Jul 1, 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.
WOUTER, WHY DON’T YOU TELL US ABOUT WHY HOLLAND CONTECH & PROPTECH (HCP) AND GLOBAL PROPTECH WERE STARTED AND WHAT THEIR ULTIMATE MISSION IS?
Both platforms were created to connect real estate professionals with innovative startups and scale-ups, in order to realize a better built environment. I was inspired by what Don Ginsel had done with his company Holland FinTech for the financial world, and decided to do the same for the real-estate sector. Although HCP and Global PropTech offer different services, they both seek to foster partnerships to innovate in the sector. We organize matchmaking meetups, peer group sessions, in-company workshops, keynotes, CEO-dinners, ‘speed dates’, webinars, and more. Since 2019, HCP has also offered strategic innovation advice.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INVOLVED IN PROPTECH AND INNOVATION?
Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, I worked for Grontmij (Sweco), a consultancy and engineering firm. There we had an innovation platform that was managed by four directors but when one of them left the company, the initiative collapsed like a house of cards. So then we started an underground network, which was literally under the ground, called GUP (Grontmij Underground Pioneers). This place was a collaboration between workers from different disciplines, where everyone was welcome to share their knowledge and where no managers were present. GUP worked according to the lean startup principles. The ideas that emerged in GUP were rated and if enough people saw value in them, they were given a fair chance within the organization. This worked really well and made me realize the power of innovation.
My interest in PropTech on the other hand, started during my civil engineering studies. There I started focusing on the construction sector and through my subsequent jobs, I got acquainted with various technological solutions that drove innovation in the sector.
WHAT ARE TWO PROPTECH STARTUPS IN YOUR REGION WITH CUTTING EDGE INNOVATIONS?
There are a lot but there are two that immediately pop into my head. The first one is the PHYSEE PowerWindows that generate electricity using solar power. The second one is Mapiq, a cloud-based office platform that helps optimize the workplace. This in consequence stimulates the productivity of employees, as they are offered a frictionless workday.
YOUR ORGANIZATIONS SERVE AS CONNECTORS BETWEEN DIFFERENT REAL ESTATE ACTORS IN YOUR REGION, CAN YOU SHARE WITH US AN EXAMPLE OF A SUCCESS CASE THAT HAS COME FROM THESE EFFORTS?
It’s difficult to only select one, so I’ll go with the most recent case. One of our members, the construction company VORM Holding, was looking for a COVID-19 solution to ensure the safety of its builders when they are working on the premises. We matched them with PropTech company Mapiq and within only three weeks this partnership resulted in a “Corona Alarm” that notifies the builders when they are standing too close to each other. Each builder gets a sensor that emits a generic Bluetooth signal and captures those from other beepers. If a signal is within 1.5 meters, the builder will hear a beep. If they are 1.5 meters away from each other, the beeper stops and they can continue the work. The sensors do not have an internet connection and are not personal. This means that they are fully GDPR-proof.
WHAT ARE TWO INTERESTING MARKET FACTS ABOUT YOUR REGION?
A fun market fact is that The Netherlands holds the third-highest place in the world regarding the ratio of PropTech companies vs. population. This is a testament to the strong and creative entrepreneurial spirit of the Dutch. Our internet is also very fast here. We have a solid digital highway with nationwide coverage which of course helps with innovation. Another interesting market fact is that EDGE Technologies, the global forerunner in the area of smart buildings, is a Dutch company.
WHAT IS A PROPTECH TREND YOU EXPECT TO SEE IN YOUR REGION POST-COVID?
Health is going to be a big issue. The 1.5m economy will give birth to different solutions that will ensure our safety such as temperature measuring solutions at the front doors of office buildings or elevators that ask you to go home if your temperature is too high. I believe social distancing will become the norm for a long time, which will be detrimental to a lot of co-working providers.
HOW HAVE YOUR EVENTS CHANGED DUE TO RECENT EVENTS?
In 2018 we started organizing the digital event Global PropTech Online during which noticeable speakers and companies deliver informative webinars. After several successful editions, it was time to up our digital game. When COVID-19 came along we realized that doing more webinars was not in any way going to make us stand out, so we did a brainstorm with the team where we coined the idea to organize a digital fair for the real estate and construction sector. So we did! Building Futureproof took place on April 16th and it was the first online trade fair for our sector in the world. The next edition, renamed Real Estate Futureproof, took place on June 30th and lasted three days. We also have plans to organize a global real estate trade fair, as the two events I mentioned were only for the Dutch real estate and construction industry.
WOUTER, TELL US WHAT AREA OF THE REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY YOU THINK WILL CHANGE THE MOST DRAMATICALLY IN THE NEXT 10 YEARS AND WHY?
Biosecurity, cybersecurity and wellbeing (health). Biosecurity is a hot topic now as we are searching for ways to reduce the chances of transmission of infectious diseases such as Coronavirus. People are, for example, trying to figure out whether certain air quality measurements can help us detect the presence of viruses.
Cybersecurity is going to be important too. Our increased reliance on technology may make us quicker and more efficient, but simultaneously exposes us to digital threats which will up our demand for technological protection.
Wellbeing solutions will increase in popularity as well, as they have a positive influence on productivity. You can think of biodynamic lighting, temperature management for thermal comfort, or even apps that notify us we should take the stairs instead of the elevator to increase our step count.
Another trend that everybody is talking about and that I also expect to become a reality is the change in the role of the office. This pandemic showed us that working from home is perfectly possible. A lot of people prefer working from home rather than going to the office, so offices will become a place where people inspire each other, share ideas, brainstorm, or “just” meet. This will have repercussions for the way offices will be designed in the future.
BEFORE WE CLOSE, IS THERE ANYTHING PARTICULAR YOU WOULD LIKE TO DRAW ATTENTION TO?
Yes, I want to highlight the importance of coming up with social distancing solutions that are not a threat to our privacy. This means that they shouldn’t be personal in nature, like the sensors developed by VORM Holding and Mapiq, or that they delete the collected data immediately. Giving away too much of our privacy in the name of safety is a slippery slope we should definitely watch out for. This is a really important issue and if the real estate/ PropTech sector takes this threat seriously and adjust their technological strategy for maximum data safety, we can have a huge positive impact.