Well the 2018 FUTURE: PropTech event at Islington Business Centre was an impressive affair! With over 1600 registered delegates, the event has in just a few years grown exponentially, reflecting the dawning realisation amongst even the most change resistant in real estate that things have to change. 'Modernise or Die' was the rallying cry of the 2016 Farmer Review and much of the much needed modernisation will involve tech innovation.
At Mishcon de Reya tech massively enhances the services we can offer our clients, so we were delighted to be headline sponsors of the event. We were able to showcase our tech incubator for start-ups in the legal space, MDR LAB, now in its second year. It was also great to promote some of the start-ups we work with including Orbital Witness (from MDR LAB 2017), Third Fort and Exquance and others such as Converge and Hoxton Analytics. These start-ups demo-ed their products throughout the day at our stand.
It was a particular coup for FUTURE: PropTech to get Fifth Wall Ventures co-founder, Brendan Wallace, to fly in from Venice Beach California to deliver the opening keynote. He spoke about tech-enabled real estate and why the property industry needs to adapt. The launch of Fifth Wall, a VC fund investing in tech in the built environment was announced on the morning of last year's FUTURE: PropTech and we set out then to have Brendan speak this year. In just a year, Fifth Wall has made some ground-breaking investments and Brendan has already become the 'rock star' of proptech. Fifth Wall's first, and so far only, European investment has been in Ross Bailey's 'Airbnb for retail' platform, Appear Here. Read my recent Property Week interview with them here.
Ross Bailey was on the "Space As A Service: What Landlords & Investors Need to Understand" panel alongside Work.Life co-founder David Kosky, Hubble co-founder Tushar Agarwal and Enrico Sanna, co-founder & CEO of FORA Space.
I came in as Kosky was talking about Work.Life's ground floor co-working space strategy designed to animate developments, providing a visible amenity to a building whilst still allowing the landlord to let the majority of its development on traditional leases.
I had an excellent line up for the panel I moderated on how innovation can help solve the housing crisis. Mount Anvil CEO Killian Hurley, Legal & General's BTR Fund Manager Dan Batterton, British Property Federation CEO Melanie Leech and Paul Maltby, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government's (MHCLG) newly created Chief Digital Officer. We discussed a wide range of subjects kicking off with the role of off-site construction and L&G's new factory in Leeds, described in the press as 'revolutionary' and 'highly secretive'. Can they up production to compete with Japan where one company is apparently building 6,000 flats a week? Leech talked about the BPF's new Future Cities Catapult project to track the contribution tech can make to improving real estate productivity. We also touched on the importance of thinking differently and both Hurley and Batterton talked about bringing in people from outside the industry to introduce some diversity of thought. In the short time available we also managed to discuss the adoption of BIM, the Farmer Review, planning and the use of data.
There was even an all-female panel on innovation in the Build To Rent sector. Chaired by Places For Peoples Build to Rent Fund Director Alex Notay, the panel included RBS Head of PRS lending, Chiara Zuccon, Dolphin Living CEO Olivia Harris, and Legal & General's Head of Corporate Strategy Emma Long.
My colleague Nick Kirby gave an excellent presentation entitled 'data in the built environment and GDPR: friends or enemies?' As we all grapple with the requirements of GDPR and with the commencement date of 25 May looming, this was a very well attended session. If you missed it or have questions please let me know.
JLL's Guy Grainger gave a master class in moderating with his panel on workplaces for the modern occupier. Panellists included Trilogy Real Estate's Laurence Jones, Rebekah Tobias, Head of Investor Relations at Tunstall Real Estate, Dara Huang, Founder of DH Liberty and Patrick Morselli of District Technologies. It was a lively debate, with Huang flying in from Boston to make a dramatic last minute entrance!
The full day's programme wound up with the DiscoTech Innovation Challenge sponsored by CBRE and the MHCLG for data driven solutions to the housing crisis. There were some great business ideas, and my favourite was the one suggesting we make better use of rooftop space. It was reassuring to see a government department taking such a key role in the whole event.
It was terrific to see the worlds of property and tech coming together with new ideas to improve the way we do business in the built environment. The Mishcon team enjoyed collaborating with FUTURE: PropTech to make the event such a success. And thank you to FUTURE: PropTech Founder and CEO, Gary Chimwa, for the final mention!