Finding the next Airbnb – Europe’s first property tech accelerator launches

Founder of Pi Labs, Faisal Butt, and partner at Cushman & Wakefield, Juliette Morgan, explain why 2015 is the year for property innovation

Property tech company Airbnb is now valued at $6.5bn. What began as a bunch of air mattresses in a front room in 2007 now enables millions of people to experience properties they never before would have accessed.

In just a few short years Airbnb has disrupted our perspective on hotels and holiday stays entirely. This makes it one of the most exciting start-ups of our age.

But while Airbnb might be another Silicon Valley prodigy, this sharing economy approach to property is taking off closer to home. Exciting companies like OneFineStay (UK), and HouseTrip (Switzerland) are following the Airbnb model. It’s now only a matter of time until a company with the same level of global recognition is formed closer to home, here in London.

Pi Labs – Europe’s first property tech accelerator

We recently launched Pi Labs, Europe’s first property tech accelerator, to house, mentor and help fund some of these property start-ups. You’ll find us in the iconic Second Home building in the heart of London’s Tech City, on Hanbury Street.

Of course, as a hub of international property activity, London is the natural home for this emerging property tech movement. Yet the London property market and all the services that surround it are antiquated and cause considerable angst.

But London is still home to TechCity, where cutting-edge businesses like Zoopla and Rightmove are emerging as a counter-cultural reaction to the traditional agency structure – paving the way for a quiet revolution in property where the customer is back in control.

And what with the global success stories like Google’s smart home technology company Nest, the time is ripe to launch a platform that fosters more property innovation in the UK.

We launched Pi Labs in October 2014 and have already seen hundreds of applications. From talented early-stage property start-ups, to trends like construction crowdfunding and new pop-up retail spaces, each holds one clear common thread: they all capitalise on new technologies such as SaaS or other cloud-based technologies, in order to put the customer firmly first, save money, and solve particular pain points.

AirSorted is one company that has joined our programme. It’s a company run by a couple of eager young ex-coders and ex-financial workers who are tapping into the huge market for Airbnb hosts. They manage cleanings, key exchanges, laundry, guest bookings, complaints, reviews and even pricing to make sure people earn the most they possibly can from their property.

Office space is one other area that has changed almost beyond recognition in our major cities in the last few years. People are now designing and reconfiguring their own workspaces to fit changing work patterns.

OfficeRnD is an office space prototyping, planning and management platform that lets you organise your office rooms and desks. Its simple cloud-based software enables customers to create office space plans without them being a designer or architect.

Another company making the most of how we live now is a new fitting room service called Wilde Rooms, which gives online shoppers the opportunity to try on purchases they find online in dedicated changing hubs, before making a purchase.

It’s innovate companies like these that make us confident we’ll find the next Airbnb here in London – one that is as equally disruptive and game-changing.

But the future of property can only be built if start-ups and corporates collaborate to foster innovation and provide support.

Faisal Butt is in the process of creating a £1.5m fund which will invest in up to 15 startups innovating in property related sectors over the next 18 months. To invest on Seedrs click here

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