Idriss Goossens is an experienced PropTech professional, being active for more than 10 years in this industry. Among his initiatives, there is PropTech Lab Belgium, a real estate innovators network in Belgium representing 200 company members. In 2019, he co-founded the European PropTechAssociation which represents 3,000 PropTech startups. In 2020, Idriss founded RELEVATION, the digital fundraising summit for proptech.

Main takeaways:

  • A PropTech startup should be customer centric and data oriented in order to grow in this dynamic environment
  • The real estate industry is now seeing two innovation drivers that make it embrace technology faster: the need for customer centricity and efficiency
  • We are looking at an even bigger crisis, one related to climate, and the real estate market has to act accordingly in order to avoid further negative impact. PropTech can play a vital role
  • The office of the future has to be different and offer people a place to connect, be more productive and healthier

The PropTech ecosystem

The PropTech ecosystem is booming and this is due partly to the pandemic that showed the real estate industry that it needs to digitize its processes. The ecosystem is growing, but according to the European PropTech Network startups’ tracking, 60% of all proptech startups in Europe have less than 10 full-time employees – so the growth is happening, but we are still at the dawn of the industry.

What makes or breaks these startups though? After having worked and seen thousands of proptech startups, we wanted to learn Idriss’ take on what makes a business successful in the long term.

I don’t think there’s a specific pattern for PropTech startups. The success of a business is related to best practices in general and some of the most important are: obsessiveness for the value provided to the customer, data centricity, serving the client’s needs and being able to measure how well you serve those needs. I think a big trap is to focus solely on attracting funding and not that much on proving your product or service can be sustained by your clients.

Being focused on your clients’ needs and making your best to meet them at the right time or even to foresee them is critical for any startup. But in many industries, we see clients more open to adopting innovation and technology than in real estate. How can entrepreneurs convince them that what they are actually providing is valuable?

While real estate remains tech-reluctant and true to the saying if it’s not broken, don’t fix it, Idriss Goossens says that actually there are two innovation drivers that encourage and at times even force the industry to adopt new trends and technologies.

The first innovation driver is the idea of customer-centricity. It is vital now to know your clients, their requests, and expectations and to make the shift from being product-oriented to a more customer-based approach.

The second one is related to efficiency and to optimizing tools, processes and becoming digital natives. Real estate professionals have been forced by the pandemic to adopt new tools in order to work during the pandemic (video conference tools, digital signature apps, virtual visits etc.).

Furthermore, Idriss adds, after the pandemic, we are looking at a new, 3rd driver, which is related to an even bigger crisis than the one we are slowly moving away from – climate change.

There are many regulations that demand the real estate industry to become carbon neutral. The EU Green Deal asks for carbon neutrality by 2040 and a decrease of buildings’ CO2 emissions of 40% by 2030. This is a huge opportunity for proptech and huge leverage to accelerate the adoption of proptech,  he comments.

Funding for startups 

Going back to developing such a startup, the discussion turned once again to funding and the right moment to attract investments. When is the best time for entrepreneurs to start raising money? Before becoming profitable? After? When they have just an idea, an MVP, or are product-market fit?

There are a lot of grey lines. You should make sure you can be customer-funded and that you can actually bring value to clients who would be willing to pay. There are many lessons to be learned from other players who only focused on accelerated growth and made bad decisions in the process. 

And there’s something else. An entrepreneur should choose their investors wisely, so that there isn’t that much pressure just on growth, but on sustainable development.

At RELEVATION, we want to enable founders to meet the right investors for them and create meaningful relationships that come with that layer of chemistry between people. 

The human aspect is very important because as an entrepreneur, you’ll have moments when you’ll feel you cannot move further anymore and that’s when you need to have all the support you can get, from your investors included.

The future of office

Property Technology will definitely mark the future of the commercial real estate. There are many opportunities to optimize processes now done manually and to use the resources the industry has more efficiently.

Technology is just one of the trends that will shape the future of the office, through its power to provide a better, safer experience for tenants. Idriss adds that there are other trends as well that will define the office in the following years:

Delivering empty sqm of space is not enough anymore. Tenants want services that enable and foster communities and that make them healthier and more productive (childcare, access to fresh food, fresh air, daylight etc.).

Then, we will see a rise of the importance of the brand – the value of the sqm will depend on who is the operator and on their B2C relations. A good start in building these relations is providing great virtual showcasing solutions.

Sustainability will become a competitive advantage, with regulations and tenants looking for spaces that are energy positive and efficient. 

Last but not least, the future does not belong to a central office, but to a network of connected, decentralized spaces. Dror Proleg has a great way to put it: <<the problem is not the office, but the journey to the office>>.

The office will survive in the same way the retail industry survived after the rise of e-commerce. Idriss thinks this is a good analogy because the impact of covid over the office sector is similar to the one technology had on physical shops.

There are two main aspects to think of. Optionality – in the same way people now have the option to buy from a live store or an online one, they can choose whether they want to work from an office or somewhere else.

Then, commodity – e-commerce leveled up the whole buying experience. Similarly, the office cannot be just a keyboard and a screen anymore, but a place where people have quality time, meet their peers, build the company culture. It must be different in order to survive.”

Plans for 2022

To conclude our interview, we asked Idriss Goossens to share some of their plans for the next year and we are excited to see how much the proptech industry will benefit from them. 

We are organizing two editions of REVELATION in 2022, one focused on the North American market, with the support of CRETech and a global one, where we expect over 750 participants to join us online. They will both be announced soon.

Moreover, in 2022 we will be launching an accelerator program for startups focused on ESG that can help cities become more resilient. he added.