Clicks and Mortar: Start-ups Driving Innovation in Southeast Asian Property
There’s no doubting the growth of real estate in Southeast Asia, where both highly-developed countries like Singapore and emerging economies like Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines all present better returns on investment for both western and eastern investors.
In its 2018 Asia Pacific Outlook, property services firm Jones Lang LaSalle forecasts Asia-Pacific transaction volumes to grow five percent, “reaching US$135 to US$140 billion, and will be largely driven by continued momentum in core markets and increased interest in the region’s developing markets.”
But beyond the region’s hot pieces of property, it’s worth noting that a sector emerging in recent years within the real estate industry is steadily gaining traction as well: proptech. A portmanteau for “property” and “technology”, proptech is largely driven by such tech trends as the digitization of services, social media, adoption of the Internet of Things (IOT) and automation, data analytics, and virtual and augmented reality.
Proptech start-ups aim to leverage such technology to improve the services property stakeholders rely on to buy, sell, rent, build or manage residential and commercial property. According to Jeremy Sheldon, JLL Asia Pacific’s Managing Director for Markets and Integrated Portfolio Services, such tech trends in the long term “will have a significant impact on corporate real estate strategy, team structures and processes. The introduction of IOT — smart systems and devices operating over a network — will drive greater transparency of real estate portfolio utilization and performance. Smart buildings will help both building owners and occupiers improve performance and save costs.”
Asia Pacific proptech is likely to pick up steam, states the same JLL report, and this adds to “the already received US$4.8 billion of the US$7.8 billion raised by global proptech start-ups from 2013 to 2017.”
Indeed, it seems the future of proptech is now. Putting a face to these disruptors, PropertyAccess lists five proptech start-ups that are making waves in the real estate industry:
Riding on the property boom in the Philippines, ZipMatch started in 2013 initially as a realty platform that offered listings and location-based search functionality. It eventually evolved by offering a more targeted means to reach potential property buyers and investors by partnering with sellers, realty companies, property developers and financial institution.
Today, the platform which targets the B2B market uses data-driven technologies to match buyers and sellers, and offers immersive and curated virtual experiences to customers, giving buyers a better idea of the properties listed on the platform even before they make an actual visit.
ZipMatch is now a US$3.1 million company, with capital infused by Kickstart Ventures, a VC subsidiary of Globe Telecom; Silicon Valley-based Monk’s Hill Ventures; and Google Launchpad Accelerator.
An online real estate marketplace focused exclusively on emerging markets, Lamudi traces its beginnings back to 2013 when it was launched by German firm Rocket Internet.
The year that followed saw the company aggressively expanding its operations in Asia and Latin America. Today, Lamudi is available in more than 30 countries, including the Philippines and Indonesia.
It’s no secret that the office property sector in Asia Pacific is on an upward trajectory.
One particular start-up bullish about its prospects in Asia is WeWork, a New York based co-working platform founded in 2010, which announced it is allocating US$500 million in capital for its Asia-Pacific business.
After launching in Singapore last January, WeWork is targeting to expand into four more countries in Southeast Asia, with Indonesia coming in next, and Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines set before year end.
While not yet present in Southeast Asia, India-based start-up Snaptrude is an architect and designer’s best friend. The platform enables users to take a snapshot of any hand-drawn floor plan, which it will then convert into a 3D mockup without the need for an expensive CAD application and CAD skills.
Snaptrude also features a database of materials and labor prices, and then automatically computes for costings based on the estimated materials needed for a real estate project, thus taking the guesswork out of the construction business. It’s particularly helpful for first-time homeowners, as it enables them to see if a contractor is overcharging.
The company is also dabbling into virtual reality technology—it provides support for VR headgear, thus enabling users to go through a virtual tour of their planned property before it is built.
One of the region’s leading real estate portals serving 12 million users a month, Property Guru traces its roots back in 2006 when founders Steve Melhuish and Jani Rautiainen both experienced the pains of trying to find a new home in Singapore.
Spending hours poring through available sources for property choices and up-to-date pricing information had left them feeling further from their goal. Eventually they learned of other property seekers facing the same challenges and decided to do something about it. And so began Property Guru.
The company whose unique selling proposition includes providing “relevant content, actionable insights, and world-class service” to property seekers has since expanded from Singapore to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. It has seen successful funding rounds in 2012 (US$49 million) and 2015 (US$129 million), and in October 2016 invested into Vietnam’s biggest real estate website Batdongsan to expand its presence in one of the fastest growing countries in the region.