The Innovation Conversation is a series of Q&A sessions between the real estate technology industry's top leaders and MetaProp Co-Founder and Managing Director Aaron Block. Topics include thoughts on the future of property and technology, corporate innovation activities and executive development in the real estate technology space.
WHAT ARE YOUR DAY-TO-DAY RESPONSIBILITIES IN YOUR ORGANIZATION?
First of all, my role is the Global Head of Product at Datscha (I was one of the founding employees.) working with everything from strategy and business development down to what bugs [we should focus on] in the upcoming sprint. Datscha has been around for 20-plus years, but we still keep a very outspoken startup mentality and an effective organization, enabling us to be in three markets: Sweden, Finland and the UK with only 45 employees. In addition to my role at Datscha, I’m also a Partner in Stronghold Invest (the sole owner of Datscha), where we own, among others, the largest property consulting firm in the Nordics (Newsec with 2000 employees and 31 million sqm under management) and the most successful private equity real estate firm in Northern Europe with real estate assets under management of approximately €3.5 billion. Furthermore, Stronghold is an active #PropTech investor.
DESCRIBE HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN PROPTECH AND INNOVATION.
While doing my Masters in Civil Engineering at The Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm in the mid-90’s, I had to use the Mosaic web browser in a course and I did NOT like it all. However, a year later with Netscape and NetAddress I started to see the potential. In 1996, parallel with study, I worked for an internet start up and we pitched (and signed) a project to build a marketing site for a new office development for the largest property owner in Sweden. So, no #PropTech is nothing new…
IN THE NEXT 10 YEARS, WHAT AREA OF THE REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY DO YOU THINK WILL CHANGE THE MOST DRAMATICALLY?
Since I’ve always focused on commercial property I will do so also in this answer. I believe the biggest change will be in how properties are managed as an investment. Today one may say that it is very much manual (read Excel), gut-feeling based and within (rather) small networks of people/companies. The investment market of the future will become much more data driven and transparent for everyone in the process.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN INITIATIVE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION TODAY?
The ability to manage, match and drive insights from large sets of unstructured data.
WHAT ROLE HAVE MENTORS PLAYED IN YOUR SUCCESS? HOW WOULD YOU ADVISE OTHERS TO DEVELOP STRONG RELATIONSHIPS WITH MENTORS?
There are different types of mentor techniques: Accompanying, sowing, catalyzing, showing and harvesting. Without doubt I prefer catalyzing and showing. Those are also the ones I focus on with my mentor. My advices are two: first of all reach out to the one you would like to have as a mentor. Most often people are more interested than you may think. The second is to give it time. First you need to get to know each other as people and then build trust.
WHAT IS ONE INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT MOST PEOPLE DON’T ALREADY KNOW?
I’ve completed the (in-)famous endurance race ‘Ö till Ö’ (‘Island to Island’), which involves passing 26 islands via 65 km running and 11 km of open water swimming. In Sweden. In September, meaning water temperature around 10 degrees Celsius. I assume that tells quite a lot about my personality… interesting or scary; your pick.