On May 23, PropTech VC PiLabs hosted the Demo Day for the seventh cohort of its startup incubator program. This event marks the end of the program and is typically an opportunity for the cohort members to present their projects, which they have progressed with PiLabs’ supports over the past few weeks, to an audience of potential clients and investors, as well as to their peers. I sat down with each of the startups’ founders, as well as with PiLabs Founder Faisal Butt, to discuss the innovation they are bringing to real estate and the significance of the PiLabs program.
Cribz co-Founder Domenic Nesci
While in a previous role as head of sales and marketing at a development company, Nesci noticed they were spending millions on marketing with a very poor conversion rate. According to CBRE, in fact, the industry standard is for a 1.4% conversion of online leads into a sale. Nesci and co-founder Peter Esho built Cribz to change this. In Nesci’s words, “We are a platform to help real estate companies sell more properties in less time.”
This is achieved by enriching lead data with up to 100 additional data points on inquiries, ranging from their occupation to their social habits. The enriched data is aggregated by the Cribz platform, which acts as a filter for the portals, and the leads are then sorted by likelihood of fit and passed on to agents with recommendations on how to use them. The product is currently in private beta with a select number of U.K. agents. Its long-term goal is to also serve as a customer database analytics provider, to help developers determine what to build next based on live demand.
Cribz chose to join Pi Labs because they are industry leaders in the PropTech space.
Decology CEO & co-Founder Sharon Costi
Decology is a “Home design platform that helps people design a home they will love to live in, in the best possible way” and Costi came up with the idea when doing up her own home. There had to be a more schematic way to help people plan their renovations and make the process more enjoyable. Using the Decology app, you can draw out the rooms you are planning work for, and plan layouts, inspirations, designs, and furniture. The platform has a curation mechanism that will in future suggest optimal room layouts, as well as what products will fit in with your space, mood, and vision. Decology’s goal is to handhold its clients throughout the design process and as they trawl different social media channels for inspiration. The app will also be shoppable, with an AR interface.
The beta product will go live in June.
Costi is adamant she made the right choice in taking part in the Pi Labs program. Thanks to it, Decology achieved exposure—both with potential clients such as developers, and potential investors—that her and her co-founder Jacobo Koenig would not otherwise have dreamed of.
RenterBuyer CEO & Founder Olu Olufote
Olufote and co-Founder Nalesh Harwani experienced the problem of home ownership first hand, and they decided to do something about it. In the U.K., one in four first-time buyers have enough money to put down a deposit but are declined funding.
RenterBuyer is a rent to buy gradual homeownership plan. Its model is to buy upfront on the behalf of a vetted buyer and have them repurchase the property a monthly plan. They offer a three-year plan, allowing buyers to build up their deposit and credit score, and then to exit the program by getting a mortgage. The next step is to provide an alternative to mortgages, by creating a product that allows homeowners to buy back their property over a 20-year time frame.
RenterBuyer has completed proof of concept and will officially launch in June.
Olufote shared that they decided to join PiLabs because they sought a partnership, not just an investor and it felt like a natural fit.
TRACK CEO & co-Founder Henry Oakes
In Oakes’ words, “Track is a money manager designed for homeowners. The reason we are building it is that we believe that consumer expectations of managing finances have changed drastically, and these expectations are not being met for our biggest and most expensive asset, the home.”
Track’s target market is 25 to 35-year-old homeowners. According to Oakes, millennials tend to share finances: they buy together, they share their contributions and home expenses, and are also supported by their families. They plan and save together towards shared goals such as renovations, or new furniture.
Homeowners can see, manage and transact their finances through the Track platform, which boasts an AI-powered dashboard showing home value, ownership shares, contributions, and more. It also helps to manage day-to-day expenditures as it can be connected to credit cards and bank accounts).
The product is live in the app store and a new version will be released soon, including features such as planning towards shared goals.
When asked “why PiLabs,” Oakes quoted their experience and connections. He added: “We got to know them over the course of the year, when we applied we got a fantastic vibe from the team from Faisal and the rest of the team. Property finance is a very male-dominated space, so it’s great to work with such a diverse and inclusive team.”
Pop & Rest CEO & co-Founder Mauricio Villamizar
Pop & Rest’s co-Founders come from cultures where you can nap and relax, but in big cities like London, there isn’t any place to recharge. They decided to create a space where you can disconnect from the outside, blending their home cultures of Colombia and France with Japanese capsule hotel culture, adapted for the U.K.
Pop & Rest’s strategy is to deploy sleep pods in the city, managed through an app that can be used to both book them and control aspects such as lighting, sound, and temperature. They currently have one live location in Shoreditch, having started out as a pop up in Monument. The goal is to set up pods across cities in locations such as co-working and office spaces, shopping centers, train stations, airports, and more.
Villamizar told me that PiLabs’ input was invaluable in helping them refine their business model through both the proptech and property market lens.
Group Ladder CEO & co-Founder William Rice
According to Rice, Group Ladder is redesigning how mortgages work, by allowing borrowers to team up in order to buy. They take customers who wouldn’t be able to afford to buy and give them a mortgage that a bank wouldn’t be able to finance.
Group Ladder doesn’t put an upper limit on the number of people who can share ownership of a property, allowing friends to club together. Parents can come in as co-borrowers alongside their children to get them on the credit ladder. Their unique selling point is the capacity to lend against multiple income streams, which banks can’t do due to the cost of underwriting them.
Group Ladder operates as an origination platform, in partnership with insurance companies. They are currently in the process of building out the back end of the product and achieving FCA approval and intend to go live in Q4 2019.
Rice shared that they chose PiLabs because: “Faisal [Butt] showed us since day one that they will help to build our network and our team and give us the right support infrastructure.”
PiLabs Founder Faisal Butt
Commenting on Demo Day, Butt said that: “We’ve been blown away by their ability to balance strategic expansion with day-to-day execution, which is what it all comes down to. From product development to gaining early traction and securing key clients, it’s been remarkable to see how far they’ve come. Central to each venture Pi Labs invests in is commercial viability, in-built scalability, and the ability to address real pain points and social problems. Cohort 7 is a testament to this principle, a group of hungry bright entrepreneurs set to make real change in the UK and globally.”