Real estate technology (proptech/REtech) is quickly becoming its own category in the world of venture capitalism. New and traditional VC firms have raised hundreds of millions of dollars solely to invest in real estate technology. Top VCs have made huge bets on proptech companies, and several global landlords have created venture capital arms just to get in on the action. Commercial brokerages have also launched new units to promote the development of tech-driven real estate services.
The term Proptech goes beyond the buying, selling, renting and managing of property. Any new technology that improves how we utilize our physical surroundings is now considered real estate tech. This includes industries like retail and storage, construction robotics, hospitality, data and analytics, modular building, as well as home security. In 2010, the total investment in real estate technology was around $33 million. In 2017, it rose to over $5 billion. There are several factors for this.
One reason is that technology has the ability to consolidate an industry that has no single leader. Uber exists for the transportation industry, Priceline is available for the travel industry, Amazon is used for the retail industry, among other things. However, there is currently no single tech-driven leader in real estate, which is why venture capitalists are so aggressively seeking one.
Another factor is size. The size of a target market is pivotal for an investor, and the field of real estate is the largest asset class in the world. It literally emcompasses where every person lives, works and plays. VCs generally lack experience in the real estate community, so this vast space has been widely untouched. To help search for new startups, there are websites like Disrupt Property which show all global startups that are “disrupting” the property industry. It’s a great resource for VCs to discover Proptech/REtech startups.
Over the past few years, real estate has created some of the world’s most talked about tech unicorns: Airbnb competes with the hotel industry and it turned a profit in 2016. It now has over a $30 billion valuation. In the world of office space providers, WeWork is valued at roughly $20 billion and has serious competition in Industrious Office, a slightly more upscale version. Redfin, the Amazon of real estate, had an IPO that soared 45% in its first day of trading and continues to hold its own. All of these successes help new real estate tech companies benchmark the potential growth of their visions. They also help to create long-term investor confidence.
Growth in this sector will no doubt continue to increase. Real estate technology naysayers will see their businesses decline whereas early adopters will experience exponential growth. VC firm Softbank recently announced it will be investing an additional $100 billion into their Vision Fund 2.0, and Fifth Wall is is raising another $200 million to invest solely in retail technology. If you’re an entrepreneur, funding in this space is everywhere and the potential is huge.