startup, which is rare in Japan. They provide a matching and listing service of rental offices. They help their users find appropriate offices by utilizing AI. One of the advantages of the company is that the founder is an alumnus of a traditional real estate enterprise, which enables them to have partnerships with major real estate firms and build this reliable platform.
CAN YOU SHARE AN EXAMPLE OF A SUCCESS STORY YOU HAVE HAD WITH YOUR ORGANIZATION?
In 2019, we held PropTech Startup Conference 2019, the first PropTech conference in Japan. I am especially proud of our pitch competition for these PropTech startups. We had the 20 shortlisted startups do a 7-minute pitch on stage and also have an exhibition booth, free of charge.
The conference was sponsored by major real estate companies in Japan, telecommunication companies, and financial institutions.
The select startups that participated in the conference had the opportunity to pitch in front of 500 people and network at their booths.
WHAT ARE TWO INTERESTING MARKET FACTS ABOUT YOUR REGION?
The two things I’d like to highlight are:
- The involvement of the Japanese government in the tech sector and
- The growing business opportunities in CRE Tech.
Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport just started working to utilize the latest in PropTech and ConTech. In Japan, we have seen the way FinTech can be supported and promoted by a division within the office of the Financial Service Agency. Given that fact, we predict the same thing can happen for PropTech since both FinTech and PropTech come from legacy industries. These direct actions from regulators can promote innovation.
For the second point, I would say the opportunity for innovation in CRE is very big in Japan. There are many startups related to housing, such as listing websites, but CRE-focused startups are still rare. However, there is a growing trend of traditional real estate alumni starting up CRE tech companies so we'll likely see more in the near future.
WHAT ARE THE MAJOR TRENDS YOU EXPECT TO SEE IN YOUR REGION POST-COVID-19?
There are two trends we are tracking: the digitization of real estate transactions, and innovation in the commercial real estate sector.
We ran a survey that showed a correlation between realtors who adopted technology to increase the frequency of contact with potential customers and higher closing rates. The results of this survey highlight how the introduction of technology helps realtors' businesses, which in turn should help the government be able to ease its regulations of the real estate industry.
Secondly, the rise of CRE tech as I mentioned before. CRE firms, including office and retail stores, are at a turning point with their business models having been affected by COVID-19. To adapt to the current situation, startups have been popping up to support CRE around space configurations and flexible transactions.
WHAT TYPES OF CONTENT/EVENTS DOES YOUR ORGANIZATION PRODUCE? AND HOW HAVE THE LAST COUPLE OF MONTHS AFFECTED YOUR DIGITAL STRATEGY?
We produce four types of programming: thought-leadership with our survey reports, meet-up events, a seminar, and a conference.
We made a swift decision at the early stage of the COVID-19 outbreak to digitize all of our programs. For example, we had to postpone PropTech Startup Conference 2020 and issue refunds for conference attendees. It was a big decision to make because we had already lined up sponsors and sold many tickets. Aside from the conference, we have held five online webinars over the past two months, hosting more than 500 people virtually.
IN THE NEXT 10 YEARS, WHICH AREA OF THE REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY DO YOU FORESEE CHANGING THE MOST DRAMATICALLY AND WHY?
We expect to see a transformation in terms of urban development and smart cities. When it comes to urban development, I believe it should be designed to provide convenient services for people while also protecting their privacy. All of this should be done in a sustainable way. It's clear that this kind of work cannot be done by just startups alone. Urban development needs to be a collaboration that includes major enterprises and the government as well. With these key stakeholders, the city, and the infrastructure system will be improved and will draw more service industry start-ups into the process.