The global market for technology serving the real estate market, or PropTech, is estimated to grow from US$18.2 billion in 2022 to US$86.6 billion in 2032, according to a recent study. A pair of Hong Kong companies are taking advantage of this boom with the launch of a new venture capital platform backing proptech startups.
Crystal Investment (member of the Crystal Group) and SOCAM Development (an HKEX-listed division of the Shui On Group), have joined forces to establish BetaBox Ventures, to provide funding and industry networking support to start-ups across the spectrum, including proptech, contech, smart building, decarbonisation, construction site safety, and smart monitoring. The platform will initially focus on companies operating in Asia, and those which plan to enter the Asian market. Vivian Chan, Founding President of the Hong Kong PropTech Association (HKPTA), is invited to join the VC firm’s investment committee and contribute towards selecting promising ventures.
“BetaBox Ventures aims to support innovative entrepreneurs in developing solutions with the potential to revolutionise the property sector,” said Crystal Investment CEO Nick Lo. “We believe in the transformative power of proptech and our goal is to help promising start-ups in this field to achieve their full potential. We look forward to collaborating with entrepreneurs who share our passion for innovation and shaping the future of the real estate industry.”
Closing the Investment Gap
While proptech is on the rise globally, venture backing for startups in Asia Pacific still falls short of the funding committed to the sector in Europe and the US, and the BetaBox team aims to close that gap.
Formed by professionals with backgrounds in tech, real estate and investment, BetaBox goes beyond making strategic investments in startups by providing promising companies with opportunities to expand their market reach by facilitating access to markets and potential customers in Hong Kong and other Asian countries.
Nick Lo, who led Crystal Investment for nearly three decades after studying engineering at the University of Toronto, has co-founded tech startups in Mainland China and is a key member of the leadership team helping foster tech innovation at BetaBox.
Listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 1997, SOCAM focuses on construction, and property development and management with operations across Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.
Managing housing estates, office buildings, shopping centres, schools, carparks and specialised facilities across Greater China, SOCAM understands the needs of property owners and has built a network of collaborators among the region’s renowned developers and investors.
Adrian Lo, Director of Corporate Development at SOCAM, notes that with labour and material costs rising across Asia Pacific, developers and builders have enhanced
incentives for streamlining what has long been a traditional industry, as innovative technology is rapidly becoming more economical and accessible.
“Using innovative technology to address long-standing industry pain points not only rejuvenates the construction industry by attracting young professionals but also aligns the industry with the broader vision of ESG,” Adrian Lo said.
Sustainability at the Fore
With SOCAM having taken a number of steps to make itself a first mover in sustainability within the region’s real estate industry, including setting up a smart facilities division and backing startups such as AMPD Energy, which provides smart batteries for construction works, the team at BetaBox shares the vision and sees sustainability as integral to their mission.
Winnie Leung, Partner at BetaBox and Founding General Partner at VC firm Transcend Capital Partners, which serves as an advisor to BetaBox, says BetaBox is committed to integrating ESG principles and responsible investment practices into its investment strategy.
“BetaBox Ventures is actively seeking out innovative start-ups that have the potential to revolutionise the way we live and work. By prioritising ESG and responsible investment, BetaBox aims to not only generate financial returns but also to contribute to a sustainable future,” Leung said.
Teaming Up with the Innovation Community
To fortify its links with Hong Kong’s innovation community, BetaBox has invited Vivian Chan, Founding President of the Hong Kong PropTech Association (HKPTA) to join its investment committee, alongside Nick Lo and Adrian Lo. As a key player in promoting proptech in the Asian region, the HKPTA will be providing support and resources to BetaBox Ventures and its portfolio companies.
“I’m glad to have the opportunity to contribute my experience and network to BetaBox Ventures and look forward to working with the rest of the management team to identify promising start-ups and make an industry-wide impact,” Chan said.
“With funding as the lifeblood of technological innovation in the real estate sector, Hong Kong’s strengths as an international financial centre with a mature building and construction industry provide an ideal base for proptech investment”, Chan added.
“I have made it my mission to bridge the gap between proptech companies from around the world and investors in Hong Kong,” Chan said. “As part of my role at HKPTA, I organise regular exchanges between tech entrepreneurs and investors, providing opportunities for funding and market expansion in Asia. By facilitating these connections, we aim to support the growth and success of start-ups in the proptech industry.”
“Creating a proptech ecosystem can usher in transformative changes to Hong Kong’s real estate industry while promoting sustainable development in Asia,” she concluded.
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