Savannah de Savary Founder and CEO of Built-ID

Posted on 10 May 2019 by Susan Freeman

Susan Freeman

Hi I’m Susan Freeman, welcome back to our Propertyshe Podcast Series where I get to interview some of the key influencers in the incredible world of real estate.  Today I am really delighted to welcome Savannah de Savary, Founder and CEO of Built-ID, an online platform that aims to showcase the real estate projects of today and transform community engagement to better shape the projects of tomorrow. 

The Propertyshe podcast is brought to you by Mishcon de Reya in association with the London Real Estate Forum.  Please make sure you check out our Propertyshe website on mishcon.com/Propertyshe for all our interviews and programme notes.  The podcasts are also now available to download on your Apple podcast app, on Spotify and whatever podcast app you use and please continue to let us have your feedback and reviews and importantly your suggestions for future guests.

Savannah has achieved a lot in a very short time.  After graduating from Oxford University in 2013, she joined Thor Equities where she managed their New York development projects.  In 2015 she founded her new company Built-ID which aimed to connect architects and consultants with potential clients in an online hub.  Savannah went about building what she describes as the shazam of property.  Savannah has already won numerous awards including Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the Property Week Awards and was voted one of Property Week’s Power 100 Top 20 ones to watch.  She is also one of the Top 20 Proptech influencers in a poll by the UK Proptech Association.  So now we will get a chance to hear from Savannah on how all this has been achieved, her thoughts on the real estate sector and her plans for the future.  Savannah it is fantastic to have you in the studio today.  It seems a long time since we met when you embarked on the Pi Labs Precede programme when your company was really just an idea.  Can you tell us about the company, when it was founded and why and what your goal is?

Savannah de Savary

Gosh it was a long time ago wasn’t it, it was right at the beginning of the journey which is a… yeah it’s been an exciting one.  So I founded Built-ID back in 2015.  I was working in property in New York, I grew really quite frustrated at how archaic everything was done, how it wasn’t, it wasn’t an efficient industry and it really was an old boys club and I think the frustration there led me to start the company rather than any particular desire to become an entrepreneur or to become a business owner.  I think that thinking you can be your own boss is, I found out, a falsehood but really I didn’t even know Proptech existed and back then was when the conversations were still happening of ‘what is Proptech’ rather than what Proptech is useful for my company. So it has evolved a lot since then but that really was the origin which is growing frustrated and deciding I wanted to do something about it.

Susan Freeman

And what was the idea because I know you had this idea and then you went about you know, just making it reality.  What was the basic idea you started with?

Savannah de Savary

Yeah so the original vision which really remains something I want to achieve was to try and make it so that anywhere you go you can instantly find out who the creative talent behind the built environment.  So whatever market, whatever sector in it, you can instantly discover who is the architect, who is the engineer, who is the developers who are making things happen and have the sort of reputation, the track record that you can really pay attention to.  I think that to start with the idea was very different to what it is today.  When I first conceived it, I saw it more of a sort of Trip Advisor which I very quickly once I started my due diligence talking of architects and designers etcetera, realised was not going to be the most popular idea.  But that underlying desire to have everyone’s track record show-cased and transparent remains a driving force behind the company.

Susan Freeman

When you started off, how much initial investments did you need for the company and how did you go about raising that money?

Savannah de Savary

So to start with I needed nothing.  All I needed really was the amazing support I received from my colleagues at work, there was an executive vice president at Thor Equities where I worked who was incredibly supportive and really encouraged me to pursue it in my spare time so all I needed was really the, the tools that, you know, the web gives you to learn to prototype, to learn to use these online programmes and the gumption to do it in my spare time.  It reached a point where I had fully evolved the idea and I had spoken of enough people to really hone exactly how we could solve that problem rather than I didn’t start by focussing on what the solution would be, I really started on that problem which is why it evolved very quickly away from Trip Advisor style as the solution.  I was lucky to have an amazing female mentor in New York property who I had dinner with and told her about my idea and showed her what I had done and she said “if you can build a proper working prototype I will invest and I think my boss would invest as well.”  So I received a couple of hundred thousand in seed money from them and a bit from friends and family and that’s really where it started from.

Susan Freeman

It is interesting and how come you chose to start it in London rather than New York?

Savannah de Savary

So there were a few factors.  One was I was ready to move home I think.  Another was that a chance, really chance, I had a meeting with someone called John Assael who runs a Assael Architecture and he said “I love it, I love your vision and where you think you can take it, here’s the AJ100, I know partners at nearly all of these practices and I am happy to introduce you to them.”  So it really started that I was having a huge amount of you know, on the phone meetings at lord knows what how in the UK whilst based in New York and then I met Pi Labs and they were encouraging me to come join their accelerator and it lined up with where I wanted to see myself building the company.

Susan Freeman

You had been working in, in real estate in New York.  Did you find the UK real estate sector any different?  Were there any surprises?

Savannah de Savary

Yes I think it is more diverse in a good way. Not in terms necessarily gender or ethnicity wise but actually in terms of the players you have in the market. New York has a very few big players who tend to dominate in the Manhattan market especially whilst in London you do have a wider range of players engaging in development in the London market and that was quite exciting for us because obviously you want a wide client base and also community engagement is more important here than in New York where you have community boards and it is really only those elite few whose opinions are heard.

 

Susan Freeman

And in terms of the Proptech scene, you know is it similar in New York because there seems to be a lot of interaction between New York and UK Proptech but it would be interesting to know from somebody who has been there what the differences are?

Savannah de Savary

Yeah so when I was there like I mentioned I wasn’t really even aware of Proptech.  I mean my company and we are one of the, you know, the really big developers there, I am ashamed to admit we didn’t really engage with it at all.  This was back in 2015 where it was really more, you know, this new wave of Proptech that we are now involved in was really in its infancy.  So no I wasn’t particularly involved back then but more recently I have gone back out and there is these amazing groups there like a Women in Proptech group which has now been launched in London as well.  Everyone was engaged and people that turned up were from such a diverse range of the industry - whether it was design, consultancy, the big agencies, developers – it felt like it was being embraced there on a very similar level to in London.

Susan Freeman

So it is really exciting to be involved in something really at the start.  So you have now gone in a slightly different direction I think from anticipated and you’ve launched ‘Give My View’ which is your new digital tool which gives communities a voice in planning decisions.  So how does that work and how far have you got with it?

Savannah de Savary

Yeah so it’s, it’s interesting because I remember when I when I first raised my proper seed round, Nick Leslaw who is one of our investors said “you’re at A, I have full confidence you are going to get to B but you think you are going to get in a straight line, you’re not, you are going to zig zag back and forth to get there” and I remember nodding and thinking “no I won’t, I’ll be the exception to the you know, entrepreneurial rule who doesn’t do that” and it wasn’t the case you know, Give My View really came from on a one side  needing to monetise and in a way that didn’t compromise the growth of our database.  So with Give My View a developer and a team’s track record is showcased to the community and that’s something we see our community members spending a lot of time clicking through to and engaging with.  So that continues to grow without us having to monetise it enough or limit how fast it grows and at the same time we get to do something which I think is incredibly needed and important for the industry and more widely actually, for community engagement I think is only going to become more important and we are excited that you know, we are getting involved at such an early point.

Susan Freeman

And as you know, I am particularly thrilled that the idea came out of a round-table debate that we hosted at Mishcon de Reya with Estates Gazette on the power of partnerships and collaboration.  Can you talk a little bit about the thought process that came out of that?

Savannah de Savary

I can yes.  So that was a couple of years ago so this really has been a long time in the thinking.  So obviously you go in stealth mode for a long time and then you finally announce it and people think ‘oh that seems like a bit of a pivot’ but actually it’s been a long time trying to ascertain how we can monetise, like I said, without compromising the growth of our data base and equally how, what the real challenges are in the industry and I remember one of the developers who was at that round-table saying “we struggle so much with community engagement and we want to do better, we want to be better.  What tools are there out there?” and everyone sort of turned to look at me as the, you know, the proptecher at the table and I went “I will look into it for you.  I honestly haven’t heard of any great ones” and I went… I did a lot of research and there are definitely platforms out there but there didn’t seem to be anything that I felt really hit the mark enough that I would take it back to him and say “this is what you should use” and that’s really where, yeah, the idea came from, was that round-table and after that I just, I don’t know if it was because I was hyper-aware of it but I just kept hearing it everywhere.  Every round-table discussion I went to, I am lucky that your know, I get to often sit on panels or attend these round-table discussions where I am sort of far out of my league in terms of who I am amongst and hearing that from the very top of you know, organisations trickling down, everyone is frustrated by community engagement really was the, the origins of it.

Susan Freeman

So you’ve launched… can you, can you tell us who you’ve got signed up, what you’ve got started on?

 

Savannah de Savary

I can certainly tell you a few names.  So we are working with a very diverse range of clients from developers like Grosvenor and First Base to Councils like RBKC and the City of London, affordable housing providers like LNQ.  We are working with house builders like Redrow so it really is quite a diverse range of clients to be working with and making sure that it works for everyone.  It is really important to us that this is something that Council’s love as much as developers.

Susan Freeman

And how does it work because I know you’ve described the app as gamifying the way local people can interact with the developer but how do they actually go about doing it?  Is it easy?

Savannah de Savary

Yeah so it’s a web app so that you could use it from the local library or community centre, that was really important to us that we didn’t have barriers to entry.  Our sort of launch product show that most people do use it on Smart phones or on tablets but we didn’t want it to have to be something that you download so you use it online but you reach, you sort of reach through your social media accounts.  It is how we tell people about it as well as well as flyering and the traditional methods.  So the idea is the first core part of it is education, actually stopping the spread of misinformation by having an engaging clear way that people can see your timeframe, the complex policy framework you are working within, the facts around your project, what is up for debate and what actually has to go ahead if this scheme is to be viable and being able to communicate that in a visual way without you know, stripped free of all the jargon is important and that is something we focus on a lot is the user interface and the user experience to be able to communicate that and the second part is then giving people a real sense of ownership over the process.  So they can vote on key aspects of the scheme whether it is at the very early stage about what are your concerns?  What are your priorities?  What do you actually need in your local area or whether it is getting more specific as the project evolves and saying you know, what sort of housing mix do you want? What do you want to see here?  Do you want the outside to have a playground or a water feature?  We don’t have space for both.  How would you spend that budget allocation in that space allocation if it was up to you?  And then having front and centre, seeing those influenced decisions and we gamify it by the more you engage, regardless of what you say, the more you engage, the more points you get and these then translate into donations from the developer or the Council to local charities and initiatives and the idea is it is hyper-local.  We have one where it is the local state school so that they can have music lessons for the kids.  We have one in an area where there is rough sleeping where it is a homeless shelter and trying to improve that, you know, that sort of problem in the local community and I think it’s, I think it’s important that you incentivise people in a way that enables developers to give back today.  Even if you are part of Generation Wren and you are not going to be living there in you know, five, ten years’ time when this scheme is finished, you get to see how its impacting, your engagement is impacting the community tomorrow.

Susan Freeman

It’s brilliant because it, it actually is constructive criticism so rather than having people in a sort of local hall yelling that they don’t like developers and they don’t want the development, they actually are sort of pushed into saying what they, what they would like and presumably you also capture the working people, the busy people who normally wouldn’t have a chance so you would normally just hear from the retired people that haven’t got you know, anything very much else to do?

Savannah de Savary

Exactly.  We get a lot of traction with younger demographics, that’s a big part of our audience and also we’ve designed it to go left to right or right to left. So we have clients right now who are translating it into Urdu, Lithuanian, Bengali, we really have a wide range of audiences that are going to be able to engage with this which is quite exciting

 

Susan Freeman

It is interesting and then how does that feed into the planning process?  Does the developer feed that through with the application and the results to the Local Authority?

Savannah de Savary

Yes absolutely and we are lucky so far that Councillors seem to be really excited about it and embracing it so how seriously it is taken seems to be quite significant, especially as local Councils are using it themselves. I think that will help us hone the product to make sure that we deliver the results and the evidence in a way that makes sense for the Councils and that enables them to you know, make a better informed decision, be able to better see what the community cares about and what their concerns are because it’s not all about the positive, you know we had a scheme that went live recently and overwhelming people voted that pollution was their biggest concern for the local environment and now the developer knows to put front and centre their sort of green initiatives, their sustainability on the scheme and actually had to rethink planning, planning for traffic, you know, thinking of pedestrianizing a street and so the community wasn’t just funnelled in to having to say what they want, they were also able to express what they didn’t like in the current situation so that the developer could help improve that local environment.

Susan Freeman

So presumably the plan is to sign up more developers and Local Authorities and just expand the platform?

Savannah de Savary

Absolutely yes and we are getting a really diverse range of interest from a rugby club who wants to use us for their community engagement to we are talking with NGO’s about being used in places that diverse, Afghanistan to try to you know, get the youth there who are feeling very disenfranchised and disaffected to engage in how Foreign Government aid money is spent on community centres, on initiatives for them etcetera, let them have a sense of agency and ownership because everyone needs that.  I don’t think it is just a problem in property development planning process, I think in engaging in all sort of infrastructure and investments in your community is important.

Susan Freeman

Interesting.  I think Nick Leslaw could be right, you could be zigzagging in all sorts of interesting directions at once.

Savannah de Savary

Absolutely and I hate to ever, every say ”you were right and I was wrong” but in this case he absolutely was right and the more we delve into it, the more exciting it becomes and it’s great that we’ve managed to go in a direction that still lets our core vision evolve, you know, we are getting more projects on there all the time because of this which enables us to ultimately say whatever market you enter, we can tell you whose behind it, whose behind that built environment but I think yeah, the more we evolve the community engagement offering, the more passionate I become about how much we can give back and how important this can be for improving the, you know, the property industry in general and wider.

Susan Freeman

So just changing the subject slightly, at a recent Movers and Shakers breakfast, you said very perceptively “in real estate who you know is what you know.”  So how has that become apparent to you?

Savannah de Savary

I think that became apparent very early on in my career when I think that the first pivotal moment I can think of is I was working on a development and someone said “I want to know who works with Google. I want to be able to attract an anchor tenant to this scheme like Google so who works with them, who is their go to architect?”  And I said “Oh well where do I go to find that out?” and this really was you know, behind the origins of that idea and they said “you call up Bob at JAL and Bob will know so and so, and they will know so and so and then ultimately that’s how you find it out, is through your little black book and you may not have one yet but don’t worry we do” and I just thought this is so archaic that it depends on your little black book to get in anywhere and you find it all the time, not just in terms of finding you know, sourcing consultants because then it means often the most talented innovative consultants who are up and coming and creative don’t have an opportunity because they don’t have those connections and that’s something I am really passionate about trying to solve with Built-ID.  But you also find it more wider whether it’s people you know, we are trying to get more diversity into the industry but when who you know plays a role in what sort of interviews you get, I think that’s also problematic.

Susan Freeman

And is there anything we can do about that?

Savannah de Savary

I think Proptech is, is working very hard to try and improve that.  I think you have initiatives like BAME in property which is trying to improve on more of that, getting more diverse talent into the industry and I think that the more developers and the industry more widely comes round to sharing data and that you don’t have to be so possessive of it, the more we will be able to get transparency and that does lead to that little black book becoming less important.

Susan Freeman

It has to be said that you are, you are unusual because I think 20% of tech founders are female and if you couple that with the real estate sector where I think only 15% of property and construction are women, that makes you sort of quite unusual.  Do you find that you are treated any differently as a woman?

Savannah de Savary

I think it is hard to say because I’ve, I’ve never had the luxury of being in the industry as a man.  However…

Susan Freeman

Good point.

Savannah de Savary

…I think it is all about mind-set.  I think if you walk into that room even though it is going to be full of let’s be honest you know, sort of older white men most of the time, and feel like that you deserve to be there as much as anyone else then you can ignore all of that but I think that’s quite easy for me to say as even though I am a women, I am you know, a white woman from a privileged background.  I think there is a lot of people who have incredible ideas that could transform this industry for the better who don’t feel like they can walk into that room still and I think that’s a challenge and it is one that we can only solve by firstly all these great initiatives that are out there to try and improve diversity but also by shouting about how great it can be, how you can make a difference, how you can make inroads into this very traditional un-diverse industry.

Susan Freeman

So confidence is important?  You have to have the confidence to walk into that room and not feel like an imposter?

Savannah de Savary

Or at least fake the confidence.  I am a big believer in that.

Susan Freeman

Fake it until you make it.

Savannah de Savary

Exactly.

Susan Freeman

Yeah so acting is also a useful attribute but do you think it is an issue for women raising money for a business because there was some recent research that said for every £1 of VC investment, less than 1p goes to all female teams which is fairly appalling.

Savannah de Savary

Horrifying.  Yeah.  I must admit fund raising is my least favourite thing.  I am very bad at asking for money. I am bad at you know, it’s your baby and putting yourself out there that way I find very difficult.  I can’t tell you how many coffees I have been to where I am hoping to be like ‘and are you interested in investing’ and I leave being like ‘thank you so much for your advice, lovely to meet you’ and I’ve never even asked.  I really, really struggle.  I don’t know if that is because I am a woman or just because of my, I am actually quite introverted but certainly its hell.  Fund raising is just as back as I thought it would be and worse.  So if anyone want to invest, please come my way.

Susan Freeman

And do you think that VC investors should apply diversity quota, should there be anything in place that sort of makes it easier for women or does one just have to get through it?

Savannah de Savary

No I don’t think they should because I think that they should invest in what they think are the best companies and I wouldn’t want to ever think that, or anyone else to think that my company has received investment because I am a woman rather than because of its own merits.  I think the only way it changes is by more diversity in the VC world.  If you have more women sitting the other side of that table it becomes easier.  I mean you hear these horror stories of women who have developed female centric products whether it is to help with breast feeding or innovations in other areas that are you know, particular to women you go into a room with these all male VC’s and they are uncomfortable firstly and secondly they don’t really necessarily understand the full, the full potential of the product so if you have a more diverse panel the other side of that table and that goes both ethnically and gender-wise, you are going to have a better response to you know, more diverse founders because I think women do present things differently.  I notice it all the time when I am interviewing is that you… we are doing something new so no one is really qualified for the jobs we are hiring for and you have men who know full well they are not qualified and they come and they put it out there anyway and then you have women who are so over qualified who are there and they are like, you can tell they are not really sure and they don’t think they are enough and it does make a difference and I have to remind myself sometimes you have to take them differently in interviews because their skill doesn’t reflect in their own self-belief in it and you can’t, you can’t say everyone’s the same.  I think if you have more diverse people… I am rambling but I am very passionate about it… the other side of the table you are more likely to say “okay maybe she doesn’t present with as much confidence as that male there but actually her idea is fundamentally better and that IP is stronger” and I think that’s the only way it changes.

Susan Freeman

And you do you come across what they call Queen Bee Syndrome because the assumption always is that if you have women in positions of power they are going to help other women come through but you sometimes get completely the opposite where women want to be the Queen Bee and they don’t necessarily want to help other women through?

Savannah de Savary

I am like, I haven’t at all.  I mean I think my most valuable relationships in the industry I would put you amongst the top three to be honest because you are a woman who is already very successful and you just want to help other people out and maybe not just women but I certainly feel like I am surrounded by amazing women like you who just want to support and we celebrate each other’s successes and we are there for each other.  I have found, and this is something I really think we should shout more about, is that the women, there may not be many of us but the women who are in property and Proptech are incredibly supportive and promote each other and I love it yeah so I think that it’s a great industry for women to join and I think that whilst it has a depressingly long way to go, we shouldn’t emphasise that over the fact that I haven’t, I have yet to meet a Queen Bee in that sense in this industry.

Susan Freeman

Okay well thank you and I hope you won’t meet one.  What did you think about the, the ten year time horizon that Sam McClary mentioned yesterday for gender balance in the, in the property sector?

Savannah de Savary

I think it was a good point and I think it may seem frighteningly far out but I think what she meant was that you already have better gender, diversity at the lower ranks in companies and in ten years’ time those will be the people that are you know, rising up to be in management and I think that that’s why we will see that change even if we don’t get better, just the progress we’ve already made of more women coming into the industry will trickle up to the top hopefully.

Susan Freeman

Since you are somebody that’s involved in the tech world and the property world, do you see a language gap between the two sectors and is it something that’s an issue?

Savannah de Savary

Definitely there is a language gap.  I think also we are still at the stage where Proptech is new enough that a lot of your role has to be education. Someone will want to make a little tweak to your product and you have to explain that’s not a little tweak, that’s a lot of code that needs to be changed to make that change and actually will it improve the product for you enough to justify that change and I think that education piece is important.  That language gap to be honest, it existed and I am not a technical founder and my sort of chief technical officer is constantly having to educate me and what’s important is just that you are learning constantly and you are open to it and you want to understand better and I think you see that a lot and at least the clients we work with, you see them wanting to understand how the technology works better and they often say “I appreciate there is a lot of complex stuff going behind there but what I like is the fact that the back end I have to  look at is incredibly simple and intuitive” and I think that’s our responsibility as Proptech founders is to make sure what our clients see isn’t the complex tech, it should feel as simple as possible.

Susan Freeman

And do you see that there is now sort of more of an effort to marry the problems and the pain points in real estate with the potential tech solutions rather than everybody just saying ‘oh we’ve got to adopt tech’ because everybody is adopting tech.

Savannah de Savary

I hope so.  I am not sure. I think we are still in that risk stage where there is a lot of people who have good ideas for solutions but they haven’t maybe thought through is it a big enough problem and I think that’s something that we all fall into that trap at times and I think that sometimes property companies can as well and so that’s a really cool solution. Yes I want to embrace it.  Yes I want to adopt it and then they are quite far down the line and have spent up a lot of the start-ups time before they realise it is not a big enough problem it is solving to justify even the time investment of implementing this.

Susan Freeman

It’s a problem for people and also with the many, many start-ups that there are, you know, people with an idea that they have not necessarily had the opportunity to test on a real estate company to see whether it actually is the solution that the company needs.

Savannah de Savary

Absolutely and I think the best decision I’ve made is making our product project focussed so that you can just trial it on one project before you scale it out across your portfolio.  I think that’s really important and you do have start-ups that immediately you don’t need to work like that, like LandInsight is a great example of someone trying to get rid of that little black book buy off market land anyone can have access to, anyone can see what opportunities there are out there so there are exceptions to the rule but broadly speaking I think if you can trial something on just one project, there is much of a chance of it being successfully implemented.

Susan Freeman

And one of the things that seems to concern people is data collection.  Now obviously for all the people trying to make the way transact real estate more efficient, data collection is something that’s really important right through the life cycle of real estate.  Do you think that the real estate sector is ready yet to share data or are people still concerned that they are giving away valuable IP and it’s not something that they should just give away?

Savannah de Savary

I think unfortunately the latter.  People are still very concerned and possessive around their data however I think they should be ready to share it because the efficiencies and the ability for everyone to make more money if you do so are huge.  So no I think frustratingly the answer is they are not ready but they should be.

Susan Freeman

Should we actually be concerned that our Smart buildings will know so much about us because we see data being collected everywhere so you know in China it’s by the State, in Europe it tends to be by private companies and should we be concerned that there’s just too much data available on us everywhere?

Savannah de Savary

I want to say no but I was at a sort of tech forum where someone from New York who, I think they were invested in by cyber labs, I could be wrong but the sort of data they can collect on you on the street on your you know, facial recognition and how you are responding to different adds and what your interests are from reading your, your facial expressions, it was terrifying.  I think there is no doubt that it has the potential to be terrifying.  I was reading a book the other week which was maybe 10 years old and it was meant to be the sort of creepy thriller vibe of that they have this house which is architecturally it is monitoring everything about you and it has all these sensors and its meant to be this very controlling environment and I thought, that’s kind of just our office place of today.  That’s really interesting that this was seen as some sort of you know, dystopian creepy idea and actually now it is reality and it has a lot of benefits for sustainability.  I think Bloomberg’s HQ you know, is genius in terms of improving efficiency by having more, more data to monitor how people use the space but I think it can go too far and I think that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do it.  I personally don’t need them to know exactly when I’ve arrived in the parking lot and I am going into the building to be able to pick up my coffee and to know when I’ve left my seat and how long I have spent in the bathroom.  I appreciate the benefits of that but as an employee I think I would feel a bit violated by it.  So it is a tough one.  People can argue very strongly in the other direction as well though.

Susan Freeman

So do you get any time off?

Savannah de Savary

I actually took my first, my first proper holiday in a very, very… years probably, a few weeks back.  My team all laughed at me because I spent it doing a horseback trek across Jordan, across the dessert so it was not particularly relaxing and it turns out I really can’t pitch a tent, that was quite a challenge and I also really, really can’t you know, use nature as a bathroom, the whole thing was quite traumatic but incredible because then I actually had to switch off because you are constantly busy and I loved it.  So to anyone out there who finds holidays like lying on a beach more stressful than relaxing and you are constantly checking your emails, I recommend going on a trek.

Susan Freeman

On a horse?

Savannah de Savary

On a horse or on your feet.  I tend to when I am around sporty people, which I am not, be like “yeah I went on trek” and missed out the fact that I wasn’t using my own legs but no my legs can barely walk to the tube never mind across a dessert.

Susan Freeman

And how long did you manage to take off for this holiday?

Savannah de Savary

I did 9 days.  However it turns out you do have perfect signal in the dessert and my team were very disheartened to learn that I was constantly emailing and slacking and calling them. I think they were kind of hoping I would be off the grid for their own benefit.

Susan Freeman

I am not sure that qualifies as a holiday if you are actually in contact the whole time.

Savannah de Savary

It was a very well behaved horse.

Susan Freeman

So how would people describe you in one word?  If they were talking about Savannah?

Savannah de Savary

Oooh people in my own company or people outside of it?

Susan Freeman

Well are their differences?

Savannah de Savary

I think there probably are differences. Probably passionate, I think people in my company would say I am passionate.  I love what I do, I am obsessed with what I do and I look for that in everyone I hire so we all share that common thread, that common sort of drive. I don’t know how… how would you describe me?  Intense?

Susan Freeman

Mmmm.  Intense, enthusiastic, intelligent, confident.

Savannah de Savary

Oh I’ll take those.

Susan Freeman

You’ll take those yeah.

Savannah de Savary

I was going to say loud.  So I am glad you went for those because I was going to say incredibly loud.

Susan Freeman

Well I think the loud goes with the confidence so it’s, it’s fine.  Has anybody been a role model or inspiration to you as you’ve gone through the journey so far?

Savannah de Savary

Yeah absolutely and I am always scared of sort of naming names because in one of my first ever interviews I was quite nervous and I talk fast on a good day, never mind on a bad day and I went to say Sheryl Sandberg but I obviously must have muttered a bit because when it got written up in you know, a magazine where it can’t be changed, they’d written, I can’t remember what they said, but someone else Sandberg and I emailed them and I said “look like I don’t know who this person is, that’s not who I said was my role model” and they said “oh sorry we looked it up and it is Sheryl’s sister and she’s a gynaecologist so we thought maybe it was her.”  So that is forever written down that my, that my inspiration is a… I am sure she is a fantastic gynaecologist and sister of Sheryl but no I would actually say the longer I do this the more I find I am inspired by people who have tried and have given their all.  It doesn’t matter if they have failed or succeeded, I find both incredibly inspiring and it makes you feel less alone to know other people have poured their heart and soul into something and even if it didn’t work, they go again.  They’ve bounced back up.  For me those are the people that inspire me the most.

Susan Freeman

It is interesting because if you look at the real estate sector there is definitely an unwillingness to experiment and fail because failure is obviously regarded very negatively and I think that sometimes gets in the way of innovation really.

Savannah de Savary

I completely agree.  Yeah and the people who are willing to take that risk, I just find yeah, those are my role models.

Susan Freeman

So where would you like to be 5 years from now?

Savannah de Savary

Global.

Susan Freeman

Global.

Savannah de Savary

I want to be global, I want it to be the, you know, already it is really exciting, we got an email through the other day from someone very much outside the normal realms of property development doing a big scheme who said, you know, so and so at the Ministry of Housing Communities suggested we get in touch because we are doing this scheme and we need community engagement and I was like ‘that’s why I want a global level’.  That is the first thing you think of when you go to do a scheme and you think that the community should you know, have a voice which let’s be honest, they always should, is you think Built-ID.  That’s what I need, that’s what I want globally in 5 years.

Susan Freeman

Brilliant.  Well I think that’s a great place to stop and very best wishes for, we’ll watch and see what happens over the next 5 years.  Thank you very much.

Savannah de Savary

Thank you so much for having me on.

Susan Freeman

Well it was really refreshing to hear from Savannah on how she has taken her idea and made it into reality, taking the sometimes sedate world of real estate by storm on her way through so it will be interesting to watch her continue the zigzag journey but I am sure she is going to achieve what she wants to achieve and Property Week has named her as one to watch so watch this space very carefully.  Well that’s it for now.  I hope you enjoyed today’s conversation.  Please join us for the next Propertyshe podcast interview coming very shortly. 

The Propertyshe podcast is brought to you by Mishcon de Reya in association with the London Real Estate Forum and can be found at mishcon.com/Propertyshe along with all our interviews and programme notes.  The podcasts are also available to download on your Apple podcast app and on Spotify and whatever podcast app you use.  And please do continue to let us have your feedback and comments and most importantly, suggestions for future guests and, of course, you can also follow me on Twitter @Propertyshe for a very regular commentary on real estate, prop tech and the built environment.

Savannah de Savary is the Founder and CEO of Built-ID. After graduating from the University of Oxford in 2013, Savannah joined Thor Equities, where she managed NYC real estate development projects. In June 2015 she founded Built-ID, a proptech platform that showcases the built environment projects of today and transforms community engagement to better shape the projects of tomorrow. The platform enables property developers to invest in communities, not just their bricks and mortar. Through a digital platform, residents can influence the built environment projects that matter to them, and be rewarded for their engagement with real donations to local charities within their community.

Savannah won “Young Entrepreneur of the Year” at the Property Awards 2018 and was voted Property Week’s ‘Power 100: Top 20 Ones to Watch’ and one of the Top 20 Proptech influencers in a poll by the UK Proptech Association. She is also a regular columnist for Property Week. 

How can we help you?
Help

How can we help you?

Subscribe: I'd like to keep in touch

If your enquiry is urgent please call +44 20 3321 7000

COVID-19 Enquiry

I'm a client

I'm looking for advice

Something else