Edited & published by Rayhan Rafiq-Omar

Proptech Weekly #52 – 2016’s top Proptech stories, companies and people

| Rayhan Rafiq-Omar

Friends, Feudal Landlords, Commoners,

It used to be the property people who were resistant to change.

But 2016 was the year the technology people stuck their fingers in their ears and sang la-la na-na-na.

The clamour for agent tech has been loud this year. Property professionals have increasingly embraced simple tools like Fixflo to help transform the level of service they can provide.

But there’s been very little listening as technologists try to ram their vision down the throats of property people without listening to what their actual needs are.

Apps like Goodlord have lovely features like electronic signing. But being wrapped in an end-to-end system is off-putting to many agents – they want to improve their business, not change everything about it.

A friend asked me when Openrent – who reportedly let 4,000 properties each month, which would make them the largest online lettings agent by a country mile – would start offering assisted viewings.

I immediately baulked at the suggestion. Openrent’s value proposition is clear: it’s for DIY landlords.

The moment they become a full service agent is the moment they lose their identity and laden their business with the cost of unnecessarily competing with every other agent.

There are people, like Adam and Daz, who genuinely get their customers – these are the people worth speaking to. Listening to.

So let’s start with the people of the Proptech year:

Michael Bruce, Paul Pindar, Neil Woodford – this is a case study in how everyone pulling hard in the same direction leads to positive results. Regardless of your opinions of their model or service, these three are proof that leadership matters. Especially when you underwrite your stock price with your own (patient) capital.

Robert May, Coding Dobby, Peebee and Chris Wood – maniacs. It’s the most appropriate word to describe their crusade against the scourge of #portaljuggling. These madmen have made an issue out of something that nobody cared about. My friend Robert May prides himself in finishing what he starts and achieving the highest standard of results. That’s what happened here: portaljuggling is a thing everyone now knows about. They’ve won a battle. Can they win the war for transparency in estate agency?

Alex Chesterman – This was the year OnTheMarket was supposed to overtake Zoopla. But the sole reason for Zoopla’s rising share price struck again with his deal-making. Not only did he mop up Property Software Group (Vebra, CFP Winman, Jupix) for an absolute bargain, but he dominated mindshare amongst Proptechers by making several investments into the likes of Property Detective, Trussle and Bricklane.

James Dearsley – he’s taken a view that Proptech is going to be big and has quickly become the undisputed Mr Proptech. Wherever there’s an online platform or a conference stage, James is there. Champion of Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence, James writes his way into everyone’s consciousness on a weekly basis.

Then there are the companies that won the year:

Purplebricks demonstrated the power of the press. The company’s accounts showed a loss. But because their release insisted they made a profit, every property journalist repeated the untruth. Purplebricks has understood this irrational behaviour and harnessed the power of messaging for their benefit. Not content to blow away every other online agent through massive advertising spend, they finally nailed a value proposition that every member of the public can latch onto a repeat: don’t pay commission to sell your home. Whatever you think of their model and finances – both of which are questionable – they own mindshare. It should be a particular point of shame for both Connells and Countrywide that their ‘hybrid’ agency efforts barely appear on the same playing field. This was the year Purplebricks showed every other agent that property is about style over substance.

Zoopla – Beyond CEO Alex Chesterman’s deal-making, Zoopla built on their excellent outdoor and TV advertising to once again capture the imagination. It’s doubley amazing that Rightmove doesn’t respond AND Rightmove’s dominance increases regardless. Mind boggling. But this is about Zoopla and for many younger property hunters, it’s the first brand they think of. That counts.

VTS – The $300m merger between Hightower and VTS was a watershed moment for US Proptech. Juliette Morgan said it was the end-game for commercial property software and that ‘everyone’ would have to use them because they’d have all the data. But while the merger was the attention grabber, there’s a more subtle story here: they’re getting it right. They’re winning. Watching Brandon Webber speak is a must for everyone in and around Proptech: Link

Opendoor – Let’s ignore the monster $200m+ fundraisings. Just consider that they’re dominating the markets they’ve entered. And are paving the way with genuine innovation to transform the way people buy and sell homes. For those who think Opendoor is anything like BMV businesses, remember how painful it was when you sold your home.

And the top stories:

VTS and Hightower merging: Link

Zoopla acquiring Property Software Group: Link

Zoopla investing in numerous Proptech start-ups: Link

All the major Proptech fundraising were North American: Link


Happy New Year one and all. May 2017 be all that you hope and deserve.


  1. Robert May

    My dearest Rayhan,  thanks for the mention,  nothing we have done or have given away is wasted.

    You forgot to mention the correction of land registry data, that was more significant than any of the people  or the events you have mentioned.You didn’t mention we can out rank both Rightmove and Zoopla in Google rankings and obviously haven’t realised the strategic importance of portaljuggling.

    Coding and I are the only people in the entire industry with all the facts, we know who is honest and who is not. We know where to buy and where to sell. We know who can be trusted and who can’t. We know who sells what, for how much, in how long and what price adjustments happen along the way.  We have an incorruptible system of rating agents and the ability to give accurate advice throughout the country.

    When you think about it what us maniacs have done is quietly taken control of an industry and achieved things other people have tried and failed to do. Our attention to detail and the seemingly confusing quest for honesty has put us in a very good place indeed; you can’t argue with fact and that is valuable. You can’t buy respect and you can’t buy honesty.

    We have a very solid foundation and can now build whatever we choose to build knowing it can’t be undermined and it will be incredibly difficult to compete against.






    1. Rayhan Rafiq-Omar

      Thanks very much for taking time to comment. I’ve made a small amend to the article. I hope you like it.

      1. Robert May

        Thanks Rayhan,  we have full transparency to the point where we have identified attempts to circumvent the clampdown on portaljuggling with #portalbumping. As a result things are moving quite fast and attracting some very serious attention.

        I think the next 3 months are going to be busy and interesting
















    2. Moolamarkie

      Robert, I’ve just sent you a LinkedIn request as I believe we share some common ground.

  2. Chris Wood


    It is true that no one knew that portal juggling even existed until our group identified and named it. It is also true that very few understood it or, to be fair, cared about it in isolation.

    However as I have said before; whilst portal juggling is, in itself, a crime it is not the crime of the century. It is, crucially, the industrial scale fraud which portal juggling facilitates that is the real concern of our group, The Ombudsman, National Trading Standards, financial analysts and the police.

    That the public don’t care is a symptom of knowledge of the problem combined with a lack of perceived loss or injury. What is clear is that just in the case of one example, the deception masterminded by this firm may have resulted in investors and customers parting with tens of millions of pounds under false pretences.

    Depressive? Yes. ‘Manic’ depressive? No (and have my medical records to prove it!). Whilst I don’t regard myself as particularly maniacal I have been accused of being a bit of an obsessive in the past. That said, I believe that too many people confuse the word ‘obsessed’ with being ‘highly focussed’ and determined. I’ll take “talented” though; thank you Rayhan 😉


    A happy, sane-ish, crusader

    1. PeeBee

      “It is true that no one knew that portal juggling even existed until our group identified and named it.”

      Sorry to correct you on this point, Chri (I just can’t get used to your ‘new’ name, matey… ;o) ), but there were an awful lot of people knew the practice existed – namely the 000s of Agents/employees who perpetrated the offence on a basis of sickening regularity.

      They just didn’t know it would eventually become known as #portaljuggling – and that it would come back and bite them so hard in the @$$ that they would feel it in their tonsils!

      What now makes me both chuckle like a pixie (credit: Robert May) AND blow an almighty chuffin’ fuse is the number of gobs-on-sticks who have emerged from the woodwork, spouting off about a subject which they have less than zero understanding of, misquoting and misinforming simply to get their snotty noses in the trough.

      And YES, Mr Rafiq-Omar – It’s commonly believed I’m as mad as a box of frogs.

  3. agency negotiation limited

    Mr. May, Mr. Wood, Mr. Dobby and last, but by no means least, PeeBee.  I salute you all for your persistence and deep thought.

    1. PeeBee

      Your salutation is acknowledged and gratefully received, Sir. (#HNY to you, by the way…)

      Are we expecting to see/hear much from you in 2017?

    2. Chris Wood

      Thank you ANL. praise and thanks always gratefully received.


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