As the co-founder of the European PropTech Association, Idriss Goossens has his finger on the pulse of the burgeoning sector. He talks about its biggest innovations in the present, Luxembourg’s strengths and weaknesses and the promising future.
What trends are you observing in the European PropTech sector?
In residential (the largest asset-class), there are four trends defining the future of PropTech. The first is the importance of services and communities. Delivering empty square metres is not enough anymore, you need to give a layer of services and a feeling of community. Second is the importance of user experience as the main competition differentiator. It’s not the price, location, or quality of the project anymore, that’s the game-changer but the quality of the user experience. The third trend is the mutual mutualization of space, creating space that can have multiple usages according to the needs of the end-user at a specific time. And finally, the conflict between the ownership and the right of usage with the creation of new business models, combining the advantage of being a tenant and owner.
If we go to offices (the second-largest asset-class), it is the importance of services and communities. Second, is the fact that the value of the square metres in offices depends more and more on who is the operator. The third trend is the fact that the office of tomorrow is probably not an office but a network of decentralised workspaces. And the last trend is the office of tomorrow is a location that makes you more productive and healthier. According to us only offices providing this [benefit] will be able to attract companies and end-users.
Which are the biggest PropTech innovations in Europe?
Probably, the elephant in the room, the big innovations [of the future] will all be related to ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance criteria). So, making a positive social and environmental impact on society. These will be the biggest challenges that are coming, and this is where we will have the most exciting technology. The regulatory framework is changing, the Green Deal and the climate law which was recently adopted will impose that the existing real estate portfolio will become carbon neutral by 2050.
There is also the social impact, which is very strong because ESG is not only about the ‘E’ but also the ‘S’. There are a lot of very exciting business models in the rent-to-buy spaces, which are tackling the problems of affordability and access to ownership which is a big problem for the youth. And so rent-to-buy really allows you to gradually become an owner of real estate assets, especially residential real estate. So, for me, that’s probably the space where we will see the next project unicorn.
“Of the 3200 PropTech startups in Europe, 75 are based in Luxembourg.”
Which startups competing at this year’s PropTech and Scale-up Europe Awards caught your eye? Why?
That’s a hard question. It’s hard to choose between my kids but I would say I think the one that really deserves the most credit is the winner Hyperion Robotics because they are in a space that is very uncrowded. There are less than 30 startups active in that field – large scale 3d printing – and it’s a technology that will allow us to really face the demographic challenges that we have ahead. A lot of credit to them, it is a hard business, they have a positive impact. We need to keep our eyes on them.
What do you imagine the PropTech sector to look like by 2030?
We [already] spend 85-90% of our time indoors, whether it’s at home, in the office, for leisure, or for transportation. It’s always indoors, especially in Northern countries. We could say that in a way PropTech is really overwhelming us. But it can potentially have a huge impact on every citizens’ life. For me, in 10 years, the dream is that PropTech becomes completely obsolete but has a huge impact on the wellness of people and in making cities much more resilient.
PropTech started [out with the aim] to tackle efficiency issues. But now the ambition for the impact of PropTech is much bigger than just tackling efficiency issues, it is also to make life better. So really more resilience and more wellness, customer centricity and allowing people to be more productive, to be healthier, to make smarter decisions to be happier in their life. So PropTech will not just be part of real estate, PropTech will have an impact on every single aspect of your life according to me.
Did you know?
Of the 3200 PropTech startups in Europe, 75 are based in Luxembourg. What sets Luxembourg’s PropTech startups apart is that five of them rely on tokenization and blockchain technology. Belgium on the other hand has no PropTech startups active in this branch.
“However, you [Luxembourg] have some spaces [sectors] where you are less active. In Luxembourg, for instance, in the management of commercial real estate, you have very few [startups] that are in the management of parking, smart parking, parking mutualization. So that’s why I think Belgium and Luxembourg are pretty complimentary [because Belgium has a lot of activity in that segment],” says Idriss.
This article was first published in Silicon Luxembourg magazine. Get your copy.