SPD (Shared Property Data) is a company at the forefront of the Big Data revolution. They have built the most sophisticated search engine for the commercial property market, helping people either find the exact commercial property that they want, or recommend to them agents whose experience is best suited to their exact requirements. The SPD database is propagated directly by agents who are given exclusive access to a single, affordable technological solution that covers all of their professional needs; from marketing a new property through to sourcing accurate market information. In the world of PropTech, SPD are set to be key players as the sector gains momentum.
That’s why I was excited to catch up with SPD CEO and Founder, Michael Marciano, to get the lowdown on CreTech, Big Data, and the future of PropTech in general.
What are your feelings on your PropTech sector at the minute and how do you fit in to it all?
I feel as if the PropTech sector is beginning to mature somewhat, bringing with it some exciting opportunities, but also some challenges. As the number of players in the sector have grown, both domestically and from abroad, it seems as if there has never been a better time to be a part of PropTech.
Theoretically, this increase in active participants should have a positive effect on the rate at which new services are adopted by the industry, which in turn ought to decrease some of the barriers to entry that new entrants face. However, when a market begins to mature, expectations start to harden. It’s very easy to sell a dream when you are at the forefront of a revolution, but as time progresses and the market matures, ideas and visions need to be matched with engaged users and meaningful revenue. Thus a maturing market is a great opportunity for those companies that have made the traction to suggest they can take their business to the next level, but it is also the point where some start-ups will begin to falter.
In terms of how we fit into all of this, SPD has been around since before there was a PropTech buzz, when all we wanted to do was improve the way the commercial property sector operated. Today, like all PropTech companies, we continue to navigate the tumultuous start-up waters; but having successfully raised finance, built a strong team and grown a community of engaged members, we like to think that we are part of the group of companies currently making waves in this sector.
How important is the tech side of your business at SPD and do you see this evolving in any way overcoming ways. If so where do you see the move?
Tech is at the very heart of what we do – it really is what separates us from other players in the market. Despite investing in great Tech we have always been of the view that Tech for Tech’s sake is not enough – this is particularly true for property which is, and will continue to be, a people business. Thus, any Tech that we have built has been designed to reflect, rather than replace, human interaction. This nuisance is important when operating in a sector that finds change a daunting prospect. That is to say that our technology fits into the workflow of property professionals, rather that disrupts it.
In terms of looking forward, we have always worked from the premise that we really do not know that much. We knew enough to recognise that change was needed, but not enough to know exactly what the technical solution would look like. That is why we have built our Tech around the needs of our members, and as our member numbers grow we have been able to evolve our Tech. In terms of where it is going, our aim is to continue to touch as many parts of a commercial property professional’s work life as we can, without ever detracting from what they do.
It is often said that the commercial real estate sector is rather behind the times. Do you agree with this statement and where is the largest weakness?
Those who operate within the commercial property market operate in a walled garden of data and processes. Unlike its residential sister, much of the information that pertains to commercial activity is not privy to public inspection. This means that as long as you are part of the system you have not historically needed to utilise complex systems to do your job. Accordingly, it has been the collegiate nature of the sector, the fairly open sharing of data, and the lack of ‘real-time’ anything that has meant that being behind the times never really felt too much like actually being behind the times.
To date the status quo has not necessarily been much of a problem, as the barriers to entry for new businesses have been very high – and this has served the sector well. My thoughts on its biggest weakness are that, to date, the industry has not demonstrated the appetite to be part of what is proving to be an inevitable shakeup of how the sector operates. My concern is that this weakness will lead to the sector being dictated to by nimbler, tech-savvy and well funded start-ups whose interests are more aligned with industry disruption rather than industry development. If this happens the very way that the sector has been operating for all of these years may well be in danger.
Does the CREtech sector need to be concerned about Big Data or should they be welcoming it with open arms? How can they benefit from it, and what should they be doing?
I had written a response to this answer and then I saw Mangus from Datcha show a slide (which he confirmed was not his own), which so beautifully sums up this question, that it would be criminal not to use it:
‘Big data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.’
To that effect, everyone in property thinks that Big Data will be a big deal, but most will be hard-pressed to offer any further details. The commercial property sector is good at sharing data (internally), but is bad at standardising that sharing. If the sector can come together and agree not only on what they are willing to share, but also how and when they are going to share it, then we can begin to collect high quality data. Only then can the sector entertain the discussion as to whether this quality and volume of data constitutes Big Data, and if it does, what should be done with it? At SPD, we are taking a direct role in defining these standards and providing to tools and incentives for accurate sharing of commercial property data.
It is said that you already have the most sophisticated search engine for Commercial Property so what next for SPD?
One part of SPD’s service is its search engine, and like all good engines, it has been meticulously designed, dutifully implemented and built to last. However, also like all good engines, it needs fuel to run. At SPD, our fuel is data. Our data comes from our members, and as we continue to expand our membership, the quality of our data improves. In turn, our engine’s performance enhances. Continuing with the automotive metaphor, the next step for us is not only fine tune the engine, but to continuously redesign the chassis which houses it, and enhance the tools which enable interaction with it. What this means in practice is that we will continue to build a workflow tool that meets the needs and expectations of our members – all the way from disposal to deal (and beyond).
Want to find out more about SPD? Visit their website to discover more.