A contraction of the English words Property and Technology, the term Proptech refers to all start-ups that use technology to serve the real estate industry. With a few flagships such as Masteos or Deepki, France is at the forefront of a wave that has managed, despite a gloomy climate, to raise more than €880M in Europe in the first quarter of 2022, i.e. 5 times more than the previous year.
Once confined to real estate for individuals, Proptech is now tackling the tertiary real estate sector, a sector that saw the health crisis as the starting point for a digitalization that is now booming. At a time when work spaces are being reinvented, digital offers are multiplying. We met with Axel Hars, CEO of French startup Myr.ai, which specializes in the digitalization of workspaces, to discuss what tomorrow's workspaces might look like.
What do you think is behind the sudden craze for Proptech and more specifically the digitalization of office real estate?
A.H.: Of course, the health crisis has had a major impact in that it has raised questions that few had asked before.
To employees: can I have flexible working days? Can I work from a third location or even completely remotely? Is my office healthy? Properly maintained?
To the decision-makers: how can I make the most of my real estate? How to make it attractive? Know without latency what is going on? Manage my operations remotely.
These are all new questions that Proptech companies are trying to answer by capitalizing on their technological know-how.
Moreover, there is also a structural factor which means that as these companies mature, the size of fundraising increases mechanically.
From what you've seen, what are decision-makers looking for in priority today?
A.H.: I would say that there are 3 main categories today. Understanding the use of their real estate assets, improving their attractiveness and optimizing their operations.
Understanding usage, whether it is on the use, attendance or reservation of spaces, will allow you to rationalize and deploy your resources only where they are needed. Only heat the spaces that are used to meet ESG criteria. Or develop cleaning practices based on usage by directing cleaning agents to the offices and meeting rooms used.
Improving attractiveness means offering services to employees. By developing new services - in hospitality management mode - or by providing them with digital tools to better interact with their space (room reservation, menu selection, parking reservation, etc.). The idea is to be able to deploy a fluid hybrid experience for the user by offering him a space at his service.
Finally, operations optimization aims to use digital tools to better control the compliance of daily operations and in particular the services that make a building function on a daily basis. Data plays an essential role in this, but so does the way it is directed - routed - to the personnel in charge of execution, whether they are internal or external. Technology offers tremendous levers for optimization, both in terms of process and budget.
What do you think the smart building of tomorrow will look like?
A.H.: That's a very good question! And it's still a rather vague term today. We tend to think first of sensors today when we talk about smart buildings. In my opinion, this is not enough because we focus on the accumulation of data without having first built the roads to make it circulate.
In my opinion, we should start at the base and use existing resources such as the smartphone to bring the data to where it will be really useful. At Myr.ai, this is the expertise we have developed by tackling the digitalization of all services. Because these are essential services and their proper implementation is the basis for a healthy, operational and ultimately attractive building. A truly smart building is a hybrid space that allows all its actors to collaborate seamlessly. Decision-makers, employees, service providers and outsiders. Whether they are on site or remotely.
What trend do you see for the next 5 years?
A.H.: We see a trend towards innovations in the field of operational optimization and management.
Over the past few years, there have been a number of innovations aimed at users of commercial buildings (employees, tenants, etc.). There are going to be many more offerings aimed at decision-makers, in particular to help them optimize the management of their spaces.
Another trend, which goes hand in hand with the maturation of the market, will tend towards the consolidation and decompartmentalization of the offers in order to no longer have a tool for each business expertise but to be able - at last - to control the entire building within a centralized interface.