Property Week, 2018 preview: are you an ostrich or a chameleon in the PropTech zoo?

I am sure many of you are familiar with the technology adoption lifecycle, but how familiar are you with the ‘PropTech zoo’? Allow me to take you on a zoological journey through the world of PropTech.

Having worked as chief technology officer for a pan-European investment manager for 11 years and now as chief executive of a PropTech business, I have spoken to many people about their tech strategies. I have identified the following classifications to categorise real estate companies and their attitudes to PropTech.

The caterpillars

These are the new creatures on the block, the upstarts, the companies that have started their businesses in the past three years. They have an immediate advantage over the rest of the zoo as they have started at a time when there are so many fantastic technical solutions around.

They can take their pick of the market and ensure their processes work together with the tools they adopt, without needing to implement a new platform and process legacy data. This puts many of the caterpillars in a great place to evolve into the superstar butterflies of tomorrow.

The chameleons

These creatures have always been adept at fitting into their surroundings and this segment of the industry is no different.

Our chameleons adapt their business processes to match the changing world. Their management leads from the top, encouraging and empowering their teams to explore the opportunities around them.

They will actively seek out the best-in-class providers and will value IT as a core part of their business; they are not the geeks in the corner there just to make sure the email works.

The sheep

Our sheep make a great show of how innovative they are and how hard they are leading the way. In fact, at first glance, it can be hard to tell the difference between our chameleons and our sheep. They attend the same events and make similar noises.

The difference is the sheep aren’t interested in making fundamental changes; just adopting technology in a cursory fashion to impress people that they are doing it, while never truly believing in it.

The ostriches

With a ‘head in the sand’ mentality, our ostriches simply aren’t interested in exploring technical solutions or even pretending they are. They are usually well-established, successful companies with a management team that has seen it all. Defined by their success and track record, they have grown using their current processes and have an ‘if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality. Their teams might have to work late now and then to wrestle the data, but fundamentally they don’t care. Their current way of working has served them very well, so why change?

Final thoughts

Putting aside the zoo analogy, while these categories do exist, the true picture is more nuanced and there are plenty of companies that exist somewhere in between on this spectrum – as well as a new breed of companies starting up that are built around technology instead of the other way around.

It is encouraging that there is a real shift in engagement and excitement from many companies about technology, and we’re seeing more of them change their spots.

Since launching Coyote, I have been surprised and delighted by the level of engagement most businesses are having with the PropTech sector. I have worked at the sharp end of property technology for the past 11 years, and in the past 12 months the dialogue has changed from a wishful ‘if only’ to businesses making fundamental changes and engaging technology properly.

Companies that aren’t already starting to embrace technology should be worried. There is a real risk that even the largest and most successful of them could find themselves in a very different place in the next five to 10 years.​

You may be interested in…