Day One of Propel by MIPIM NYC 2020 launched with the intent to “solidify New York’s place at the center of the proptech ecosystem, while continuing to internationalize the proptech space”, according to Aaron Block, Managing Partner of co-organizer MetaProp.
The online-only event – marking Propel by MIPIM’s fifth year – certainly delivered on that, with a whistle-stop tour round some of the globe’s most exciting PropTech nations, from Israel to Japan, via Belgium, France, the UK and the US.
“We have decided to curate less content than ever but focus on greater pragmatism,” announced Nicolas Kozubek, Director Propel by MIPIM – NYC as he kicked off the digital event. “They’re saying that innovation is dead. Long live innovation,” he quipped.
“2020 has been a challenging year,” noted Cormac Crossan, Global Head of Business Development, Smart Real Estate Solutions & Services at Schneider Electric. “In real estate we’ve been asked to react in real time to Covid, while responding to the usual shareholder demands and ESG challenges. Today we are looking at this dilemma through the lens of our successful partnership with Blackstone.”
Don Anderson, Senior Managing Director, at Blackstone said: “Schneider Electric creates a sustainability scorecard with us which they refresh monthly, ranking for KPIs. For large portfolios it helps us see easily which sites are lagging and need help.”
Added Eric Duchon, Blackstone’s Global Head of Real Estate ESG: “Our 15% emissions reduction target is extremely exciting to me. It shows that sustainability is coming from top down. We’re also using Schneider Electric to verify that, and not just rest on our laurels once we reach 15%.”
In an inspirational fireside chat, Vicki Been, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development New York City, charted the city’s recovery from the first Covid outbreak, how it is tackling the second wave and presented strategies for future health crises.
“PropTech fits squarely in NYC’s economic recovery model, especially in promoting health, sustainability & equity. We’ve watched the surge in invention around healthy buildings, from disinfection to air quality. These innovations help us safely return to our offices,” she said. Been also acknowledged that future pandemics weren’t the only major risk on the agenda.
“One of the biggest public health crises that we face in the future are the problems caused by global warming,” she noted. “PropTech can help us be greener, more sustainable, and more resilient. Last year we spoke about local Law 97, the ambitious municipal policy to achieve a 40% reduction in emissions by 2030, and an 80% reduction in building emissions by 2050.”
Been announced a request for proposals in the search for an intermediary to help the city build PropTech into its administrative infrastructure. “We’re counting on you to make NYC fairer and healthier!” she concluded.
A lively session, ‘AI in 2021 and Beyond – Digital Twins’, saw Adam Glod, Digital Building Transformation leader at Willow, in conversation with Maureen Waters of MetaProp about tech’s potential.
Meanwhile, back-to-back panels showcased the exciting Israeli PropTech scene, which currently boasts 240 active PropTechs as of 2020, compared to 170 last year, according to Michal Gologorsky, CEO of ProptechZone. “There are more and more VCs looking at Israel and we are also mentoring the younger generation to think about tech solutions,” she noted.
After Israel, Propel by MIPIM headed to Belgium, for a spin around the Brussels PropTech ecosystem. In conversation with Stone Hocker of Hub.Brussels, Brussels Secretary of State Pascal Smet explained how the city was embracing tech: “Brussels has an air pollution problem like many cities – a major threat to public health, and our planet. Our partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies will increase our measuring points to have a more detailed view of the situation,” he said.
Short presentations by Brussels start-ups Buildwind, Proxyclick, Drawbotics, Shayp and Facility Lockers also offered a granular view of some of the brightest companies helping real estate firms evolve, in areas ranging from water-leak management to Covid-related real estate development challenges.
Faisal Butt, CEO of Pi Labs, went head-to-head with Andrew Baum, Professor of Practice at University of Oxford Saïd Business School, to discuss their recent joint research paper, ‘Technology and the Future of Real Estate Investment Management’. Butt noted: “We’re really interested in investing in the space, and this is a good way of getting to know it better.”
Baum said that their findings stressed the importance of PropTech today. “The real estate investment management industry is facing a perfect storm, from the stress of raising fund after fund to Greta Thunberg challenging us all to be better people and save the planet. The industry is crying out for granular PropTech solutions,” he suggested.
Concluded Zola: “It has been a stop-start year, but the M&A markets have come back and we haven’t seen a dip in enthusiasm. People had to work out if they could transact on Zoom, but soon realized they had to solve these problems to stay in business.”
Following the pre-Propel Leaders Perspectives series of webinars, Toby Moskovits, CEO Heritage Equity Partners and Ryan Simonetti, CEO of Convene, met again to discuss the impact of the pandemic on the industry.
Simonetti said: “From conversations with tenants, demand for office space post-Covid will shrink at least by 20%. In terms of business travel, I was travelling 120+ days per year, I would fly cross country for a one-hour meeting. I think I will go down to travelling 30-40 days a year in future. If I am like others, that will have a major structural impact.”
Principals from Oxford Properties Group, Investa & SparkBeyond explored the data revolution as epitomized by their Project Alpha initiative. Joanna Marsh, GM of Innovation & Advanced Analytics at Investa, explained: “We built an acquisition-hunting machine that allows us not only to look at properties on the market and private deals, but all properties, analyzing who owns those assets and what is their propensity to sell.”
Day One rounded off with a look at PropTech’s future stars, as principals from Hines and Project Destined discussed current plans with the Dean of the City University of New York (CUNY) to help guide its students towards a career in PropTech. Project Destined CEO Cedric Bobo explained: “We have a really simple mission – to develop talent for the real estate industry. It’s diverse talent, but it’s talent. In partnering with CUNY we’ve gone from training 100 students a year to 300-400 per semester.”
The final panel showcased how US PropTech developments are influencing Japan, poised to become the largest Asian market for real estate related innovation, in a multilingual session that epitomized PropTech’s wholly global credentials.