Edited & published by Rayhan Rafiq-Omar

Proptech Weekly #51 – A vacuum of leadership

| Rayhan Rafiq-Omar

Yesterday Brandon Webber, the New York based founder of Hightower, took to a London stage to talk about his firm’s merger with VTS and his view of the future of innovation in the property industry.

What was obvious to everyone in the crowd is that the person speaking was knowledgeable about his customers and created products that were sought after.

Juliette Morgan of Cushman and Wakefield described the Hightower/VTS merger as the end game for Commercial property tech saying (and I paraphrase) that every commercial agent will need to use them.

Why does this matter?

Brandon was the follow up act to a panel of UK Proptech’s ‘rising stars’.

They were the best the UK had to offer. And they were awful.

What did the audience remember of this panel? They constantly moaned about the property industry being less than receptive of their products.

Beyond being embarrassing, it was an indication of how little progress technologists in the UK are making at the process of innovating. That’s probably because they are not innovating.

All sat on stage and gave a spiel about their products. There was little to remember about them or their products. The takeaway, suggested by Ross Bailey of Appear Here and echoed by the others: “Property companies should hire CTOs who are empowered to make decisions about technology within their organisations.”

What he meant to say is: Make it easier and quicker for me to sell to your company. I don’t think he used the word please.

This ‘vacuum of leadership’ isn’t just within the proptech space – the property panel that followed was worse.

Save Juliette Morgan, the panel was so uninspiring that half the audience disappeared. No word of a lie, yesterday’s event was the Brandon Webber show. He was the one person on stage that everyone wanted to meet afterwards. A bonafide property tech superstar.

So who are the superstars or potentials in the UK? We do have hope, and oddly many of these influential people were in the audience and inexplicably not on stage.

Here’s my list of influencers. If you want a no bulls*it steer on how to best approach technology, any of these people would be a great person to connect with:

Rajeev Nayyar
Daniel Gandesha
Alex Chesterman
Michelle Ricci
Gary Chimwa
Ed Mead

Juliette Morgan
Henry Pryor
Rohan Silva
Antony Slumbers
Susan Freeman
Neal Hudson

Robin Klein
Andrew Giblin
Sheraz Dar
Henry Yates

Emily Wright
Emily Spaven
Rosalind Renshaw
Samuel Horti
Judith Evans

Obviously you’re welcome to reach out to me, but my style is a little less diplomatic than those above. And genuinely they are all a lot more important than I am. Do yourself a favour, and talk to these influencers before you Tech your Prop.


  1. nwalley60


    Practice what you Preach! On your website account set-up page you don’t even have a category for ‘PropTech’ or ‘Technology Service Provider’. You have my company – Chimni- listed as being in the ‘Other’ category!

    Nigel Walley

  2. 123430

    I agree to an extent. The problem is ‘proptech’ is not about technology, it’s more about burning money to build market share and brand awareness, and technology only comes second or third to that. The only real winner is Rightmove where the technology is the key driver and marketing is secondary. No other comes near to this and will likely fade when the money runs out.

    Another point of interest is that the real success are those who are not necessarily property professionals. The real downfall are those who are with dreams of grandeur but are just sales managers from a small agent, bored with the monotony of doing the same thing every day, even with a different job title, director, manager, negotiator (they do the same thing)… I can name a few.

    The real winner is those who are quietly getting on with it. Watch this space.



  3. KByfield04

    A good list of authoritive people and influencers to talk to. However, with the exception of Juliette Morgan (commercial) and Ed Mead (left agency) I think the important thing missing at a lot of these talks is not the companies pitching their product/success story nor is it the experts/investors talking about seed rounds and exit strategies but it is the agents who already get it, are adopting it and have success stories about it. This is what is missing. People need context. Especially agents that are resistant to change and evolution. Presented a product, created by a guy who has never worked a day in agency but proclaims what a ‘game changer’ it is will often fall on deaf ears. However, hear from an agent how easily it was adopted, how it impacted the business and clients (good and bad) and lessons learned going forwards- now THAT is something agents will want to listen to and act on.

    1. Rayhan Rafiq-Omar

      I couldn’t have said it better myself. Thanks KB.

      For those who run proptech conferences, that is exactly what we’ve been discussing over the last few days.

      If you’re interested, Gary Chimwa runs the most conscientious property tech events – give him a shout with suggestions.

  4. Trevor Mealham

    Ouch. What a sad article.

    UK real estate is in a mess and fintech (the main prophecy investor sector) has very little idea about encouraging best proptech over Ponzi tech to make a profit, rather than industry and consumer better service or products.


    1. Robert May

      It isn’t a sad article Trevor, it is spot on*, the industry isn’t receptive to new ideas but that’s because the  proptech systems are being  developed for the techies by the techies. They are benchmarking great ideas from other sectors and  forcing it onto agency who then can’t see the point or benefit.

      The notable exclusion from that list is Andy Solomon from Yomdel; if proptech folk want  a lesson in how its done that is the firm to benchmark.

      My advice put up with Rayhan’s brutal honesty it will save months of your life and £’s  invested developing tech no agent will ever use enough to generate a profit

      The first things proptech wannabes need to learn; respect agents, they are your customers

      The first things proptech wannabes need to accept; as service supplier to a service industry  you are on the very lowest rung of the property industry. Most tech folk never ever accept that and take it as a personal insult to their ego.


      * the omission of Mike Griffiths of GMW/ Expert agent  is the only oversight I can see.



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