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MPIM PropTech Venture Capital panelists From left: Samuli Siren, Sean Muellers, David Gerster, Clelia Peters/ Photo by Betsy Kim

NEW YORK CITY—Clelia Peters, co-founding partner of MetaProp NYC, sees a big future for investing in real estate technology.

In 2014, $1.2 billion venture capital was invested into companies under the broad umbrella of proptech. She added that in 2018 year-to-date, the figure reached $3.5 billion, excluding secondary investments such as what SoftBank is considering with WeWork. Contrasting these dollar amounts with financial technology, she stated $16.7 billion was invested in fintech companies in 2017 compared to $3.4 billion in proptech.

Proptech is the fastest growing, sector-specific investment for venture capital now, according to Peters. But it’s just beginning to approach the edge of what it could be.

On Tuesday, Peters moderated the MIPIM PropTech NYC conference discussion on venture capital and corporate venture, exploring alternative investment opportunities. She asked panelists who met at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea, what technology most excited them.

David Gerster, VP data at JLL Spark Global Venture Fund, said his company recently invested in VergeSense, which provides inexpensive sensors that measure and record building occupancy. “It has a three-year battery life. You just stick in on the ceiling, and you’re done,” said Gerster. “It takes care of the challenge of tracking who’s using a meeting room, how many people are in the lobby and at what time of day.”

He explained it can assist in emergencies, tracking who left the building, for example, in the event of a fire. Large owner operators in commercial real estate have said this has been a problem for years, said Gerster. “To see this upstart company tackle this, I think is pretty exciting.”

Sean Muellers, managing director at Blackstone, said his company continues to work with various flexible office providers. “I think everyone now agrees that we are heading in a certain direction, where a larger proportion of the square footage is going to be more flexible, shared office space.”

He added Blackstone is waiting for the WeWork of retail. He said he observes thousands of brands being created or spun off other companies, and they do not have a physical presence. He predicted a growth in digital platforms that provide information on how customers interact in the physical retail space and with products. This tool could have invaluable applications in the growth of shared retail space.

Samuli Siren, managing partner at Redstone Digital GmbH, headquartered in Berlin, emphasized that real estate is local. So there are no global players comparable to other industry technologies. “It seems to be a market which is way more local but there is also massive opportunity in that,” he said.

All of the panelists agreed proptech is still in the very early stages of the game. And this adds up to tremendous potential of where it will go.

Betsy Kim

Betsy Kim is the bureau chief, East Coast, and New York City reporter for Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com. As a lawyer and journalist, Betsy has worked as the director of editorial and content for LexisNexis Lawyers.com, a TV/multi-media journalist for NBC and CBS affiliated TV stations in the Midwest, and an associate producer at Court TV.

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