1. What new technological developments do you consider particularly relevant for our industry?
The combination of different technological developments is always what is important in the end. For example, “augmented reality”: this can be applied to the consumer/shopping sector, in projecting public space, but also in display of your own planned four walls. First configure, then build and finance might be a condensed statement, but one thing is paramount here: the willingness to deal with meaningful data collection and analysis. Technology is based on the availability of data. I venture the hypothesis that only very few in the real estate industry can imagine what power and business models are provided by data availability. When thousands of teenagers currently climb roofs or hunt in cemeteries in the “Pokémon Go” worlds, it’s only a matter of time until this approach is also reflected in buying behavior. BIM, Building Information Modeling, would be a second important pillar in this development phase.
2. Should PropTech startups cooperate with established real estate companies? How could cooperation look like?
Not initially, because it is precisely the charm and the disruptive element of start-ups that they just cannot develop in the bloated, leaden workgroups of large enterprises. In the entrepreneur phase, it would be counterproductive to orient themselves to the “big ones”. However, only few get access to the market. At such a point, meaningful cooperation with established companies can certainly be mutually beneficial. But cooperation in the long term always goes in the direction of a unity, i.e., the big one swallows the small one if there is success. This might only be in order to acquire know-how and employ it in the market thanks to sales capacity.
3. How do you assess the current level of digitalization of enterprises in real estate investment and real estate asset management?
Given the fact that the term “digitalization” is undergoing the same process as the term “sustainability” 10 years ago—which causes many to roll their eyes today—it is currently more a catch-all term for everything disruptive, innovative and “something dealing with data”. That will surely change with gradual specification relating to individual segments of the real estate industry, but an honest answer is: We have not even begun to understand the opportunities in the approach; how should we then already speak about successes or the level of digitalization in individual industry sectors? Collectively, we are still in the Middle Ages: show me your data, and I’ll tell you how you are doing.
4. What can established companies learn from start-ups in the real estate industry?
Create an atmosphere which makes it possible for unconventional thinking far from executive board guidelines, accepts the possibility of failure, and also has considerable research budgets. Just one Berlin-based start-up alone that deals with the question of which technology is on walls (keyword: “thinking wallpaper”) has more research funding from industry than all real estate research departments in this country together have for “market research” in 2016. In other words: Although you can indeed create the basics with (research) money, often only flashes of inspiration from the outside will set accents. Important here is the much vaunted “creative milieu” – don’t we want that at EXPO REAL in October too? So that more new or adapted ideas are taken up …
Dr Thomas Beyerle is the MD of Catella Property Valuation GmbH as well as the Head of Group Research for the Catella group. He is a lecturer at various real estate academies and colleges, and has authored numerous articles and textbooks.