Tomas Novotny founded and was the CEO of 720 Degrees in Finland, a cloud-based analytics solution for indoor environmental quality monitoring. After raising 4 million euro in funding, the company was acquired by Swegon (a Latour group company). On the side of parenting, Tomas is also a mentor and advisor to founders at FiBAN and Pi Labs (one of our partners and investors).

Main takeaways:

  • In a company, the importance of the solution is often overshadowed by people, organization and networks    
  • Finding a professional coach to support the founder can be critical when starting a new company
  • In proptech, undoubtedly and obviously, the focus has to be on sustainability and ESG goals

Tomas joined FiBAN thinking that angel investing would be suited for him. He supported founders’ fundraising and participated in startup screenings and says that one thing he’s seen often – which he also learned as an entrepreneur – is related to prioritization, especially among first-time founders:

The role of their own technology and solution is quite often highly overestimated, while the importance of people, organization, and networks is underestimated. Of course, that sounds quite high-level, but to break it down we would end up talking just about that. It is something we do discuss with founders quite often.

His role at FiBAN evolved towards something that helps him achieve better impact – mentoring, advisory and training.

In these cases, I am looking for the dynamics we have with the founders. he explains. As said about the importance much more in the people, organization, and networks than in the solution itself, I try, with the founders, to bring to their attention things like personal traits, founder matters, founder-investor relationships, board and advisory board, professional networks, and so on.

To someone just looking to start their own company, besides focusing on the people, he’d recommend finding a professional founder or management coach.

It is not that common yet but it is starting to be talked about. I have been working with one for over a year now and I wish to have worked with him over the past decade. In the hindsight, I believe a lot would have been very different on my journey as a founder.

Shifting the conversation towards proptech, we wanted to know what are some of the most important technologies that Tomas thinks to redefine the real estate industry. He highlights the importance of sustainability:

That is where the urgency in our industry is. Of course, I would like to say that IoT with AI technology like the one we were building, but there are so many which have the potential to do more than just move the needle. Through Pi Labs and FiBAN I have talked to some great founders with impressive technologies, hopefully scaling these will happen faster than it used to with proptech.

Further on this topic, Tomas adds that when he was still working at 720 Degrees, they thought ESG and technology would converge much faster:

It seems to me these are still very beginnings. With climate urgency and attention the industry is attracting from regulators, hopefully, the trend will accelerate soon. At least many proptech companies are better positioned to scale now than even a few years ago.

Sustainability is just one of the areas where technology can have an impact on real estate. Digitalisation is happening and transforming multiple processes, optimising people’s work. Tomas sees this as an accelerating trend:

Proptech has had a positive impact on the industry over the past decade, it is taken much more seriously than before, real estate companies are putting money into VC firms, and founders have access to much more capital. Definitely better than a decade ago when we launched our company, that is great to see.

Finally, to conclude, we asked him to share some of his future plans:

Currently, I am enjoying parenting and going day by day, it is quite a change from before, a change I might have needed. There are some opportunities arising but for now, I am happy with supporting founders from the side.

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