R.E. property meets technology: cross-country comparison and general framework

Date25 June 2020
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/JPIF-09-2019-0126
Published date25 June 2020
Pages125-143
Subject MatterProperty management & built environment,Real estate & property,Property valuation & finance
AuthorChiara Tagliaro,Stefano Bellintani,Gianandrea Ciaramella
R.E. property meets technology:
cross-country comparison and
general framework
Chiara Tagliaro, Stefano Bellintani and Gianandrea Ciaramella
Department of Architecture, Built Environment and Construction Engineering,
Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy
Abstract
Purpose Due to the young age of proptech, little is known about the dynamics of its expansion. In particular,
there is limited agreement about a definition of proptech,while different categorizations are popping up. A
severe lack of information emerges for the proptech scenario in Italy. The goal of this paper is to systematize
multiple proptech maps in the attempt to createa framework for comparison of country-specific trends and an
overarching definition of proptech. The research examines the evolutionary stage of the Italian digital real
estate sector and compares it to the international context.
Design/methodology/approach An in-depth analysis of 12 proptech maps at both national and
international level was conducted based on online research. A list of Italianproptech companies was composed
through multiple methods. A map was built for a cross-country comparison.
Findings Each country or organization tends to develop its own categorization. This creates a multifaceted
context where comparison and analysis are challenging. The Italian proptech sector seems underdeveloped
compared to neighboring countries. Big room for improving the proptech business in this country still exists.
Practical implications The results are valuable for proptech start-ups, business investors and well-
established real estate actors to build on new entrepreneurial initiatives. The opportunity to advance proptech
mapping and categorization emerges as a prospect for future research.
Originality/value This research adds an overview of cross-country proptech categories and proposes the
first analysis of Italian proptech. This will contribute to support entrepreneurial opportunities.
Keywords Proptech, Italy, Real estate, Digitalization, Clusters, Categories
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
Proptech is a recent phenomenon, but it has been attracting increased attention from several
players.
According to data published by Venture Scanner in June 2019 (https://www.
venturescanner.com/), the proptech market has undergone a sudden acceleration in terms
of funding. 2019 is the year in which the sector recorded the largest amount of investment
(9.3bn dollars through the first and second quarters). This amount represents 50% of the total
R.E. property
meets
technology
125
© Chiara Tagliaro, Stefano Bellintani and Gianandrea Ciaramella. Published by Emerald Publishing
Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone
may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and
non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full
terms of this licence may be seen at http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0/legalcode
This paper forms part of a special section PropTech and Entrepreneurship - Innovation in Real
Estate II, guest edited by Dr Larry Wofford, Dr David Wyman, Dr Elaine Worzala.
This paper originated from the valuable work of two students of Politecnico di Milano who
successfully ended their masters program in Management of Built Environment with two thesis on the
topic of proptech. Merilisa Spaltro with a thesis entitled Evolution of Italian real estate: a proposal for
digital real estate observatory(https://www.politesi.p olimi.it/handle/ 10589/143463)andMarco
Magnani with a thesis entitled Main trends in the international Proptech market: proposal for a real
estate tokenisation start-up(https://www.politesi.polimi.it/handle/10589/143028). The authors would
like to thank them for their great contribution to our elaborations.
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
https://www.emerald.com/insight/1463-578X.htm
Received 27 September 2019
Revised 27 February 2020
16 March 2020
Accepted 17 March 2020
Journal of Property Investment &
Finance
Vol. 39 No. 2, 2021
pp. 125-143
Emerald Publishing Limited
1463-578X
DOI 10.1108/JPIF-09-2019-0126
funding in 2018 and 140% of the funding up tothe second quarter of 2018. Also, the amount of
investment capital collected in the late stages of funding has been increasing significantly
since 2014 (Venture Scanner, 2018a), which proves that the global market is consolidating
and rapidly reaching a more mature stage.
In the global panorama, the United States leads the investments in this industry, both in
the number of funding rounds and in the amount of funding raised (Singh, 2018). The United
Kingdom and China follow with investments that are proportional to the dimension of each
country. Other European countries demonstrate that they play a role on a global scale, such
as Spain, France, The Netherlands, Germany, Finland and Poland.
Not only are investors involved in this evolution, but also developers, occupiers,
employees and retailers among other real estate players (Stanley, 2018). Several proptech
events are bringing all these relevant stakeholders together. Just to name a few: MIPIM
(http://www.mipim.com), the largest global real estate event (held every March in Cannes,
France), recently introduced a forum dedicated to the proptech business (https://www.mipim-
proptech.com/en.html) that has been taken worldwide over the past year, including New York
in early November, Hong Kong in late November and Paris scheduled for JuneJuly 2020;
FUTURE Proptech (https://futureproptech.co.uk/) turned five years old in 2019 as a global
debate and exhibit platform; Propteq Europe (https://propteqclub.com/proptech-europe-
2019/) reached its fourth event with the Global Summit in September 2019, held in London,
where around 300 organizations from around the world participated in; and even the Royal
Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) held its first Proptech Conference on November 23,
2018 (https://www.rics.org/en-hk/events).
Besides, technology incubators have been established in universities all over the world,
including DMZ at Ryerson University (Toronto, Canada); New Venture Institute at Flinders
University (Adelaide, Australia); Tsinghua x-lab at Tsinghua University (Beijing, China);
PoliHub at Polytechnic University of Milan (Milan, Italy); StartX at Stanford University
(Stanford, CA.); and more (Stanley, 2018).
These events and initiatives promote the potential development of the sector and informal
conversations.
However, a systematic analysis of the sector is missing, while an agreed definition of
proptech is still to come. Moreover, the experience of different countries in this field remains
understudied.
1.1 Definitions of proptech
The term proptechhas become a buzzword. Despite the relativefrequency of Web searches
based on the word proptechand encouraging market trends, the definition of this term is
fuzzy. It derives from the crasis of propertyand technology.It includes all products,
processes and business ideas that apply the most innovative resources in the information
communication technology (ICT) realm (H asenmaile an d Rieder, 20 17). Expressions such as
CRETech(Putzier, 2016), Real EsTech(Pyle et al., 2017), Real Estate Tech Companies
(CBInsights, 2017),but also RealTechareoften used assynonyms for similartypes of business.
FinTechand ConTechrefer to technological applications in the financial and construction
sectors, butare often difficult to distinguish from proptech (Maududy and Gamal, 2019a).
Commercial players, including KPMG (Pyle et al., 2017, p. 5) and RICS (2018), agree on
defining proptechas a general term referring to all the aspects that cover how technology
and digital innovations affect the built environment.
James Dearsley, guru of the UK proptech sector and founder of Unissu (https://www.
unissu.com/), in collaboration with Professor Andrew Baum from the University of Oxford,
elaborated a definition of proptech entailing a more complex concept. According to them,
proptech is, on the one hand, a name defining all the technological innovations in the property
segment and, on the other hand, the industry itself, the business sector and, more generally,
JPIF
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