Interview: The man with £10m to invest in proptech firms

dominic wilson

Meet Dominic Wilson, the man with £10m to invest in proptech

Property Innovation Labs, better known as Pi Labs, is now 18 months old and recently held its third demo day.

EYE spoke with managing partner Dominic Wilson to find out his views on the future of proptech.

Before joining the venture capital fund Wilson had worked for over a decade in real estate, latterly in debt advisory to institutional investors.

Eye: What attracted you to Pi Labs and the world of proptech?

Dominic Wilson: Having spent 12 years in real estate, it was time to change and work towards something that was more innovative. Pi Labs is at the forefront of this development and it’s exciting to be a part of it.

Eye: Those were some very polished presentations from the latest batch of start-ups you’ve funded. What’s next for Pi Labs?

DW: We’re always looking to improve – this applies as much to the companies as the process we run in getting them in. We can now focus on the scale and geographic spread of where we invest – always had a global mandate – now looking at investments in the US and India alongside raising a £10m fund which we have closed part of to make our current investments.

Eye: How many start-ups does £10m fund?

DW: We obviously started off with an accelerator focused fund, and now we’re an accelerator-plus able to make seed to series A Investments. We will invest in 10 start-ups a year through the accelerator over the next two years. And then we are also planning perhaps an additional five seed investments a year. Anticipate 15-20 seed investments from this fund. Could do it quicker if we wanted to.

We are about quality, it’s not about volume. We could have taken 6-7 companies into the cohort, but we decided we would keep it at five so we can give those five the best help and makes it harder to get in as a mark of where we’re at (in terms of quality).

Eye: Do you just look at applications, or do you take a view on what you’d like to invest in?

DW: Quite thematically led. The investment in Plentific is a home services market investment and the reason was because on a thematic basis people are spending more and more money on their home, because they’re finding it difficult to move, and so spend more staying in their property. That as a theme makes sense.

Eye: There’s been a lot of buzz about virtual reality and one of the teams today talked to the possibilities of augmented reality. Is that something you’re keen on?

DW: We’re very supportive of it, but haven’t really seen the ability for a company or concept to knit together the property, user, consultant. It has got to be something that works. Pokemon Go absolutely intertwined with people’s everyday lives. People were already gaming.

Eye: Any other areas you’d like to see start-ups focus on?

DW: Big on construction. I think it is ripe for innovation. Also blockchain on a macro level are what we’re driven by. Looking at things we’ve not done before. Apart from Airbnb stuff, we haven’t done enough in the hospitality sector. We’re moving away from – and less enthusiastic about – residential agency. You’ve got Yopa, Housesimple, and eMoov that we backed. We’re now looking for the next evolution, which is yet to arrive.

Eye: How about the cross-section of proptech and fintech?

DW: We were the first investors in Trussle, and we would like to do stuff in insurance, buildings insurance, insurance in the home. The process and information needs to be better served, and in the same way as mortgages it needs to be better in terms of transparency.

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