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How partnering with start-ups has contributed to our innovation success

12/07/2018

In this second part of the innovation interview series, we speak with Aidan Coleman, our Chief Technology Officer, about the Group’s inaugural PropTech Accelerator program for real estate start-ups.

Where is the first round PropTech Accelerator program up to?
We’re now at the most exciting stage with the program having just culminated last week with our demo night where the start-ups provided a business update and pitched to potential investors, mentors, the wider Charter Hall team and external partners.

From an initial 50 applicants, who came mostly from Fintech and Engineering or building systems backgrounds, we short-listed these to 15 companies who participated in a 2-day boot camp in February with industry mentors.

We then spent time assessing their business model viability and importantly the alignment with our business and where we could add value. Four start-up’s were then selected to go through the accelerator program which has sought to deliver 13mths of growth in 13 weeks through a number of product development and market strategies.

In addition, we were excited to include a fifth internal team in the program to develop a concept for a marketplace leasing platform for tenants which evolved from one of our in-house innovation initiatives.

Tell us more about the program participants
The four new start-ups in the program are InSpaceXR – transforming the way buildings are designed, built and maintained through virtual and augmented reality; Snaploader – 3D modelling applications

and tackling to streamline investor onboarding, communication and distributions. Bricks+Agent is a cloud based marketplace for property maintenance and Estate Baron focuses on online capital funding and automating investor relations functions such as investor communication and distributions.

How did the internal concept come about?
Internally, we have a program called the Cedric Fuchs Scholarship which is about building innovation, collaboration and diversity of thought.  It provides our people with the opportunity to create, plan and bring to life their own project within the business.  The platform that allows people to submit their ideas is called the “Fish Tank” and it is open to the whole business to contribute and vote on ideas. The best ideas go through a 5-day workshop for further ideation and development. These are then pitched to a panel of experts from Charter Hall’s Executive team and external mentors such as Pip Marlow, CEO Customer Marketplace at Suncorp and former MD at Microsoft.

What sort of ideas have Charter Hall people come up with?
Our teams are very capable of developing some truly innovative ideas. We’ve had everything from solar panel installations to drone deliveries and in 2018, the winning idea was selected for a marketplace application to connect our tenant customers’ flexible space needs. We’ve had a lot of interest from our tenants who want to either expand or free-up some space and so we looked to peer-to-peer models such as AirBnB to develop an easy-to-use platform to connect our customers and help solve their changing needs. We’ve rapidly progressed this concept through the Accelerator program and have already trialled this to great success in our Industrial portfolio.  We’re now developing this for our commercial and retail portfolios and we’re excited about the potential value-add offer and the pay-back in terms of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

What’s next for these start-up’s?
As they near the end of the first round of the program, it’s really time to take stock of the success achieved so far - with all four start-ups reporting significant growth in revenue and customer interest in just the last four months alone – and what support they need for their next growth trajectory.

Our main objective was to give them the opportunity to rapidly develop and we are delighted to see them kicking goals. From Charter Hall’s perspective we’ve also been able to take a good look at their business models and their people.

The next stage for us is to explore potential partnerships from an investment perspective and also looking at what kind of strategic customer role we can play to bring these exciting innovations to our customers. For example, we are already working with InSpaceXR on VR and Snaploader on 3D modelling at many our latest office and industrial developments and leasing projects including at our latest commercial development in Melbourne at 130 Lonsdale.

What’s been the secret to the success of the program?
Really, it’s down to a lot of hard work, commitment and goodwill from all participants and mentors. Working collaboratively with the team at Collective Campus as the program manager and the internal and external mentors we have involved in the program has been a fantastic experience.

And any plans for a second round of the PropTech Accelerator program?
The program has been a huge success and we are certainly keen to explore round 2. We’ll be looking to recast the net and fine tune this further in areas that are most relevant for our business and customers, as well as taking on broad feedback and learnings from participants to shape a future program. This may include broadening program participants and focusing on specific PropTech areas …watch this space!

Check out part 3 of our series: We share insights on how technology innovation is disrupting the property industry today

Missed part one? Click to read how we acheieved a ranking in the top 20  most innovative companies list by Collective Campus.