Proptech founders and VCs at Las Vegas conference say business is booming

  • Proptech founders and venture capitalists gathered in Las Vegas for a new conference, Blueprint.
  • Proptech funding is at record levels, with $ 9.7 billion invested in the first half of 2021.
  • At Blueprint, the feeling of euphoria over the meteoric rise of proptech technology was palpable.

The synthesized horns of Usher’s “Yeah” dance hit sounded over an artificial beach at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Live on stage, bathed in purple and blue lights, Ludacris rapped his verse from the iconic 2004 single to hundreds of people – many of whom were founders and real estate tech investors attending the inaugural Blueprint conference.

“Thanks to Blueprint and ITC! Luda sang. The hip-hop star was performing at the after-party of the Twin Conferences: Blueprint, a new real estate tech conference, and InsureTech Connect, a thousands-person conference that is the largest in the tech industry. assurance.

Dozens of people pulled out their phones to record the moment, as hundreds of their colleagues and competitors danced. Some of them still wore their identification badges on lanyards; others waded in the pool that separated the crowd from Ludacris.

I rocked alongside the founders, venture capitalists, and executives after countless hours of ballroom table meetings over the past three days. Ludacris’ performance was far from the only source of euphoria at the conference.

Almost everyone I spoke to said Blueprint was their first in-person conference since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. A once tedious ordeal, like six consecutive coffee meetings, is now a new delight. Fundraising start-up founders, VCs looking for their next investments, and the innovation branches of major owners and asset managers looking for the next products for their massive portfolios have all mixed up.

And now they were together, not on screens in boxes, but in Las Vegas, in a convention center nestled in front of hundreds of slot machines. Amusing!

But it wasn’t just that.

You could practically feel the money pulsing through Blueprint 2021. The entire conference center – with a modest 700 attendees versus thousands down at InsureTech – was buzzing with deals being negotiated and connections underway.

It was real proof of a trend I had just reported from afar. Funding for real estate technology, or proptech, is once again piling up at an all-time high, reaching $ 9.7 billion in the first half of 2021, according to JLL.

At Blueprint, I heard people talk about closing a $ 5-7 million cycle during the conference itself and describe meeting with seven VCs in one day. I’ve spoken with founders who started cutting-edge technology companies during the pandemic, like the one creating a market for buying shares of single-family homes. I have spoken with industry veterans for 10 years. And they all said much of the same thing.

“The pandemic has been terrible for a myriad of reasons, but it has also ushered in a golden age of proptech,” said Nick Romito, CEO and co-founder of one of proptech’s first unicorns, VTS, at the meeting. ‘one of the main stage sessions at the conference. VTS began as a rental management tool when it was founded in 2012. It most recently established a rental market and acquired Rise, a tenant engagement app for offices.

Earlier this year, I called VCs, like MetaProp co-founder and Bain Capital Ventures investor Clelia Warburg Peters, who told me it had become clear that the pandemic was when proptech had arrived. .

Real estate is a slow beast, but during the spooky days of March and April 2020, even the slowest realized that technology had to enter space. There was a need to facilitate remote visits to homes and apartments, allow banks to monitor construction sites that their loans supported but could not visit, and move company data from an office server. to the cloud.

As the pandemic progressed, real estate technology companies continued to respond to the needs exposed by COVID-19. While flexible office startups have had a rough start, their on-demand and short-term office leases are more attractive now, as the future of the five-day-a-week office is uncertain. Other startups have found ways to fill vacant retail and office spaces that otherwise start to feel unusable.

At Blueprint, I’ve heard so many drastic examples of post-COVID-19 gains. Jamie Hodari, CEO of CBRE-backed flexible office company Industrious, said the company will most likely create three times more revenue this month than it did in any month before. -COVID-19. Separately, Joseph Woodbury, the CEO of Neighbor, the storage space market, told me that his company has 25 times more retail space on its platform than a year ago. It offers real estate investment trusts and large homeowners another way to make money on vacant space.

And a lot of money is watching too. Proptech’s largest venture capital funds are raising more capital than ever, with MetaProp’s new fund, Fifth Wall’s Climate Fund, and various special purpose acquisition companies. New entrants like Tiger Global have written massive checks to over a dozen big names in the industry. After a short hiatus in proptech investing after WeWork’s 2019 IPO attempt, even SoftBank is back in the game.

The enthusiasm led to faster transaction times, bigger checks, and more cash for early stage founders, including second home sharing startup Pacaso, which became the fastest unicorn. never recorded earlier this year after just five months of operation. With so much money flowing around, the founders’ concern after WeWork’s 2019 fiasco that proptech funding could dry up seems odd, especially with WeWork expected to be released to the public by PSPC later this month.

“It’s a founder’s market right now,” Marcela Sapone, CEO and co-founder of multi-family concierge and property management company Hello Alfred told Insider. Hello Alfred was founded in 2015. It now provides application-based personal assistant services to tenants in more than 130,000 units, said Sapone, but it has taken some time to adapt.

“Our first launch was probably too early,” said Sapone. But now there is widespread enthusiasm for the company and the industry.

Romito from VTS explained to the conference how, after introducing his business to a VC for the first time, they told him that they “wouldn’t hit that with a 10ft pole.” Not anymore. As Romito said, “the market is moving at a rate that no one in this room could have imagined”.

About Susie Jones

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