Proptech firms are ‘solutions in search of non-existent problems’ claims Scarff

Industry veteran Bob Scarff has described almost all proptech companies as “solutions in search of problems that don’t exist”.

Scarff, who formerly headed up Countrywide’s estate agency division, said he had read a piece on EYE last month where Robert Sargent, of Acorn Group, criticised the plethora of proptech ideas.

Scarff said: “It reminded me of two years ago when I first found myself out of work.

“I literally lost count of the number of people who wanted to show me their proptech ‘idea’.

“In all but one case, it seemed to me that the one thing that these ideas had in common was that they were solutions to problems that didn’t really exist.

“The most common scenario was that the founder had experienced something as a consumer of estate agency services that they perceived as a problem, they knew a way in which this ‘problem’ could be solved, and quickly went about the business of becoming a proptech start-up without once stopping to check if the problem really existed, and if it did, whether or not estate agents would be prepared to pay for the solution.”

Scarff – not surprisingly – went on to say that the one exception was Callwell, the firm he went on to acquire and which turns “emails into phone calls like no one else”.

The original piece in EYE, in which Sargent described proptech firms as “emperors’ new clothes”, is here:


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  1. MattBesier41

    This piece demonstrates the problem with estate agents. A complete lack of awareness of the problems that do exist. Maybe one or two startups fail to validate their ideas properly, but most of them will be using lean startup techniques to ensure they’re building the right stuff. The only reason proptech has taken so long to take off is because of people like this guy who thinks their old pen and paper way of doing things works for todays consumer. How are Countrywide’s profits doing these days?

    1. Resident21

      Well said MattBesier41. And much as there are lots of these types of firm, no agents are forced into agreements with any of them. There is more choice than ever before for agents and it’s a question of selecting services that you believe will make a difference to your efficiency, your customer service and you staff productivity. Please don’t complain Bob. Make the most of it.

    2. ARC

      The profits and share price are down by some 66% since Mr Scarff left CW so perhaps he does know something of that he speaks.

    3. bobscarff

      Hi MattBesier41 – are you sure you read the whole piece and have visited the Callwell website? If you have then you’ll have seen that I am far away from being an “old pen and paper” estate agent.

      Also, I left Countrywide two and a half years ago. Do keep up 🙂

  2. Bless You

    Haha class comment…its true…  how many apps come from students doing a computer science course at uni and got a bit annoyed that they had to pay £100 to rent a room.   funny thing is , city keeps giving them money.

  3. Bless You

    I would like a piece on how much online agents have cost the industry in income this year…. then divide that into tax receipts lost by govt. then divide that by nurses.

    people moaning about agent fee’s is rubbish… no one used to mind paying someone a few grand for making them 10k more then they thought.

    countries gone mad…brexit proves it.


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