Many of Asia’s largest property developers and investors still conduct their business using tools that haven’t changed dramatically since the popularisation of the spreadsheet thirty years ago. That old school way of life may be under threat, however, as investors put nearly $5 billion into tech startups determined to grab a piece of the region’s lucrative real estate sector.
A survey of Asia-based real estate professionals conducted for Mingtiandi’s report, Building Asia’s Digital Future, revealed a level of technology adoption that trails other industries, including low degrees of adoption of basic systems such as CRMs, and an ongoing reliance tools with limited scalability, such as spreadsheets.
Led by a surge of funding for mainland startups, proptech companies in Asia Pacific have raised $4.8 billion in funding since 2013, according to a study released in November 2017 by JLL, accounting for more than 60 percent of investment in the sector globally over the period.
Armed with all that cash, these startups are targeting ways to make real estate companies more efficient, but many are also aiming at disrupting the current business models that rule many segments of the property industry.
Proptech Evolves From Listings to Blockchain
With $7.8 billion having been invested in proptech companies globally since 2013, according to the JLL report, the sector is rapidly developing more powerful tools to assist occupiers, investors and other industry players.
While the first generation of property technology firms were involved in information sharing, such as setting up listings portals where tenants and homebuyers could browse available properties online, the latest set of tech-enabled property firms have moved beyond sharing details of houses and apartments.
In a recent survey of 53 prominent property technology businesses in the US by market research firm CB Insights, although over 28 percent were still focused on property listing or search services, another 20 percent were market data or analytics providers and over 13 percent were in the investment or crowdfunding space.
Co-Working and Crowdfunding Look for Profit Opportunities
Tech-enabled shared office providers such as WeWork form another segment of the proptech sector, and allow occupiers to select and lease space online, while also providing community functions that enable tenants to streamline many back office operations.
Proptech is also rapidly adopting financial technology innovations such as blockchain, and online payment platforms, to allow retail investors to directly fund real estate projects over the Internet. During 2016 a range of startups, including PeerStreet and Real Crowd, handled some $3.5 billion in real estate transactions globally, according to industry figures, signifying a potential threat to the existing asset management industry.
China Leads Asia’s Proptech Wave
With real estate and related sectors estimated to account for between 15 to 20 percent of mainland China’s GDP, and the country’s tech sector experiencing rapid growth, real estate technology has become a top target for Chinese entrepreneurs and investors.
Of the $4.8 billion raised by Asian proptech startups since 2013, more than $3 billion has gone to China-based companies – accounting for just under 39 percent of capital targetting the market niche globally, according to JLL’s recent report, “Clicks and Mortar: The Growing Influence of Proptech.”
Among these robustly-funded startups, online home listing platform Fangdd.com closed a $223 million series C round of funding in July 2017, and Shanghai-based co-working provider naked Hub is thought to be on the brink of a new round of institutional funding after raising around $33 million from investors including Gaw Capital in 2016.
The scale of the China market, which has led to greater system adoption among companies in the country’s real estate sector, also drives the incentives for investing in startups in the sector, which will both provide tools for, and put pressure on, property companies in the region.
This story is excerpted from Mingtiandi’s report, Building Asia’s Digital Future, which documents adoption of technological systems within Asia’s real estate industry. The report, and the survey it was based on, were sponsored by real estate investment and property management software provider Yardi Systems.